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?

We’ve already heard from the Clerk of the Quarter reorganization Committee, rumbles about what the Autonomites must do henceforth, in two particular areas:

The two Faith and Practice Development/Revision Committees, comprised of representatives from the member quarters/regions and acting on behalf of their respective groups, will need to begin immediately to address the development/revision of their respective Faith and Practice to reflect each group’s beliefs and behaviors. Obviously, depending on the degree of departure from the 2012 Edition of the NCYM Faith and Practice, this could be a very time consuming process. Ideally, this work would be concluded by 2017 Annual Sessions.

(The complete text of this letter is here.) This could be “very” time-consuming?

I guess. Consider: when the two branches of Baltimore Yearly Meeting came together in 1968, it took them, not eight months, but twenty years to write and adopt a new Faith & Practice –and that was with the process moving forward without major contention. But in the meantime, the yearly meeting held its sessions, adopted budgets, hired staff, built some programs, welcomed new meetings, worshiped; life went on.

So why should the Carolina Autonomites be rushed along like passengers being herded into lifeboats from a sinking ship? There’s lots to think about in this process, and plenty of time to examine it.

As for the work of writing a Faith & Practice, here’s a stopgap suggestion: the Autonomites could agree to regard the 2012 (uncontaminated) edition of the NCYM F&P as a provisional document for reference and counsel, paying special heed to its numerous statements that it is NOT a creed. Then move on with further F&P revision as they are collectively led, in God’s time.

Further, the Clerk’s letter insists that the Autonomites establish “adequate separation” from the other association — or else.

And just what is “adequate separation”? The Clerk will decide that. 

This is a diktat that should be quickly dispensed with. If this association is indeed to be “self-governing, independent, and free from external control,” this autonomy can start right there:

Thank thee very much, Clerk, but we shall be what we are led to be, autonomously. If others can’t bear who we are, that is their problem and they must follow their leadings. So much for that.

Then there’s the stickier matter of committees. Evidently the Quarterly Alignment Committee expects that the Autonomites will build a structure that’s essentially a clone of the existing NCYM:

The Nominating Committee for each group . . should begin immediately to recommend members of the respective groups to populate key committees and boards for that group. Existing key committees and boards may be found in Faith and Practice, but certainly include Committee on Clerks, Ministry and Counsel, Missions, Church Extension, Stewardship-Finance, Trustees, etc. These committees will need to be in place, familiar with the transition process, and ready to assume the responsibility of their roles for their group, formerly performed by their counterparts on behalf of what has been the entire Yearly Meeting — effective with the conclusion of the 2017 Annual Sessions.

Well, here again I see no need to rush, and lots of reasons to be deliberate and take their time. For starters, a genuinely autonomous group might well choose not to be a clone of what already exists, and with good reason.

For instance, there are committees on the existing roster which, in my view ought to be re-evaluated and dumped, as a waste of time & money, and sources of pointless conflict and trouble. The Recording Committee, for one; why not leave that function to local meetings, and be done with the stream of heresy hunts it has inflicted on the body? And what about Church Extension? After thirty years of abject failure in its efforts, it is way overdue for retirement. And there are others.

But that is not all. The Committee letter also directs that

These restructured quarterly meetings/regions should also begin to meet together in their respective groups to discuss and consider the ministries and missions their group would like to undertake. A somewhat complete list of these ministries and missions can be gleaned from the line items in the approved 2017 Budget.

Yet again, there is good reason to pause, move deliberately, and not be a clone.

After all, I predict that some in attendance may have noted major changes in the outside world of late, changes that will affect those in the body as well as outside it. I hear many voices calling for various urgent responses.

What if, in response, some among the Autonomites want, in their independent and self-governing way, to rethink and perhaps redirect their ministry involvements and resources in new and different directions? If so, why shouldn’t they?

Nor, for that matter, do all Autonomites have to march to a single drummer. They could autonomously opt to collaborate informally in task groups, with others of like mind, but perhaps not for the entire association, as their discernment develops.

No doubt there will be a need for a committee to handle funds, plus a Clerk or two to sign formal papers and keep minutes and records. But many yearly meetings today operate well enough on very minimal structures, both to save money and to free up Spirit energy for other concerns besides running a creaky traditional machinery.

So I hope for a successful launch for the Autonomites, as an authentically free group, at this Seventh Day assembly at Quaker Lake.

And not least because, as Paul says in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be encumbered once more . . . 13For you, brothers (and sisters), were called to freedom.” And as 2 Corinthians, 3:17 reaffirms, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

And autonomy too.

One thought on “North Carolina YM Welcomes the “Autonomites””

  1. Hoping for the best. Good work has already been done by several, including the co-facilitators of tomorrow’s meeting.

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