Category Archives: Signs of the Times

Who’s More Scared of Free Speech? Baltimore Friends School, Or The N.Y. Times?

Who’s More Scared of Free Speech? Baltimore Friends School, Or The N.Y. Times?

[A Clue: It’s NOT the Times.]

Yesterday the New York Times ran an op-ed piece by one Ryan Anderson, titled, “We Don’t Need Kim Davis to Be in Jail.”

Three quick points about it; then we’ll get to BFS:BFS-Logo

  1. Anderson is the main apparatchik still beating the dead horse of opposition to same sex marriage for the rightwing Heritage Foundation. He’s also a handsome, well-spoken, Ivy-league Millennial — and a proud grad of the 231-year old Baltimore Friends School.
  2. His piece urged state or federal officials to create an exemption for Kim Davis, who is just out of jail. Davis, you will recall, is Clerk of Rowan County in Kentucky, who has refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. Her defiance of federal court orders upholding her duty to do so, since the Supreme Court same sex marriage decision in June, landed her behind bars last week. (But you probably knew that.)

Anderson wrote, in part:

Because each marriage license issued by the clerk’s office bore her name and title, Ms. Davis concluded that her religious beliefs meant she could not have her office issue licenses to same-sex couples. So she had the office stop issuing them entirely.

Ms. Davis felt she had to follow her conscience. And whether or not we share her Christian faith, and its particular positions about issuing civil marriage licenses, is beside the point.

. . . Federal anti-discrimination law requires a reasonable accommodation of religious belief where it does not place undue hardships on the employer. . . . So it was incumbent upon the government to try to work out a solution. Ms. Davis wasn’t trying to prevent same-sex couples from getting marriage licenses at all; she just didn’t want her name or title on the paperwork. . . .

Perhaps a similar solution could be found in Kentucky, by removing an individual clerk’s name and title from a marriage license. 

3. I’m half-persuaded by his argument. Why not change the form to remove Davis’s name, and identify only the Rowan County Clerk’s office as the official issuer? 

Why keep the office on the form? It’s a matter of “ownership.”  Davis’s conscience is her own; no human authority gets to dictate what it says. Her name is also her own. She and Ryan Anderson are right about that.

But not the County Clerk’s office: she doesn’t “own” that; no way.  It belongs to the people of Kentucky; and even though Kim Davis’s mother held the same post for a long time, neither of them inherited it as a family heirloom. They were elected to it, for a specified term.

The County clerk’s office in Kentucky issues marriage licenses; so to be legal, that office’s name and certification need to be on them. But the specific Clerk’s name? Maybe not; the state could let one of her assistants sign it. As Ryan points out:

“The state already amended licenses from “Bride” and “Groom” to “Party 1” and “Party 2.” Why not make another change?”

Another change is worth considering.  Would she accept an office-yes, skip-your-name option? Would Anderson? Interesting questions.

But minor ones. Ryan Anderson’s piece is not a big deal. Kim Davis can get out of jail whenever she wants, by complying with the law as it applies to to her job, or working out some sort of accommodation deal that is still compliant. Either way, her conscience is still her own, and the office is not. And same sex marriage is legal, in Rowan County Kentucky, and the USA. 

Ryan-Anderson-2
Ryan Anderson, right-winger to watch.

BREAKING: Tuesday afternoon a federal judge ordered Davis to be released, but also ordered her not to interfere with clerks in her office who are issuing licenses for same sex marriages. So something like this “accommodation” may be about to happen; or at least there will be a media frenzy. Son we’ll find out of Davis will abide by the latest “non-interference” order.

Now, about Baltimore Friends School. 

In April, Ryan Anderson was featured in a profile piece in the Washington Post [“The right finds a fresh voice on same-sex marriage”, said the headline]. In it he touted his argument that the Supreme Court should leave same sex marriage to the states. 

The piece was articulate — but in vain of course, as far as the  court went. Nevertheless it was a great brand-builder for Anderson as a conservative comer: if/when right-wingers occupy the White House again, watch for him to pop up in some highly visible post.

It also mentioned the Baltimore Friends School, which Anderson praised. Good publicity for the school, right? In the Washington Post? Of course. So Matt Micciche, the school head, posted a link to it on the BFS Facebook page.

For a few hours.
Then Micciche deleted it and put in its place an abject, cringing apology, extensively excerpted in our earlier post.

The apology itself was embarrassing enough; but what made this reversal worse was that the BFS website also trumpets an educational philosophy that poses as being fearless in facing tough, controversial issues:

Quaker education is a pilgrimage–a continual seeking after Truth. The search for truth requires a willingness to listen openly to the ideas of others, even in fields of controversy.”

matt-micciche-BFS
BFS Head Mark Micciche.

 Except they were not about “to listen openly to” THIS controversy:

“At Friends, we work together to build and sustain a community that is inclusive, respectful, and supportive of all people; we value diversity and cherish differences.” With this ideal in mind, the celebration of divergent viewpoints is not, and cannot be, without boundaries.” 

And linking to an article in which Anderson argued for leaving same sex marriage decisions to the states was, he determined, beyond the boundary; it was evidently in the same league with organizing a lynch mob or shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater.

Oy vey. There’s no blinking it: 

The BFS head’s actions and statements were incoherent, anti-intellectual, cowardly, and un-Quakerly. If this sounds harsh, so be it. Right-wing blogs and pundits had a field day, and who could blame them? “Friends, This Is Not Tolerance” crowed the National Review. Micciche deleted his apology; a right-wing blogger reposted it.

The NY Times Op-Ed piece yesterday proves how lame the BFS panicked response was. Anderson’s anti-same sex marriage crusade has gone down in ignominious defeat. He’s reduced to haggling over photocopied signatures on a marriage license in one Kentucky County (out of 3100+ in the U.S.). The Times piece again burnished his conservative-comer brand, but beyond that was no big deal. 

I’ve sent Matt Micciche an email asking if BFS plans to make any use of this new BFS alum’s article, in the most prestigious national newspaper. If there’s any reply, watch for updates.

Meantime, I hope he’s taking some time today to ponder the BFS philosophy which was so humiliatingly dumped the last time around. Because the philosophy is a good one. And another occasion to put up or shut up about it is sure to come.

Besides, he & BFS have brands to burnish too; and Friends, they still need it.

 

Carolina Quakes: One Crisis Past; more To Do

Carolina Quakes: One Crisis Past; More To Do

 < One >

In fact, when it came before the NCYM annual session, facing close to 200 Friends in a well-filled meeting room, the Executive Committee and its expulsions never had a chance.
As Friends gathered, word was spreading that the Greensboro News & Record had featured NCYM on its front page that morning, with an article featuring the headline, “Dissension Among Local Quakers Is Civil War Stuff.”

Only one Friend rose to endorse the EC report.
CArtoon-stop-and-think

 

 

 

 

 

Continue reading Carolina Quakes: One Crisis Past; more To Do

Breaking: NCYM Expulsions Overturned!

Breaking: NCYM Expulsions Overturned!

Details to follow. (Session still underway.)

One big step forward–then half a step back.

Here we go again??

Scarcely an hour after loudly overturning its Executive Committee’s over-reach, the North Carolina YM session agreed to have distributed among its meetings a new “Plan” to “deal with” the divisive issues that have dogged the body, a plan that is highly like to stir more dissent.

it was presented by a Task Force called for in June, after a previous “New Committee,” charged with almost exactly the same mission, was unable to  agree on any actual proposals. After nearly a year of contentious meetings, the New Committee presented three “options,” without recommendations, and was then “laid down,” in Quaker jargon (tho “collapsed” might be more accurately expressive). Its irresolute end reflected the continuing lack of anything approaching  consensus or “unity” on such matters as doctrinal stance,  views on LGBT rights & same sex marriage, dual affiliation, and more.

Just how the new Task Force will resolve them is far from clear. And much in the plan presented today sounds like déjà vu all over again. “We slew a dragon at 11:30,” one Friend commented, “and then resurrected it as a zombie by lunchtime.”

Who’s Afraid of “Dual Affiliation”?? A Carolina YM Preview

Who’s Afraid of “Dual Affiliation”?? A Carolina YM Preview

As North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM) prepares for its annual sessions this weekend, “dual affiliation” is a key issue to be addressed. 

“Dual Affiliation” occurs when local meetings have some formal connection with more than one yearly meeting or broader Quaker association.

According to some comments about it, dual affiliation is just about the sum of all iniquities, in the same category with cannibalism or child sacrifice.

But is it? We’ll take a look at whether it’s really so awful in a bit. First, here are the most vehement objections to it from the sheaf of letters about NCYM’s issues over the past year:

SCFM-list-of-affiliations
The State College PA Meeting website plainly lists both its Yearly Meeting affiliations, and some others.

Continue reading Who’s Afraid of “Dual Affiliation”?? A Carolina YM Preview

More Carolina Quaker Turbulence: One Meeting Stays; Two Quit

More Carolina Quaker Turbulence: One Meeting Stays; Two Quit

All three of the Friends Meetings expelled from North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM) have now issued formal responses to this action, which was taken by the NCYM Executive Committee on August 20 (they called it a “release.”) Among them, the statements go in exactly opposite directions.

Rumor-One-Stays-Two-Quit

Continue reading More Carolina Quaker Turbulence: One Meeting Stays; Two Quit

In Carolina, Strange Bedfellows & Battle Lines

In Carolina, Strange Bedfellows & Battle Lines

In our last post, we reported that North Carolina Yearly Meeting-FUM (NCYM) officials had taken steps to ensure calm at the impending annual sessions. They will open on Friday, September 4, at a YMCA camp in the western Carolina mountains.

But late yesterday, that plan went up in smoke.

Turn-back-poster-sqTo recap briefly: on August 20, NCYM’s Executive Committee (EX Comm) abruptly expelled three local meetings. (Details here and here.) The notice of expulsion said the meetings could appeal the action at the YM annual sessions.

Continue reading In Carolina, Strange Bedfellows & Battle Lines

“Unfortunately, They Have Led You Astray.” Blowback & A Blink After the Carolina Expulsions

“Unfortunately, They Have Led You Astray.” 
Blowback & A Blink After the Carolina Expulsions

It hasn’t been a quiet week in Quake wobegon (North Carolina Yearly Meeting-FUM).

When it began, many Friends were still in shock at the news that three of its meetings had been abruptly expelled (“released” is the unconvincing official term) by the YM Executive Committee, after an unannounced meeting on August 20.

Oops-SignBut the shock soon wore off. And after that, came the reaction. It was strong and loud, and hasn’t let up.

Continue reading “Unfortunately, They Have Led You Astray.” Blowback & A Blink After the Carolina Expulsions

Max Carter Speaks Out for Expelled New Garden Meeting

Max Carter Speaks Out for Expelled New Garden Meeting

We just interviewed Max Carter, a newly retired former faculty member and Director of the Friends Center at Guilford College. Max is also a member of New Garden Friends Meeting (NGFM), recently pronounced “released” [i.e., expelled] by the North Carolina Yearly Meeting (NCYM) Executive Committee.

Max-Carter-for-NGFM(We have also offered to let an informed member of the other two “released” NCYM Meetings, Holly Spring & Poplar Ridge, make their case against the Executive Committee action here. No takers yet.)

Continue reading Max Carter Speaks Out for Expelled New Garden Meeting

Northwest Appeal Drama: Why Did Spokane Meeting’s Letter Vanish?

Northwest Appeal Drama: Why Did Spokane Meeting’s Letter Vanish?

Yesterday we reported that there were eight Appeal letters filed challenging Northwest Yearly Meeting’s expulsion of West Hills Friends in Portland, for being LGBT welcoming/affirming.

APPEAL-Spokane

For a brief moment, all eight letters were online at the unofficial site www.nwymunity.com. The last two to be uploaded were from Eugene and Spokane.

For a brief moment hey were all there — and then there were only seven.

Spokane’s appeal letter disappeared. 

This morning, Cherice Bock, who is managing the nwymunity site, replied to an inquiry about this:

<< One more thing to keep up with…not everyone at Spokane was comfortable with having it posted publicly, so we took it down. Sorry! >>

Sorry, indeed. We copied part of the letter and included it in an update. That was because Spokane was unusually plain-spoken and eloquent  in its challenge to the “process” deployed in West Hills’ expulsion by NWYM rulers.

Here’s what Spokane said about that:

<< The Board of Elders requested that they be held in prayer and not lobbied during Yearly Meeting sessions  or in the weeks immediately after while they considered how to move forward in this matter. The request was taken seriously by our representatives, who were troubled to learn that within hours of the close  of annual sessions,  the decision to terminate West Hills’ relationship with the Yearly Meeting was made public. This curiously timed announcement asserted authority of the Yearly Meeting over a local church without the full participation and engagement of the whole Yearly Meeting membership. A small, select and self-sequestered body exercising greater authority than the collective body of the Yearly Meeting is not consistent with our understanding of Gospel Order. We must ask which of these ways of proceeding, (West Hills or the NWYM Elders) is more transparent and openhearted, which more Christ-centered?  We believe that Christ will make his will clear to all of us in time as we carefully listen. The Elders, by sequestering themselves and making adecision in a matter as grave as this, seem to violate this belief. 
We feel strongly that if the Elder’s decision had come as a recommendation to the floor of Yearly Meeting, the lack of consensus surrounding it would have been apparent to all.  >>
 

But we didn’t copy the whole Spokane appeal (our bad: it’s better practice to capture such documents in their entirety, precisely  because they can disappear).

And it’s too bad that a document which challenges so well a process that is shrouded and “self-sequestered,” lacking transparency and “openheartedness,” doesn’t stay open and transparent to those interested, inside and outside the yearly meeting.

Challenging the secretive and arbitrary “leadership culture” in NWYM is a recurrent theme of the appeals. From outside at least, it looks much better when the challengers to that culture walk the talk. 

Eight-Plus Appeals of Northwest Welcoming Meeting’s Expulsion

Eight-Plus Appeals of Northwest Welcoming Meeting’s Expulsion

[With updates]

The 30-day deadline for appeals of the expulsion of West Hills Friends Meeting from Northwest Yearly Meeting (NWYM) because of its LGBT welcoming stance,  expired at midnight Sunday, August 23. 

APPEAL-Square

According to NWYM officials, only local meetings could file formal appeals. But they agreed to read and take into account other expressions and letters. 

The final tally was impressive: eight meetings filed official  appeals.  Members of a ninth meeting, which failed to agree on an “official” appeal, sent a supportive letter anyway.

And an unofficial group “appeal” (more like a petition), posted on an ad hoc website, was also sent, along with the names of 230 signers from 25 monthly meetings.

The eight meetings we have identified are listed below: 

Note: The first six meetings’ appeals (noted with stars) are posted online here. 

*Hillsboro Friends
*North Valley Friends
*Klamath Falls Friends
*Camas Friends
*North Seattle Friends
*Reedwood Friends

These two other meetings’ are not yet available online:
Eugene Friends
Spokane Friends

[Breaking UPDATE: Since the above was posted, the appeals from Spokane & Eugene HAVE been posted to the NWYM Unity site.]

Eugene Friends win the prize for brevity. Here’s their entire appeal:

Eugene Friends Church in its Monthly Meeting of August 23, 2015 (33 present), approved the following:

Eugene Friends Church Monthly Meeting respectfully requests, according to 1.03.04 of “Business procedures” in Faith & Practice, that West Hills Friends not be released or disconnected from the Yearly Meeting until a time when the Board of Elders may report their action to the Yearly Meeting “in plenary session…allowing time for prayerful consideration of issues raised by the report….”

Six Friends stood aside from this decision.

– – – – – – – –

In addition, Silverton Friends Meeting labored but was unable to reach “consensus” on the issue. So an informal Group of Silverton Friends wrote their own.  A few excerpts:

We are disheartened by the lack of transparency. As a whole, Northwest Yearly Meeting does not seem to understand how we arrived at this juncture. Many details of the decision-making process are not widely known. We appreciate that there is often a delicate balance between privacy and transparency. But we are also seeing that with a decision that involves a whole monthly meeting (and affects the whole yearly meeting), a lack of transparency has created the soil where gossip and rumors can grow, along with twisted facts and general confusion.

Finally, we are concerned for the safety of friends who identify as LGBTQ. We believe that Christ’s love should not be limited. As stated in Faith and Practice, “We witness to the dignity and worth of all persons before God.” We believe the decision to release West Hills Friends sends a message to LGBTQ people that they are not safe to attend a church with us in the yearly meeting, because discussions about human sexuality are not welcome. It also diminishes their dignity and worth.

What message does our disfellowship with West Hills Church send to those outside Northwest Yearly Meeting? How can we be agents of Peace in this matter? Can we commit to having the hard conversations with each other, setting fears aside?

Silence can be interpreted as implied consent. We cannot remain silent, for we do not consent. We will not stand aside as one of our family is turned away.

And in the waning hours of August 23, one more minute arrived, from West Hills itself. But it was not an appeal. Here it is, in full:

West Hills Friends approved this minute at a called meeting for business on Sunday, August 23rd:

Minute from West Hills Friends,  August 23, 2015

We are grateful to all who have extended words of love, encouragement and support to our community in the face of the Northwest Yearly Meeting Board of Eldersʼ decision to release/remove West Hills Friends from membership in our yearly meeting.

We are heartened by voices from within NWYM who say that our yearly meeting will be diminished by our absence. We hope that the reflection and discernment of those who have been led to appeal this decision will be received and held in a way that bears good fruit for NWYM.

We have been steadfast in our commitment to and participation in NWYM over the three years of investigation and discipline for our noncompliance with NWYM Faith & Practice.

With this new landscape, we find that as a community, we need to listen again for the guidance of Spirit.

In coming together to hear what rises around the NWYM Eldersʼ decision, we found that the allowed 30 day window does not offer adequate time for our community to come to unity in Spirit-led discernment on the question of appeal.

We note that we may be led, in time, to speak into this situation in new ways.

We note that membership and relationship are not identical, and hold hope that with or without membership, relationships between the people of West Hills Friends and NWYM will continue and evolve in new and life-giving ways.

                                       – – – – – – –

Other reports indicate that the WHF community includes quite divergent feelings about NWYM. WHF pastor Mark Pratt-Russum spoke with my colleague Stephen Angell about this, for a major report on NWYM. His report will be forthcoming in the next issue of the journal Quaker Theology,  which published the first independent  report on the West Hills/NWYM situation in 2014. (Watch for updates about the new issue’s completion):

“There is no way that a congregation as varied as ours could draft a letter of appeal in 30 days.” . . . .

“There are congregation members who have grown up in the yearly meeting, who have relied on the yearly meeting, and for them, the decision was extremely painful. It felt like a family split.

On the other end of the spectrum, many LGBTQ members in our congregation had looked at NWYM as an oppressor, and for many of them, the decision came as something of a relief. For other LGBTQ Friends, it was painful because they were once again being told that they are not welcome at the table. The majority of the members of the church fall in the middle and feel all of these emotions.”

They responded also to the statements of affirmation in the Elders’ letter: West Hill Friends “have listened to the Spirit of God for a long time, and the yearly meeting honored the process we went through in its letter.”

Pratt-Russum summarizes, “There is heartbreak all around, for many, many reasons. We’re doing our best to surround our LGBT Friends with love. We reassure them that nothing has changed about how we – or how God – loves them. The bottom line is that we’re OK – nothing’s really going to change.” (Pratt-Russum to Angell, 8/20/2015)

And the last item, as suggested in the graphic above, is: What Now?

Procedurally, the course is straightforward: the appeals will be considered and acted on by the NWYM Administrative Council.

But on what timetable? Here the response of YM officials has also been straightforward: No Comment. No timetable has been acknowledged. So it could take a month — it could take a year; it could take –??

This stonewalling reinforces the complaint heard in most of the appeals, about a lack of transparency and accountability by NWYM’s top councils. For those below, a strict appeals deadline was imposed and requests for flexibility denied.

But for those above? No deadlines allowed there. They will act when they are good and ready, and those subject to it are expected to wait patiently, then accept the decision, when it comes, and that will be that.

This corporate attitude also echoes the way the expulsion of West Hills was handled: announced just after the end of its annual sessions, when Friends were scattered and enroute home.  

Most of the internal appeals couched their complaints about this “lack of transparency and accountability” at the top in NWYM in very euphemized terms. The just-now uploaded appeal from Spokane Friends was among the more plain-spoken:

The Board of Elders requested that they be held in prayer and not lobbied during Yearly Meeting sessions  or in the weeks immediately after while they considered how to move forward in this matter. The request was taken seriously by our representatives, who were troubled to learn that within hours of the close  of annual sessions,  the decision to terminate West Hills’ relationship with the Yearly Meeting was made public. This curiously timed announcement asserted authority of the Yearly Meeting over a local church without the full participation and engagement of the whole Yearly Meeting membership. A small, select and self-sequestered body exercising greater authority than the collective body of the Yearly Meeting is not consistent with our understanding of Gospel Order. We must ask which of these ways of proceeding, (West Hills or the NWYM Elders) is more transparent and openhearted, which more Christ-centered?  We believe that Christ will make his will clear to all of us in time as we carefully listen. The Elders, by sequestering themselves and making adecision in a matter as grave as this, seem to violate this belief. 

We feel strongly that if the Elder’s decision had come as a recommendation to the floor of Yearly Meeting, the lack of consensus surrounding it would have been apparent to all.

– – – – – – – – – –

Spokane was speaking about the past. This outsider can be even more concise about the process from here: it stinks.