Category Archives: Hard-Core Quaker

Friends Central School Free Speech Case: Negotiations On?

According to the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), Sa’ed Atshan, the Palestinian Quaker professor of peace studies whose February 10 speech at Friends Central School (FCS) was canceled last month,  is a Jew-hater in a class with –well, you know, the guy who had the pencil mustache:

As Steve Feldman put it in a letter to the editor at philly.com

“. . . if Palestinian speaker Sa’ed Atshan supports Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions – an international movement designed to delegitimize, weaken and ultimately destroy the Jewish State of Israel – then students at Friends’ Central School would be exposed to vicious, hateful lies with little hope that the same teachers who invited Atshan would offer students the actual facts about Israel, Palestinian-Arabs, and the Middle East that would set the record straight.”

Pulitzer-Prize-winning Philly editorial cartoonist Signe Wilkinson, also a Quaker, weighed in on the FCS controversy too.

Feldman is Director of the ZOA’s greater Philadelphia office.  

And the college office of the ZOA has already devoted whole webpages to denouncing Atshan.  A sample:

“Sa’ed Atshan is a leading activist in the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement, which spreads lies about Jews and Israel and seeks to destroy the only Jewish state.”

Indeed, to read these ZOA screeds, one would expect to find Atshan saying things like the following, which appeared in the Comments section of the Harvard Political Review in March 2013, while Atshan was a grad student there:

“The real issue is not The [Harvard student paper the] Crimson’s anti-Palestinian prejudice but the overrepresentation of Jews at The Crimson, in the Harvard student body and on the faculty.

We have to face the facts that . . .

Unqualified Jews are taking places from qualified white non-Jews, African Americans, and Asian Americans throughout the US academic system.”

Definitely anti-semitic.

Only, Atshan didn’t say that. A guy named Jonathan Affleck did. (Affleck said lots more like it. And he has a Facebook page that’s exclusively devoted to anti-Jewish fulminations, including a defense of the Nazi “Final Solution.”)

But Sa’ed Atshan did write about this. His Comment on Affleck’s statements was, in full:

Sa’ed Atshan, Swarthmore College Peace & Conflict Studies Assistant Professor.

“The Anti-Semitic comments of “Jonathan Affleck” here are morally reprehensible. As part of the Palestinian solidarity community at Harvard none of us would ever condone such racism. This is absolutely unacceptable (quotas against Jewish students, etc.). With “friends” like Affleck, we definitely do not need enemies. The struggle for Palestinian human rights is a just one based on universal values of equality and the fundamental dignity of all human beings…. and our movement should not be associated with Affleck and the like. NO ONE has authorized him to speak on our behalf.”

This exchange occurred before Atshan returned to his alma mater, Swarthmore College, as a professor, and long before the flap about a speech at Friends Central blew up. But it’s an intriguing and revealing item just the same.  It’s a reminder that apples aren’t oranges.

And speaking of the FCS flap, that pot has continued to bubble since our last posts  (here,  here and here).  Two FCS teachers, who protested the cancellation, have been suspended; their fate is still uncertain. There has been continuing media coverage. Op-eds and letters have made impassioned defenses of Atshan, as well as criticism. A petition signed by more than 400 FCS alumni, parents and other Friends has gone to FCS officials. Numerous private approaches have been made.

And yesterday, February 20, media reports surfaced that on Sunday, Atshan, who has maintained public silence amid the controversy, met with FCS head Craig Sellers to begin negotiations about resolving the controversy.

How far they got toward that end is still uncertain. As the article on philly.com put it:

Mark Schwartz, a lawyer and friend of Atshan, said Sellers apologized to the professor and extended an invitation to speak at the school. He said Atshan maintained he was not comfortable accepting the offer unless two teachers who had been suspended over student protests that followed the cancellation were allowed to return to their jobs.

Atshan “has a strong conviction that the teachers should be back,” Schwartz said. “The reason he met with this guy, I’m sure, he was hoping this would get resolved.”

Friends’ Central spokeswoman Lisa D’Orazio gave a different account of what transpired. She said Sellers did not invite Atshan to give a talk but is “keeping the lines of communication open.”

A recently formed task force will look at all future programming, including speakers, at the school. “He’s still on the table,” D’Orazio said of Atshan.

That’s an unfortunate statement: “He’s still on the table.”  The operating table? The autopsy table?  Better try again.

And there’s more:

In a letter Monday to Friends’ Central families, Philip Scott, clerk of the [FCS] board of trustees, said of the controversy: “Outside groups have tried to falsely paint this as a free speech issue. I want to be clear, this is not a free speech issue. It is about the school taking the time and effort to formulate and present intellectual, respectful, and comprehensive programs for its students.”

Well, I want to be clear too: I don’t believe Scott’s “not a free speech” meme for a minute.

One has to maintain a determined sense of isolation not to know that groups like the ZOA are working overtime to keep discussion of BDS and just about anything else that diverges from strong support of current Israeli government polices out of college and other educational spaces.  Sometimes they succeed, sometimes not. And when they succeed, free speech takes a hit. 

As it has at Friends Central School. This IS a “free speech issue.”

I hope Sellers and Scott can persuade those who forced the cancellation and suspensions to back off.  Otherwise, this travesty can only further damage the school’s already battered reputation.

In a welcome letter on the FCS website, school head Sellers grandly proclaims that for FCS:

Our Vision: To awaken courage and intellect — and peacefully transform the world.

Nice words. But to get clear about that “vision” again, those in charge need to clean their glasses and see that they have screwed up bigtime here, both as carriers of Quaker traditions, and as educators.

They’ve got the intellect to fix this. What about the courage?

Philly Paper Slams Friends Central School: “Lacks Integrity”

The Philadelphia Daily News is out today with a searing editorial about the ongoing flap involving Friends Central School, a cancelled speech about Middle East issues by a professor of Palestinian heritage, and the suspension of two teachers who supported his appearance.

The headline is biting:

DN editorial: Friends’ Central lacks integrity in shunning controversial speaker

“ANOTHER WEEK, another hit delivered to free speech, this one coming from an unexpected source – a Quaker school.

Last week, the head of Friends’ Central School, a Quaker private school in Wynnewood, uninvited a Palestinian who had been asked to speak by a student club. Students protested that decision, in part by walking out of an all-school gathering. This week, head of school Craig N. Sellers suspended two faculty advisers to the student group, saying – in effect – that they were inside agitators who had whipped up the student protest.

Or, as Sellers put it in a statement, the teachers disregarded “our guiding testimonies, which include community, peace and integrity.”

We see it differently. In our view, it was Sellers who disrupted the peace of the Friends’ Central community. And you can hardly call the muzzling of an invited speaker an example of integrity.”

Ouch. That hurts. It’s the kind of report that makes Quakers of all stripes cringe.

Back in the day, “integrity” was a key linchpin of the “Quaker way.” Maybe some of it was myth, magnified in the telling (there have definitely been some Quaker scoundrels; Richard Nixon?), but overall, the Society of Friends gained a kind of fame that money can’t buy, for being stubborn about the truth.

In practical ways, like Quaker shopkeepers setting fixed prices, rather than cheating uninformed customers.

In even comical ways, like carefully hedging their speech to be strictly factual (which this anecdote may not entirely be):

Hoover: a cautious Quaker talker

Once, it is said, Herbert Hoover (the Quaker president who wasn’t a crook) was riding across the prairie on a train, when another passenger spied some skinny-looking sheep in a nearby field.

“Looks like those sheep have all just been sheared,” said the passenger.

Hoover eyed them warily, paused, and then replied, “Yes, it does — at least on this side.”

Those were also the days when going bankrupt was not just a  misfortune, but an infraction that would get a Friend “disowned.” That’s because it marred the Quaker “Reputation of Truth,” one item of which was that Friends always paid their debts.

Well, the  Friends’ “Reputation of Truth” is pretty tattered in the eyes of this editorialist:

“The Quakers have always embraced free speech and espoused many unpopular causes. They opposed slavery and war at a time when you could get shot over those beliefs. William Penn went to jail in England because he would not give up his beliefs.

It would sadden Penn to see a school founded on his principles cowering in the corner, afraid to let students hear another viewpoint.”

They’ve got a point there. Who remembers Philadelphia 1838, when Quakers and other early abolitionists erected their own building, Pennsylvania Hall, because other groups wouldn’t let them speak or hold meetings? It opened in May, for a meeting of antislavery women: and was burned down the next night. The fires were set while Quaker Angelina Grimke was speaking.

Did this arson and attempted murder silence the women, or their movement? No.

But that’s not all. The editorial goes on:

“[Sa’ed] Atshan [the Swarthmore College professor whose talk was squashed] hasn’t spoken publicly about the controversy, but let’s assume that he is fervently pro-Palestinian, does favor economic sanctions against Israel and that he expressed those views before a group of high school students. So what? Would the students rush out of the room waving PLO flags? Would he convert them into rabid anti-Zionists? We think not.

Consider such a speech either food for thought or a foolish viewpoint, but it hardly represents a danger to the minds of these students. Being a student means being exposed to conflicting facts, theories and beliefs. It’s called learning.”

Yes it is. And here’s hoping the FCS leadership finishes this lesson in a hurry and fixes this mess, before their reputation, that of Friends Central School, and that of Quakers at large, suffer more harmful, unnecessary hits.

 

Breaking: Friends Central School Officials Issue New Statement; Backpedaling?

The Head of Friends Central School (FCS) & its Board Clerk issued a statement this afternoon (Feb. 14) on the building controversy about cancellation of a talk by a Palestinian professor from Swarthmore College. (The full text is below. The initial post on this controversy is here.)

As is often the case in Quaker controversies, the officials blame “a fundamental breakdown in process,” adding “We simply did not approach this very sensitive topic with adequate community dialogue.”

In a departure from what has been earlier reported, the  statement says “To be clear, our intention has always been to pause – not cancel – any speaker engagement on this topic.”

This “pause” was needed, the statement says, because “We felt it was important that more facts and input from community members be gathered to develop a thoughtful, respectful, and intellectual approach.”

However, “During this period of pause, two teachers were given explicit directives, which they ignored. As a result of their actions and their expressed intentions, these teachers have been placed on paid leave while we continue a more thorough review.”

[Note: I am not aware of any public comments by the two suspended teachers. And with their jobs hanging in the balance, they are likely being advised to keep quiet.]

The FCS Board held a called meeting yesterday to address this situation. And as Quaker bodies do in the face of almost all emergencies, they formed a committee,  here called a “Task Force” tasked “to determine how we move forward.” Pledging to be “proactive,” further updates are promised. The rest of the statement is a set of broad generalities, concluding with:

“Our challenges reflect the world we live in. This moment presents an opportunity to demonstrate what defines Friends’ Central as a Quaker school.”

Indeed.

Full text of the statement:

Important Message from the Head of School and Clerk of the Board
Posted 02/14/2017 02:59PM
 
Dear Friends,

As Head of School and Board Clerk, we write to you today with an update on recent events within the Friends’ Central community involving students’ learning about the Middle East, campus speakers, and our path forward. While many have expressed concern, we believe this is an opportunity to live our Mission and emerge a stronger community.

We understand these are delicate issues and want to assure you that the physical and emotional safety of our community is our first priority.

There was a fundamental breakdown in process. We simply did not approach this very sensitive topic with adequate community dialogue. To be clear, our intention has always been to pause – not cancel – any speaker engagement on this topic. We felt it was important that more facts and input from community members be gathered to develop a thoughtful, respectful, and intellectual approach. During this period of pause, two teachers were given explicit directives, which they ignored. As a result of their actions and their expressed intentions, these teachers have been placed on paid leave while we continue a more thorough review.

Members of our community have reached out to share their views, while offering suggestions on how to proceed. To those individuals, we have heard you and we will invite participation shortly. At last night’s called meeting, the Board of Trustees began forming a Task Force to determine how we move forward. To lead this effort, Board members and current parents Fariha Khan and Elizabeth Cohen ’83 will serve as Clerks. The Task Force will broadly engage our community – including students, parents, faculty, administration, and alumni/ae – and bring together a wide variety of viewpoints. Our goal is to move toward and embrace the challenges of intellectual discourse with respect and empathy.

We commit to communicating more proactively. In the days and weeks ahead, you will receive more information about our Task Force and opportunities available to participate. Some may still have concerns and issues you would like to address directly with the School. Craig is available to meet with any member of our community who would like time to discuss these issues in further detail. This is a priority, and Craig is available in the coming days.

Our challenges reflect the world we live in. This moment presents an opportunity to demonstrate what defines Friends’ Central as a Quaker school. We must come together on how we teach our children, to ensure they meet challenges from a place of knowledge and constructive engagement.

Sincerely,

Craig N. Sellers
Head of School

Philip Scott ’73
Clerk, Board of Trustees

A Letter to Students at Friends Central School: Resist!

NOTE: This report has been updated as of late Feb. 14. The update is here.

News background:

Wynnewood (Philadelphia) PA, February 13, 2017: “Two Friends’ Central School teachers who supervised a club that invited a Palestinian speaker to the Wynnewood campus — an appearance the school canceled after some parents and students complained — were placed on administrative leave Monday morning.

Sa’ed Atshan, Swarthmore College Peace & Conflict Studies Assistant Professor.
 

English teacher Ariel Eure, 25, and history teacher Layla Helwa, 26, were called to an off-campus meeting with Craig Sellers, the head of school, and a human resources manager, and informed they were suspended indefinitely, said Mark D. Schwartz, a lawyer and former parent at the school who is representing the women.

Schwartz said that he tried to attend the 7:30 a.m. meeting at the Llanerch Diner in Upper Darby, but that school officials turned him away. The teachers were told they were being suspended for disobeying a supervisor and for having a “single-minded approach to a complicated issue for the community,” he said.

“This was done in a non-Quaker fashion,” Schwartz said. “It was more like storm trooper fashion.”

Late Monday afternoon, the administration released a statement: “As a Quaker school, we have long-standing expectations for all members of our community – especially for our teachers, who have the responsibility of guiding young minds. There are very real concerns about the conduct of Ariel Eure and Layla Helwa for their disregard of our guiding testimonies, which include community, peace, and integrity. As of today, Ariel Eure and Layla Helwa are on indefinite paid administrative leave while a more extensive review is conducted.”

The controversy has stirred passions at the school and shone a light on a thorny issue for many Quaker schools: While the American Friends Service Committee supports putting economic pressure on Israel to end the occupation of Palestinian territories, many students at Quaker schools are Jewish.

Sa’ed Atshan, a Swarthmore College professor and a Quaker, had been invited to speak Friday by the school’s Peace and Equality in Palestine Club, which formed last April. After parents complained about Atshan’s ties to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, which advocates punitive measures against Israel, the school rescinded the invitation.

About 65 students walked out of a weekly Meeting for Sharing on Wednesday to protest the cancellation, while others stood and read a statement. Eure and Helwa walked out with the students. . . .”

Cathy Bocella, Staff Reporter, phillynews.com

Continue reading A Letter to Students at Friends Central School: Resist!

The Carolina “Autonomites”: What’s In a Name? What IS Their Name??

There were two problems for the “Autonomites” in North Carolina YM-FUM, when they assembled for their first meeting at Quaker Lake Camp on January 28.

One of the few things the Autonomites definitely decided was – they didn’t like their current name, the “Autonomy Group.” So that was dumped. (Goodbye, Autonomites; we hardly knew ye.)

But they couldn’t agree on different name. Which is to say, they were not at all sure of their identity. That’s the first problem. Continue reading The Carolina “Autonomites”: What’s In a Name? What IS Their Name??

Two Blockbusters: Northwest YM to Split Over LGBT Welcome; & A Lawsuit Coming?

Confirming two reports first uploaded here earlier this month, a plan to split Northwest yearly Meeting over the issue of meetings welcoming LGBT persons was announced at the NWYM Mid-Year session in Oregon.

Also, the YM has been confronted with a strong rebuff by a meeting that left it in 2015.

First:  copy of the plan to split NWYM has been made available to this blog. It has been reformatted and is pasted in below. Note that the essentials of it are very similar to the two proposals reported here earlier.

On January 9, we uploaded a plan called “The Way Forward,” which urged the expulsion of affirming meetings, but with a waiver of Northwest’s claim to their church buildings and property. 

And on January 23, we posted a copy of a more detailed plan to divide the YM. NWYM officials told us that this draft plan was not official and had no standing. However, the plan presented this weekend is very similar, confirming our sources who said it was very much in the mix.

The split plan, we are told, could only be stopped if the YM representatives could agree to overturn it. Such an outcome seems unlikely, as there are representatives on both sides of the issue.

The “official” split plan calls for the homophobic meetings to retain the name & resources of Northwest YM; the others would be consigned to a new, as yet unnamed YM. (Or they could leave the whole body and go independent.)

The Administrative Council, which issued the split plan, noted that:

“. . .the Administrative Council has decided to guide the yearly meeting through a restructuring process . . . without a restructuring the yearly meeting would find itself involved in a discipline process similar to that of West Hills Friends Church. There are now other churches who have recorded minutes that have brought them into noncompliance regarding the human sexuality statement in Faith and Practice.”

The “discipline process” referred to is an impasse like that which began after the NWYM Elders agreed to expel West Hills Friends in the summer of 2015 — but then, after eight meetings & 200-plus individuals appealed the decision, NWYM officials could not reach agreement to carry out the expulsion. Until now.  Evidently those on the AC who supported West Hills finally gave in to the pressure of those who agreed with the “Way Forward” letter that, 

“We believe that further delay in taking this necessary action, will result in the disintegration of NWYM.” 

So after eighteen months, the impasse is now over. The AC added that 

West Hills Friends will be part of the restructuring process in the same manner as all other churches.

It is very difficult for this restructuring process not to be perceived as a matter of winners and losers. We recognize the process we have decided upon is not perfect. We know that this will be shattering to individuals and some churches.

One wonders what it will mean for the large number of younger Friends among the 200-plus signers of the individual appeal letter to the AC on behalf of west Hills.

Here is the full text of the AC’s statement about the split plan 

Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends January 27, 2017
The Administrative Council decision is based on the following understandings:

–-Many churches within NWYM have worked to discern Christ’s leading with varying
degrees of difference.
–Churches desire to move forward in their ministries as they are being called.
–The division in our yearly meeting is not going to be simply repaired. 
–Individuals and churches have committed themselves to discernment and to faithfully following Christ. In spite of that, division remains.
–We want to pursue a solution that includes dignity for all people. We want to avoid judgment, harsh language, and bitterness.
–We have discerned that the yearly meeting is not able to function with the current degree of division and difference.
–We recognize that with any decision, there will be something to like and something to dislike. There will be people who will not be satisfied.

Administrative Council Decision:

With all of these things in mind, the Administrative Council has decided to guide the yearly meeting through a restructuring process. The Administrative Council recognizes that without a restructure the yearly meeting would find itself involved in a discipline process similar to that of West Hills Friends Church. There are now other churches who have recorded minutes that have brought them into noncompliance regarding the human sexuality statement in Faith and Practice.

West Hills Friends will be part of the restructuring process in the same manner as all other churches.

It is very difficult for this restructuring process not to be perceived as a matter of winners and losers. We recognize the process we have decided upon is not perfect. We know that this will be shattering to individuals and some churches. The Clerk, Superintendent, and Administrative Council have approached this decision in light of what they have prayerfully discerned as best for Northwest Yearly Meeting at this time.

Newly formed YM

This Yearly Meeting would embrace a revised F&P.

This group would be composed of meetings that have decided to practice and/or have recorded a welcoming stance.

Northwest YM

This YM would be composed of meetings who align with current Northwest YM F&P.

This may include churches who have internal disagreement but have agreed to align their practices with current NWYM F&P.

A transition team, formed of Elders, AC members, Trustees and other at-large members will facilitate the creation of a newly formed yearly meeting. Churches who hold an affirming statement may be a part of the newly formed yearly meeting or may choose to be independent. It is the intent of the administrative council that churches separating from NWYM during this restructuring process, may retain ownership of their church property, along with any indebtedness. All other issues of property, assets and related organization connection questions raised because of the restructuring process will be addressed by that transition team. The transition team will be approved by the AC and report to them.

This process will be a lengthy one, and the AC is committed to completing the transition withdignity and honor for all NWYM churches. Our goal is to complete this transition process on or before June 30, 2018.

Second: In other breaking news — three days before the 2017 Midyear session opened, NWYM officials were sent a letter from Anthem Church in Hayden Lake, Idaho, formerly the Hayden Lake Friends Church. As reported here in November 2015, Hayden/Anthem abruptly quit Northwest YM. In their letter announcing the decision, they acknowledged not being that interested in Quaker ways and convictions.

Since then, yearly meeting officials have been quietly negotiating terms for Anthem’s departure. As they said in a statement to Anthem,

 . . . there must be YM involvement when a church intends to leave the YM for any reason. This is because such an act has wide reverberations across the YM . . . .”

After some haggling, this came down to what could be called an “exit fee”, which has been described as needed to

 set a precedent for any other churches who might be planning to withdraw from the Yearly Meeting, and to provide funding for the NWYM to plant new churches.

The “exit fee” was calculated based on an appraisal of Anthem’s properties as being worth about $2,150.000, and set at $150,000.

But in the January 24, 2017 letter, Anthem’s leadership rejected the exit fee idea, and declined any payment whatever, and basically dared NWYM to sue them if they wanted any compensation for their departure:

It is our considered opinion,” [Anthem wrote] “that the NWYM has no Biblical, legal, moral or historic claim to any of the real property now owned by Anthem Church, Inc. Over the past 20 years, [Hayden Lake Friends Church] and Anthem Church have contributed in excess of $1,000,000 to the NWYM and we have neither asked for nor received any financial support. Needless to say, we perceive no financial debt to the Yearly Meeting.  

This letter (full text pasted in below) was more than a declaration of independence. It’s more like a slap in the face and the throwing down of a gauntlet. Perhaps even more daunting, it would set a very different kind of precedent for NWYM, that of outright defiance of the YM’s claim to member churches property.

To be sure, with 800+ members and doubtless a hefty bank account, Anthem has an advantage smaller churches may lack: the ability to hire lawyers and undertake a court fight. Yet their example can’t but send shivers down the backs of those in charge of the yearly meeting. (One wonders if Anthem’s defiance was not in their minds when they settled on the “restructuring plan” and its willingness to let expelled meetings keep their properties. One big lawsuit would be bad enough. More than one?)

I’m in no position to sort out the legal issues here; maybe NWYM could win in court. But it’s not hard to see features of litigation that would that would make them think hard before filing suit.

Besides expense, there is the fact that in the process of discovery, all sorts of internal documents have to be produced, and are put in public court records. There — like emails leaked in the recently-concluded U.S. national election–they could produce all sorts of mischief.

(I’m not insinuating illegality on anyone’s part in NWYM; but one just never knows what such discovery would turn up, and make available to the prying eyes of other interested persons, the press, and even lowlifes like  East Coast bloggers. Embarrassment and humiliation are nearly guaranteed, and could be the least of it. For a group in which the authorities cherish their ability to conduct all the business they consider important with a level of secrecy rivaling that of the CIA, this would be traumatic indeed, and even subversive.)

So what will happen — will Northwest YM sue Anthem? Will they walk away? And what will their choices mean to other churches in this impending time of “restructuring.” 

Interesting. Very interesting.

Here is the text of the Anthem Letter, with its attachments:

Mr. Roger Watson
Director of Finance & Development
Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends 200 N. Meridian Street
Newberg, OR 97132

Dear Mr. Watson and all leadership of the Northwest Yearly Meeting:
ANTHEM CHURCH
January 24, 2017

This letter is in response to your letter to Chris Lauri dated December 9, 2016. Before getting to the substance of our reply, it is helpful to recount how we got to this point.

You may recall that the body of Anthem Friends Church made a unanimous decision to withdraw from the NWYM in October of 2015. That decision, with supporting documents, was transmitted to the NWYM through a letter dated October 20, 2015, and signed by Terry Riske, our presiding clerk (copy enclosed).

On February 11, 2016, you and Gordon Crisman called Anthem and spoke with Terry Riske and Pastor Jackson Hite to begin negotiations for Anthem to buy-back its Hayden Idaho property from NWYM. You proposed that the purchase price would be negotiated after an appraisal of that property. You also asked Anthem to provide a “binding” written statement declaring that Anthem would continue to allow churches in the NWYM to use the Twin Lakes camp property. During that phone call you identified a Resolution adopted by the Hayden Lake Friends Church directors on May 8, 1975, and minutes of a special meeting of the HLFC Board held on February 22, 1977, as the basis for the Yearly Meeting’s claim to the Anthem real property.

On February 20, 2016, the elders/directors of Anthem Friends Church met to consider and discuss the statements and demands conveyed during the February 11th phone call. At that meeting the Anthem elders/directors unanimously agreed to take the following actions:

1. To change the name of Hayden Lake Evangelical Friends Church, Inc. to “Anthem Church, Inc.” and to file Amended Articles with the Idaho Secretary of State;
2. To rescind and revoke the May 8, 1975 Resolution of the board of directors of Hayden Lake Friends Church, Inc.;
3. To rescind and revoke the February 22, 1977 Resolution of the board of directors of Hayden Lake Friends Church, Inc.;
4. To restate and amend the Bylaws of Anthem Church, Inc.; and
5. To record new deeds in the name of Anthem Church, Inc. for all real property previously titled to HLFC, and to purchase title insurance for all such property.

All of these actions have been completed.

In June of 2016, we met with the NWYM leadership in Newberg to discuss our withdrawal and release from the Yearly Meeting. During that meeting it was confirmed that Anthem Church had fully complied with the written exit process provided by Becky Ankeny (copy enclosed) and that Anthem is not under any form of discipline. Nevertheless, Anthem was asked to pay an “exit fee” equal to ten percent (10%) of the value of all Anthem properties. In addition, the Yearly Meeting requested that the Twin Lakes camp property be surrendered to the NWYM. The rationale for these demands was to set a precedent for any other churches who might be planning to withdraw from the Yearly Meeting, and to provide funding for the NWYM to plant new churches. In response to these demands the Anthem elders/directors proposed an alternative solution whereby Anthem would agree in principle to a 10% exit fee, but that fee would be waived on condition that Anthem would commit to spend an equivalent sum for church planting activities in the inland Northwest over a five (5) year period. A formal written proposal containing these terms and conditions was signed by Pastors Chris Lauri and Jackson Hite and transmitted to the NWYM on July 6, 2016 (copy enclosed).

In October of 2016, Chris Lauri was asked by Retha McCutchen to arrange a meeting in Hayden between the Anthem elders/directors and representatives of the NWYM. The purpose for this meeting was to discuss Anthem’s proposal and the conditions for Anthem’s withdrawal from the NWYM. The elders/directors of Anthem did not feel it was appropriate to meet and discuss these topics without first receiving a formal, written response to our July 6, 2016 offer. On November 3, 2016, Anthem sent the enclosed letter asking for a substantive written response to our July 6th proposal. We understand your December 9, 2016 letter (copy enclosed) to be that formal response.

In your letter you report that the Administrative Council will allow Anthem to retain the Twin Lakes camp property on certain terms and conditions set forth therein. With respect to the Anthem property in Hayden you report that the subcommittee and Administrative Council did not find our proposal to invest 10% of our value over 5 years for church planting activities to be acceptable. Instead, the NWYM now proposes that Anthem “return/pay” to the Yearly Meeting a sum equal to 7% of the total value of Anthem Church property as determined by an independent appraisal. Based on current assessed values, that sum would be approximately $150,000. In consideration of this payment the NWYM will “relinquish its legal right to retain the entirety of the property and improvements and cooperate on providing any necessary documentation that the Anthem church property is fully yours.”

On January 12, 2017, the elders/directors of Anthem Church, and several other former elders and leaders of HLFC met to discuss and consider the position of the Yearly Meeting as stated in your December 9th letter. The current and former leadership of Anthem unanimously agreed to reject your proposal. In addition, we unanimously agreed to withdraw our previous offer as expressed in our July 6, 2016 correspondence, and that offer is hereby withdrawn and terminated.

It is our considered opinion that the NWYM has no Biblical, legal, moral or historic claim to any of the real property now owned by Anthem Church, Inc. Over the past 20 years, HLFC and Anthem Church have contributed in excess of $1,000,000 to the NWYM and we have neither asked for nor received any financial support. Needless to say, we perceive no financial debt to the Yearly Meeting. The Twin Lakes camp property and the main Anthem Church campus in Hayden were acquired before the 1975 and 1977 resolutions upon which the Yearly Meeting apparently relies in making its claims. Anthem Church, Inc. has clear, unencumbered and insured title to all of these properties.

In addition, we have carefully reviewed your Faith and Practice document and we find nothing therein that supports your claim of a “legal right to retain” any of the Anthem property.

Finally, we have reviewed relevant judicial decisions on this subject and we are confident that any claim by NWYM against our assets will be rejected. In any event, Anthem Church and its insurer will defend against any such claim. In the meantime, Anthem Church will do with its property and assets as we deem best and in accordance with the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit. No consideration will be given to any other distraction.
We consider our withdrawal from the NWYM to be effective and completed in all respects. We will continue to follow the calling and do the work that the Lord has given us since the merger of HLFC and Anthem in 2012, and we are very excited to see what God has in store for our body. We continue to wish the best for the NWYM and you remain in our prayers as you deal with many difficult Biblical and theological issues.

In the absence of any new or additional information that supports your claims, we will retain ownership and control over all real property assets to honor the memory, sacrifice, faithfulness and desires of the past and current members of HLFC and Anthem Church. If you have any additional information for our consideration, please forward it to:

Scott L. Poorman Attorney at Law PO Box 2871
Hayden, ID 83835 In His love,

Anthem Church Elders

CC: all member churches of NWYM

Withdrawal Letter:

ANTHEM FRIENDS CHURCH
October 20, 2015

To the Northwest Yearly Meeting Elders and Superintendent,

Greetings from your brothers and sisters in Christ at Anthem Friends Monthly Meeting.

As the body of believers that call Anthem Friends Church our home (Anthem Friends Monthly Meeting), we wish to notify you that we request to be released from our affiliation with the Northwest Yearly Meeting. This discussion was initiated at our May business meeting, with the final decision made at our business meeting October 16th, 2015. This decision was made in full consensus, none needing to step aside. Sign in sheets are attached from those present.

While we hold no ill will toward the NWYM, we have determined that our beliefs and convictions do not align with those of the NWYM’s regarding the authority of Scripture and the methods and process used as we move toward regeneration, repentance and holiness in our walk with Jesus.

At this time, we do not have plans to join another yearly meeting, denomination or network. We also understand the current issues that NWYM is struggling with and the weight that those issues carry. Accordingly, we respectfully request a quick and timely release from affiliation with NWYM to allow us to prayerfully pursue the Lord’s direction for the future of Anthem Friends Church and to allow for the least disruptive transition for NWYM.

In Christ,
Terry Riske, Presiding Clerk

Attachment: Memo from NWYM to Anthem:
This is a statement of a procedure that we intend to use in the event of a local church wishing to withdraw from the Yearly Meeting. It is consistent with relevant sections of Faith and Practice, and with other actions taken by the Yearly Meeting in previous similar situations.

NWYM Faith and Practice states: “As an affiliate of Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends Church, each local church acknowledges that the Yearly Meeting has complete authority in all matters affecting the Yearly Meeting and its affiliated churches.”

Therefore, there must be YM involvement when a church intends to leave the YM for any reason. This is because such an act has wide reverberations across the YM and because there are legal requirements to be clarified and met.

The process of leaving will be initiated when a congregational business meeting provides the YM with a formal minute that the congregational business meeting approved stating the decision to leave.

The first group to respond will be the Elders. Their authority derives from F&P 7.01.06: “Whenever necessary, investigate problems in a local church or ministry point, endeavoring to help the church maintain its active relationship with the Yearly Meeting and with the community. If the Board judges that this cannot be achieved, it may take action it deems necessary including, but not limited to, discontinuing the church, effecting a union with another Friends Church, or changing its status to a ministry point.”

Because when a church decides to leave the YM, the entire YM will experience the loss, which may indeed meet the criterion of “shattering,” the NWYM elders are authorized to intervene in accordance the F & P guidelines about “Under the Care of Elders”: “While the decision to come under the care of the Elders is usually initiated by the local church, there are times when the BoE may choose to propose such an arrangement first. Exceptional cases where the church is in severe decline, is experiencing unresolved conflict, or is out of compliance with Faith and Practice in a way that is shattering to the local church or Yearly Meeting community, may prompt the BoE to intervene and place the local church under their care.…In situations in which a ministry point or local church continues to deteriorate, remains ineffective or out of unity with NWYM Faith and Practice, the BoE, acting for the Yearly Meeting, may discontinue the church or the association of the church with Northwest Yearly Meeting, or it may effect a union with another Friends church.”

The NWYM elders will follow the process outlined in F & P for such an intervention. They will initiate an interview process with congregants about the desire and decision to leave. They will meet with the congregation to review findings and correct misinformation.

The information will come to the NWYM elders for their discernment. If Elders discern differently from the local congregation, they may encourage the church to reconsider, to temporarily come under the care of NWYM Elders for counsel and support.

If the Elders discern that the local congregation has followed appropriate process in arriving at their decision, and that their leaving will not shatter the YM, a committee made up of representatives of the AC, Trustees, and Elders will meet with the congregation’s leadership
This group will work with the local congregational leaders to make A plan for the church property
A plan for leaving the NWYM 501(c)3 and finding another 501(c)3 Removing membership (and recording) or transferring to another denomination

The NWYM must be involved as well in any decision to form a new yearly meeting from churches presently a part of NWYM. As F & P states:

Areas whose members wish to be set off and established as a new yearly meeting should inform the Yearly Meeting of that desire and of the concurrence of the constituent churches in the proposal. The Yearly Meeting then considers the proposal and makes a decision. If action is favorable and a new yearly meeting is to be established, the Yearly Meeting appoints a committee, not to exceed ten in number, to attend the opening of the new yearly meeting and to present the authorizing minute and inaugurate sessions in accordance with Friends form of government.

ANTHEM CHURCH
Exit Proposal to NWYM

In October of 2015, the body at Anthem Friends Church made the difficult , yet unanimous decision to withdraw from the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends. Despite our withdrawal from the Yearly Meeting, we at Anthem remain grateful for the past and continued investment of the Yearly Meeting into the Kingdom of God in North Idaho.

We also acknowledge that our withdrawal has resulted in the loss ofresources to the Yearly Meeting that hinders its mission and future church-planting activities in North Idaho and adjoining regions such as Eastern Washington. Like the Yearly Meeting, we at Anthem sincerely desire to continue to support the work of the Holy Spirit by planting new churches in Kootenai County, North Idaho and adjoining regions.

In response to our withdrawal the Yearly Meeting has requested an exit fee equal to ten percent (10%) of the value of all Anthem Church properties. Based on current assessed values, the exit fee would be $296,000. In addition, the Yearly Meeting has requested that the Twin Lakes camp property be surrendered to the Yearly Meeting. It is our position that the NWYM has no legal or equitable claim to any of the assets of Anthem Church.
Nevertheless , in the interest of our shared goal to see the gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed in North Idaho and beyond , Anthem Church has agreed to voluntarily pay an exit fee to the NWYM equal to ten percent (10%) of the assessed value of all Anthem Church properties ($296,000). In return, the Yearly Meeting has agreed to waive and forgive the exit fee in full if Anthem Church uses the exit fee amount for church planting activities in North Idaho and beyond over the next five (5) years. Church planting activities include, without limitation: purchasing and/or leasing real property, supporting new pastors in full or part­ time ministry, supporting Christian education through schools, camps and other programs, supporting local missionaries in Kootenai County, North Idaho and beyond.
The Yearly Meeting also acknowledges and agrees that Anthem is fully released from the NWYM with all of its assets free and clear of any claim or demand by the Yearly Meeting, and with the Yearly Meeting’s blessing to continue the work that God has called Anthem to perform in Kootenai County and wherever the Holy Spirit leads.

We, the pastors and elders of Anthem Church, solemnly commit to pray for God’s blessing on our brothers and sisters in Christ at the Yearly Meeting.

Signed by Chris Lauri, Lead Pastor, and Jackson Hits, executive Pastor 

Date 7-6-2016

NWYM Representative Date

NWYM Representative Date

251 W. MILES AVE // THISISOURANTHEM.COM // 208.772.7544

 

November 3, 2016 Anthem Letter to NWYM

Dear Leadership of the Northwest Yearly Meeting,
ANTHEM CHURCH
Meeting Request Response

The Elders of Anthem Church met yesterday to discuss your request for a face-to-face meeting in Hayden. While we appreciate your desire to engage in direct communication, we believe that such a meeting would be premature at this time.

You will recall that we traveled to Newberg in June of this year and met with several representatives from the Yearly Meeting. Following that gathering, Anthem presented a detailed written proposal for your consideration. To date we have not received a substantive response to our proposal. Our proposal was offered in good faith as a comprehensive resolution of all issues related to Anthem Church assets and our withdrawal from NWYM. We would appreciate the courtesy of a detailed written response to that proposal, and we will consider your response to be made by persons with the authority to legally bind the NWYM if the terms are accepted.

Upon receipt of your substantive written response, we will give careful consideration to your proposed terms and we will reply in a timely manner. We sincerely hope you receive this request in the spirit of mutual respect and love with which it is made. Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to your reply.

Best regards,

Anthem Church Elders

Letter from Northwest YM Leadership to Anthem

December 9, 2016

Anthem Church Chris Lauri, Pastor
251 W. Miies Avenue
Hayden Lake, ID 83835-9622 Dear Chris,
I am happy to be able to get back to you and Anthem Church on the matters we have been discussing, as to the future of Twin Lakes Camp and the Anthem church property itself.

The Administrative Council of Northwest Yearly Meeting appointed a subcommittee to consider the Anthem proposal submitted in June of this year. This group was made up of members of the Trustees, Administrative Council and yearly meeting Elders, all of which had been present at the June meeting. This group made recommendations to the Administrative Council which then issued a decision.

In regard to Twin Lakes Camp, the Administrative Council proposes that the camp be retained by Anthem Church. This recognizes the significant financial investment which Hayden Lake Friends and now Anthem has made in the camp. This proposal is made on the following conditions:

–The parties will sign and record a memorandum of agreement that Anthem Church owns Twin Lakes Camp. If the camp is sold within a l 0-year period, Anthem Church will return 25% of the proceeds to Northwest Yearly Meeting (which will be used for benefit of the In land Area Friends churches).
–Anthem will allow use of the camp by In land Area Friends churches at a reduced rate. It is suggested that the 20% discount offered by Twin Rocks Friends Camp be used as a model.
–That Inland Area Friends churches will continue to have a presence on the camp board of directors to work in partnership with Anthem Church.
–That a way be found by Anthem Church to permanently honor those churches and individuals which gave of time, expertise and financial support to establish the camp.

In regard to the Anthem church property itself, the subcommittee and Administrative Council were not satisfied with the proposal made by Anthem . While we applaud your desire to plant churches, it was felt strongly that this did not honor the desire of the Hayden Lake Friends Church and its members to remain a Friends Church, and the proposal was not adequate or acceptable. With that in mind, Northwest Yearly Meeting proposes that Anthem Church return/pay the Yearly Meeting for the Anthem church property an amount equal to 7% of the value of the church property and improvements based on an independent appraisal by a qualified third party that is mutually acceptable to the parties. The cost of would be divided equally between the Church and Northwest Yearly Meeting .

We believe this to be a generous offer by Northwest Yearly Meeting based on its Faith and Practice and would allow Anthem to continue with its vision . In consideration for the 7% payment, Northwest

Yearly Meeting will relinquish its legal right to retain the entirety of the property and improvements and cooperate on providing any necessary documentation that the Anthem church property is fully yours.

While we grieve the loss of the Anthem Church from Northwest Yearly Meeting it is our desire that your separation might be a peaceable one. In that spirit, we hope that you will agree to meet with Retha McCutchen, General Superintendent, Debbie Harrison , Assistant Clerk and Roger Watson, Director of Finance and Development to discuss any disagreements in a face to face meeting.

Please let us know when you can as to whether the above offer is acceptable. If so, please sign and return a copy of this letter. This offer is made on behalf of the Northwest Yearly Meeting and, if accepted, we will prepare and send you the legal documentation necessary to accomplish the transactions.

Sincerely yours,

Roger Watson,
Director of Finance & Development ,
For and on behalf of Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends Church, by its authority

The foregoing offer is accepted and approved . ANTHEM CHURCH , INC.
By
Name (printed):

North Carolina YM Welcomes the “Autonomites”

Friends, welcome to Carolina Quaker Vocabulary 201.
Today’s new words are: “Autonomy” and “Autonomites.”
First we’ll go over the words themselves, then we’ll have some exercises.

Here are the standard definitions for “autonomy,” from the basic online dictionary:

au·ton·o·my — noun – definitions:

The right or condition of self-government, especially in a
a self-governing country or region.
Freedom from external control or influence; independence.
Synonyms: self-government, self-rule, home rule, self-determination, independence, sovereignty, freedom.

And an “autonomite” is one who conducts their religious life, in their community, on an autonomous basis, associating freely with others,  following leadings of the Spirit rather than directives of human authorities.

Now for the exercises, getting familiar with the words and their meaning:

A North Carolina YM Committee clerk has given the name “Autonomy” to a new grouping of local meetings, as part of a NCYM reorganization plan. Does this name mean anything?

We will soon find out. On Saturday, January 28, at Quaker lake Camp, beginning at 10 AM there will be a gathering of Friends interested in the Autonomy grouping. Welcome the Carolina Autonomites.

Attendance at the session does not require committing to the grouping, though the convenor, Mark Farlow, hopes some meetings which have been uncertain may wish to do that.

No doubt many questions will come up. One near the top of my list is, How truly “autonomous” will these “Autonomites” be? Continue reading North Carolina YM Welcomes the “Autonomites”

Another Day, Another Split Attempt– The New Target: North Carolina YM

I suppose it was just too good to last.

In August, after two years of turmoil, North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM, or NCYM) considered and rejected a plan to split the yearly meeting.

Instead, it decided to reorganize, offering two sub-associations for meetings to align with, within a revised and shrunken Yearly Meeting. NCYM would become a kind of umbrella holding company, mainly concerned with managing endowment funds and real estate. The sketch below is an approximation.

This decision was challenged at the November Representative session: the pastor of New Hope Friends called for reviving the split plan. But there was no interest in, or discussion of that idea. (A week later, New Hope chose to leave NCYM.)

That same day, plans for revising and managing the reorganized finances & YM structure were approved, without contention.

So far, so good. The fetid stench of heresy-hunting and attempted purges which had fouled the air in NCYM’s sessions for two long  years seemed to have dissipated.

But . . . .
Continue reading Another Day, Another Split Attempt– The New Target: North Carolina YM

Is North Carolina Yearly Meeting Giving Peace A Chance?

After two years of turmoil, meeting departures, and apocalyptic rhetoric, North Carolina Yearly Meeting held a representative session in Goldsboro on November 5, 2016 which was remarkably drama free.

This was despite the fact that the session made several major decisions. And among the biggest was a decision they did not make.

spring-meeting-open-door-best-sm
is NCYM opening the door to a time of peaceful coexistence?

We’ve spoken here before of the Blockbuster Video effect, the fact that both technological and demographic changes are making the NCYM structure obsolete; not unlike “Blockbuster Video,” which was toppled by failure to adapt to  changes in its industry.

On Saturday, NCYM took two major steps in a similar process: first, it decided to end its pastor’s pension program; and second, they gave its showpiece, Quaker Lake Camp, a green light to become de facto independent.

There’s no question that closing down the pension program marks the end of an era. NCYM figures are that 173 people are vested in it, or already receiving checks. The payments were supposed to last for life; now they will end after June 2017. Each beneficiary will get a final settlement check, adjusted actuarially.

Continue reading Is North Carolina Yearly Meeting Giving Peace A Chance?