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.
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
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.
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.
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.