Showdown In Quaker Carolina? (Sort Of)
Breaking: Holly Spring, NC– more than 200 NC Quakers crammed into an overflowing Holly Spring Friends Church here to report their verdicts on a series of five options for the yearly meeting’s future.
Sixty-three meetings reported, and their representatives were polled by Clerk Michael Fulp, Sr., one by one, in alphabetical order, by the name of the meeting. Some representatives simply named their preferred option. But more read formal statements by their meeting, some quite lengthy and a few gripping & eloquent. (When we get some of the texts, watch for samples.
The results were illuminating, but hardly decisive, and there was no decision. The reports will all be turned over to a task force which is just beginning to be formed, for processing into some more concrete proposals, which will be brought back to a future (unspecified) Representative session.
Yet the outcome was not as formless as this description might imply. Some clear preferences emerged:j
For instance, of the original three options, two failed to gain much support: “Option One,” which would have subdivided the YM into two rival “associations,” but retained the YM funds & properties in common, got only five nods ( Quaker custom forbids calling them “votes”); and “Option Three,” calling for a YM-wide inquisition & purge of heretical ideas & groups, drew only eight. By contrast, “Option Two,” which ruled out expulsions, but would permit withdrawals by dissatisfied meetings, garnered 13.
However, two late entries drew even better. A “Total Separation” idea from Holly Spring Meeting, which would divide the body in two, money, camp and all, got 15; and a rather vague “unity option,” formulated by the clerk & the Superintendent, Don Farlow, got Sixteen, the most of any. (Seven more groups picked “None of the Above,” and eight meetings did not report at all.)
The five options are described further here.
The “Total Separation” group appears to include a number of meetings which have been discussing leaving the YM& forming their own body. Considering that non-split options were favored by more than half of the meetings, these results seem likely to keep that pot bubbling, but suggest it has limited appeal.
The “liberal” meetings, which had been targeted for a purge, seemed to fare better: the “status quo” Option Two did quite well, and several meetings said explicitly that they would stoutly resist any outcome that authorized expulsions, especially for “heresy.”
What happens next? The NCYM annual sessions are in early September; but the task force will not be ready by then, so it may be an anti-climax.
But there was a moment of drama in the long afternoon: toward the end, Prosperity Meeting, from Robbins, NC, a hamlet not far from Holly Spring, was called on. Its representative stepped to the mike, unfolded a sheet of paper with trembling hands, and read it aloud. The brief note said that the meeting had considered and rejected ALL the options as unsatisfactory, and instead was choosing to leave the YM entirely by October.
After a moment of stunned silence, while the Prosperity representative walked out, the session continued.
As the session was about to close, settled in silence, a man suddenly bounded down from the choir benches and flopped onto a cushioned mourner’s bench next to the pulpit, prostrated himself, face in hands, and began to weep loudly. Then he broke into a long, loud prayer, punctuated by heavy sobs.
The prayer appealed for divine guidance for the group, full of anguished tones of near despair.
It wasn’t easy to figure out what had provoked the outburst. Why the cries for guidance after all the meetings had presented their reports? As he seemed familiar with the mourner’so bench, perhaps he was associated with Holly Spring, which had presented and lobbied hard for the “Total Separation” option.
But that idea, while it showed it had a following, had been far overshadowed by calls to, in one way or another, keep NCYM fumbling toward unity.
That outcome on August 1 hardly solved all NCYM’s problems. But was it really something to cry about?
Not as far as this Friend is concerned.