Another North Carolina Meeting Bails Out. Who’s Next?
A year ago, on August 30, 2014, Friends from Pine Hill Meeting of Ararat, NC, were at North Carolina Yearly Meeting-FUM’s annual session, demanding a purifying division in NCYM, to banish the iniquity of “dual affiliation.”
The “dual affiliation” which was so repugnant was membership by a handful of NCYM meetings in Piedmont Friends Fellowship (PFF). A loose regional network of meetings from various YMs (and none), PFF was founded in the 1960s, and is connected to the liberal association, Friends General Conference (FGC).
The PFF/FGC axis was so offensive to many in Pine Hill because it included Friends who supported, among other things, same sex marriage, the open presence of LGBTQ folks; diverse and even skeptical attitudes toward the Bible as “God’s final authority”; a generous approach to Christianity and other paths as ways to “salvation”; plus they were opposed to creeds.
Pine Hill and several other meetings demanded that the split be consummated that same day, specifically by obliging the “tainted” meetings & their members to immediately resign from NCYM. Several other meetings echoed the cry.
Their drive was stopped that day by the staunch witness of the Clerk, Bill Eagles, who rightly pointed out that–
A. Quakers don’t make decisions that way; and
B. there was nothing like a clear consensus or “unity” behind this plan, no matter how loudly the Pine Hill activists and their supporters shouted and clapped.
(This summary based on the 2014 YM Minutes, which are not online.)
Now fast-forward to September 13, 2015: last First Day (Sunday) evening.
In a lightly-attended business meeting, Pine Hill Meeting achieved its goal of a separation from these tainted groups.
But it didn’t happen quite the way they were expecting in 2014. Instead, it was Pine Hills that resigned from NCYM, “effective immediately.”
This was a sharp reversal for the group. In an August 13, 2014 open letter, the meeting insisted that “Pine Hill Friends has no plans to leave the North Carolina Yearly Meeting or withhold our Askings.”[i.e., yearly meeting dues]
This move leaves four prominent Pine Hill members in unexpected exile: Brent McKinney, who has served in many NCYM positions, and even as Presiding Clerk of its larger association, Friends United Meeting; his wife, Brenda McKinney, who is currently president of the NC United Society of Friends Women, an NCYM group; and Billy Britt, who retired after twenty years as NCYM Superintendent; and his wife Viola Britt, who is a member of the NCYM Executive Committee.
To retain their posts, all will have to find another local meeting home. (Last year, during the purge debate, Billy Britt, though strongly evangelical in his outlook, declined to join the purge outcry. “Billy stands against splitting,” record the minutes. “He said splitting is not the answer.” (NCYM 2014 minutes, page 32.)
Meanwhile, all but one of the “dually affiliated” meetings they were so troubled by are still part of NCYM. And they are, if anything, more unabashed in asserting their religious diversity within the NCYM constituency.
Those demanding a purge in 2014 insisted that they did not want to “kick out” any meetings; rather, by insisting on their departure, the purgers avowed that they were showing Christian love.
But unsurprisingly, to the meetings they said had to go RIGHT NOW, the situation looked rather different. And perhaps to the purge advocates’ surprise, the liberal meetings had their own attachments to NCYM (some going back 250 years). Over the ensuing months, the liberals stood up for themselves and resisted efforts to provide Pine Hill and the others a sense of “purity” and “unity” by allowing themselves to be scapegoated and forced out.
With Pine Hill’s abrupt departure, it joins three other evangelical meetings in a newly independent status. Prosperity Meeting announced its exit early in August. Two others, Poplar Ridge and Holly Spring were expelled by the NCYM Executive Committee on August 20. (See our reports on that episode here, here, and here.)
Poplar Ridge & Holly Spring were also leaders in the instant purge push at last year’s annual session. And while their expulsion was overturned by the 2015 annual session on September 5, the two meetings announced that they were leaving NCYM behind regardless.
So that makes four evangelical meetings which have left NCYM, to one small liberal PFF-affiliated group. It seems plausible that there will be more evangelical departures: A prime candidate is Chatham Meeting, which is pastored by Wayne Lamb. Lamb was another voice urging an instant purge of NCYM last year.
Lamb has also vehemently denounced the liberal meetings, and threatened several times to take the meeting out of NCYM if the liberal taint was not expunged. And NCYM Treasurer’s reports show that of its $6975 in yearly meeting dues (called “Askings”) for 2015, Chatham had paid exactly $0 as of the end of August. Further, Chatham had no representative to the NCYM annual sessions listed in its program. NCYM officials declined to say whether Chatham had given notice; but these are telltale signs.
How many more meetings will follow Pine Hill’s example? Some of the louder voices in the 2014 sessions repeatedly predicted that their views represented the overwhelming majority in NCYM.
So far, however, the shuffle to the exits has not become a stampede.
But tomorrow is another day.
NOTE: Pine Hill’s letters announcing and explaining its departure are online here.