Attachment A: Yadkin & Southern Quarter letters.
Attachment B: Three Letters detailing the proposal by the
“Gang of Nine – or Seven” pastors.
Attachment C: Executive Committee Split Proposal #1, June 4, 2016
Attachment D: Executive Committee Split Proposal #2, July 2016
Attachment E: Two Dissents from the EC Plan for Separation
Attachment F: Minute of Reorganization, August 13, 2016
Attachment G: NCYM 2016 Epistle
(Attachment A: Yadkin & Southern Quarter letters.)
Attachment A: Yadkin & Southern Quarter letters
Yadkin Valley Quarterly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends
in session at Harmony Grove Friends Meeting
Fourth month, seventeenth day, 2016
[TO] Hugh Spaulding, Clerk of NCYM Ministry and Counsel
Mike Fulp, Sr., Clerk of NCYM Representative Body
Yadkin Valley Quarterly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, Ministry and Counsel, in session fourth month, seventeenth day, 2016 gave much discussion to the current disunity of Friends in North Carolina Yearly Meeting. Many Monthly Meetings have already left the Yearly Meeting and many more are ready to leave if unity in our theological beliefs is not accomplished soon. We have reaffirmed our Faith and Practice more than once that speaks to “a personal faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior” yet we have not resolved the division that is present.
Yadkin Valley Quarterly Meeting Ministry and Counsel approved the following minute:
“We expect that Meetings come to unity with Jesus Christ of the Scriptures and the Faith statements in Faith and Practice (Faith and Thought chapter, 2012 edition p.27). If not we recommend that those Meetings be sanctioned and or disciplined, with possible disownment, by the November 2016 Representative Body session. Meetings of concern include: New Garden, Spring, First Friends of Greensboro, and Winston-Salem Friends.”
Our Ministry and Counsel brought this recommendation to the general Quarterly Meeting session held immediately following the Ministry and Counsel session and the recommendation was approved by this body to be sent to both North Carolina Yearly Meeting Ministry and Counsel and North Carolina Yearly Meeting Representative Body.
If you have questions or need any clarification you may contact me or Stanley Todd, Presiding Clerk of the Ministry and Counsel. His email is email@example.com and mine is firstname.lastname@example.org . My phone is 702-536-5995. Thank you for your consideration of this.
In His Service,
Judy C Ritter, Presiding Clerk Yadkin Valley Quarterly Meeting
cc. Don Farlow, Superintendent
Harmony Grove Friends Monthly Meeting
Branon Friends Monthly Meeting
Hunting Creek Friends Monthly Meeting
The Connection @ Ballantyne
Mount Carmel Friends Monthly Meeting
Deep Creek Friends Monthly Meeting
Statesville Friends Monthly Meeting
Forbush Friends Monthly Meeting
Winthrop Friends Monthly Meeting
Southern Quarterly Meeting
Asheboro Back Creek Bethel Randleman Science Hill Cedar Square Hopewell Marlboro South Plainfield Thomasville
5th Month, 21st Day, 2016,
To our Friends on the NCYM Executive Committee,
In a Spirit of Love and Concern, because North Carolina Yearly Meeting has continuing significant Theological differences, Southern Quarterly Meeting asks that the Executive Committee put forward a plan of separation beginning at the 6th Month, 4th Day, 2016 Representative Body Meeting.
Roger Greene, Presiding Clerk, Southern Quarter
Attachment B: Three Letters detailing the proposal by the “Gang of Nine – or Seven” pastors
Undated letter (likely early April)
Dear Friends of North Carolina Yearly Meeting,
Recently a few pastors felt a leading to come together and have a conversation about the direction and future of our beloved Yearly Meeting. We recognize that Friends are exhausted and much energy has been expended. We also know that there has been much pain throughout this whole journey. For that reason, we felt it was important to come together and seek discernment as to a way forward.
To that end, a group of pastors have agreed to come together on Thursday, April 14th, at Quaker Lake and have a conversation that hopefully will lead to clarity and way forward. These pastors include: Scott Wagoner, Margaret Webb, Deborah Suess, Terry Venable, David Hobson, Mike Wall, Eric Morrison, and Mike Butler. We have sought to represent the diversity of our Yearly Meeting and our hope is to have a loving and productive conversation about our future. We do not intend to try and convince one another of who is right and who is wrong. That has felt to be a dead end road and we want to move beyond that point. We have intentionally kept this initial group small in order to facilitate the dialogue. We certainly hope it will lead to further conversations that involve more folks.
We have shared our intentions with our Interim Superintendent, Don Farlow. Along with Don Farlow, we have also invited Brent McKinney, Hugh Spaulding, Judy Ritter, and Michael Fulp, Sr. to be in attendance as a listening and prayerful presence. We hope that Friends will view this as a sincere attempt to move our Yearly Meeting forward in a positive manner and not as an attempt to undermine any work that has been accomplished up to now.
Most of all, we ask for your prayers as this group gathers. We ask that you pray for wisdom, insight, and clarity as well as the willingness to be present to one another and listen deeply. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Scott Wagoner, Deborah Suess, Margaret Webb, or Terry Venable.
In Christ’s Peace,
(Listing of Pastors)
Letter after their first session.(Addressed to “pastors”; unclear to whom it was actually sent; does not seem to have circulated widely.)
To: NCYM Pastors
Re: April 14 Gathering at Quaker Lake / Follow-up Letter
Seeking a Way Forward in NCYM
As mentioned in a recent letter to NC Yearly Meeting Pastors, a small group of pastors representing the diversity of NCYM came together for a frank conversation about the direction and future of our Yearly Meeting in light of the Yearly Meeting body’s inability to move toward an agreeable resolution to our recent conflict, and to discern a way forward. The pastors in attendance were Mike Butler, David Hobson, Frank Massey, Eric Morrison, Deborah Suess, Terry Venable, Scott Wagoner, Mike Wall, and Margaret Webb. In addition to the pastors, Don Farlow, Interim Superintendent; Mike Fulp, Sr., Presiding Clerk; Brent McKinney, Clerk of Executive Committee; Hugh Spaulding, Clerk of Ministry & Counsel; and Judy Ritter, Clerk of the Task Group, were also in attendance to observe and provide a prayerful presence.
The group discussed several things that unite us and bring us together as Christians and Quakers. Among the things acknowledged included relationships that have been cultivated over many years, works of service and mission such as Friends Disaster Service, MOWA Choctaw, and other service/mission opportunities, Quaker Lake Camp and the decades of life changing ministry that has taken place, and our shared endowments which have been built from the faithful stewardship of so many members of North Carolina Yearly Meeting.
While we can celebrate much that unites us, we were also able to name the issues that divide us. These places of division include the authority of Scripture, how one understands the atonement of Christ and salvation, same gender marriage, and the inability to form a united corporate identity. We recognize that the gulf is wide, and that for most of the individuals and congregations in our Yearly Meeting, these points of conflict and division are impenetrable as well as non-negotiable.
After a time of silence, prayer, and discussion, the group began to ask some challenging questions: Can we all stay together in loving Christian fellowship? Do we have enough common ground and unity of purpose to continue to be part of the same Yearly Meeting? If so, how? If not, how can we proceed and move forward in a way that all meetings feel honored and valued? The conversation was difficult at times, but always in a spirit of love and good will toward one another, and always with the ultimate goal of discerning the Spirit of Christ for all of North Carolina Yearly Meeting.
After a lengthy period of conversation and dialogue, we came to the realization that the differences are great and that the only way forward that seemed to bring any degree of resolution would require a mutually agreed upon separation//reorganization that seeks to value and respect the other. This reorganization would allow for greater unity of purpose and mission and would allow all of our congregations to move forward in doing the work of Christ as they feel led. While most of the pastors discerned this as the most plausible way forward, pastoral minister, David Hobson, still did not feel that separation was the only way and that we need to keep trying to find ways to stay together.
We also believe, hope, and pray that there are ways in which we can work together, and remain connected on some levels. We are hopeful that we can stay connected through those things that do unite us, and set at liberty for each group those things that divide us. It may be possible to stay together in relation to those things that bring us all vitality, energy, and life, like, Quaker Lake, Friends Disaster Service, Quaker Men, USFW, to mention a few.
It needs to be noted that this group has no authority. It has not been nominated or asked by North Carolina Yearly Meeting to accomplish any specific task. We gathered only as individual pastors that love our Yearly Meeting, and are concerned about our current situation. These same folks do plan a follow-up meeting to discern what next steps, if any, can be suggested to the Yearly Meeting. We share these letters only as a way of providing full disclosure and transparency. We also know that for our conversations to become a reality, much work will need to be accomplished that will take time and effort. But even more, it will require prayer. Please pray with us that God will show us the right path and the way forward.
In Christ’s Peace,
Proposal to NCYM Executive Committee
Monday, May 9th, 2016
On April 14th, 2016 and again on May 4th, 2016, a small group of concerned pastors, that represent the diversity of NCYM, chose to come together for a frank conversation about the direction and future of our Yearly Meeting, seeking to discern a way forward that could bring to a conclusion the recent conflict that has dominated North Carolina Yearly Meeting. In those meetings, we recognized and celebrated those things which unite us and bring us life. Among the things highlighted include relationships that have been cultivated over many years, works of service and mission such as Friends Disaster Service, Mowa Choctaw, and other service/mission opportunities, Quaker Lake Camp and the decades of life changing ministry that has taken place there, and our shared endowments which have been built from the faithful stewardship of so many members of North Carolina Yearly Meeting.
In the context of those discussions, we also recognized that there are theological differences which divide us. And those theological understandings are fundamental to each person and meeting living out their faith with integrity. As part of our conversation and process of discernment, it became clear to most of the group that some form of separation or restructuring of NCYM is not only necessary but inevitable.(It should be noted that two of the original nine pastors were not in unity with this conclusion, and are hopeful and prayerful that NCYM could remain together fully.)[Parenthesis in original.]
Therefore we as a group of concerned pastors/Friends make the following proposal to the NCYM Executive Committee for your consideration:
1. That NCYM divide into two groups around the different understandings of the role of Faith & Practice and Scripture. The goal should be for the long term sustainability of both groups, and the hope that each group would be free to live out their faith and more fully engage in ministry that is life giving to each group.
2. That a transition team be named to oversee this process, make sure all groups and meetings are appropriately represented and respected, examine any legal issues, and bring recommendations about specifics of the plan to NCYM Representative Body and Yearly Meeting Sessions. The transition team should include Yearly Meeting leadership, and other representative members. Our group would like to be involved in the process of transition, and the following individuals have expressed a willingness to serve in such a capacity: Mike Butler, Deborah Suess, Terry Venable, Scott Wagoner, and Mike Wall.
3. On a temporary basis, both groups would remain as members of NCYM, as a legal and fiduciary entity. As such, current levels of support would remain for Quaker Lake and the Pastor’s Retirement Fund, with provisions to establish a timeline and plan for Quaker Lake’s autonomy and long-term sustainability, and to determine a plan for the pension fund and other NCYM endowments. And we are prayerful that we can continue to work together, and continue to find life and vitality in those that have always united us, as we have worked and ministered as the body of Christ.
Our group does not make this recommendation lightly. We all love and support North Carolina Yearly Meeting, and we all also love and support the meetings we serve. The statement was made in our discussions that “we are going to separate in love or we are going to separate in anger.” We choose love.
Thank you for your willingness to consider this proposal. We believe and pray that it is Spirit-led, and comes only after a process of discernment. We offer it to you for further discernment. Much work is still to be done. And much work is still to be done by the meetings of NCYM. Blessings to you all in the task and work that you have undertaken for our Yearly Meeting.
In the Love of Jesus Christ,
Mike Butler, Eric Morrison, Deborah Suess, Terry Venable, Scott Wagoner, Mike Wall, and Margaret Webb
Attachment C: Executive Committee Split Proposal #1, June 4, 2016
Executive Committee Recommendation to the
Representative Body of the North Carolina Yearly Meeting
June 4, 2016 [Approved]
The Executive Committee of the North Carolina Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends met in special sessions on the 9th and 31st days of the Fifth Month, 2016, in the spirit of love and prayerful discernment and in focused attention on matters of both faith and practice that have caused labored discussions among North Carolina Friends for many years.
The Executive Committee acknowledges the differences among Friends in the North Carolina Yearly Meeting that are continuous and unabating regarding the use of Scripture and the freedom available to interpret Scripture through leadings of the Holy Spirit; the autonomy of individuals and individual meetings within the broader authority of the Yearly Meeting, and whether the Yearly Meeting has or should have authority to discipline meetings for what are determined to be departures from Faith and Practice.
And while being dutifully mindful of our origins in the traveling ministries of George Fox and William Edmundson, who visited this colony in 1672, and of the proud history and accomplishments of early Friends who settled here in the 1600s and who later formed the North Carolina Yearly Meeting to bind together the growing communities of Friends across this state and beyond, the Committee listened again to the many voices of concern or discontent expressed in the missives and letters from individuals, Meetings, and Quarterly Meetings that have accumulated in recent months, and recounted the meetings that have elected to depart from the Yearly Meeting within the past year.
Determining that our differences are insurmountable and will impede the future growth and detract from the ministries of the Yearly Meeting, the Executive Committee recommends to the Representative Body assembled that the member meetings of North Carolina Yearly Meeting patiently commit to an orderly, deliberate, compassionate, and mutually respectful plan of separation into two yearly meetings, and in that plan of separation, allow each meeting, if it chooses, to join either of the two new yearly meetings, however organized, which can be life- giving for all of our monthly meetings.
We further recognize that, if the Committee’s recommendation is approved by the Representative Body, a carefully structured discussion must occur that would consider matters of (1) faith (2) organization (3) property, and (4) law, and that this discussion must include multiple voices and viewpoints within the Yearly Meeting.
Given the complexity of questions to be asked and matters to consider, the Executive Committee further recommends that the Executive Committee shall be delegated the limited task of identifying and organizing the components of the deliberate discussion that would necessarily follow, and to return to Annual Session with recommendations for consideration by the Yearly Meeting that pertain to process only, with substantive discussions to occur in carefully selected committees to follow Annual Session.
We do not propose a timeline or a deadline. We only propose that the process should commence, and that it should occur with due care and in the spirit of Christ’s love and mutual respect one to another. Our recommendation is not complete without the notation that three members of the Executive Committee expressed their decision to “stand aside” if the rest of the Committee proceeded with this recommendation.
Respectfully submitted this 4th day of the Sixth Month, 2016.
D. Brent McKinney, Clerk
Attachment D: Executive Committee Split Proposal #2, July 2016
July 20, 2016
From: Executive Committee
To: Ministry and Counsel Clerks, Monthly Meeting Clerks, and Pastors
As requested at the Representative Body meeting on June 4th, the Executive Committee has created a Procedural Plan that will explore the possibilities of separating the North Carolina Yearly Meeting into two yearly meetings. Upon approval of the Plan at the upcoming Annual Sessions and successful completion of the procedures set forth in the Plan, the current NCYM will become two independent yearly meetings at the conclusion of the 2017 Annual Sessions.
Please review the enclosed/attached Draft Procedural Plan and bring all questions, comments and concerns to the Annual Business Session on Saturday morning, August 13.
D. Brent McKinney, Clerk
North Carolina Yearly Meeting of Friends
Procedural Plan for Separation into Two Yearly Meetings
July 14, 2016
Time Period* Action
June 4, 2016 – North Carolina Yearly Meeting gave approval at the meeting of representatives on June 4, 2016 to move forward with the development of a procedural plan to separate into two yearly meetings.
June 23– Executive Committee asked the NCYM Ministry and Counsel to develop statements of faith for two yearly meetings. One statement would focus on “authority” and the other statement would focus on “autonomy.” The EC also asked M & C to present the draft statements to representatives at the annual M & C meeting for discussion on August 6th.
The two statements of faith, including subsequent revisions, will be included in the Procedural Plan report at annual sessions for presentation on Saturday, August 13th.
July 14 – The Executive Committee reviewed and revised a “draft procedural plan” to separate into two yearly meetings and approved of sending the draft report to all monthly meetings.
August 13 – The Procedural Plan, including the two draft statements of faith, will be presented at annual sessions for consideration of approval by the gathered body of representatives.
Until NCYM is separated into two yearly meetings, all members currently serving on committees, boards, as NCYM representatives, and other volunteer capacities should continue to serve in their current position. The NCYM Nominating Committee should only fill vacancies where needed and upon request from the committee or board.
August 14 – Nov. 5 – If the plan is approved, each Monthly Meeting will be asked to align with their preference for one of the two yearly meetings. The statements of faith will be central to the alignments. Each monthly meeting will notify the NCYM Ministry and Counsel and the Superintendent of its decision.
Also, each quarter will appoint a representative to serve on a committee that will discuss quarter alignments.
The committee should consider the number of meetings in each quarter, the number of members in each quarter, the travel distance to quarterly meetings, and the general compatibility of the meetings. A plan of alignment should be presented to the NCYM Ministry and Counsel. A progress report will be given by M&C at the November meeting of representatives.
The Trustees, Trustees of Trust Funds, Finance Committee, and Superintendent will develop a minimum of three (3) conceptual scenarios showing how all investment funds, endowment(s), properties and other assets will be utilized by the two yearly meetings in the future. The committee will be chaired by the chair- person of the Trustees. These conceptual scenarios should be submitted to the NCYM Office prior to the November 5th meeting of representatives. The conceptual scenarios will be presented for discussion and consideration of approval, if ready.
Nov. 5 – March 4 – The new interim quarterly meetings of each yearly meeting will appoint members to serve on two committees, a Faith and Practice Development/Revision Committee and a Nominating Committee. The committees will begin to work soon thereafter for the development/revision of a Faith and Practice for each yearly meeting and for the appointment of members to serve on selected committees, boards, and as representatives of the yearly meeting.
Each monthly meeting within the new interim quarterly meetings and the new yearly meetings are encouraged to discuss and consider the ministries and missions of the current yearly meeting which they would like to undertake. As we prepare to separate, maintenance of the NCYM ministries, missions and programs will be a significant challenge and may need to be handled by the monthly meetings, quarters or new yearly meetings.
This may not be a bad outcome as the quarters are commonly viewed by many members as our weakest link. Current ministries and missions include but are not limited to; Jamaica, Mexico, MOWA, FUM (Samburu, Friends Theological College, Turkana, Belize, Ramallah), YWAM, YFAC, missionaries, evangelism, Christian Education, Missions (enhanced at the local level), Publications, Care of Records, Christian Vocations, Creative Aging, Cemeteries, Quaker Lake and additional youth activities. A summary report of the discussions should be submitted to the Executive Committee. (The outcome of these discussions will have an impact on the respective “askings” of each new yearly meeting.”)
Monthly Meetings will continue the discernment process of alignment with a yearly meeting.
The Trustees, Trustees of Trust Funds, Finance Committee and Superintendent will continue development of the scenarios as related to the assets of the yearly meeting and prepare a detailed plan of “actions to be taken” for implementation of each conceptual scenario, or for the preferred scenario,
March 4 – June 3 – The Trustees, Trustees of Trust Funds, Finance Committee and Superintendent will submit a final plan to the Executive Committee for the preferred scenario and utilization of all assets, going forward.
All monthly meetings should discern final alignment with one of the two yearly meetings and submit their decision to M & C.
The Executive Committee should receive reports from each new interim quarter regarding their proposed undertaking of ministries and missions.
Faith and Practice Development/Revision Committees should submit their proposed Faith and Practice to M&C.
With the information received from “multiple voices,” the Executive Committee will prepare a Draft Declaration of Separation including, monthly meeting alignments, new quarter alignments, the proposed activities of each quarter, the basic contents of each Faith and Practice, and the proposed utilization of all assets.
June 3–Annual Sessions – The proposed DRAFT “Declaration of Separation” will be presented to all quarters, Committees, Boards, USFW, QM, Ministers Association, and other appropriate groups for review, discussion and comments.
2017 Annual Sessions (Tentative: August 11 – 13) – A Final Declaration of Separation will be presented by the Executive Committee for consideration of approval by the gathered body of representatives.
Upon approval of the Declaration of Separation, each yearly meeting will begin operation in accordance with its Faith and Practice.
* The Executive Committee will provide oversight and guidance for development of the Declaration of Separation and may need to flex the schedule as we move along to accommodate for unforeseen matters or indecision.
Attachment E: Two Dissents from the EC Plan for Separation
Jamestown Friends Meeting
June 28, 2016
Clerk of NCYM – FUM
Superintendent of NCYM
4811 Hilltop Rd
Greensboro NC 27407
Jamestown Friends Meeting, at its regularly scheduled meeting for worship with attention to business, had a lengthy discussion concerning the Executive Committee and Representative Body and the proposal to split or divide the Yearly Meeting. Jamestown Friends Meeting does not and never has supported the concept of dividing or splitting the Yearly Meeting. There are many reasons for this position, but suffice it to say it will only render two groups (or more) worse off than now, will divide meetings and families, and will create hostility and dissention.
It appears that the Quaker process has been abandoned or failed at many levels of the Yearly Meeting. The process of sense of the meeting does not involve voting or head counting. It respects the role of the minority and recognizes that working together is difficult but that is what God call us to do. It requires respect for one another, openness to listen, time to reflect and study, and attempts to find reconciliation, forgiveness and love. It is not based upon pre-set conditions or prepared oratory. It includes quiet listening, searching and openness. It is a slow process at times and is designed to be that way, if necessary.
We, as a meeting, urge our leaders to take as much time as may be needed to hear all views, to treat each other with respect, to make efforts to heal and unify rather than abuse and divide. We seek to find how to help others see our vision of God’s work and how we can better understand the vision of others—then hearts and minds may work together to find unity in the Spirit.
On behalf of Jamestown Friends Meeting and with the approval of the monthly meeting,
(signed) Mark Farlow, Frank Massey, Clarence Mattocks
(Editor’s note: Mark Farlow is presiding clerk of monthly meeting, Frank Massey is pastor of the meeting, and Clarence Mattocks is clerk of the Peace and Social Concerns Committee.)
From Spring Friends Meeting:
“After careful consideration, Spring Monthly Meeting is agreed that we are unable to support or take part in any plan to divide North Carolina Yearly Meeting.
Such a plan is contrary to the commitments and values we stated in our Ninth Month 2014 letter to Friends, and which we still affirm.
That letter is available online at: http://bit.ly/1QdRsmt. ”
A pertinent snippet from Spring’s 2014 Letter: “We [at Spring] believe that unity is best achieved by embracing of our diversity and not through the cleavage of our association from others over doctrinal matters.”
Attachment F: Minute of Reorganization, August 13, 2016
Minute of Reorganization of the North Carolina Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends
August 13, 2016
Over the past 319 years, the North Carolina Yearly Meeting has never been without a time when we debated who we were as Christians and as Quakers; and the steps that we should take to fulfill the missions of Christ on earth.
As the years have become decades and the decades have become centuries, the multiple views and competing positions in this discussion have moved farther apart. The challenge of bridging our differences has become an increasingly daunting task.
In recent years, the chorus of voices concerned about our differences has risen, and we have labored diligently to find a way to maintain our unity of purpose, our unity of worship, and the unity of our corporate body.
Managing this conversation has become a regular task of the Yearly Meeting’s Executive Committee, to the exclusion of other work for which we have been appointed. After many meetings, and after long and prayerful discussions, the Executive Committee concludes that matters within our yearly meeting are moving too swiftly for us to assume a posture of organizational inertia.
In just the past year, 19 of our 72 meetings have left the Yearly Meeting and two meetings have been laid down. A diverse group of ministers has asked the Executive Committee to recommend a structured pathway to separation. Southern Quarter has united in asking that we consider taking steps towards division. And we have been informed that several more meetings will leave the Yearly Meeting if action leading to reorganization or division is not quick and decisive.
This afternoon the Executive Committee listened attentively to the questions raised and comments made during morning breakout sessions. We know much more now than we did prior to annual session regarding the beliefs, the fears, the anxieties, and the aspirations of represented meetings.
However, we did not hear a sufficiently strong consensus for unity, and therefore we return to you, as your Executive Committee, seeking approval of the plan as broadly outlined at this morning’s session, but with a focus on reorganization rather than separation.
Based on the collective suggestions made in each of your groups, the plan may look differently as we take measured and considered steps towards a reorganized body. At each step, our recommendations and decisions will be made according to your input and approval, and they will be taken in a manner that respects the needs and interests of all members of our Yearly Meeting.
We know that there questions to which we do not yet have answers and that there is now and will later be uncertainty, but as we acknowledge our depleted ranks and consider the rising volume of dissatisfied voices, we conclude that our only reasonable option is to work towards reorganization in whatever form it takes. Within this plan of reorganization, each meeting’s destiny will be controlled and determined by the meeting itself, and each resulting organization will determine its own theological identity.
In the face of these many, unknowns and in the Spirit of the same Christ that brought us together 319 years ago, we ask this body to approve the plan presented this morning, but with a focus on reorganization into two groups.
Approved this 13th day, eight month, 2016.
Mike Fulp, Presiding Clerk
Attachment G: NCYM 2016 Epistle
North Carolina Yearly Meeting Epistle -319th Annual Session
We send greetings from North Carolina Yearly Meeting (Friends United Meeting) from our 319th annual session. This year we gathered at Camp Caraway, nestled deep in the woods of Randolph County, in the Uwharrie Mountains, an excellent setting for our work of seeking God’s will for the Yearly Meeting. Surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation, 175 attenders from across the state, representing 51 Monthly Meetings used our time to listen and discern God’s will.
For over two decades with increasing tensions over the last two years, we have wrestled with who we are, culminating in hurts, confusion, and financial challenges. This past year many of our meetings reaffirmed our faith in God, Jesus Christ, scripture, and our NCYM Faith and Practice. Regardless, a quarter of our monthly meetings have left North Carolina Yearly Meeting. We have heard of many yearly meetings and individuals who have prayed for us; we thank you.
Colin Saxton, General Secretary of Friends United Meeting, encouraged us in the opening worship session with the book of Acts. We tend to idealize early Friends, and the early church, forgetting that they also lived in the midst of theological arguments, political turmoil, poverty, and an unbelieving society. Colin challenged us to imagine an unhindered life and ministry as Paul did.
Committee reports, especially MOWA Choctaw, Quaker Lake Camp, Friends Disaster Service and Jamaica Ministries, demonstrated that we do have much in common as we share God’s love as we serve others. We may use different words when we talk of God’s saving action in our lives, but we speak a common language when serving others through God’s love and call on our lives.
The gathered body continued to listen to Friends’ concern about the direction of the yearly meeting, of whether or not to split, going our separate ways based on some arbitrary definition of “who we are.” We heard a call for tolerance of others, meetings that seek to live the Love of God differently in service to their community. We heard that “we are already divided.” Nineteen meetings have left the yearly meeting, and others are considering leaving the yearly meeting. We are splintering. Friends began to ask “Is intentional division better than unorganized splintering?” Everyone struggled to understand “authority’‘and “autonomy” and how to understand our life together in Christ. Is it better for NCYM-FUM to die to allow for a resurrection of a new organization? Could we serve Christ better if we reorganized our yearly meeting, our quarterly meetings, and our committees and ministries? Concerns were expressed about “Do we love one another, as Jesus teaches?” We were reminded of the words of Allen Jay over 100 years ago, “Separations have never brought one to Christ.”
Due to theological differences, several meetings indicated that they would leave if the yearly meeting does not divide. Several other meetings spoke out against division. Out of the chaos and lack of clarity, in an effort to work with Love without compromising Faith, Friends approved a way to move forward. NCYM-FUM will work on reorganizing with subgroups or associations remaining under one yearly meeting umbrella. We intend to remain joined in essential ministries that are important to all, staying in relationship with each other, while we seek clarity of our theologjcal distinctives for the groups that comprise the yearly meeting.
In the Saturday evening message, Colin Saxton reminded us that the Kingdom of God is in the deep places, not the shallow, easy-to-get-to places. We must have eyes to see, be willing to search. The Kingdom comes in glimpses and glimmers, but doors are always open.
We came here asking “Who has God called us to be? What has God called us to do?” We continue to discern these answers.