Piedmont Friends Yearly Meeting is Born
It looks calm enough, but there’s a background of controversy for the Piedmont Friends Yearly Meeting (PFYM), which was born today (Saturday March 14, 2015), after several years of preparatory work.
The woman standing is Clerk Marian Beane, of Charlotte NC Meeting, calling the first-ever session of the new body to order. The place is the spacious meeting room of New Garden Friends in Greensboro NC, which hosted the gathering.
And there lies the controversy: New Garden, whose representative was the third to rise and read a minute of affiliation with PFYM, is also a member of North Carolina YM-FUM, and intends to stay in both bodies.
As regular readers will know, NCYM-FUM is in the throes of a fundamentalist push to purge several “liberal” meetings, of which New Garden is the largest, the oldest (pre-Revolutionary War), and the most visible. (A detailed report on that conflict is here.)
A week earlier, at a meeting of the NCYM-FUM Representative Body, a proposal was brought in to make such “dual affiliation” illegal for NCYM-FUM Meetings. There is no such prohibition in the YM’s current Faith & Practice.
The proposal was not approved, but was continued for further discussion. So It might still come about. If it does, there will be only one target: New Garden.
Several other NCYM-FUM Meetings are also members of the Piedmont Friends Fellowship (PFF), from which the new YM emerged; but they are not joining the new YM itself, which is their option.
This non-YM status may shield them from the prohibition if it is adopted; but they are still targeted by the purge effort on grounds of other purportedly heretical ideas (theological tolerance) and actions (welcoming LGBT folks). But New Garden has thrown down the gauntlet.
The strongest objection to both PFF and the new YM is that they are affiliated with Friends General Conference, the liberal umbrella association. For some in NCYM-FUM, liberal = Satan.
This ongoing drama was offstage at the PFYM session, which dealt mainly, as one might expect, with internal organizational matters. But its shadow was there.
NCYM-FUM’s next Representative Body session will be in June. But there should be some new drama before then: two of the main meetings behind the push for a purge, Poplar Ridge Friends and Plainfield Meeting, have both announced that if their version of “unity” was not enforced in NCYM-FUM by the end of this month (March 2015), both would begin withholding their financial dues to NCYM-FUM.
If they make good on this threat, their members will also lose their seats on any YM committees — a rule they pushed for to punish New Garden and other liberal groups.
Will they do it? And will New Garden be forced to make hard and unwelcome choices? Watch for updates.