North Carolina Yearly Meeting: Zombie Apocalypse Coming?(Updated)
Almost three months ago it was reported here that the two-year effort to purge several (more or less) liberal meetings from North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM) had come to an end. The YM had rejected a plan to split into two separate YMs, one for liberals and the other for evangelicals and more conservative folks.
Instead, NCYM set out to reorganize, with the YM as a skeletal-umbrella body, with two internal “associations,” one liberal and the other not; monthly meetings would choose their subgroup. The reorganized structure would look something like this:
Beyond that, details were to be worked out later, and the first progress report was to be presented on Saturday, November 5 at NCYM’s fall Representative body session.
It now appears that instead, the reorganization effort will be challenged and perhaps thwarted at this session. Like a zombie stalking its prey, the plan to split the yearly meeting will be raised again, based on a call to toss out the reorganization decision, with threats by an as-yet uncertain number of meetings to leave if that doesn’t happen.
The formal call for this reversal was issued last month by Hopewell Meeting of Asheboro, NC, in a letter to NCYM’s Executive Committee. Hopewell hopes there will be some kind of groundswell of demands for a return to the split plan.
Hopewell wrote: “After months of prayer and many meetings the Hopewell Monthly Meeting met on October 9, and approved by consensus to leave the Yearly Meeting effective December 31, 2016.”
Why the plan for departure? Because they did not get what they wanted at the August annual session:
“There was much confusion at our meeting over the final results of the Yearly Meeting Annual Session in August. Originally, for the Annual Meeting we were asked to respond whether to separate or not. Our meeting approved separation.”
But instead, the YM decided on a “reorganization.” In Hopewell’s view, “thus, we now have confusion, which is not of God – l Cor. 14:33.”
So they want a do-over:
“. . . We are encouraging other meetings who are interested in separation or who have concerns about the reorganization plan to call a special Monthly Meeting to consider approval of a request to the Yearly Meeting Executive Committee for full separation. Included in that approval would be a statement that if full separation is not approved at the November Representative Body Meeting or a special called Yearly Meeting session, your meeting will withdraw. There are many monthly meetings that are considering withdrawal, and their voices do matter.”
And to repeat: “Hopewell decided on the December 31, 2016 withdrawal date in hope that other meetings would consider withdrawal if there is not full separation.”
(The letter’s full text is below.)
I’m a bit confused about the state of confusion at Hopewell. The minute from Annual Meeting, which I also heard in person, sounded and reads clear enough to me. Having presented a plan for a split (or “separation”), the Executive Committee oversaw a period of searching discussion. Then, as it reported:
“we did not hear a sufficiently strong consensus for unity, and therefore we return to you, as your Executive Committee, seeking approval of the plan as broadly outlined at this morning’s session, but with a focus on reorganization rather than separation. [Emphasis added.]
Based on the collective suggestions made in each of your groups, the plan may look differently as we take measured and considered steps towards a reorganized body.” (Emphasis added; the full text of the EC minute is here.)
And this shift to “reorganization” was approved, details to be worked out later.
Let’s do an instant replay: “. . . a focus on reorganization rather than separation.” What exactly is confusing about that?
Stripped of confusion, the Hopewell complaint looks much more familiar: they wanted a split, which would amount to a purge of “liberal” meetings — and they didn’t get it. So they want another chance.
This pattern is numbingly familiar from the past two-plus years of strife. Deja vu all over again; the Groundhog Day from hell. The purge faction has repeatedly been rebuffed in their efforts. And they have just as repeatedly declined to take no for an answer.
With the exciting 2016 World Series this week, baseball analogies spring to mind: it’s like the players from one team insisting they deserve more than three strikes per batter, and more than three outs per inning. Why? The reasons have varied; the latest one is that they are “confused.”
But the bottom line here doesn’t look like “confusion,” but more like the plain fact that they’ve lost the game. Evidently they can only accept the results if they win. (In the fall of 2016, does this sound familiar?)
It will be interesting to see what the NCYM leadership does with this rollback attempt. After two years of grueling, difficult travail — will they be ready to open the door to yet another re-run?
Reporting on the 2016 annual session, we speculated there might well be meetings unwilling to accept any action other than a purge. It looks like this may come to pass.
Already the impact of all this struggle on the YM is evident, particularly in the latest news release from the YM office.
For instance, the YM interim Superintendent, Don Farlow, whose term was to end in February, seems likely to continue through next summer, but on a part-time basis.
Further, the job description lists as a major duty, to “Assist in the implementation of NCYM Procedural Plan for Reorganization”; and that as a part-timer, the interim Superintendent will “Work no more than 3 days per week with no speaking engagements on Sunday mornings (except to address the reorganization of NCYM).” [Emphasis added.] Might this language give a hint about the YM leadership’s attitude toward the zombie split plan?
And not least, there’s the new budget. A proposed 2017 budget is also online now, and the total for next year is $431,624, down by $53000 from the 2016 total of $484,654, a cut of 12 per cent. The 2017 total will also face further shrinkage if Hopewell and any other meetings jump ship.
Staff reduction, budget cuts, more membership decline, a return to turmoil: all the signs of what we call the Blockbuster Video Effect are in evidence at NCYM. Confronting a zombie split plan will only add to the pressure. Sad.
We just saw a lengthy memorandum, dated 11/2, from the NCYM Committee on Reorganization of Assets, which includes the existing NCYM Trustees and some others, addressed to the Representative session.
The memo lays out an ambitious plan for sweeping financial decisions, to meet various obligations of NCYM, some resulting from the reorganization plan, others (such as the pastors’ retirement plan) which have been problematic for years. A LOT of money is involved here, and considerable work by the committee is reflected here. The memo also reflects a firm commitment to the reorganization process, something I suspect will not be welcomed by Hopewell and other like-minded meetings. This full memo is available now here.
October 26, 2016
Dear NC Yearly Meeting Executive Committee:
After months of prayer and many meetings the Hopewell Monthly Meeting met on October 9.. and approved by consensus to leave the Yearly Meeting effective December 31, 2016. There was much confusion at our meeting over the final results of the Yearly Meeting Annual Session in August. Originally, for the Annual Meeting we were asked to respond whether to separate or not. Our meeting approved separation. At the Annual Session, without requesting a response from each individual Meeting’s representative during the business meeting, the only option for consideration was reorganization . Meeting representatives were unprepared to comment on this new option, and they were discouraged from making comments; thus, we now have confusion, which is not of God l Cor. 14:33.
The reason we have confusion is because the approved plan for reorganization is being explained as separation but it is not. Both the Authority and the Autonomy groups will remain legally connected through the existing North Carolina Yearly Meeting, which will continue to be the legal parent entity. Ifthe two groups weren’t legally connected to the North Carolina Yearly Meeting, they wouldn’t be able to receive distributions from the trust funds.
For the monthly meetings that wanted full separation there is a way to accomplish this to end the confusion. The Yearly Meeting must approve complete legal separation at the North Carolina Yearly Meeting level. The trusts can be amended so that two separate legal entities, with no legal parent entity connecting them, can receive distributions from the trusts. This will allow both groups to have their own spiritual identity. For Hopewell, this means we will be legally and spiritually united with meetings that believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to God, that the Bible is God’s word and that the Holy Spirit we follow is part of the Trinity.
We are encouraging other meetings who are interested in separation or who have concerns about the reorganization plan to call a special Monthly Meeting to consider approval of a request to the Yearly Meeting Executive Committee for full separation. Included in that approval would be a statement that if full separation is not approved at the November Representative Body Meeting or a special called Yearly Meeting session, your meeting will withdraw. There are many monthly meetings that are considering withdrawal, and their voices do matter.
Hopewell decided on the December 31, 2016 withdrawal date in hope that other meetings would consider withdrawal if there is not full separation. We would remain in the Yearly Meeting if there were approval from Representative Body or a special Yearly Meeting session for full, complete, legal separation. Our prayers are with your meetings for God’s wisdom, peace and love as you consider this request.
Constance W. Frazier
Hopewell Friends Meeting, M&C Clerk
2244 Hopewell Friends Rd. • Asheboro, NC 27205 • (336) 629-0641
2 Corinthians 5:17-20