February 3, 2012
Dear Friends of Indiana Yearly Meeting,
As the Reconfiguration Task Force of Indiana Yearly Meeting, we are writing to invite your input to the early part of the reconfiguration process. As you may recall, at the called meeting of the Representative Council on October 1, 2011, Friends approved “Model 5 — Deliberative/Collaborative Reconfiguration”. This is a process to be undertaken over the year, “of seeking a future that honors each other’s consciences and understandings of scriptural guidance, and that is life-giving for all of our monthly meetings.” Noting the presence of deep disagreements in the yearly meeting, it was approved to divide into two bodies, “a yearly meeting that is a collaborative association, with monthly meetings maintaining considerable autonomy and allowing great freedom in matters of doctrine” (herein referred to as “Yearly Meeting A”) and “a yearly meeting that, as our current Faith and Practice provides, has the power to set bounds and exercise authority over subordinate monthly meetings” (herein referred to as “Yearly Meeting B”.)
The enclosures sent with this cover letter are draft descriptions of these two bodies, for which we are inviting input by interested Friends (individuals and/or Meetings). Giving this feedback is optional, and it need not be a formal letter or a minute from a Monthly Meeting.
We have included with each draft several questions intended to help people in their consideration of it. Giving input on a draft does not commit an individual or a Meeting to membership in the yearly meeting it describes; Meetings’ affiliation decisions will be a later part of the process. . . . Please feel welcome to be in touch with any of us if you have questions. Your Friends in Christ,
Indiana Yearly Meeting A
A Beginning Working Document for Consultation and Input
We are a Christian association of monthly meetings that are distinctly Quaker, who unite together to work and witness in the name of Christ. In relating to one another as monthly meetings and a yearly meeting, we seek to be mutually accountable to one another rather than expect subordination to organizational authority.
We share the core conviction that Christ is present by his Spirit to teach his people himself, and we draw our inspiration, vision, and life from the words and actions of Jesus. We are deeply committed to Jesus’ great commandment to love God and serve our neighbors throughout the world. We also seek to draw strength from the experience, spirituality, worship, and practice of Friends.
We embrace the Bible as inspired recording of God’s interaction with people who seek to know their Creator, and of God’s increasingly detailed revelation through time of God’s identity, character, and intentions for humanity. We acknowledge the analogy of Robert Barclay, that Scripture itself is not the Living Water, but rather the fountain which delivers the Living Water.
As a yearly meeting, we: ·
- Work to build strong ties between local meetings
- Offer exciting programs for youth and young adults
- Identify gifted Friends and release them for ministry
- Help us cooperate in different kinds of service and mission
- Aim to be a place of hospitality, friendliness, peace, and Christian fellowship
- Value a diversity of understandings and believe that greater wisdom comes from engagement with one another around our differing understandings as we listen to one another and seek God’s guidance.
- Acceptance of “that of God in every person”- the conviction that God is present and at work (in whatever capacity is allowed) in or upon every person made in God’s image; thus, we acknowledge the sacredness of all human life, and God’s desire to be reconciled with all persons, and encourage personal acceptance of God’s invitation to all persons into friendship
- The importance of asking questions and wrestling with differing interpretations of scripture and of Faith and Practice, rather than trying to enforce a majority view or to quiet dissenting voices. We value deep listening to one another and seeking together the guidance of Jesus Christ
- The ministry of all Believers – the expectation that every sincere follower of Christ is gifted for and engaged in service to God’s Kingdom, and the faith community’s goal is to release those ministries into the Church and world as fully as possible
- Evangelism – defined as directing people into listening and obedient friendship with Christ, based on Jesus’ simple method “follow Me”. Evangelism is not defined as getting people to agree with doctrinal statements and to undergo induction ceremonies
- Christ’s presence and lordship in individuals and faith communities is expressed and noted in a consistent witness of lived integrity, simplicity, equality of persons, nonviolence and active pursuit of peace, and “watching over one another for good,” the mutual submission of Body life
- Committed to individual and corporate decisionmaking by spiritual clearness, tested against scripture, Jesus’ example and teaching, personal leading in listening prayer, and the spiritual leading of other sincere seekers of Truth
- Avoidance of creeds, particularly when used as purity tests, and to use instead penetrating spiritual questions to challenge all to greater devotion to Christ. For example:
- As followers of Jesus Christ do you love and respect one another?
- Do you thoughtfully consider the differing viewpoints of others as an opportunity for deeper understanding within the Christian fellowship?
- When conflicts arise, are you prompt to make a sincere effort to resolve them in a spirit of understanding and love that avoids divisiveness in the Yearly Meeting?
- How are you careful to maintain the good reputation of others?
- As Christians, do you consistently practice principles of love and good will toward all God’s people, toward the earth and all creation?
- Do you work actively for peace and justice by living in such a way that harmony results?
- How do you observe the testimony of Friends that leads toward creative, life-affirming ways of resolving conflict and away from violence and destruction? Does your attitude toward people of other races and gender indicate your belief in their right to equal opportunity?
- How do you fulfill your responsibility as a Christian to help in the elimination of racial, sexual, ethnic, religious and other forms of discrimination and prejudice?
We cherish our relationships to the Church beyond our yearly meeting, and particularly to our sisters and brothers within the Religious Society of Friends. We will continue to take part in Friends United Meeting, the Ministerial Excellence Initiative, United Society of Friends Women/Quaker Men, Quaker Haven Camp, Friends Fellowship Community, White’s, Earlham College/Earlham School of Religion, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Friends World Committee for Consultation, and other such organizations to whom the current Indiana Yearly Meeting sends representatives and/or with whom it has a covenant relationship.
Questions to aid in consideration of the drafts:
- Which sentences or paragraphs speak most powerfully to you?
- Which ones make you uncomfortable?
- What were you relieved to see in the document?
- What were you hoping for but is somehow missing from the document?
- Is there anything that others in your meeting might find uncomfortable in the document?
- What kind of larger relationships and involvements with other Meetings would support the mission and ministries to which your local Meeting is called?
- Does the document speak to your deepest hopes for how you would like your meeting to be in relationship with other meetings?
- How important is it to you to be a part of a yearly meeting called Indiana Yearly Meeting? How would you feel if your yearly meeting had a different name?
Indiana Yearly Meeting B
A Beginning Working Document for Consultation and
“Indiana Yearly Meeting B” will be a group of Christ-centered Friends meetings who value the authority of scripture and mutual accountability, embracing the current Faith & Practice and organizational structure of IYM.
Our View of Jesus Christ and the Church
We are Christians, and as Friends, we believe that ours is “the religion of Jesus Christ without addition, without diminution, and without compromise” as described by Joseph John Gurney. We unite with the apostolic grounds of Quakerism, believing with George Fox that “There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition.” We believe that the recognized excerpts from George Fox’s Letter to the Governor of Barbados (1671), the Declaration of Faith issued by the Conference of Friends at Richmond (1887), and the Essential Truths (1902) are accurate reflections of our doctrines as Christians and as Friends.
Our View of Scripture and Spiritual Leading
We believe that the Holy Spirit speaks to believers today but we are in agreement with Barclay and Gurney that the Sprit will not speak in a way that is contrary to the Scripture. Barclay says in the Apology, “Whatever doctrine is contrary to their [the Scripture’s] testimony may properly be rejected as false. We are very willing for all of our own doctrines and practices to be tried by them. We have never refused to honor them as the judge and test for any disputes we have had on matters of doctrine. We are even willing to allow this to be stated as a positive maxim: Anything which anyone may do while claiming to be led by the Spirit, which is contrary to the Scriptures may be considered a delusion of the devil.”
Our View of Subordination
We believe in the concept of subordination, as described in the current Faith and Practice of Indiana Yearly Meeting. This concept comes from the scriptural admonition to “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21 NIV). At the organization of Indiana Yearly Meeting in 1821, our predecessors adopted a discipline providing for subordination of preparative, monthly, and quarterly meetings to the yearly meeting. This subordination, as our current Faith and Practice describes, is not a hierarchy but a means of common protection. This common protection ensures that no individual, small group or local meeting takes positions or makes statements that are contrary to or offensive to the collective discernment and leading of the yearly meeting at-large. This common protection also ensures that those in unity with us are protected from unfriendly influences that might seek to disrupt the unity and fellowship of their local meetings.
Our View of the World and Other Christians
As Christians, we recognize our duty to carry the Gospel message into the whole world. We, like Gurney, believe that we have a right and a duty to cooperate with other evangelical denominations, and we support the ability of our local meetings to cooperate with their neighbors of other evangelical traditions in winning the world for Jesus Christ.
Indiana Yearly Meeting B will be a Christian Orthodox Friends organization with a commitment to mutual accountability. It will be clearly built around the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40) and Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). The Bible will not be worshipped, but loved, cherished and studied with solid principles of interpretation and application. It will reflect the best of our Quaker heritage. We will not only follow Jesus as teacher, but also as Savior and Lord.
Supporting Documentation: Core Values of IYM approved by the “Joint Committee” 6/17/97
- God is the foundation around which Friends organize their lives. A personal commitment to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Savior, Lord and Teacher, is essential to daily living. The Indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit strengthens, convicts, saves, guides, and comforts believers.
- The Scriptures are inspired by God, a valid source of truth, and a guide for daily living. Other valid sources of truth (e.g. scientific inquiry, personal experiences) are checked against Scripture for discernment. Since all truth is God’s truth, truth from different sources will not be in conflict but can be integrated.
- Corporate, prayer- based discernment is an essential aspect for decision making and seeking God’s will.
- There is an urgency and priority in sharing the Gospel of Jesus to non-believers both near and far.
- It is vital to meet regularly together for worship, fellowship, and instruction. God calls all believers to be minister of Christ, supporting each other in living out their ministries. The role of gifted pastoral leadership is recognized.
- There are absolutes in family and sexual behavior. These absolutes include abstinence outside of marriage. Marriage is understood as a monogamous relationship between one man and one woman.
- Life is sacred. Among the implications are that Friends corporately do not approve of abortion, violence, or war.
- Faith manifests itself through compassionate works and actions. Each individual is of supreme worth; therefore, Friends seek equal justice for all.
- Friends value integrity in speech and action.
[The Task force included an identical set of questions to aid in consideration of the draft of the outline for Indiana Yearly Meeting B, as appears above following the outline for Indiana Yearly Meeting A.]
(Indiana Yearly Meeting of Friends Discussion, Facebook, post by Stephanie Crumley-Effinger, Feb. 8, 9:41 AM