In This Section:
Update: The “Reconfiguration” of Indiana Yearly Meeting
Enters an Intense Organizational Phase, By Stephen W. Angell
Camping Out at the Borderland: Reflections on Life in a Liminal Time (Ruth 1: 1-14) By Stephanie Crumley-Effinger
From the Indiana Yearly Meeting Communicator, January 30, 2013
Remarks for Representative Council, 9-29-2012 by Thomas Hamm
So, the “collaborative reconfiguration” in Indiana Yearly Meeting is complete. Sorry, but your editor is unable to use that phrase without quotation marks; Set out thus unsheathed, its lack of truthfulness about what has happened in Indiana is so blatant as to be blinding. A triumph of euphemism, the phrase is a travesty of integrity and plain speech: what has happened in Indiana was neither “collaborative” nor a “reconfiguration.”
But what terms are more accurate? In this section, and elsewhere in this issue, a number of alternatives are voiced. For instance, Stephanie Crumley-Effinger speaks of a forced divorce, with the rejected partner(s) being forced out of the family abode.
Thomas Hamm, writing for the task force which prepared the formal “reconfiguration” proposal, came closer as well: “Some view the reconfiguration process as in reality a purge of relatively liberal meetings being pushed by a determined fundamentalist minority.”
The former president of Earlham College, Doug Bennett, who has blogged frequently about the schism on behalf of those who were expelled, put it perhaps most candidly and concisely: “our Quaker world hardly seems intact” or unchanged, he wrote last November. “We are now outcasts from Indiana Yearly Meeting.”
The forced banishment of a discarded spouse and kin; a purge of outcasts. Yes, these sound more truthful.
Yet it all happened, or so some would have us think, with good Midwestern and Quaker decorum and order. Hamm again: “Perhaps we all deserve some credit for trying to keep our differences at some level of mutual respect and civility, even if we have not always succeeded.”
“Perhaps”? “Some credit . . . some level”? Does Hamm sound convinced of this statement? I certainly am not.
In the end, the deeply divided state of the original body was plain: as many as 18 of its 64 meetings are gone or soon will be, almost thirty per cent. With so much dissent, how was a decision possible in keeping with Quaker business practices?
Doug Bennett’s answer is clear: it was not. As he put it in a post last Tenth Month, “Schisms require some governance fiddle.. . . somewhere, somehow in each schism there has been some forcing, some deviation from our best governance practices. We have divided by not finding unity – or declaring ‘unity’ when there was none.”
Bennett then asked, “Will that happen in Indiana?” He now has his answer.
But what of those who prevailed in this struggle? Superintendent Doug Shoemaker, who pressed for the schism from the beginning, sounds an unmistakable note of satisfaction in his letter, reproduced in full a few pages below:
“Many of us regard the successful reconfiguration of IYM to be a miracle and hope to build on this miracle to move forward,” he writes. He also notes that “We enjoy a greater theological unity in IYM now than any of us have ever experienced.” Such “unity” is hardly a surprise, as those of differing views have been forced out and thus silenced. Nor is it a surprise that to Crumley-Effinger this report amounted to a public rubbing of salt in the wounds.
While the refugee meetings work to organize themselves, the question arises as to whether this split will be repeated in other pastoral yearly meetings. Elsewhere in this issue, Geoff Kaiser, who has studied the history of schisms going back to before the landmark 1827 Separation, forecasts that it would, without specific reference to the Indiana situation.
In the 2011 edition of his chart of North American Quaker history (reviewed elsewhere in this issue), Kaiser includes a designated space for expected schisms in pastoral groups between 2011 and 2020; and Indiana has now validated that prediction, right on schedule.
Where are other prime candidates? One thinks of the Iowa Yearly Meeting that is part of Friends United Meeting (FUM); there have also been rumblings in North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM). For that matter, Friends United Meeting itself, an association which includes both pastoral and non-pastoral bodies, has repeatedly been targeted by similar purge attempts, and could easily be besieged again.
We won’t pursue such speculation further here. Our purpose has been to document this struggle as best we can, and the records added in this issue add to what is the fullest account of its unhappy course in print or online. We can hope that future readers will come to it only for historical interest, and not as part of a seemingly perpetual cycle of dysfunction. We can hope; but the record is not encouraging.
Bennett, Doug: “Outcast” quote, online at:
Bennet, Doug: “Quaker Fiddle” quote, online at:
Update: The “Reconfiguration” of Indiana Yearly Meeting
Enters an Intense Organizational Phase
By Stephen W. Angell
Indiana Yearly Meeting is facing an imminent “reconfiguration” that will likely leave two new yearly meetings and some independent monthly meetings in the place of the old Indiana Yearly Meeting (IYM). The largest faction within Indi-ana Yearly Meeting, and the one that will retain the name of Indiana Yearly Meeting, intends to establish a more precise mission that will include emphasis on the centrality of Jesus Christ, high regard for its view of the Scriptures, and a more robust construction of yearly meeting authority.
Of these three issues, the way yearly meeting authority is exercised is clearly the most divisive issue, and the meetings that will depart as a body, or go independent, generally seek a looser, more relaxed sense of church authority. The multi-year process that led from one of IYM’s monthly meetings, West Richmond, approving a “welcoming and affirming” minute for gays and lesbians in 2008, to an imminent reconfiguration for IYM in 2013, will not be reviewed here, but those events are explained in our previous coverage of this controversy, so readers new to the topic are cordially invited to read those articles. (See QTs #18-21.)
November Rep Council Approves Reconfiguration Proposal
After the September 29, 2012, IYM Representative Council meeting, in which IYM had not been able to come to agreement on the reconfiguration proposal before it, Doug Shoemaker, IYM’s superintendent, made the following statement to the Friend of London: “It seems evident to many of us that Indiana Yearly Meeting will reconfigure; the question is will we do so deliberately or chaotically. One Friend characterised our proposed deliberative reconfiguration process as not a divorce, but the separation of conjoined Friends, a necessary process so that both may live.” http://thefriend.org/article/indiana-ym-moves-towards-separation/
Some Indiana Friends may dispute Shoemaker’s characterization of reconfiguration as a “necessary process.”
Agreement to proceed with reconfiguration, however, was indeed reached at the Rep Council Meeting on November 10, when Indiana Yearly Meeting representatives finally gave their consent to the specific reconfiguration proposal that its Reconfiguration Task Force had composed and then tweaked. It did so with at least six monthly meeting representatives standing aside. The Task Force had made some modest changes in its initial proposal, mostly having to do with the allocation of funds between Indiana Yearly Meeting and any new body formed by meetings who decided to leave IYM. The revised proposal provided for a somewhat more generous allocation of funds for meetings that leave IYM in a body than had been the case in the proposal that had not been approved in October.
Meetings would have to choose either to stay within an Indiana Yearly Meeting with an enhanced sense of yearly meeting authority, or to not be part of IYM under those terms. Those meetings that refuse to make a choice will be dropped from Indiana Yearly Meeting. Those meetings that chose to not be part of Indiana Yearly Meeting, can opt either to form a new yearly meeting or association, or to become independent.
The reconfiguration proposal, for which the clerk, Greg Hinshaw, discerned approval, included one change responsive to objections made on the floor of the Representative Council, that the speed of the process was not allowing enough time for the new yearly meeting to become organized. Accordingly, the deadline for monthly meetings to declare an affiliation with a new yearly meeting was pushed back roughly three months, from February 28 until May 31, 2013. Some important details of the reconfiguration process are summarized here:
Indiana Quaker Meetings Make Choices
Indiana Quakers have thus entered into an accelerated process of reorganization. About 41 of Indiana Yearly Meeting’s current 64 monthly meetings had notified the Yearly Meeting office by January, 2013, of their intention to remain in Indiana Yearly Meeting (sometimes called Indiana Yearly Meeting B). (See the Appendix.) About 13 of its monthly meetings had notified the Yearly Meeting by the same date of their intention to not be part of the Yearly Meeting any longer. Six such meetings were identified in my October 2012 article in Quaker Theology (Antioch Chapel, Englewood, Friends of the Light, Penn, West Richmond, and Williamsburg), Since October, seven more meetings have also reached a sense of the meeting to not be part of Indiana Yearly Meeting: Bluff Point, Friends Memorial in Muncie, New Castle, Parker, Richmond First Friends, Spiceland, and West Elkton.
In addition, the following five meetings were represented at the January 27th organizational meeting of the New Association of Friends, as those “reconfigured” out of IYM are likely to be called: Salem, Greenfield, Dublin, Winchester, and Raysville. Some of these may decide to leave IYM and to join the New Association.
The New Association of Friends
As stated above, the meetings that decide not to be part of Indiana Yearly Meeting face an additional decision. Each must decide whether to depart as part of a group – in a new yearly meeting, or some equivalent – or to become an independent meeting. There is a modest financial incentive for the group option, as Indiana Yearly Meeting has agreed to share some of its unreserved funds and a few of its reserved funds and some assets with a new yearly meeting, should departing meetings organize in that fashion.
There is in fact a new organization forming, one that has adopted the provisional name of the New Association of Friends. As of the beginning of February, 2012, Richmond First Friends, West Richmond, Englewood, Friends of the Light, West Elkton, and Bluff Point have declared themselves “fully engaged” with this New Association, and some other meetings seem likely to join them. (To say that they are “fully engaged” means that they will work actively to develop the new association, although these meetings also may reserve until later the decision whether formally to join the association.)
It is noteworthy that three states are already represented in those meetings fully engaged with the New Association organizing efforts: Michigan (Friends of the Light in Traverse City), Ohio (Englewood and West Elkton), and Indiana (Bluff Point, Richmond First Friends, and West Richmond). In general, New Association Friends have been leery about putting geographical limits on their organization.
It would certainly be possible that more states might be represented in the Association in the future. Michael Sherman from Raysville Meeting recently approached a former clerk of Whittier Friends Meeting in California, and, in the course of conversation, mentioned the New Association’s openness to having a geographically dispersed membership. (The Whittier Meeting is now part of a yearly meeting called the Western Association of the Religious Society of Friends – a very small body, composed of Whittier and two other California meetings, and affiliated with Friends United Meeting.
The Whittier Friend made a noncommittal response, preferring to wait to see how the New Association develops, before Whittier Friends would ascertain their own degree of interest in this fledgling organization. According to Michael, “Whittier seems to be very interested in the goings on of this new association. They want to see what happens.”
At an Association organizational meeting on January 27 in Richmond, Friends named a Nominating Committee, trustees, a Communications committee, an observer to Friends United Meeting, and began to form a Steering Committee (it seems roughly equivalent in function to IYM’s Representative Council, but New Association Friends did not adopt that terminology.) This fledgling body was intended only as the most basic organization. All persons named to an office will serve only a one year, transitional term. But, if any of the wavering monthly meetings were wondering if there would be another organization to join should they leave the current IYM, the January 27 meeting removed all doubt on that subject. There will be a new yearly meeting – one that prefers to call itself an association – in formation. There will be some place to go. And as interim clerk Catherine Griffith observes, “Things are happening.”
By the time this article goes to press, the Nominating Committee and the Trustees will have met. The communications team is doing its job, and the FUM observer attended FUM Board sessions. The steering committee will likely meet on March 10 with a full slate of representatives from the “fully engaged” meetings.
The New Association listed a number of goals for the near term. They want to “have some fun together”; to “be enough of an organization to receive and care for assets”; and to “get to know each other well enough so that they can make decisions for the long run.” They also hope to engage in intervisitation, and would like to carry out service projects. They will “embrace diversity among Friends, including theology.” They expect to “receive, nurture, and support” pastors and recorded ministers. In addition, those persons seek recording need to have a place to turn for discernment. They will “pray for one another.” They intend to “recommit and embrace the New Testament.” One Friend reminded those gathered to “be gentle with themselves,” as it may take a while to build an organization that is capable of working on all of these worthy objectives.
In his blog, Joshua Brown, pastor of West Richmond Meeting, has taken to dreaming about what the New Association of Friends might be like. He would like to see worship at the center of New Association activities (something arguably true for all Indiana Friends), and he highlights a difference with the existing Indiana Yearly Meeting, exhorting the New Association to set up committees “where the main purpose is to encourage and advise, rather than regulate and control.” I sincerely doubt that he’ll be disappointed about that.
Brown is also engaging in some hard thinking as to the staffing the organization may need. There may not be sufficient funds for a full time person, at least in the beginning, but Brown hopes that a staffperson might be one “who can stay with us for at least 2 or 3 years.” His list of desired attributes is daunting – he or she should be an organizer, computer literate, experienced in both programmed and unprogrammed worship, “knowledgeable about Quaker history and beliefs, the Bible, and the wider Christian church,” willing to travel to the geographically dispersed meetings in the Association, and be “non-defensive and open to the experiences of others.” Oh, yes, a second language (does he have Spanish in mind?) would be “a definite plus.”
If that sounds like a lot for a part-time employee to be able to do, Brown is certainly entitled to dream. He believes in being proactive. “We need to ask ourselves what kind of leaders we want and need, and then start looking and praying.”
The Issue of Multiple Affiliations
Another issue both yearly meetings may need to address at some point is the question of multiple affiliations. On the one side, the New Association seems willing to entertain multiple affiliations. Englewood, one Association-oriented meeting, is already a member of Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting and intends to retain that membership. On the other hand, the Indiana Yearly Meeting B has attempted to rule out multiple affiliations, at least at the monthly meeting level, but that does not mean that the issue will not arise again in that body as well. There is at least one person, possibly more, who is in a B meeting and would like to affiliate individually with the new association. Will this be permitted by IYM B Friends?
Indiana Quaker Meetings Going Independent
Certain of the monthly meetings that are departing from Indiana Yearly Meeting seem certain to go independent, Parker and Spiceland among them. While not formally notifying IYM of its departure, Winchester seems unlikely to agree to join either Indiana Yearly Meeting or the New Association of Friends. And, as detailed in QT #21, while most of the 13 meetings that have left have done so for reasons that are closely related to IYM’s reconfiguration process, two evangelical Friends’ churches, Antioch Chapel and Penn, seek to be independent for other reasons. These latter two meetings might join with the Evangelical Friends Church Eastern Region. However, neither has any interest in the New Association of Friends.
Cathy Harris, Associate Pastor of Spiceland Meeting, explains her meeting’s decision as follows: “Spiceland is still planning to go independent. We feel that is best for our meeting at this time. We may look at affiliating with a Friends organization down the road, but not right now. We feel we have spent so much time and energy focusing on the IYM reconfiguration that we want to be free to re-focus on our meeting’s ministries. We do plan to continue support Friends mission work that was previously paid through the IYM missions assessment – want to support Quaker Haven Camp, White’s [Institute in Wabash, a Quaker-founded social service agency for at-risk youth], Friends Theological College [in Kenya], the Indian Centers, and other Friends/FUM missions.”
Some Meetings Have Yet to Decide
About ten meetings have yet to decide whether to stay in Indiana Yearly Meeting or to leave, and several of these meetings will address their yearly meeting affiliation at meetings for business in March or April. If they wish for their decision on affiliation to affect the disbursement of funds from the existing Indiana Yearly Meeting, they face a deadline of May 31 to announce their affiliation with either IYM or the New Association of Friends.
Final Steps to Formalize Reconfiguration Yet to Come
Indiana Friends are still on course to formalize their reconfiguration at their yearly meeting sessions at the end of July. Indeed the yearly meeting in session is the only body which can do so.
It was recently announced that Ron and Linda Selleck will provide leadership at those sessions, Ron as the featured speaker and Linda as worship leader. The Sellecks now live in North Carolina, but they are quite familiar to Indiana Friends. As Chuck Fager recalled in Quaker Theology #19, Ron was an enthusiastic advocate for what was called “realignment” in an earlier phase of agitation on that subject, in 1990-1991. Ironically, Ron was then pastor of West Richmond Friends, although he resigned from that pastorate shortly afterward. Whichever New Association Friends will be present to complete the reconfiguration process may well have to endure a message strongly geared toward the new, purer IYM, with (in the words of Doug Shoemaker) its “high regard for the Bible and the centrality of Jesus Christ” and its more robust “understanding of yearly meeting authority.” (IYM Communicator, January 30, 2013)
So, How Are Indiana Friends Doing?
The emotional state of Indiana Friends varies quite a bit. At one New Association meeting that I visited recently, Friends innocently asked me what courses I was teaching in the fall semester, and they fell quiet when I said that one course was “Modern Quaker Life and Thought.” I did admit, with some sense of sadness, that one of the subjects considered in that class was their Indiana Yearly Meeting! Undoubtedly the great pain and tension felt by Indiana Friends over the past few years will not dissipate quickly.
Those meetings still divided as to their course of action continue to experience great pain. The numbers of such meetings seems to have decreased over the past few months, as their options have been thrown into stark relief. However, for many of those clearly on one side or another, the gloom seems to be lifting. Some participants in the New Association meeting of January 27, including the interim clerk, Catherine Griffith, characterized the mood as approaching exuberance. They did rather smartly and harmoniously move through the business of the fledgling Association, exhibiting some diversity, to be sure, but no rancor that this observer could detect.
After the Executive Committee for the remaining Indiana Yearly Meeting met, Doug Shoemaker gave a very positive portrayal, pointing to the joy of “a greater theological unity in IYM now than any of us have ever experienced” and “a clear sense of mission. . . . While the size of our yearly meeting is decreasing due to reconfiguration, those gathered shared a sense of optimism and hope as we considered the days ahead. Many of us regard the successful reconfiguration of IYM to be a miracle and hope to build on this miracle to move forward.” (IYM Communicator, January 30, 2013)
After years of uncertainty, the shape of IYM’s reconfiguration is beginning to crystallize. Much could still change in the few months prior to IYM’s July sessions. But as of now it is already clear that the yearly meeting sessions of 2013 will be ratifying the most momentous changes to have occurred in Indiana Yearly Meeting in more than a century.
The author wishes to thank Stephanie Crumley-Effinger, Catherine Griffith, Tom Hamm, Cathy Harris, Matt Hisrich, Ray Ontko, and Michael Sherman, for their assistance with his research.
For background reading, consult our coverage of events in Indiana Yearly Meeting in QTs #18-21.
“Indiana YM moves toward separation,” The Friend, October 4, 2012. http://thefriend.org/article/indiana-ym-moves-towards-separation/
IYM Communicator, January 30, 2013. http://www.iym.org/home/180010756/180010756/Images/Communicator-%20January%2030-%202013.pdf
Joshua Brown, “Are we friends: Thoughts on being a Quaker in the 21st century,” http://arewefriends.wordpress.com/
“Reconfiguration Update from Indiana Yearly Meeting,” http://fum.org/reconfiguration-update-from-indiana-yearly-meeting-january-february-2013/
The following monthly meetings had notified the IYM office of their intention to remain within Indiana Yearly Meeting as of January, 2013: Amboy, Anderson First, Arba, Back Creek, Bear Creek, Bethel, Carthage, Center, Charlottesville, Dewart Lake Community, Fairmount, Farmland, Friends Chapel, Hinkle Creek, Jericho, Jonesboro, Kennard, Knightstown, Liberty, Little Blue River, Long Lake, Lynn, Maple Run, Marion First, Mooreland, Peaceful Valley, Portland, Rural, Shirley, South Marion, Spencerville, St. Mary’s First, Sycamore, Upland, Van Wert First, Vermillion, Wabash, Walnut Ridge, West River, Westfield, and White River.
Indiana Yearly Meeting Schism Documents:
Camping Out at the Borderland: Reflections on Life
in a Liminal Time (Ruth 1: 1-14)
By Stephanie Crumley-Effinger
(Expanded from a message in Worship at West Richmond IN Friends Meeting, First Month 13, 2013)
As readers of this journal are aware, Indiana Yearly Meeting is in the process of a separation. This essay is meant to give you a glimpse into the experience of that process through the eyes of a participant in it who is also an active member of West Richmond Meeting. Members and attenders of West Richmond vary widely in our connection to and experience of Indiana Yearly Meeting. I speak from one (and only one) particular place in that range of relatedness, and tell a small fraction of a long and complicated story. After becoming part of West Richmond Meeting I also became very involved in the annual “family reunion” that is Indiana Yearly Meeting. But I hope that my words will also be useful for those for whom Indiana Yearly Meeting has no referent in experience, and for everyone in the range between us.
In choosing a spouse, most people do not focus on the extended family of which the beloved is a member. Similarly, in becoming part of a Friends Meeting, most people choose the local Meeting for itself and not because of the “extended family”/Yearly Meeting of which that local meeting is a member. It is true in Indiana Yearly Meeting as in other yearly meetings. And it is an issue in the current situation of West Richmond Meeting (and a number of other monthly meetings that have long been part of IYM), and relevant to our current “Twilight Zone” status of being on our way out of Indiana Yearly Meeting.
As a seeker in my early 20’s, in 1976 I discovered in West Richmond Friends a Meeting that was both clear in its Quaker Christian identity and widely welcoming of my spiritual searching, questions, and the deepening connection to Friends that had been nurtured through my years at Earlham College as a student. West Richmond was in 1976 (and is today) as former pastor from Charles Woodman described it in 1940, “. . . a Meeting diverse enough to represent many opinions in the realm of social problems and personal religious belief, but a Meeting big enough to keep all these differences under the shelter of the divine love; and this is the open secret of this Meeting’s unity.” The Meeting currently identifies itself with this mission statement: “As a Christian Quaker community, we seek to discover God’s truth, proclaim God’s love, and live our faith.”
I first attended annual sessions of Indiana YM in the summer of 1978. Despite my having had almost two years of involvement with West Richmond Meeting, this reunion of its extended family was foreign territory. It was fascinating, exciting, terrifying. I experienced huge theological culture shock, finding myself in a minority, feeling at sea amid the conservative majority. They resoundingly espoused evangelism and altar calls, holiness living and revival services – practices almost completely unknown to me. There were significant differences in language for religious experience, approaches to the Bible, worship style, hymns, and norms. People were expected to have a vivid testimony to a distinct salvation experience: to be able to name the place and date of their conversion to Christianity, the evangelist who was leading the service, the circumstances of becoming convicted of their sinfulness, and details of their experience of release from guilt and shame that came through their acceptance of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
The dominant theology is exemplified by “Victory in Jesus”, one of the many rousing hymns that I, although being brought up a hymn-singing member of the Reformed Church in America and then joining music-loving West Richmond Friends, had never heard before:
I Heard an Old, Old Story
How a Saviour Came from Glory
How He Gave His Life on Calvary
To Save Someone like Me.
I Heard about His Groaning,
Of His Precious Blood’s Atoning.
Then I Repented of My Sin
And Won the Victory.
Oh, Victory in Jesus,
My Saviour Forever
He Sought Me and He Bought Me
With His Redeeming Blood
He Loved Me ‘Ere I Knew Him
And All My Love Is Due Him
He Plunged Me to Victory
Beneath the Cleansing Blood . . .
(Eugene Monroe Bartlett, Sr., 1939 )
Over the 35 years since, I have attended most sessions of IYM and of its annual gatherings for pastors, served on committees, been recorded as a minister of the Gospel ,and developed many friendships with Quakers with whom I, and the majority of my Meeting, have significant differences. This set of relationships has nurtured and developed me in significant ways. I have been loved, cared-about, and prayed-for by IYM folks in deeply meaningful ways, and have loved, cared about and prayed for them. Our kids grew up together at Junior Yearly Meeting and Pastors’ Short Course children’s programs. We have seen each other through good times and difficult ones.
IYM has also been the source of some of the hardest experiences of my life. From 1986-2000 I was responsible for relations between Earlham College and the yearly meeting, and I was frequently a lightning rod for conflict between the two. More recently, an IYM pastor told me that my theology was an abomination and I was not fit to teach in a seminary. At annual sessions in the summer of 2010, I was in tears after awful things were said about West Richmond Meeting by the evening speaker. I realized that my relationship with IYM was the spiritual version of an abused person who keeps being wooed back by loving treatment, only to be beaten-up yet again.
And yet – there was always the sense that in our differences in IYM we made each other stronger by challenging the tendencies of each end of the YM to get off-balance, and helping each other to be more whole and faithful. Looking closely at the Faith and Practice of Indiana YM , one can see an interweaving of our different approaches and viewpoints. For over a hundred years, since the holiness movement and the fundamentalist/modernist controversies that had a powerful impact on IYM, we have found ways to work with these differences, or to put our attention elsewhere, on joint ministries and projects, common needs and concerns.
I still believe that this creative tension could have been maintained if the more conservative part of the YM had not felt that it could no longer in good conscience be affiliated with the more progressive part of the body that includes West Richmond.
But many, many of the more conservative majority of IYM Friends hold that West Richmond Meeting stepped over the line with our June 2008 minute welcoming, affirming, and including lesbian and gay people to be members and leaders. In response to the firestorm of conflict that gathered, the separation is in process, through which our Meeting, along with several others, are currently in a Quaker “no-man’s-land” with regard to larger affiliation.
In April of 2011, I was one of two people on the progressive end of the YM appointed to a 7-person task force charged to examine the conflict and recommend to the sessions in late July a way to move forward. Early on, several task force members, like the yearly meeting Ministry and Oversight Committee before them, urged that WR change the minute so the problem would go away. Our Meeting did not feel clear to do this, and the discussions got underway in earnest.
Surprisingly, serving on that body was one of the most meaningful experiences of my years in IYM. As the seven of us gathered around a table, we spoke directly to one another about issues on which we differed, asked questions back and forth, confronted face to face, and considered IYM’s historical dynamics. Every few weeks we would meet for worship, discussion, analysis, and pondering of possible responses to the conflicts engulfing the body. The differences among us became even clearer as we discussed a range of issues, some closely connected to the WR minute, such as ways of interpreting the Bible, and others less so, such as worship style.
Having considered many and varied possible avenues and the likely consequences of each, we came to focus on the importance of each local Meeting being faithful, and whether the least destructive way would be for the yearly meeting to divide rather than continue in conflict and chaos, with congregations from the majority leaving because they could not conscientiously remain in a body with West Richmond. Some of us had tremendous reluctance, some sad hopefulness, others eagerness toward that idea. This particular meeting was lengthy, and near the end we each were asked to speak. When it came my turn, I named my deep reluctance to join in such a recommendation, a sense that it was the least destructive of the possibilities before us, and my fervent hope that, when the yearly meeting gathered in July, God would lead us in a different direction that none of us could yet imagine.
I went on to say, “I know that most of you are certain that God will someday judge me for being supportive of lesbian and gay people. But I am convinced that God will hold you accountable for the damage being done to untold numbers of families and individuals by your negative attitudes to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and same-sex relationships.” As I spoke, in my mind I was seeing ESR students and alumnae/i who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender – people gifted in ministry, who are loving family members and committed spouses, who have to overcome such destructive and deforming messages they receive from the church. It was a profound moment of no longer holding back as I had so often done over the years by saying things gently, or refraining from speaking for fear of the consequences. It was an experience of grace in which God gave me bold faithfulness and courage to “speak truth to power”.
There is much more to the story – lots of chaos and conflict, many Friends at this [progressive] end of the YM furious at the task force, (and at the two of us from the more progressive meetings for not seeking to stop the proposal for division), turbulent sessions of the yearly meeting in responding to the question of staying together or dividing, the ultimate decision to separate, and the anger and grief that continue. Those stories are for another day.
We have used a number of metaphors for the reconfiguration / separation, particularly that of divorce. One Friend likened us to “conjoined twins” whose continued viability is threatened by staying joined as one body, but who have to be separated carefully through intricate surgery so that both can live. So I turn to the Bible passage of Ruth 1: 1-14, which I believe speaks to our condition. Naomi and her husband Elimelech, with their two sons Mahlon and Chilion, had left their home in Bethlehem in Judah during a famine, finding in Moab a place where there was food, although usually the Hebrews and Moabites were bitter enemies. We often hear about such a refugee situation, caused by famine or violence or other disaster, in our time also, but most of us reading this have not experienced it ourselves.
After a number of years of living in Moab, more disaster struck the family – first Elimelech died. Then, after Naomi’s two sons had married women of Moab, each of the sons died as well. After some time the bereaved Naomi discovered that Judah no longer had a famine, and decided to return to her homeland.
Her daughters-in-law accompanied Naomi for the first part of her journey. Some commentators note that due to rules of hospitality of their day they would have seen Naomi to the border of Moab. But then their relationship, and perhaps the emotions of what they had been through together after the deaths of their husbands, caused Orpah and Ruth to be reluctant to part from Naomi. She argued with them, pointing out that, as women without the protection of a man, their best interests lay in returning to their parents and seeking new husbands to provide a home and children. Eventually Orpah was persuaded, and with tears and embraces, she turned back toward Moab, while Ruth held onto her mother-in-law there at the border, facing toward the unknown land of Judah.
I deliberately did not include the famous later verses of Ruth’s promises to Naomi, often used in weddings. We and the other Friends who are no longer welcome in IYM have not yet made a commitment to one another.
I want us to sit with the three women at that very moment of Naomi and Ruth weeping with Orpah and with sad hearts seeing her turn toward Moab. They are our sisters in the Spirit, as we at West Richmond Meeting stand at the borderland of Indiana Yearly Meeting, of which we will no longer be a part, and the unknown future of a potential body with Friends who like us are spiritual refugees from IYM. And, those who are the Orpah figures, our brothers and sisters who remain in Indiana YM, also grieve – as much as some of us may doubt it. They grieve that we could not do what they are convinced is “the right thing” and submit to a stricter IYM so that we could all stay together.
One of the Friends with whom I shared the January 13, 2013 message on which this article is based, wrote back asking, “Who is Ruth and who is Orpah? Is IYM Moab? or is IYM Judah?” I responded that one of the challenges of drawing on scripture analogically, or of using metaphor, is that there is not a one-to-one correspondence between a current situation and the text or metaphor one is employing. I hope that both sets of Meetings (those that will remain in IYM and those who will no longer be part of it) will “travel to Judah and dwell there” – will attend to and obey Divine Guidance, follow Christ in faithfulness, learn to be the beloved community in ways that our toxic relating has been handicapping.
Life at this border is chaotic in some ways, and calm in others. When we gather at Meeting on a typical Sunday, things do not seem different. But I am very aware that in visiting another Meeting, when during the introductions I would usually say “Stephanie Crumley-Effinger, West Richmond Meeting, Indiana Yearly Meeting”, I can’t say that final part. It is no longer the case (although the actual separation will not be finalized until July 2013 at IYM sessions.) And there is as of yet no affiliation to name after “West Richmond Meeting”.
On January 27, 2013 approximately 120 Friends gathered at Richmond First Friends Meetinghouse to begin to develop a new association. Writing about that event, Margaret Fraser described eloquently her experience of us:
“. . . an image is coming to me of having been in a catastrophic event. It is as if my home, along with others in the neighborhood, has been destroyed. We are traumatized, in occasional disbelief that it could have happened. With repeated realization come unexpected tears. But as we look around, we see that we are all alive, all safe. We can’t rebuild in exactly the same place, but we have been given land and materials to build a new community. Most of us have not built before. We simply lived in our old houses. So we are going to have to identify gifts and skills that exist among us, and many of us are going to learn new skills.
Just over a year ago, I visited Greensburg, Kansas, which had been flattened by a tornado. Since the old town had been built, new ecological awareness has developed, affecting architecture, building materials, scale and webs of connection. While some may have wanted the rebuilt community to look like the old one, most knew that innovation offered the best opportunity for healing.
So here we are. A little shaky, but wearing new hard hats and work boots, on a giant Habitat site, ready to join a crew to build the structures for our community, and to build community itself in a more intentional way. We have friends around the world praying for us and cheering us on. We will tread on each others’ toes – it’s a good thing about the work boots. In our clumsiness, we may hammer our own thumbs, or say things we regret. But if we keep our eyes on the Source of our faith, on why we are doing the work, and end each work day with laughter and gratitude and forgiveness, I think it will be just fine.”
The day after that meeting, over e-mail came the late January edition of The Communicator, the biweekly IYM newsletter, reprinted elsewhere in this issue of Quaker Theology, containing the item about the Executive Committee retreat. It took my breath away. (And I imagine it was even worse for those who were/are more opposed to the separation than I ultimately came to be.) It came across as the aggressors/victors rejoicing about the split. This rubbed salt in the wounds, reopening them just as they are beginning to heal. I return to the analogy of the person who reluctantly assented to a divorce because their spouse was dead set against the marriage continuing – it was as if the separated spouse took the kids on a vacation, then wrote about what a terrific time they had and how wonderful it was to be just them without you. It throws the discarded spouse back into the rage, abandonment, etc., that s/he has been working hard to overcome and heal.
It is also painful to see that the IYM website currently describes as “Meetings who are in the process of leaving” those of us who did not choose “B” when we were required to decide between “B” and “not-B” –.
I am reminded of my mother’s situation 30 years ago when my pastor father decided to end their marriage. Since one person cannot make a marriage work if the other is unwilling, she reluctantly agreed to a divorce. But because they lived in a parsonage, it was she who had to find a new home. Could she fairly have been described as “leaving” my father? I think not!
We at West Richmond, New Castle First Friends, West Elkton, etc., were faced with a union that we could not make work when the conservative Meetings became unwilling to be in it with us, and reluctantly stood aside or agreed to a divorce. And thus we are the ones being left, rather than “leaving” Indiana Yearly Meeting. I ask that we be described as “Meetings who will no longer be part of Indiana Yearly Meeting” rather than as “Meetings who are in the process of leaving IYM”.
I am hopeful about the potential for a life-giving future for those who remain as Indiana Yearly Meeting, those of us who are coalescing as a new association, and the meetings who will be independent.
When the group gathered on January 27, I felt led to be present as a prayerful observer, and came early to settle into that role. Someone was needed to sit at the welcome table with name tags and the sign-up sheet for contact information, and I volunteered for the task. It was wonderful to see people as they came in, bearing food for the pitch-in dinner that began our gathering, variably excited, hopeful, curious, uncertain, open. It was a joy to experience a sense of promise throughout that evening. Recalling the words of a Friend who also has endured much challenge in our years in IYM, “I hope before I die to be part of a yearly meeting where I don’t have to watch my back,” I am glad that such is underway. We have a long way ahead of us, much discernment to be done and much healing awaiting. But we are underway.
We stand in a liminal time, at a threshold and border. Here we are, and it is going to be a while before we know who all “our folks” will be, what is our new Quaker surname and extended family. The future of our wider relationship is uncertain, but there is no turning back. We stand with our foremothers Naomi and Ruth, both to grieve our losses and to trust that God goes before us into this unknown future, and will accompany and lead us each step of the way.
From the Indiana Yearly Meeting Communicator,
January 30, 2013
The IYM Executive Committee met together for a retreat on January 19. One of the highlights was a conversation about the strengths of IYM. Here is a brief summary of that discussion:
1. We enjoy a greater theological unity in IYM now than any of us have ever experienced. We have reaffirmed our high regard for the Bible and the centrality of Jesus Christ, as well as our understanding of yearly meeting authority.
2. Rather than competing visions, we now have a clear sense of mission.
3. We are blessed with committed, biblical leaders and an organization with a rich heritage and the current capacity to continue to serve our constituency well.
Valuable programs are already in place to support pastors, minister to youth, and serve as a basis for continuing Hispanic outreach. While the size of our yearly meeting is decreasing due to reconfiguration, those gathered shared a sense of optimism and hope as we considered the days ahead. Many of us regard the successful reconfiguration of IYM to be a miracle and hope to build on this miracle to move forward.
We will have to learn how to provide important services while operating on a smaller budget, but the Executive Committee is not recommending any sweeping changes at this time. It is encouraging that most of our meetings regularly pay 100% of their annual assessments to IYM, and in 2012 the number of meetings fully supporting IYM actually increased.
We expect good days ahead for our yearly meeting as we seek to be in one place, in one accord.
– Doug Shoemaker
Remarks for IYM Representative Council, 9-29-2012
The Task Force finds itself in the position of recommending a way forward that probably no one really wants, that its most enthusiastic supporters accept, at best, with resignation and sadness. Yet of the options that we have considered, it still appears to be the one that comes closest to honoring the consciences of the diverse Friends in Indiana Yearly Meeting.
We can debate how we came to be where we are. As an historian, I think that the roots of our current dilemma go back well over a century, when most American Friends went through the wrenching changes that created the pastoral system and programmed worship. Since then, I doubt that there has been a time when some divisions in the yearly meeting were not clear. This resulted in small separations in the 1870s and 1920s, and the occasional departure of individual monthly meetings over the course of the twentieth century, sometimes for another Friends body, sometimes simply affirming that their congregations had ceased to be Friends.
Now we are at a point where we have a formal proposal before us for a formal division, and we are far into a process to make that happen. It will not happen, however, unless today we approve taking the final steps. Here it is probably appropriate to review, briefly, the process we have followed. In the spring of 2011 the clerk formed a task force of seven members to consider the issues raised by the West Richmond minute. It concluded that the issues went deeper, and presented four options at yearly meeting sessions: One, to acknowledge that Indiana Yearly Meeting is diverse, and that it should embrace a “big tent” identity. The second was that we should embark on a program of consistent and unvarying enforcement of the yearly meeting Faith and Practice. The third was some sort of censure of West Richmond. The last was to consider division and possible realignment, which the task force recommended. The yearly meeting agreed on a recommendation to monthly meetings to study these options and the recommendation of the task force. On October 1, 2011, after intense discussion, a called Representative Council approved moving forward with a fifth model, presented as follows:
Model Five – Deliberative/Collaborative Reconfiguration
1. We recommend that, on October 1, Friends of Indiana Yearly Meeting commit ourselves to a yearlong process 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. This process would include (but not be limited to) the following elements:
2. The West Richmond Welcoming Minute is, in our opinion, but a symptom of deeper disagreements in the yearly meeting. One of these is the question of the yearly meeting’s authority over its monthly meetings. We ask Friends to discern whether they want to be part of a yearly meeting that, as our current Faith and Practice provides, has the power to set bounds and exercise authority over subordinate monthly meetings; or whether they wish to be part of a yearly meeting that is a collaborative association, with monthly meetings maintaining considerable autonomy and allowing great freedom in matters of doctrine. A Monthly Meeting may choose to opt out of the early phase of this process, and wait until the reconfiguration is underway before deciding the yearly meeting with which to affiliate. Depending on the outcome of the reconfiguration discussion, the yearly meeting of its preference may be largely the one in which it is currently located.
3. Inviting Western and Wilmington Yearly Meetings to join in this process of discernment, with the potential for reconfiguring our three yearly meetings into two bodies per the above delineated kinds of yearly meetings.
4. A process for appointing a Task Force, representing the variety of perspectives and interests in Indiana Yearly Meeting, to carry out this discernment work, both within our yearly meeting and, potentially, with parallel bodies of either or both of the other two yearly meetings. It would include, but not be limited to the following responsibilities:
a. Maintaining valued relationships, both as the process unfolds and as yearly meetings are reconfigured
b. Clarifying a way to go about such a reconfiguration, including how to proceed if Western and Wilmington decline the invitation to join in this process
c. Determining how to share our responsibilities for and connections with Friends United Meeting, Whites, Friends Fellowship Community, and Quaker Haven Camp
d. Identifying and addressing legal implications, such as meetinghouse ownership
We offer this recommendation in the full knowledge that Friends have many sad feelings about Quaker separations in the past, and wishing to avoid the hostility and alienation that has rocked the Quaker community at such times (forms of which sometimes re-emerge these days when we experience our differences.) We have come to recognize that factors which enabled Indiana Yearly Meeting to succeed as “a big tent” fifty and more years ago are no longer present. With more convinced Friends (a good thing!) we have fewer family ties across meetings. Styles of worship vary widely from one congregation to another. Some of us identify closely with the wider Religious Society of Friends and sister peace churches, while others of us find our kindred spirits within the wider evangelical movement. Quarterly meetings have diminished and are much less effective in connecting Friends from different meetings.
We trust that there can be a healthy self-differentiation and movement into new forms of relationships that free each Meeting to be faithful to, and supported in, the leadings that they have.
The final minute of approval read as follows:
RC 11-14 Representative Council approved the recommendation of the Task Force to implement “Model Five,” emphasizing that each monthly meeting would be free to choose which yearly meeting it would affiliate with and that the process would create some opportunities for continuing fellowship.
At the November meeting of Representative Council, it was approved to place this process under the care of the seven Friends who had been part of the task force up that time, with provision for adding three who were perceived as being sympathetic to what we have labeled yearly meeting A. When Stephanie Crumley-Effinger had to resign because of illness, David Brindle replaced her, and I joined Doug Shoemaker as the co-convenor of the task force.
Over the next few months, the task force created two possible models of a yearly meeting; YM A, an association of monthly meetings with considerable autonomy; and Yearly Meeting B, one with power to set and enforce boundaries. These were distributed for comment. Based on those comments, and discussion in the committee, in May monthly meetings were asked to choose. Numbers are dangerous. As of the September 1 deadline, 51 monthly meetings had responded.
Of those, 3 chose yearly meeting A; one chose A but under protest; 11 chose yearly meeting B without comment; 21 chose B with comments, either endorsing the Reconfiguration process or blaming West Richmond for the yearly meeting’s problems; 9 opposed or refused to participate in the process; 1 was unable to choose. Since September 1 we have received responses from a few more monthly meetings, all registering a preference for yearly meeting B. Let me acknowledge that different Friends might set up different categories, but, to me, the general picture is clear— most Friends are comfortable with, if often sad about, the reconfiguration process, but a significant minority have deep reservations.
It’s probably impossible for anyone involved at this point to step back and view events with complete detachment and objectivity. We perceive the stakes as being too high—we can’t feel detached when we perceive that things that we value and love are threatened. I do not claim that every member of the task force shares every opinion that I am about to express. But I think that, taken together, they explain why we have reached what to many is a radical conclusion, and have continued to advocate it in the face of passionate criticism. The differences we saw as debilitating last year have become more apparent as we have discussed and debated reconfiguration. Let me list what I have seen.
The immediate issue at hand is, of course, the West Richmond welcoming minute. For some of us in Indiana Yearly Meeting, it is an intolerable departure from the clear teachings of Scripture. They would expel not only West Richmond but anyone who agrees with the West Richmond position; for others, it is, at best, a violation of a clearly stated position of the yearly meeting. They wonder why the yearly meeting has not taken more forceful action, and that includes some monthly meetings that are not enthusiastic about the idea of Reconfiguration. Others see the West Richmond minute as admirable, a guarded, nuanced affirmation of the dignity and value of all people. And between those two positions we find others—those who disagree with the West Richmond statement but do not see it as a reason for breaking fellowship, or those who accept, and regret, that it gives offense to many members of the yearly meeting, but who are confident that that will fade over time.
For many, this is an issue of Scriptural authority. For them, the Bible is absolutely clear on same-sex issues, and there is no room for disagreement, and, in some cases, no room in Indiana Yearly Meeting for those who challenge their interpretation. Others respond that they are as committed to the authority of Scripture as anyone, but that Friends can differ in their interpretation, and that understandings change over time.
Then we have the issue of time. For some Friends, the clock was set in 2008, when West Richmond first informed the yearly meeting of the approval of its statement. For them, four years is already too long to take to deal with this issue. Others argue that when the unity of the yearly meeting is at stake, we need to take the time necessary to preserve it.
We have also heard disagreements on the best body for dealing with the issue. It began under the care of Ministry and Oversight. Some see that as appropriate; there certainly was precedent. Others argue that the yearly meeting as a whole should have taken it up much earlier and deplore what they see as the tendency of the yearly meeting leadership to keep things in small groups rather than bringing the wisdom of the whole body to bear on problems.
Interconnected with this is disagreement over communication within the yearly meeting. A couple of years back, the yearly meeting established a Facebook page. Not surprisingly, it became a forum for discussion of yearly meeting issues, particularly, in the past year, Reconfiguration. Some see that as healthy and productive. Others deplore it as divisive and perhaps even insubordinate; one Friend remarked to me that it made him want to throw his computer out the window.
Disagreements on yearly meeting authority have also been prominent. Being human, we have an understandable tendency to read Faith and Practice selectively. Some of us, and, let’s admit it, often dictated by the particular issue, cite Section 108A: “The yearly meeting exists to provide order and to regulate its constituent bodies so that Friends may maintain a Christian faith and witness in a spirit of love and unity”; and l08B: “The Yearly Meeting has the power to decide Yearly Meeting policy and administration as provided by this Faith & Practice. It may counsel, admonish or discipline its Quarterly and Monthly Meetings.” Others point to Section 108C: “Subordination as used in this Faith & Practice does not describe a hierarchy but rather a means, under divine leadership of common protection between Indiana Yearly Meeting and its Quarterly Meetings and Monthly Meetings. . . . The Yearly Meeting recognizes the freedom of Monthly Meetings and the validity of their prophetic voices.”
Some see in the issue before a clear case requiring regulation and discipline. Others view it as a case of a lonely prophetic voice exercising legitimate power. For me, the question of yearly meeting authority is probably more the issue than the West Richmond minute.
Questions of process and power have also become prominent. The yearly meeting clerk and superintendent have become the targets of criticism, probably voiced most bluntly by one Friend who said publicly that: “we have thrown Quaker process out the window.” Another sees the yearly meeting in the hands of a “monolithic executive committee.” One monthly meeting was certain that if we had acted with integrity at the October 1, 2011, meeting of the Representative Council, we would have stopped this process in its tracks. They see minorities being pushed aside by majorities. Some view the reconfiguration process as in reality a purge of relatively liberal meetings being pushed by a determined fundamentalist minority. Other Friends endorse the process, and, especially in the case of the Representative Council of October 1, 2011, are convinced that we were truly led by the Spirit in the conclusion we reached.
The differences are clear, and I think that they go beyond arguing about whether the clerk correctly discerned the sense of the meeting. They involve different understandings of what the sense of the meeting is, and how Friends properly exercise power.
Some Friends have argued eloquently that separation is never the solution to a problem, that they are unwilling to add yet another chapter to the unhappy history of Quaker splintering. Here we face the reality that Friends always have seen unity as the goal of their processes. We also have to acknowledge that many Friends do not perceive Indiana Yearly Meeting as a body on the verge of splitting. Perhaps we all deserve some credit for trying to keep our differences at some level of mutual respect and civility, even if we have not always succeeded.
Yet the basic disagreement remains. We have heard eloquent pleas for reconciliation. Yet the reality remains that reconciliation can take place in present circumstances only if one of two things happens, no matter what process we might establish. The first is that West Richmond would rescind the Welcoming Minute. They have been clear that they cannot in integrity do so, and a number of Friends support them in that understanding. The other possibility is that the yearly meeting would rescind its 1982 minute on homosexuality, or that it would decide that the West Richmond minute falls into the category of matters like outward sacraments where we have come implicitly, at least, to tolerate effective congregational autonomy. We have heard from many Friends that they cannot in good conscience do that. So we come to the recommendation that is before us.
Recommendation from the Indiana Yearly Meeting Reconfiguration Task Force for Approval at a Called Meeting of the Representative Council 9th Mo. 29, 2012
A. IYM (the organization) will remain intact and those meetings choosing option B will continue to be part of this body. The attached statement of “Frequently Asked Questions” [Omitted here – Ed.]lays out how this will work. For the majority of Friends in IYM this will represent no organizational change, although the authority of the yearly meeting to hold its member meetings accountable will have been clearly affirmed.
B. Those meetings desiring a yearly meeting that allows for greater autonomy (option A) will be set off from IYM into a newly created “yearly meeting” or equivalent association. They will be released from obligations for 2013 assessments. Monthly meetings that wish to participate in this “setting off” shall inform the IYM office of this choice by 12/31/2012.
C. Monthly meetings that have not chosen between “YM A” and “YM B” by 12/31/2012 are asked to make a different choice: are they willing to affirm being part of a yearly meeting with authority as laid out in the “YM B” statement distributed earlier this year? If not, they will be released from the yearly meeting.
D. Monthly meetings that have not made a decision by 12/31/2012 about their future relationship with the yearly meeting will have a grace period until yearly meeting annual sessions in 2013 to do so. They will not be liable for assessment payments until a decision is made. If the decision is for B, then the monthly meeting will be responsible for retroactive payment of assessments. Members may complete terms of service as IYM committee members or officers, but will not be eligible for reappointment.
E. The following financial arrangements will be put in place:
1. The newly created yearly meeting or association will receive a proportional share of IYM’s liquid assets as of December 31, 2012, based on adult membership as of December 31, 2012, minus any unpaid assessments still owing.
2. Monthly meetings choosing to leave IYM before the 2013 Annual Session will receive clear title to their properties, but with continuing obligations for any mortgages, unpaid assessments or other obligations to the yearly meeting.
3. IYM will cover legal expenses up to $5,000 for obtaining quit claim deeds and the cost of creating a new 501 (c) (3) organization if desired.
This represents the best wisdom of the task force at present, and we commend it to your consideration.