Who’s Afraid of “Dual Affiliation”?? A Carolina YM Preview
As North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM) prepares for its annual sessions this weekend, “dual affiliation” is a key issue to be addressed.
“Dual Affiliation” occurs when local meetings have some formal connection with more than one yearly meeting or broader Quaker association.
According to some comments about it, dual affiliation is just about the sum of all iniquities, in the same category with cannibalism or child sacrifice.
But is it? We’ll take a look at whether it’s really so awful in a bit. First, here are the most vehement objections to it from the sheaf of letters about NCYM’s issues over the past year:
From a letter by Ken Spivey, August 9, 2014:
“We should disassociate ourselves from any ministry/organization that isn’t Bible based and Christ-centered, such as Guilford College, Ramalah Friends School, F.C.N.L., and others. This disassociation should include those meetings who have chosen to join, or support, other organizations/yearly meetings, such as Friends General Conference and Piedmont Friends Fellowship. These meetings should be expelled, (“writen out of meeting”).”
Or this, from Poplar Ridge Meeting, July 8, 2014: decrying
“a lack of integrity among member meetings of NC Yearly Meeting who no longer affright NCYM Faith and Practice,” in part because “some meetings enjoy a dual-affiliation with NCYM and other Quaker organizations that do not share the core tenets of our faith (specifically Friends General Conference and Piedmont Friends Fellowship . . . . This creates an obvious and irreconcilable conflict with those who no longer affirm our shared confession. No substantial ministry can flow from such division. The mere fact that some meetings have dually affiliated with other organizations confirms our belief that these meetings have drifted from the founding beliefs of NCYM (Faith and Practice) while the majority of NCYM still holds to the original founding tenets of our organization.”
It’s interesting that these statements come from, respectively, a member at Holly Spring Meeting, and from Poplar Ridge Meeting, both from last summer.
And it is also worth noting that both these meetings are now gone from NCYM.
There’s one more such statement to glance at, from Elvin & Linda York:
Elvin & Linda York, no date (but summer 2014)
“The Bible is the only authority on scriptural matters. Our Yearly Meeting has become ‘Unequally Yolked’ with individuals and groups who do not share our same belief. Slowly over the years, liberal thinking groups have infiltrated our Yearly Meeting and now hold some positions on committees. Some meetings hold duel memberships in other organizations. Our Faith and Practice prohibits duel memberships. The vast majority of our Yearly Meeting is in total disagreement with these organizations on basic theological issues. Those who do not believe in the Holy Trinity, those who do not believe in Jesus Christ as our only salvation as the son of God, those who do not believe the Bible as Gods Word, and those who do not believe in our Declaration of Faith set out in our Faith and Practice should be asked to leave the Yearly Meeting immediately and resign all positions held.”
[All spelling original.]
Two points: the authors here are also from the departed Holly Spring Meeting. And their statement that NCYM’s “Faith and Practice prohibits duel memberships” is not correct: there was and is no such prohibition.
The introduction of such a ban was lobbied for in the now laid-down “New Committee.” That group produced a query and some comments about it in its report to the YM:
New Committee Report (Letter from Clerk Mike Fulp, undated):
<< 3. Why do meetings feel compelled to participate with organizations outside of NCYM?
A note: (on hold for the New Committee – to be discussed by Monthly meetings and for them to bring back recommendations.)
The New Committee is aware that a few of our monthly meetings are considering becoming members of another yearly meeting which represents one of the other major divisions among the Religious Society of Friends. No monthly meeting in NCYM shall have dual membership with another yearly meeting. If a Meeting feels compelled to join another Yearly Meeting, then they need to present their reasons to NCYM Executive Committee and NCYM Ministry and Counsel. (This action will require a change in Faith and Practice.) >>
For the record, only one NCYM meeting, New Garden, joined another YM (the brand-new Piedmont Friends YM, while retaining its NCYM membership.) Moreover, the New Committee proposal to ban such dual memberships was NOT approved by the Representative Body, which turned it aside on two occasions.
So as the annual session approaches, there remains NO such prohibition in NCYM Faith & Practice.
Nevertheless, just such a prohibition was created and invoked by the Executive Committee on August 20 as the basis for expelling both Poplar Ridge & Holly Spring, and — more significantly for the annual session — New Garden Meeting in Greensboro.
New Garden’s case is significant because it has appealed its expulsion to the YM; the other two decided not to appeal, and have cut ties with NCYM.
It is striking that all the major complaints about dual affiliation cited above came from meetings that are now gone from NCYM.
At the annual sessions there are likely to be objections raised to New Garden’s expulsion, especially having it based on a nonexistent prohibition.
Such objections are entirely in order. But beyond written rules, I have been wondering: is dual affiliation really such a terrible thing in practice? Does it even exist “on the ground,” where its impact can be weighed in fact, rather than in bugaboo stereotype?
Yes. And it turns out that dual affiliation, while not common, is by no means unknown, and there’s essentially no evidence that it causes the sky to fall, or even brings on plagues of locusts or boils. In fact, in some important cases, its impact has been very positive.
For instance, I found three meetings in the Chicago area that are dually affiliated between Illinois YM (FGC) and Western YM (FUM). In Kansas, there are at least two, and one of them, University Meeting in Wichita, is jointly a member of both Great Plains YM (FUM) and MidAmerica YM (Evangelical).
In Ohio, Englewood Meeting and East Hills in Cincinnati, between them are connected to three groups, Ohio Valley YM (FGC), Wilmington YM (FUM), and the New Association (FUM).
In Pennsylvania, State College Monthly Meeting holds membership in both Philadelphia and Baltimore YMs (and thus with FGC and FUM), and has done so for many decades.
The reasons for these connections are varied. Some explain that they intentionally seek a wide range of connections. As Chicago Meeting says:
“We are affiliated with Western Yearly Meeting of Friends United Meeting. We also maintain relationships with Evangelical, Conservative and Hicksite (FGC) Friends groups as well as national Quaker service and advocacy groups. We seek to create a community that supports each Friend’s interests, concerns and ministry.”
For others, it’s more a matter of happenstance: State College Meeting is near the main campus of Penn State University, in an area which was settled by Friends from Baltimore, but later attracted many students from Philadelphia. Dual affiliation enabled them to serve this diverse constituency, and is a long-standing arrangement. (This might be called the “Seemed like a good idea at the time” theory.)
For others, dual status has changed with changing circumstances: Clear Creek and North Meadow Circle of Friends in Indiana were once dual with Western YM (in Indiana) and Ohio Valley for some years, but now stay with the latter; Community Friends in Cincinnati was formed from the union of two existing meetings, one each with FUM and FGC ties. The group stayed with both for a number of years, then evolved into a single link, to Ohio Valley YM. Cleveland Meeting was for a time in both Lake Erie YM (FGC) and Ohio Conservative YM. I found record of several other meetings which had recently been dually affiliated for some time and are not now.
But the story of dual affiliation has earlier, and much more momentous chapters, especially for Eastern Friends. It was in fact a principal vehicle for healing the effects of the 1827-28 separation; though there it came in the form of “united meetings,” which rejected the continuing division and joined both the Orthodox and Hicksite yearly meetings in their area.
The trend first appeared in New Jersey in 1926, when the new Montclair Meeting persuaded both the New York YMs to create a new “All Friends Quarter,” specifically for them and other like-minded meetings. Soon Ridgewood and Syracuse Meetings were likewise “United,” and the momentum began to build for reunification of the two YMs.
The same thing began to happen in Philadelphia, with considerable leadership from younger Friends, who didn’t really know (or care) what the original separation four generations earlier had been about.
By 1950 many meetings were thus dual/united, and in 1955, both the Philadelphia and New York bodies came together. The trend was similar in Baltimore, with both YMs meeting jointly for years, until their consolidation in 1967.
Naturally, many Friends from this region tend to look on this dual affiliation movement with some satisfaction, as helping to heal breaches that had rent the Society there for over a century.
But the joy was and is not universal. In fact, some of the more evangelical leaders found it repulsive. When the groups in New England took the lead in the “uniting” movement in the 1940s, Edward Mott, the Superintendent of Oregon (Now Northwest) YM railed repeatedly against this tendency.
“Orthodoxy and heterodoxy cannot coexist in one and the same person or organization,” he thundered in 1946, as New England Yearly Meeting adopted its reunification proposals. “It has been, and is being attempted, but the result is always the same, namely failure.” And again: “All such interminglings should be canceled in the interest of truth and vital influence for Christ and His Church.”
Does this sound familiar? Seventy years later, the arguments have not really changed. Yet the reconstituted New England Yearly Meeting is still around (as, for that matter, is Oregon, now Northwest). Turns out, coexistence IS possible, if a group wants to work toward it.
And the verdict of experience points in a different direction: dual affiliation, in specially conducive circumstances (as in Philadelphia’/New York) can be very healing. But more often it is no big deal. When it serves a meeting community’s interests, it can work well; if it doesn’t, it will eventually be set aside.
And crusades against it are shown to be little other than part of doctrinal purges, which are themselves much more like the biblical plagues, as NCYM ought to be figuring out.
I won’t dissemble here. Have Friends in NCYM had enough of attempted doctrinal purges yet? I hope so. And if they have, then let’s also hope that North Carolina Friends will push this minor, manufactured problem of dual affiliation off the YM agenda, and as they do so return New Garden Friends to its rightful place in the body.
Dual affiliation does not bring on the Great Tribulation (or the New Jerusalem). So NCYM can safely leave it with the monthly meetings where it belongs, and pay attention instead to the larger task of learning to live with each other as the diverse, widely-connected church family that they, in fact, are.