How North Carolina YM-FUM Did Itself In: A Blog Review

The post about the end of NCYM-FUM has been read widely.  And a question has recurred in comments across Facebook and in other media. It is:

How did this happen??

It’s a legitimate question; and it’s one we’ve been grappling with for three years. It’s also one this blogger is feeling a bit overwhelmed at having to try to explain again and again for those who are new to the saga.

Yet it’s important for concerned Friends to have answers for it.

So I’ve compiled a review, a list of many of the blog posts produced here as this process unfolded, and NCYM-FUM basically underwent assisted suicide. To my knowledge, whatever its shortcomings, there is no other comparable record of these events extant.

[And BTW, the suicide motif was used explicitly in an NCYM-FUM memorial/campfire  on Friday, after the final session opened. That is, it’s not just a blogger’s lurid invention; it was spoken, and it fits.]


NCYM-FUM-the last “campfire.” It looked more like a pyre, something going up in smoke.

The posts listed here are in chronological order. They include links to many documents produced in the process, official and unofficial. Many of these are, in my view, quite impressive; others are shocking.

Much of the context is filled in, in mosaic fashion, along the way. As you’ll see, I have not hidden my views about the events, but have taken as much care as I could to back up factual statements.

In gathering this, I’m abashed at how often I underestimated the lengths that some would go to achieve their goals. At first it was to purge all “liberals.” But in the end, having failed at that, it was to destroy the body. To get to the goal, their own Faith & Practice was tossed aside; mincemeat was made of honest Quaker practice; and then, repeated resort to downright chicanery; no I didn’t expect that, or figured any such attempts could be stopped; silly me. The drawing I borrowed from Sherlock Holmes could have been used on several occasions.

But is this not also the larger story of our time? Too many like me, over the past eighteen months, kept believing what we were told daily by “experts” we then respected, that the terrible thing looming and thickening and darkening over the entire land would not, could not possibly come to pass — “Now, now, it’ll be all right” — there  would be no such tornado, or tsunami.

But beginning last November, it did happen, and the storms have not abated. The shock has dulled, but not yet worn off; many of us have still not fully regained our balance.

The impact of that cataclysm is still with us, but it was useful in clearing the air around NCYM.  For one thing, it brought into view what I call the “Blockbuster Effect,” the stunning (to me) recognition of how little that was crucial to Quakerism, religion or life was actually at stake in this yearly meeting’s fate. When push comes to shove (as it now has) , we don’t really need it anymore.

For another, to me at least, it abruptly revised priorities. NCYM’s self-destruction was largely pushed aside by bigger events: since last winter, much more energy has gone into such things as the struggle [not yet over] to preserve heath care. I believe many others among the beleaguered “liberals” in NCYM-FUM have come to feel something similar.

And after all, those of us who labored to fend off the purge ultimately succeeded: we weren’t forced out. This is not Indiana, where the purgers purloined the name and a legal claim to being the “real” yearly meeting. Nor is it Northwest, where a closed Establishment is condescending to its LGBT-friendly meetings, offering to establish a toy mini-YM for them, like a mollifying sandbox for unruly preschoolers. There are welcome signs from out there that the deportees may be wakening from the spell of this faux authority, and beginning to stretch their own wings.

No, Carolina is different: liberals here, for what it’s worth, stood up for their legitimacy, foiled the purge, and gained equal standing in   the sanctified ATM machine which is all NCYM leaves behind. This won’t be worth much money, but it preserves the legitimacy of their identity as Quaker Christians, which is, after all, what the 320 years (and much of the purge effort) was all about.

Yes, I’m proud of us. Even this much took guts.

The doormats stood up  in Carolina

In a way that’s hard to articulate, NCYM’s protracted, often absurdly pathetic, holy histrionics feel related to this larger struggle. But they are not a substitute, and have also been a colossal distraction from it, one that, please God, may now be receding behind us.

So, here for interested Friends, is the tale of Carolina’s Quaker götterdämmerung, a Grand Old soap opera, if there ever was one, in many acts.

March 2015: Thunder In Carolina & NCYM Letters (from Quaker Theology)

May 2015: Lunch with the Anti-Christ at Western Quarterly Meeting

June 2015: D-Day for Carolina Quakers–Or Maybe Not

June 2015: Carolina Quaker Witch Hunt: Here Comes The “Auditing Committee”

July 2015: Farewell to Doormat Quakerism?

August 2015: Bombshell! Three NCYM-FUM Meetings are Expelled

September 2015: Another NC Meeting Bails Out. Who’s Next?

November 2015, An important sidebar: Quakers & The KKK--The Real Thing, Not the Rumors

November 2015: Ambushed & Sandbagged; We DID Get Fooled Again!

February 2016: Why is NCYM-FUM Like the Toxic Flint River?

March 2016: A “Blockbuster” Report: “Streaming Quakerism” Is Coming to Carolina

August 2016: North Carolina YM Split: Stick A Fork In It

January 2017: Another Day, Another Split Attempt— Same Old Target: North Carolina YM

March 2017: The Shoe Drops (Yet Again) for North Carolina Yearly Meeting-FUM

August 2017: Breaking: North Carolina YM-FUM Shuts Down



14 thoughts on “How North Carolina YM-FUM Did Itself In: A Blog Review”

  1. My Father, Logan W Smith, a pastor in NCYM-FUM in the 70s predicted this occurring especially after the 1970 St Louis Conference. I am glad that he did not live to see this.

  2. I am from ngfm. We were called heatherns from years ago.
    We embraced and welcomed all people of any color, nationality, religion,sexual orientation. We welcomed pff but did not financially support , we do not have a bible in the back of each bench, we have approx. 30 min. Of silent worship, we do not have revival meetings, our music is offensive.


  3. Yes, what’s happened/happening in North Carolina is different from what happened in Indiana or what’s happening in the Northwest. You, Chuck, have done a great job of documenting that. Nevertheless, I think the similarities are more interesting and worth more attention. What has led evangelical Friends towards greater Biblical inerrancy? Why have evangelical Friends grown less comfortable with keeping company with other Friends with whom they share a history? How do these new schisms relate (or not) to larger schisms in U.S. culture and politics? Is there a future for liberal, Biblically observant Quakerism? What is the deep keel for liberal Friends if they walk entirely away from the Bible? Where do we look for life-giving leadership and connectedness across Friends — across those Friends that want stay connected? These and similar questions are ones best looked at across a number of YMs, not just North Carolina.

    1. Doug, I completely agree that the broader picture of trouble in American YMs deserves attention. Since 2001, there’s been serious disruption or schism in Western, Indiana, Northwest & NCYM-FUM, with rumbles from a couple others. Many of the issues are similar, with LGBTQs maybe most visible, but lots of theological points too– the nature & authority of the Bible, church structure & governance, and responses to demographic changes (the exodus of younger adults. etc.). This is not to mention plain old politics: Quakers helped start the Republican party in the 1850s, and that heritage has stayed alive in many places, even as the party changed its character radically. The bulk of the more evangelical Friends in NC reside in counties that voted for Trump 3 to 1 last year, and voted against Obama 3 to 1, twice. The “liberals” likely had opposite records. Race is still a big factor.
      As for liberal Friends, that’s a whole different kettle of fish; they too deserve serious study across the country; there’s no time to go into that in any depth here. But keep reading.

    2. Unprogrammed Friends have a deep keel in the spiritual community. It’s an amazing experience every Sunday to be among a group of people who are all led by what Merton called “the inner spirit infused with God” and that those in our Meeting call any number of things. The numinous is properly without name, and we all know that, so the name used is for reference purposes only. The discernment process led by Spirit works well, so long as dogma is not invoked. And since we have no dogma, it is never invoked.

      We have those who identify as Christians and those who identify, if the have occasions to do so, as many other perspectives on the divine. We all know that’s personal, that our relationship with the divine is personal. Our corporate identity is as a people who are led by our personal relationship with the divine, however articulated in us, in the context of our spiritual community.

      Last Sunday I worshipped with Fayetteville (NC) Meeting. It was my first time in Fayetteville and in this Meeting. The Meeting was entirely silent, there were no messages. And it was a moving and productive experience. Much work was done.

      Your concern about a deep keel is a valid one. I have attended Meetings where that deep keep provided by an actively spiritual community seemed to be absent. There was form (for example, much social activism) without substance, much as I have observed in various religious services embroidered with ritual. When a spiritual community is working, though, it’s a transcendent experience.

    3. “What is the deep keel for liberal Friends if they walk entirely away from the Bible? Where do we look for life-giving leadership and connectedness across Friends …”

      I am the Light and the Light is in me and you are the Light. I am within you and all around you; cleave the wooden Keel and there I am. I am the invisible life-giving Keel and Leader and ever Present connection. Wait upon the inshining Appearance within the conscience which is the throne of the Spirit.

  4. I would remind Friends that here in North Carolina, there is another choice, different than either:

    1) the pastoral, evangelical churches of FUM and EFI, or
    2) the unprogrammed “liberal ” meetings of PFF/PFYM/FGC

    It’s the Conservative YM: NCYM-C. Unprogrammed, quiet, deep worship, inspired by the stories of Christ and the Bible without being dogmatic about it, and by the examples of early Friends like Fox, Fell, Penington, Blackborow, etc.

    Perhaps it is not a coincidence that Friend Hank Fay worshiped with one such meeting in Fayetteville, and reports having a “moving and productive experience”.

    Or join us in Durham, if you can find a seat…

    1. Toby– Good to see this. ‘Bout time NCYMC took up the work of defining & distinguishing itself amid the confusing welter NC Quakerdom. Don’t think quietism cuts it anymore.

    2. HI Toby,

      I didn’t ask and didn’t know. 🙂 At Ft Myers Friends in FL, we had a Conservative Quaker (at least one). And the Association in SAYMA stands for Conservative Meetings which in the past at least (and perhaps now) “associate” with SAYMA.

      And so it’s not a coincidence, from my experience. I had the same experience of Spirit present as in the two Meetings of which I have been a member.

      The “without being dogmatic” about it is important. We have bible quotes in our unprogrammed Meeting, and we’ve had indigenous peoples prayers and references. It’s all good.


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