Another Quaker Breakup: Indiana YM “Quits” FUM (Sort of)- Wants to Take Africa Missions With It


Time for a sequel?

The total number of splits in American Quakerdom since 2000 has just gone from five to six. And signs of more trouble are on the horizon.

Indiana Yearly Meeting (IYM), which saw eighteen of its meetings expelled or withdraw in 2013, has now pushed its separatism further by leaving Friends United Meeting.

But IYM wants to maintain its involvement in FUM’s African mission programs. How this is going to work, inasmuch as IYM’s “gospel” is that FUM is too heretical and corrupt to associate with at home, remains to be seen. As is whether FUM officials are so gullible as to permit the open sowing of future division in their remaining turf.Here are three documents associated with this split, for independent examination, with some commentary.

IYM’s Goodbye Letter (Undated)

Here is the text of this letter, and an image of it follows:



Dear Friends,

At the 203rd Annual Sessions of Indiana Yearly Meeting (IYM), held at Quaker Haven Camp, from July 27-29, 2023, the Friends of Indiana Yearly Meeting completed a multi-year discernment process and approved a proposal to enact a change in relationship with Friends United Meeting (FUM). This change, which ends our formal membership in Friends United Meeting, will be effective immediately.

Indiana Yearly Meeting has been a member yearly meeting of Friends United Meeting since it was first organized as the Five Years Meeting in 1902. Indiana Yearly Meeting Friends value the relationships and missional opportunities that membership in Friends United Meeting has provided over the years. In recent decades and even more so in recent years, the corporate directions of FUM and IYM have diverged, with FUM moving from an almost-exclusively programmed body at its organization to an organization that is now majority unprogrammed in North America. A decade ago, IYM went through a reconfiguration process, resulting in several monthly meetings leaving IYM, and IYM has become even more focused on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and the authority of Scripture.

A few years ago, Indiana Yearly Meeting adopted this statement as its mission: Creating environments that empower churches and individuals to be disciples of Jesus Christ and to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Indiana Yearly Meeting recognizes that many Friends within FUM are theologically aligned with our mission, but many others are not. Over the years, given what we see as growing differences, many in IYM have found it more and more challenging to feel that all Friends within the body that is Friends United Meeting are aligned with this mission. We believe that this affects ministry and programming at all levels.

IYM has made this decision, not out of ill will or anger, but out of a true desire to be as focused as we can possibly be in our mission. As our part of our process, we have approved continued financial and other support to FUM ministries, particularly in the ministries in east Africa. Monthly meetings will be encouraged to continue their support of FUM ministries as they are led. We have also acknowledged that such support must be done through the regular channels of FUM’s corporate structure. We will no longer appoint members of the FUM General Board.

Any questions about this decision, or about the process that has led to this decision, can be directed to IYM General Superintendent, Patrick Byers or IYM Presiding Clerk, Greg Hinshaw

[Signed] by Byers & Hinshaw

A preview of this decision came in a report that was posted on the IYM website; again undated, but likely from the spring of this year:

From the IYM Website:

This year’s Sessions will be held on July 27-29 at Quaker Haven Camp.
The 203rd Sessions of Indiana Yearly Meeting will be held at Quaker Haven Camp on July 27-29. The theme for the Sessions will be ‘A Simple Inspiration’ . . . .

Recommendation for Change in Relationship Between Indiana Yearly Meeting and FUM

IYM humbly requests this arrangement out of an enduring commitment and call to missions in Africa, now as a participant together with African Friends:

1. IYM requests identification as a welcomed mission partner of FUM, rather than a member of FUM.

a. IYM’s participation in FUM would be limited to missional partnerships in Africa. IYM would forgo representation on the FUM general board and committees and would discontinue regular FUM membership.
b. As a mission partner, rather than FUM member, IYM would be released to pursue full membership with EFI/EFM if desired, and fulfill the expectations of full membership within those organizations.
c. IYM would remain open to providing ad-hoc members, if requested, for FUM committees/workgroups/task forces pertaining to missionary initiatives involving Africa or African Friends.

d. IYM would be happy to provide reports/presentations to FUM groups as requested regarding IYM’s missional activities with African Friends.

2. IYM requests blessing to work directly with the Africa Ministries Office (AMO) of FUM, and the FUM-organized Friends Africa Board of Missions, as requested/invited, in the development, implementation, assessment, and refinement of strategic plans for missions.

a. IYM would have no expectation that this process would be exclusive

b. IYM would be glad to coordinate mission-related efforts together with the AMO/FABOM and any other involved parties

c. The overarching goal of this partnership is to see multiplication of disciples of Jesus Christ. Through partnership, IYM would seek to increase the capacity of both African Friends and Indiana Friends to be missionally engaged, particularly amongst least-reached people groups. Programs, strategies, and financial contributions by IYM would be aligned with these goals.

d. FUM leaders from Richmond would be welcome to join IYM teams in the field for the process of developing missions strategies/plans associated with this partnership.

3. IYM would commit to:

a. Engaging in regular communication with the Richmond office of FUM regarding: Strategic plans for missions in Africa, utilization of funds, and travel plans/activities. Communication will occur in advance of the implementation of any programs developed in conjunction with AMO/FABOM. The purpose of this would be to:

i. Allow for strategic coordination of any work with regular FUM members.
ii. Permit FUM leadership to assess for risk of placing FUM in a position of ongoing financial commitment.
iii. Permit FUM leadership to assess for utilization of resources of AMO outside the parameters of desired ministry goals for AMO.

b. Avoiding plans which would place FUM in a position of assuming any new financial commitment. If FUM leadership perceives a risk of this within communicated missional plans, IYM will engage in open dialogue with FUM leadership, together with the AMO office/FABOM, to bring about unity and resolution of the issue.

c. Continued financial support for current works in Africa. This level of support would initially continue at current levels, though IYM would reserve the right to change future financial commitments pending new strategic plans for missions in Africa developed in conjunction with AMO/FABOM, or future changes in missional priorities.

d. Providing a $10,000 annual donation in support of the AMO office. This commitment would run through 2024. Thereafter, it will be automatically renewed unless otherwise communicated with FUM leadership in Richmond. Any change in this annual commitment would be communicated one year in advance of the change.

4. While IYM’s participation in FUM would be limited to missional partnerships in Africa, IYM will continue to honor the right of member churches and individuals to direct donations to, or otherwise participate in areas of FUM work outside of African Missions. IYM also encourages members to honor any outstanding financial pledges to FUM field staff, or inform FUM of any decision to decrease their giving, or inability to fulfill their pledge.

5. IYM plans to continue to direct funding for African-related works through FUM-Richmond.

COMMENT: One wonders what FUM’s Board and officers will make of such a proposal. From this observer’s outside standpoint, it looks like a barely-concealed plan for IYM to cannibalize FUM’s programs from within, while pursuing membership in other evangelical associations.

Wasp larvae, doing lunch at the FUM Caterpillar Diner

It brings to mind a stunning passage in Annie Dillard’s spiritual classic Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, which describes a species of parasitic wasps (there are several) which sting and paralyze caterpillars, then lay eggs in them, which hatch into larva that feast on the dying caterpillars til they turn into mature wasps. One possible FUM response to such a ploy could be summarized as: Butt out; start your own mission programs.

The first formal FUM response I’ve seen in a public forum  is in a letter posted on Facebook. Here it is:


On August 8, 2023, Friends United Meeting received the official notice of a decision made by Indiana Yearly Meeting at their annual sessions to end their formal membership in Friends United Meeting.

Given that Indiana Yearly Meeting has been a vital member of FUM for 121 years, we received this news with sadness. Over the years, members of Indiana Yearly Meeting participated on FUM’s board, worked on our staff, and served as missionary field staff. Indiana Yearly Meeting and many of their members have given sacrificially to support FUM’s general budget and missions programs. Most importantly, they have joined us in prayer as we carry the concerns of Friends around the world. Their service, giving, and prayerful support have helped FUM embody our mission “to gather people into fellowships where Jesus Christ is known, loved, and obeyed as Teacher and LORD.” For this we are thankful.

Indiana Yearly Meeting’s withdrawal of their membership is a loss felt by the entire FUM community. Indiana Yearly Meeting has helped FUM steward our identity as “orthodox Friends.” While the demographics of FUM’s membership are changing in North America and the wider world, FUM’s commitment to uphold our Christ-centered witness and service has not changed.

Indiana Yearly Meeting also made a request for a dialogue about a missional relationship with FUM’s Africa Ministries Office and the Friends African Board of Missions. The General Board of FUM, in consultation with our African members, will consider this request and discern if such a relationship is possible. FUM is grateful for Indiana Yearly Meeting’s continuing financial support for FUM programs in Africa, encouraging members to fulfill current commitments and pledges, and honoring the right of churches and individuals to support FUM in other ways.

Friends United Meeting releases Indiana Yearly Meeting and prays that God will greatly bless their ministries.

Kelly R. Kellum
General Secretary
Friends United Meeting
Sarah Lookabill
Presiding Clerk
Friends United Meet Meeting

COMMENT: Sure sounds like the FUM poohbahs are keeping their powder dry.

That’s prudent. One wonders what the response to this proposal will be from the more liberal-minded yearly meetings remaining in FUM — Baltimore, New York & New England, among others. They are likely to remember how the Indiana purge of 2013 was sparked by an effort to oust a meeting which had moved to be inclusive of LGBT persons, and how IYM’s official homophobic stance is at the heart of their version of the missionary “gospel.” Will FUM liberals be okay with letting IYM continue to preach such messages in Africa under FUM’s umbrella?

As was noted above, this limited “departure” may be “complete,” but the seeds of trouble it means to plant look fertile enough to yield a bumper crop.

Could this also be the opener for Indiana Trainwreck, Part Two?



10 thoughts on “Another Quaker Breakup: Indiana YM “Quits” FUM (Sort of)- Wants to Take Africa Missions With It”

  1. Hi Chuck
    Lots to digest here, huh?

    I have a small factual correction to ask, that’s in my purview. You’ve said “FUM’s initial response is in a letter posted on Facebook. Here it is:“

    FUMs initial response was published in the FUM weekly enews. It has not been shared via any official FUM social media channels, and this comment would seem to imply that. It is true that lots of Friends are sharing the letter (sometimes in parts) on their own social feeds with their own commentary. Our platforms of sharing align with our policies.

    Kathleen Wooten
    FUM Social Media Manager

  2. IYM’s desire to take African missions with it but withdraw from FUM does not make sense. It was Western Yr. Mtg. missionary Emory Rees and wife Debra who pioneered in that mission in Kenya. Emory Rees is buried at Vermilion Grove, IL., bur in 1947.

  3. I was a member of IYM for ten years while at Earlham College and a member of West Richmond Friends Meeting. During that time, I clerked its social concerns committee and led youth conferences. A “highlight” of that time was 1977/8, when then Superintendent Sherman Brantingham asked the social concerns committee to develop a statement on homosexuality.

    When our committee decided instead to do a workshop at yearly meeting to seek clearness on the issue, Sherman did everything he could to rally pastors against it, and the sessions turned into a shouting match, with those supporting the panel discussion called un-Christian. My youth conference that winter was then boycotted by several pastors.

    My experience with the Yearly Meeting was that there was a wonderful history there, many good friends and vital meetings, but a handful of pastors with such fundamentalist views and vitriol that they were able to drive a wedge into the Yearly Meeting. Sounds familiar.

    And I would imagine — as is true, sadly, here in N.C. — that most of those in IYM who are crying the loudest about immorality and being “unequally yoked” with FUM are supporters of a certain red hat-wearing politician that they seem perfectly fine being “yoked” with.

  4. I have three (genuine) questions.
    (1) Is it really true that FUM “is now majority unprogrammed in North America,” as the letter from Indiana Yearly Meeting states? (2) I tend to think of FUM as a officially homophobic organization that bans lesbians and gay men from any type of service in their organization, following a policy that was set (I believe) in 1988. Has this in any way changed?
    (3) What is FUM’s current stance on the Richmond Declaration?

    1. Rex, Very pertinent and timely questions. I’m not current with FUM’s policy situation, so I can’t give reliable answers here. I have not heard of any of the homophobic policies changing (but maybe I missed it.)
      One thing I do know, they just had their Triennial in Africa, and participants were explicitly directed to KEEP QUIET about the homophobic laws & clampdowns in several countries with African Quaker groups. It appears they complied, and there are valid safety and legal concerns. But if not at the Triennial, when and where CAN these matters be openly addressed, along with their many U. S. Connections?? I can’t answer that either, except to say, Silence is NOT okay.

      1. Chuck,

        I was asked by my yearly meeting if I would consider attending Triennial, and I declined because it conflicted with FGC Gathering. But I was honestly also not interested going as a Black gay man, either. I had not heard that folks were asked to keep quiet, but it doesn’t surprise me.

        I agree with you that silence is not okay.

  5. Dear Chuck,

    Thanks for this prescient commentary.

    My sources tell me that Indiana Yearly Meeting already has mission representatives on the ground in Tanzania Yearly Meeting. TYM is part of Friends United Meeting. IYM claims that its mission people are on the ground in Tanzania as part of its partnership with FUM. I suppose that Tanzanian Friends may believe them, but this isn’t really true. No such partnership has been negotiated or agreed to between FUM and IYM. Of course, if there might be a defector somewhere within the FUM ranks acting without authorization, this would be enough to sow confusion in such a matter. I understand that FUM leadership is making multiple strenuous efforts to contain the damage and to prevent further inroads.

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