BREAKING: Split Over LGBT Said Imminent for Northwest Yearly Meeting

NOTE UPDATE BELOW: From sources in the Northwest, we have been sent the text of a draft plan to split Northwest Yearly Meeting (NWYM), over the issue of affirmation of LGBT persons.

This issue of affirming meetings has been intensely debated across NWYM since the summer of 2015, when the yearly meeting elders announced a decision to expel West Hills Friends in Portland from NWYM because of its openly affirming stance. But after several meetings & many young Friends appealed, the power players in the yearly meeting were unable to agree to carry out that decision until now.

The document below is a draft plan for the split. It reportedly was considered, tweaked, and agreed to at secret meetings in the past several days. It is expected to be announced to NWYM generally soon, perhaps this coming weekend (Jan. 28-29).

We are seeking comment on this report from NWYM officials. However, they are normally unresponsive to outside inquiries, so we are posting this draft Split proposal as we have it. Watch for updates as more information becomes available.

UPDATE 3:00 PM EST: FROM RETHA MCCUTCHEN, NWYM SUPERINTENDENT:

Chuck… This document is not from Northwest Yearly Meeting in any official capacity. It is most likely someone’s idea as many such ideas have been put forth and are circulating. It will not be presented in any setting of Yearly Meeting Representatives or on the floor.

Retha McCutchen

COMMENT: This response seems carefully phrased. It says nothing about the idea of a split contained in the draft. And as our sources indicate that the draft had been “modified,” it was unlikely to appear in this form.  The important content, “the Split Idea,” still hangs in the air. Watch for further updates.

Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends Church
“Split” Option
If NWYM were to split into two Yearly Meetings,
here is a scenario of how that might look:

Yearly Meeting #1
“Agree to Disagree” and “Affirming” Churches

This Yearly Meeting would embrace a revised Faith & Practice which leaves open the possibility for some churches to promote monogamous same-sex relationships.

This group would be composed of meetings which have recorded an affirming stance on LGBTQ (West Hills, Eugene, Camas, Klamath Falls, etc.), plus “Agree to Disagree” congregations which feel that the LGBTQ issue is not worthy of division (likely North Valley, Newberg, Reedwood, North Seattle, Olympic View, etc.)

A very rough analysis (based upon statements from their Representatives) puts this group at about 40% of NWYM’s typical Sunday attendance, and 35% of its local meetings.

Yearly Meeting #2
“Welcoming, But Not Able to Affirm” Churches

This Yearly Meeting would embrace Faith & Practice as it currently exists (possibly rephrasing its Human Sexuality statement without changing its stance).

This group would be composed of meetings which have recorded an opposition to West Hills remaining in good standing within NWYM (such as Clackamas Park, Lynwood, Rosedale, Scotts Mills, most Idaho churches, City’s Edge, Peninsula, Netarts, etc.)

A very rough analysis (based upon statements from their Representatives) puts this group at about 50% of NWYM’s typical Sunday attendance, and 50% of its local meetings.

PRO’s
A logjam would be broken. Both Yearly Meetings would have a renewed sense of direction. Issues like who is “recorded,” what kinds of new churches are planted, who is sent overseas as Friends Serving Abroad, what classes are taught at camp, etc. are no longer cloudy. Progress ensues for both Yearly Meetings. More money is given by donors, as they are able to fully embrace the mission/vision of their respective Yearly Meetings.

Less infighting would occur. Both Yearly Meetings would feel free to bless one another to head unabated into the future.

CON’s
Initially, two smaller Yearly Meetings may prove less able to fund Yearly Meeting staffs and programs.
Some individuals within local congregations would likely find themselves in disagreement with the Yearly Meeting chosen by their local congregation. A reshuffling would thus ensue, with people feeling forced to choose a new local church that aligns more fully with their beliefs.
Splitting shared assets would prove difficult. While each local congregation could be “given” their own local church building/property unencumbered, the shared assets of camps, schools, etc. would get messy (see below).

Who Likes the “Split” Idea?
A two-YM split likely appeals to individuals and congregations who most strongly believe in affirming or not affirming LGBTQ same-sex sexual relationships, feeling that this allows the “pure” Gospel to be preached. (Example: At the recent Representatives meeting, Clyde Parker and Beth Banham, representatives of Eugene and City’s Edge, shared that they have disparate views on LGBTQ, but agree together that an amiable split would now prove best for all.)

Who Dislikes the “Split” Idea?
A split is least liked by individuals and churches who have previously decided that the LGBTQ issue is one for which they are willing to agree to disagree, feeling that God’s call to unity among believers should exceed minor differences among us. (Example: At the recent Representatives meeting, Paul Anderson and Anna Baker, both representatives of North Valley, shared that they have disparate views on LGBTQ, but feel comfortable agreeing to disagree within North Valley and similarly within the entire NWYM.)

Possible Division of Shared Assets (schools, camps, etc.):

Organizations such as George Fox University, Quaker Hill Camp, Friendsview Retirement Community, Twin Rocks Friends Camp, etc. typically make formal reference to their relationship with Northwest Yearly Meeting in their bylaws. If Northwest Yearly Meeting ceased to exist, each organization would need to revise its bylaws.
Each of these organizations could maintain their existing boards of directors, and these boards could devise new bylaws for their entity. Possible outcomes
George Fox University’s board of trustees seems likely to embrace a more traditional “welcoming, but not affirming” theology, as this would be consistent with GFU’s existing policy, and because GFU is closely connected to many “welcoming, but not affirming” evangelical denominations. (However, there are some GFU board members who would likely argue against this stance.) It is quite possible that GFU’s revised bylaws would remove GFU’s formal, systemic connection to any Yearly Meeting.
Greenleaf Friends Academy, Quaker Hill Camp, and Twin Lakes Friends Camp would most likely adopt a “welcoming, but not affirming” stance, as it appears that the vast majority of nearby (Idaho) Friends churches would align themselves with that Yearly Meeting.
At first glance, it appears that an entity likely to suffer stress in the event of a Yearly Meeting split would be Twin Rocks Friends Camp. Located in a region of the Yearly Meeting relatively evenly divided between the two Yearly Meetings, its current board of directors might find themselves similarly divided on the issue of whether or not to ” agree to disagree” on the LGBTQ issue. A possibly equitable solution (though difficult to implement) would be a sharing of the camp between the two Yearly Meetings, where each Yearly Meeting would be given part of the camp’s calendar from which to conduct its own set of camp and conference sessions. The difficulty would come in determining the hiring expectations for year-round staff, as well as for members of the camp’s extended-stay leadership development programs.

 

 

 

22 thoughts on “BREAKING: Split Over LGBT Said Imminent for Northwest Yearly Meeting”

      1. I keep checking back — but I don’t think it has been THAT frequently.

        It’s really hard for me to know WHAT to say, because I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen this coming weekend (MidYear Boards got rescheduled because of icy road conditions), and I don’t want to speculate on what the Admin Council has decided or is otherwise bringing to the Council of Reps. Oh, that’s not true because I would LOVE TO SPECULATE on such things, but it wouldn’t serve Truth.

        I guess I could chide you a bit for calling a regularly-scheduled meeting of the Admin Council prior to MidYear Boards a “secret meeting.” It certainly doesn’t appear nefarious to us. Well, let’s see what others (eventually) have to say.

  1. Hello Chuck,
    I have no idea where you obtained your information, but as pastor of City’s Edge church, I can assure you that we have never “recorded an opposition to West Hills remaining in good standing” with NWYM. We may differ with the theological stance of any given group or church, but we have never expressed that removing such a group was an appropriate or helpful action. There are persons involved whom we have known for years and love deeply. Your blog, instead of being informative or productive, contributes toward suspicion and distrust among people who have worked for years to establish relationships. We may indeed need to split. But salacious and sensationalist gossip isn’t going to help us do so in a godly, loving and sensitive manner.

      1. Maybe…maybe. Actually, I just liked the way the word sounded and wanted to try to use it in a sentence. I may have over-stretched my vocabulary and pulled something.

    1. Maybe…maybe. Actually, I just liked the way the word sounded and wanted to try to use it in a sentence. I may have over-stretched my vocabulary and pulled something.

  2. As a UU whose Fellowship hosts local Quakers at no facility cost, this saddens me. We have always been supportive of The Friends and considered them “fellow travelers”…..Now I’m not so sure.

    1. Don’t jump to conclusions, friend– Quakers are decentralized; and what’s happening in Northwest YM may not apply to the group your fellowship is hosting.

  3. I’ve got a couple Big Questions in preparation for the upcoming MidYear Boards (you might know them as “half-yearly meeting.”):

    1. How do I prepare my heart for such a gathering?
    2. How do I “argue” or otherwise bring my point of view?

    Both are important (I was so tempted to type “yuge!” but I won’t go there), the first one more so for me. Marge Abbott’s book, BROKEN & TENDER, has given me some language for the first one: my heart is already broken over this division, and somehow I have to avoid bitterness and hardness of heart and stay tender. At times it feels beyond my ability, but it helps to remember that I have made so many mistakes in theology and practice in my lifetime… it helps to remember how so many in NWYM leadership have been kind and gentle with my first steps into the YM… it helps to remember that it isn’t all about me. The first question has simple answers, although it can be difficult emotionally and ego-ically (is that a word?) to do what needs to be done.

    The second question is much harder. So far, if I’ve been faithfully following the Inward Teacher, I haven’t felt called to argue my understanding of The Issue with anyone. I want so BADLY to be able to tell my story of how I was led away from the teachings of my youth about homosexuality to a very different interpretation of Scripture; I want to hash it out with someone who disagrees with me… but but but I simply haven’t felt called or led by my Teacher to do so. That is very frustrating! I am sure that if they just listened to me, all would be well [OK, Chuck, I can hear you laughing from the other side of the continent! Well, so am I.]

    Good linear, rational, informed argument on Biblical texts is a valuable thing, but it probably isn’t the solution, probably isn’t the first step.

    Quaker discernment is tricky, because it is subjective, it is felt in the heart more than rationalized in the mind. Quaker process is probably the worst way for any group to make a decision of this magnitude… except for all the other ways. [A little nod to Winston Churchill there.]

    In the past, I have not felt any nudges to argue; I have felt called to listen deeply, to talk to the Friends who disagree with me one-on-one or in smaller settings.

    Thus my answer so far to the 2nd question is, “I don’t get to bring ‘my point of view.’ I get to experience waiting worship with my Friends, with the hope and expectation that the living Christ will do that work of teaching and leading us.”

    Meanwhile, Friend Chuck, I am heading back to the work of preparing my heart! Thanks for your blog posts. Let us see what Love can do, if we in fact give Love a chance…

    1. Julie– sounds like thee is struggling. And if thee’s moved to make thy case here, I’d say, go for it. One never knows who else might be reading/listening. (Other than me; and I think we’re not alone!)

    2. Dear Julie,
      I find myself in a similar place. I pray that I will arrive at the meeting tomorrow evening attentive and prepared to hear Christ Jesus’ quiet, still spirit moving in our midst and filled with compassion and love.

  4. I feel if you can’t/will not live by the Word(s) of our Lord you should not call yourselves Quakers and probably not even Christians.

    Bill Merrow
    Henniker/Weare NH Meeting

  5. So NWYM is hung up on an issue which Jesus (and Paul, who brought this new variation of Judaism to the Greeks, for crying out loud) never spoke, while millions of lives (18 Million could lose health insurance; no exact figure on the lives of migrants raised here, or prevented from coming here) are being put at risk by a narcissist who prides himself on reading nothing.

    Personally, I’m sourcing (through Etsy) a 4-foot safety pin to put on the front of our Meetinghouse, painted in the LGBTQ rainbow.

    Seems like the sort of thing Jesus might have done, in our neck of the woods. He liked hanging out with those reviled by the intolerants in his society. If we’re not doing that, we’re not following in his path. And it’s those who follow in his path who are his Friends, Matthew reminds us.

    Hank

    1. Sexual immoralty was not addressed by Jesus nor Peter? We do not live our lives for agendas but for the sake of Christ. If you are doing what you are doing for Christ, how is it those who carry opposing views are doing the same? Or are you the standard bearer? No, Christ is our judge. Jesus never promoted sexual acts within any context other than married, male and female. Hetero or homo is not the issue. What does sexual reconciliation look like for all who have sinned and fallen short of the grace of God, and who desire to sin no more.

  6. Imagine, Friends, if we substituted another word/group for LGBT friends. Like Friends of Color?
    Yes, I am a member of Asheville NC MM/SAYMA YM. Shining Light into our cracks might save us from our blindness in our generation? We Friends are all in this together. The hole may be in the other end of our boat but we all are in the same boat…

    1. I don’t have to imagine. The sessions of the YM I’m associated are usually all white, except for the occasional visitor from the “mission field.” And the unformity of color is no accident. Do I like this? No. Why do I go there? Gotta get outside my liberal bubble. It’s time.

  7. Well, rats.

    Go ahead and say “I told you so!” Friend Chuck! — I had a glimmer of hope, but in the end we just couldn’t hold ourselves together. For all that, the tone of the meetings (and oh, what meetings! More than two hours Friday, and 9:00 – 3:30 Sat…) was mostly gentle, pleading sometimes. Any gloating was well-hidden; mostly folks were just sad.

    It seems very true but grossly unfair that in any interpersonal relationship the one with the least interest/commitment has the power to end the relationship. Apparently that’s true in groups as well.

    There are two valid interpretations of this “form a new YM of all the churches who have minuted (have a written statement) of anything contrary to NWYM F&P.” By separating us all at once, and inviting any other monthly meeting to join us, and helping us do the work of forming something new (they have a Transition Team in the wings waiting to come alongside to form a new YM), they keep us from becoming isolated, untethered from a larger Quaker connection. That is a good thing, or a least a good intention, and is a sign of good faith.

    Another interpretation (and perhaps the combination of both these interpretations is the way this decision was reached by the AC, which previously couldn’t find unity) is that a nice, clean sweep of those meetings means no need to deal with them one-at-a-time, which would be time-consuming and energy-sapping and hard to imagine any different outcome than with my meeting (West Hills). It’s a quick and easy solution to a problem.

    For what it’s worth, I’ll state my opinion of the outcome here:

    We failed.

    We failed our Quaker faith, that says we can wait together and we will hear the Voice of our Teacher (a la John 10); and if we don’t hear the same leading we wait longer.

    We failed our Christian faith, when we had an opportunity to be the answer to Jesus’s prayer in John 17 — he actually prays there for us, for those who have come to believe in him because of the teaching of the disciples. He prays that “they might be one, even as you, Father, and I are one, THAT THE WORLD MAY KNOW THAT YOU HAVE SENT ME.” [Emphasis mine.] Ironic, isn’t it? I don’t mean to minimize how very hard it is to sit together when the difference is important, when it truly matters, when you worry that the culture of this crazy world is creeping into your beloved faith community… but the divisive culture of America did just that. We strained out a gnat, and swallowed a camel.

    My deep fear going into these meetings was that I would lose my faith; that I would find out that Quaker Process doesn’t work, and that Jesus doesn’t speak today to our condition. I feared I would be left, not just without a Yearly Meeting, but without any reason to go back to West Hills, because Christianity and Quakerism don’t work.

    What I’ve realized though is that GK Chesterton was correct: “The Christian (Quaker) ideal hasn’t been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult, and left untried.” We in NWYM had a chance to try it. And to be honest, many — maybe even most — did try it; our presiding Clerk and others did their best. But if a large enough group isn’t willing to Quaker up and listen to the Present Christ (nice that the adjective there has two meanings), our process gets derailed.

    So I’m looking forward to finding a group that will put in the difficult effort. Maybe a new YM will be that place.

    Sorry if this comment is too long. I’m tired. It has been a difficult weekend, following difficult months, following difficult years.

    I was encourage by one young Friend, who will be joining whatever this new thing is, who said to me, “I am so looking forward to working on social justice, addressing white privilege, facing the effects of climate change!” That’s not an exact quote, but good enough. She made my heart beat a little faster, and my spine got a little straighter.

    Keep the faith, Brother Fager!

  8. Why I have lost all confidence in the leadership of the NWYM Board of Elders in the matter of discernment on changes needed to out testimony on human sexuality.

    The Faith and practice of the NWYM follows normal Quaker practice in dividing between doctrines and testimonies. The reason for that is that Evangelical elements have determined that some doctrines are essential to Christian Faith, but there is a long tradition among Quakers that elements of belief that are not so clearly discerned and closely held should be a matter of conscience, but with a concensus of direction to the membership on areas of agreement known at testimonies. As is the current case, those elements may be called into question and a process of discernment is called for. One of the elements of that discernment is and should be that individuals and/or bodies who have discerned in contradiction to the current understanding should be free to exercise their conscience until the process is complete and a decision for change, whether in the current understanding or in the new direction agreed.

    The NWYM Board of Elders has overstepped its authority and short-circuited that process by requiring dissenting bodies to refrain from exercising their consciences until a decision is made in a show of spurious unity as if the matter were one of doctrine which falls within its purview.

    Supporting that board in this decision, in my opinion, would be just as henious an abrogation of leadership if the Elders of Medford Friends Church were to remain in it.

    My advice to both bodies would be to desist from the requirement and start a process of education as to the reasons dissenting bodies have come to their conclusions, rather than allowing prejudice and baseless speculation to proliferate.

  9. I appreciate you writing on this from, Chuck. I am reading this today with a heavy heart and mind. So much hurt and pain has come before as a result of NWYMF stance on gays. The division is a brutal one, and one I am grateful I lived through.

    My parents were longtime Friends pastors. Mom was vehemently against anything gay, and dad, gentler in his response. Dad was Don Lamm. Mom is Nancy Lamm.

    When they learned they had a gay son in me, it was tough on the family and broke us in ways. They sent me to an ex-gay who raped me. I was still in high school. Then they cast me out three years later when the ex-gay “therapy” had no lasting impact. Mom sent me six green payment booklets to pay them back “everything we’ve spent on you over the years. If you pay back even $25 a month you’ll make a dent in no time,” mom’s accompanying letter read. That was 1989.

    So what do the pious do, when faced with the vexing crisis of faith so human that it blows families and denominations apart? They fight. They exclude. They soften over time often, too. And that’s my hope for this process – that a softening occurs and the gentle tug of spirit opens eyes and hearts to the humanity of all – even the queers they have been taught to loathe and cast out.

    I had planned to kill myself one day, in 1982. I was 15. With the shotgun in the bathroom, I sat and cried and thought it was the only way out of abomination.

    The narrow fearful minds of many have long hurt me and my queer brothers and sisters.

    My dad, who pastored Eugene Friends Church, then Yorba Linda Friends, and finally Greenleaf Friends as his last full-time role, came around to love and embrace me. He was there, the day I married my partner Scott in 2008 in Los Angeles, CA. “I believe God’s grace is bigger than my understanding and biases I grew up with and had drilled into me,” he said on our wedding day.

    Mom has yet to embrace and so I have excluded her largely from my big beautiful life because to include is simply too painful. As a man in long-term addiction recovery, I have set aside much that doesn’t serve living and a recovered life.

    My brother Keith Lamm and his wife Priscilla were their own reign of terror for decades. Priscilla told the family I had french kissed her and forced myself on her soon after I came out.

    I had not.

    She was afraid I had AIDS since I was gay, so made a tall tale to make the idea of excluding me from her and her children’s lives more palatable.

    And so here we are, with a battle in the open finally. The bigotry so many of us were taught comes up short upon examination once science and 21st Century thinking is considered. Just like the work I do treating clients who have suffered from complex trauma, the way we help today is vastly different than even twenty years ago.

    Truth is, we know only a little. Faith allows us to swim in the possibilities that we might not know as much as we’ve been told. The mystery of life is…

    So to hope, and change; and the softening of hatred misapplied. And to the beautiful light inside all of us.

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