Carolina Quakers & “The Way Forward” — Or Is It The Way Backward?
Okay, Carolina Friends (and others who’ve been following our NCYM-FUM soap opera), let’s talk about The “Grand Plan,” from the Task Force, and its “Recommended Way Forward.” (The full text is here. )
What’s that? Thee don’t want to?
Well, me neither. But we kinda have to. (Sorry.)
‘Cause there it is. Dumped in our laps at annual sessions. And all our meetings are under orders to submit detailed comments on, and/or pledges of compliance with it (honestly, I’m not sure which; more on that in a moment) by Twelfth Month 1 (December first, for the rest of thees).
And the clock is ticking; it’s autumn already, for petes sake.
How did “The Plan” get here? Let’s recap briefly:
There was this, er, disturbance at the 2014 NCYM annual session; several strongly evangelical meetings demanded that all “liberals” and their meetings had to — as they delicately put it — “immediately resign” from NCYM. (Exact quote BTW.)
Much of the past year was spent in wrangling, revolving around several stubborn facts, established early, contested endlessly, but not really changed. These facts were:
1. The liberal Friends & meetings (with one small exception), didn’t want to leave; and,
2. There was no “legal” way to throw them out; and besides,
3. There was nothing like a “consensus,” or even a clear majority, that wanted such a purge; but even so (this next is crucial)
4. The purge folks were not about to take “No unity” for an answer.
Except that in the end (or at least by the middle of September 2015), three of the four main meetings pushing for these “immediate resignations” of others and a “total separation” or breakup of NCYM finally more or less DID take “No unity” for an answer, and quit the YM. (Okay, a couple had help; but they’re all gone nonetheless.) And the fourth meeting with them has one-and-a-half feet out the door too.
Now we can get to the “Grand Plan” and its “Way Forward.” The Plan was drafted by a task force which was approved last June, on the smoldering ruins of the “New Committee” formed after the 2014 uprising. The New Committee, after months of labor did not reach any agreements on a “plan” to “unify” (i.e., purge) the YM.
As near as I could tell, the Task Force was kind of a “Hail Mary pass” thing, by which the purgers hoped that with one more try they could push through a way to force out the “liberals” after all the previous efforts hadn’t succeeded.
Maybe the Task Force members wouldn’t agree with that estimate of their mandate. But look, Friends, check out your bottom line. What else is the “Recommended Way Forward” part about but hunting down meetings that are insufficiently “affirmative,” harassing them for a year, and then, if they don’t knuckle under, confronting them with an “Or Else” part, not exactly spelled out, but definitely hinted at strongly.
Maybe some still don’t think this is a program for a purge; but who are we kidding here? Somebody can tell me they’re bedecking a porcine visage with scarlet greasepaint, but I’ve been to school. I know that’s just putting lipstick on a pig.
And much as I like bacon, I’m not in the market for this one.
Which brings me to a few preliminary comments about “The Plan”:
First, do we REALLY want to go through this yet again? ALREADY?? (Or, in proper Quakerese: Could this whole idea perhaps benefit from some more “seasoning”? Like maybe twenty years worth?)
Friends, raise your hands if you’ve had enough of this “Let’s play, Tear NCYM Apart” business for this go-round.
[Okay, that’s an unscientific poll; but not unrealistic, I bet.] And here’s a suggestion to meetings: when this Plan comes up, how about thees start by asking thyselves: do we really want to do this? Or are there more urgent and constructive priorities for our meeting and NCYM?
Because if many others are as tired of this kind of thing as I am, maybe that’s feedback the Task Force needs to hear, and soon. As my early Clearness Committee, The Supremes, put it so well, echoing from their committee session of 1965:
“STOP! In The Name Of Love!”
My own uneasiness deepens when moving from the first four “Steps” in “The Plan” (we’ll come back to them) to the “Recommended Way Forward” section. That’s the “action part,” and the more times I read it, the more uneasy I get.
The fact is, Friends, it doesn’t sound like a “request” for input into a collective, transparent, open-to-the-spirit discernment process.
Not at all. Which sets off the alarms and raises the warning flags.
For one thing, look at this instruction:
“This request shall be considered by all monthly meetings and a copy of the approved minute related to this request submitted to the Yearly Meeting office by December 1, 2015 for review by the Task Force.”
The paper says “request,” but I grew up in a military family. I know an order when I read it. I also did pretty well in English class. And I know that “Shall” used in the third person connotes an order, a requirement or an obligation. I got it.
And then the paper says that “Meetings that respond affirmatively to steps 1 through 4 of the Plan are members of NCYM . . . .”
“Respond affirmatively” means “Accept. Submit.” Not discuss, discern, seek, or exercise freedom without fear.
Nope, Friends, This “Way Forward” reads like a barely-concealed ultimatum.
And there’s more. Any meetings that “do not respond affirmatively” to the “Steps,” then will face a year on a kind of probation — and after that??
They are to “reconsider” either their insufficiently affirmative (submissive) “responses” or a committee will “assist” the meeting in “determining its future.”
Wait — doesn’t that kinda rhyme with “release”?
Now maybe this part just hasn’t been drafted clearly enough. I hope not, because it sounds like a barely disguised ultimatum (see the bedecked porcine, above). And I for one have had enough of ultimatums. This “Recommended Way Forward” looks a lot more like a “Recommended Way BACKWARD” — into more acrimony and mutual recriminations, to end with more attempted expulsions.
If I’m reading this wrong, Task Force, by all means enlighten me. Because while I’m speaking for myself here, I know I’m not the only one with this impression.
And by the way, questions similar to these were raised at annual session when “the Plan” was distributed. But they all got the same response: Send in your minutes by December 1 and then we’ll see. (Words to that effect.)
But that’s not good enough. I can’t wait til after December to know whether this is a “Way Forward” or a forced march.
Either we’re equal partners in an authentically open process here, and the fix isn’t in — or we’re responding to this with a gun to our heads.
Which is it?
This question is important in itself, but becomes more so when I go back to the Four “Steps” which precede this “Way Forward.”
Ah yes, the “Steps.” But this post is long enough. I’ll take up the Four “Steps” tomorrow.