Carolina Quaker Divorce Update: Part 2
Why did he have to lie?
For weeks I’ve been hearing about a Letter from Yadkin Quarter of North Carolina Yearly Meeting, jacking up the pressure about wanting a purge of the liberal meetings.
So I asked the YM’s spokesperson about it. Never heard of it, he said.
Interesting, and sad. Now I have a copy of the letter, sent in mid-April, weeks earlier, and there’s his name, right at the top of the cc list.
And he played completely dumb about the meetings of the “Gang of 9” (or Gang of 7, to honor those who refused to sign their split plan); but their letter names him as sitting in on the sessions.
Dude, “No Comment” is a true statement. But mis- and dis-information, that’s what a reporter gets from, pardon my language, politicians. (Remember the flack for Ted Cruz yammering about how they were in the race to stay, only a few hours before he quit?)
The falsehoods didn’t hurt my reporting much. But reputation and credibility? Not easy to replace. Think about it. (Luke 17:3)
Anyway, I’d been hearing about the Yadkin letter for weeks. And having it, reading it over, put for me an entirely new spin on the NCYM divorce session yesterday.
The “official” version is that the session was a big success, mainly because it was so nonviolent. Even my friend Max Carter said on Facebook that he thought it was a “near miracle,” maybe because he was finally able to sit through the whole four hours without being called a heretic, blasphemer, tool of the Anti-Christ, or such. So I can’t take that from him — it’s gotta feel good when they finally stop clobbering you upside the head.
The Executive Committee Clerk made a point of saying that the words “split,” “division,” “evangelical” or “progressive” were not in the proposal text. he added that the Committee’s hope would be that the final outcome of the split would be two “very strong yearly meetings.”
Well even so, piling ice cream and chocolate fudge sauce on a cow pie doesn’t make it a big banana split. (See e.g.,, Pig, lipstick on a. Also, “enhanced interrogation.”)
And the Yadkin letter makes very clear that the same old push-for-purge was in operation, and has been for weeks, behind the curtain. And this context, once clarified, was confirmed by several telling items in the session.
But first, let’s put up the letter, for all to see; and then we’ll do some analysis.
Yadkin Valley Quarterly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends
in session at Harmony Grove Friends Meeting
Fourth month, seventeenth day, 2016
[TO] Hugh Spaulding, Clerk of NCYM Ministry and Counsel
Mike Fulp, Sr., Clerk of NCYM Representative Body
Yadkin Valley Quarterly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, Ministry and Counsel, in session fourth month, seventeenth day, 2016 gave much discussion to the current disunity of Friends in North Carolina Yearly Meeting. Many Monthly Meetings have already left the Yearly Meeting and many more are ready to leave if unity in our theological beliefs is not accomplished soon. We have reaffirmed our Faith and Practice more than once that speaks to “a personal faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior” yet we have not resolved the division that is present.
Yadkin Valley Quarterly Meeting Ministry and Counsel approved the following minute:
“We expect that Meetings come to unity with Jesus Christ of the Scriptures and the Faith statements in Faith and Practice (Faith and Thought chapter, 2012 edition p.27). If not we recommend that those Meetings be sanctioned and or disciplined, with possible disownment, by the November 2016 Representative Body session. Meetings of concern include: New Garden, Spring, First Friends of Greensboro, and Winston-Salem Friends.” [Emphasis in original.]
Our Ministry and Counsel brought this recommendation to the general Quarterly Meeting session held immediately following the Ministry and Counsel session and the recommendation was approved by this body to be sent to both North Carolina Yearly Meeting Ministry and Counsel and North Carolina Yearly Meeting Representative Body.
If you have questions or need any clarification you may contact me or Stanley Todd, Presiding Clerk of the Ministry and Counsel. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org and mine is email@example.com . My phone is 702-536-5995. Thank you for your consideration of this.
In His Service,
Judy C Ritter, Presiding Clerk Yadkin Valley Quarterly Meeting
cc. Don Farlow, Superintendent
Harmony Grove Friends Monthly Meeting
Branon Friends Monthly Meeting
Hunting Creek Friends Monthly Meeting
The Connection @ Ballantyne
Mount Carmel Friends Monthly Meeting
Deep Creek Friends Monthly Meeting
Statesville Friends Monthly Meeting
Forbush Friends Monthly Meeting
Winthrop Friends Monthly Meeting
Let’s take a closer look at the key sections here:
“Many Monthly Meetings have already left the Yearly Meeting and many more are ready to leave if unity in our theological beliefs is not accomplished soon.”
This, as you see, is an ultimatum: same old song, umpteenth verse. Indeed, the withdrawal from NCYM of three more monthly meetings was reported to the session, making seventeen in total.
“We have reaffirmed our Faith and Practice more than once that speaks to “a personal faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior” yet we have not resolved the division that is present.”
And they continue to ignore F&P’s repeated statements that it is not a creed, or to be used as such.
“We expect that Meetings come to unity with Jesus Christ of the Scriptures and the Faith statements in Faith and Practice (Faith and Thought chapter, 2012 edition p.27). If not we recommend that those Meetings be sanctioned and or disciplined, with possible disownment, by the November 2016 Representative Body session.”
Give them points for speaking plainly here: They better agree with OUR version by then, or they’re out.
“Meetings of concern include: New Garden, Spring, First Friends of Greensboro, and Winston-Salem Friends.”
More plainness points for the specific hit list. Here are the main liberal meetings; they have been the targets since this whole current mess erupted two years ago.
Now, let’s turn to the discussion of the plan for a plan, for which the session approved planning the discussion of. (The text of that plan is in the earlier post, here.)
The Yadkin letter already clarifies an important feature: The official plan with all its careful talk, comes down to this: one yearly meeting, consisting of the hardcore evangelical meetings and those who will go along, they hope as many as forty-plus; and on the other, a “yearly meeting” of — four meetings (at most)?
As I said, this is the same-old, same-old. But there was another level of the undertaking. This other aspect leaked out in the Q&A, when an evangelical pastor, Eric Morrison, who was somewhat jumping the gun, enthused that if the body would only speed up the split process some, perhaps many of the meetings that quit would even decide to return . . .
But the Executive Committee Clerk basically cut him off, saying such talk was premature. Once the split was accomplished, then “we” would have a purified body to dangle before the withdrawn meetings.
“We”? Something to offer?
At this, the light went off in my thick head, flashed through the smoke and bounced off the mirrors. The Clerk’s comment was that of someone already thinking several moves ahead in the game: was this whole exercise anything more than a gambit to turn the four targeted liberal meetings into bait? Holding off a new rush of withdrawals, pending success in inveigling the liberal meetings to join in on their own slow-mo expulsion? Makes me wonder: who else is in on this?
Then, once we’re maneuvered out of the way –err, launched into our own non-progressive “very strong” [nano-sized] YM — then those in control of the other YM could launch an intensive sales pitch to regain the membership lost by the failure of earlier purge attempts.
The secrecy about the Yadkin letter (and there’s a another one on the classified list, much briefer, from Southern Quarter, calling for a separation, but with no names.)
Now it made so much more sense. NCYM’s budget has been cut in half by the recent losses. The threat from Yadkin, plus the loss of others on the brink of leaving would cost it tens of thousands more.
Once this scenario came into view, the underlying preposterousness of the overall proposal was also visible: Consider:
— Why is this whole exercise necessary? Meetings can (and 17 have) leave NCYM on their own, without NCYM’s by-your-leave, or any of the folderol projected here. (Some of the four targets seem to be moving in that direction already.)
— The “two yearly meeting” idea is a chimera. This is really about four meetings; and who are we kidding? these four (each very interesting, and doubtless beloved by God) yet don’t add up to a “yearly meeting.”
For one thing, contrary to stereotypes, they are not peas in a pod: New Garden is a big college meeting; Spring is small and utterly rural. Also, New Garden already has another yearly meeting landing place, the new Piedmont Friends YM, which was created last year in its meeting room, and is still finding its footing. Would the other three be interested? They haven’t been so far.
And there are other options available nearby: NCYM-Conservative; Southern Appalachian YM is as near as Asheville NC; and Baltimore YM has a meeting less than a hundred miles from Greensboro.
My very subjective guess is that First Friends would be the one most interested in the whole discussion marathon part of the proposal; if so, fine. A one-meeting yearly meeting?
— The most concrete result of all the planned “discussions” would be a divvying up of some of the NCYM assets; but the larger body would surely get most of the boodle. Big deal.
— And, a risk that seems quite real to me: what about meetings that are internally divided about this mandated choice? Great, let’s sow some internal conflict where there might not have been any. Some preacher can always tell them it’s not a problem, just an opportunity.
The “big” Saturday proposal says the division is to be preceded by detailed discussions of “Faith, Organization, Property, and Legal details.” The Clerk said that the list was in priority order, with Faith first, and thus the putative new groups are to formulate their faith basis first.
But wait a second: I’m happy to talk and write about my beliefs (& unbeliefs). But I’m very much NOT interested in devising a creed for the meeting I attend; in fact, I’d resist that whole idea. (Did anybody on the Executive Committee point out that refusing to have creeds is a frequent characteristic of liberal Quakers? They can be quite dogmatic about it.)
But then, that’s one of the things I and some others like about the NCYM Faith & Practice — how it says so many times that it’s not creedal. Maybe that’s also part of the reason for the intense dissent the Committee encountered — and set aside. I’m equally un-interested in any “carefully selected” committee (including even a liberal Gang of 9) writing such a “faith basis,,” either for the meeting I attend or any of the other liberal groups.
Maybe, in the end, all some people want is a process, on one side, which pushes the liberals out the door smothered with sappy euphemisms and enough faux decorum to slake whatever guilt is felt over its reality as a purge; this is the South after all. And on the other, some liberals may need a blessing from a YM parental substitute to actually walk out the door.
In which case, my complaints will be moot. Denial is not only a river in Egypt.
Clearly the next target date is Annual Sessions, set for August 12-14. Then the goal will be to get some kind of a commitment to a “plan.” The idea is that then it will have momentum and can be treated as a fait accompli. It could well happen.
For my part, though, as the movie mogul Sam Goldwyn supposedly said, “Include Me Out.” If it comes to that, the Yadkin Quarter purge in November sounds more honest, and in the end no more unpleasant.