We begin by looking back to August 30, 2014, at the annual session of NCYM-FUM. The Executive Committee has just made its report.
Almost immediately intense controversy breaks out. Pastors and others from four meetings, in particular, rose to loudly insist that business, as usual, be set aside. The yearly meeting, they say, is in a crisis that demands a drastic and instant response.
Two pastors, Todd Brown of Holly Spring and David Mercadante of Poplar Ridge, take the lead in asserting that the crisis is rooted in the fact that NCYM is hopelessly divided over doctrine and practice, and this gap can only be closed by a division. Brown insists that this division is made necessary because some meetings in NCYM have what he calls is a “dual affiliation” with the Piedmont Friends Fellowship, which in turn is affiliated with the liberal Friends General Conference.
“It is clear,” Brown said, according to the minutes, “that the only way to have peace and move forward is for those meetings that have aligned with Piedmont Friends Fellowship and Friends General Conference to immediately separate from NCYM. Members from those meetings should resign immediately.” (NCYM 2014 Minutes, p. 29; hereafter, Minutes)
Brown and others repeat this call for “immediate separation/resignation” by the “dually affiliated” several times. But when a Friend complained that “several here today want to kick some meet-ings out,” Todd Brown retorted that “the term kicking out is not appropriate. It is not what we are doing. A recommendation of separating is not meant to be unkind. . . .” Regarding those meetings associated with Piedmont Friends Fellowship/FGC, he “loves them and they are created in the image of God, but for peace and unity it would be better for these meetings to separate from NCYM.” (Minutes, p. 42)
Two other meetings are active in the push. From Pine Hill, an unnamed member says that a decision to “split” needs to be made that day. “Now is the time for action,” the Pine Hill Friend declares, “since people have driven up here.”
And from Chatham Meeting, pastor Wayne Lamb also expressed impatience: “I believe we could make a decision on what has been said today. . . .[L]et’s go ahead and make the decision to split and work out the details later.” When the Clerk demurs, Lamb bluntly calls for a new Clerk to take the chair and approve the immediate split. (p.33)
As readers of Quaker Theology will know, these calls were stalled that day, but not ended. The drive was stopped at that session by the staunch witness of the outgoing Clerk, Bill Eagles. Although eligible, Eagles’ reappointment as Clerk was blocked by the insurgents, because he is a member of one of the ཁdually affiliatedཁ meetings, New Garden. But Eagles’ term did not end until after the annual session. And he rightly pointed out that–
A. Quakers don’t make decisions in a rush; and
B. there was nothing like a clear consensus or “unity” behind this plan, no matter how loudly the insurgent activists and their supporters shouted and clapped.
Now fast-forward a year and a week, to September 13, 2015:
In a lightly-attended business meeting, Pine Hill Meeting finally achieved its goal of a separation from these tainted, “dually affiliated” groups.
But it didn’t happen quite the way they were expecting in 2014. Instead, it was Pine Hill that resigned from NCYM, “effective immediately.”
This exit was a sharp reversal for the group. In an August 13, 2014 open letter, the meeting had insisted that “Pine Hill Friends has no plans to leave the North Carolina Yearly Meeting or withhold our Askings.” [i.e., yearly meeting dues]
The move left four prominent Pine Hill members in unex-pected exile: Brent McKinney, who has served in many NCYM positions, and even as Presiding Clerk of its larger association, Friends United Meeting; his wife, Brenda McKinney, currently president of the NC United Society of Friends Women, an NCYM group; Billy Britt, who retired after twenty years as NCYM Superintendent; and his wife Viola Britt, who is a member of the NCYM Executive Committee. (Last year, during the purge debate, Billy Britt, though strongly evangelical in his outlook, declined to join the purge outcry. “Billy stands against splitting,” record the minutes. “He said splitting is not the answer.”) (Minutes, page 32.)
To retain their NCYM posts, all will have to find another local meeting home.
The September 13 session also marks an ironic milestone of the drive begun at the 2014 session. Of the four meetings most vocal in demanding the “immediate resignation” of “dually affiliated” (i.e., “liberal”) meetings, three (Poplar Ridge, Holly Spring, and now Pine Hill) are out of NCYM; and the fourth, Chatham, appears headed for the door.
Meanwhile, all but one of the “dually affiliated” meetings they were so troubled by are still part of NCYM. And they are, if any-thing, more unabashed in asserting their religious diversity within the yearly meeting constituency.
How did this come about? And is it the end of this uprising?
Those demanding a purge in 2014 insisted that they did not want to “kick out” any meetings, and “did not want to hurt anyone”; rather, by insisting on their departure, the purgers avowed that they were showing Christian love.
But unsurprisingly, the meetings being told they had to go RIGHT NOW, saw the situation rather differently. During the session, a letter from Southern Quarter, the purge stronghold, was read aloud. Buried in it were comments that likely seemed more realistic and revealing:
“We recognize this solution is similar to major surgery in that it should never be the first option,” Southern Quarter’s letter said, “but on occasion it absolutely must be the last option.” (2014 Minutes, p. 30)
On this makeshift operating table, the purge meetings would wield the knife, while the “dually affiliated,” despite their feeling quite healthy, had been “volunteered” to be the patients/victims; and nothing was said of anesthesia.
Perhaps to the purge advocates’ surprise, the liberal meetings did not regard this surgical metaphor as an appealing one. They had their own attachments to NCYM (some going back 250 years). And those who were “dually affiliated” pointed out that there was no rule against this in NCYM’s Faith & Practice: so they had done nothing wrong.
Thus, over the ensuing months, the liberals stood up for themselves and resisted efforts to provide Pine Hill and the others a sense of “purity” and “unity” by allowing themselves to be scape-goated and amputated.
This resistance was manifest in several settings. One was the “New Committee,” which was hastily set up at the 2014 YM sessions, and charged with bringing proposals to deal with the charges raised by the purge push. It was heavily salted with purge supporters, but also included some opposed to that plan.
The upshot was that, after many agonizing and, from what we have learned, disgraceful sessions, the New Committee produced three “options,” – but no recommendations, because there was no more unity in its ranks than in the YM at large.
The New Committee made its final report at the June 6, 2015 session of NCYM’s Representative Body, which acts for the YM between annual sessions. June 6 (“D-Day,” as was pointed out by Wayne Lamb of Chatham Meeting: a moment for decisive confron-tation.) But instead of recommendations, the committee simply presented three “options,” without evaluation.
The three came down to this:
Option One would have been a quasi-divorce, with NCYM continuing to exist, but only as a holding company for NCYM funds and property, particularly its Quaker Lake Camp, but no other meaningful function. The seventy local meetings would be regrouped (presumably whether they wanted to or not) along doctrinal lines into two associations, which might be dubbed the “sheep” and the “goats.” These two groups would share nothing but the common assets, and were enjoined from talking about each other in public.
The second option, called “Bless and release,” basically reaffirmed the yearly meeting’s status quo: NCYM’s Faith & Practice has no provision for expelling meetings; but meetings are at liberty to withdraw. So, as the Committee put it, under this (existing) arrangement, “The body would ‘bless and release’ those meetings that do not feel they can remain in relationship with the Yearly Meeting under these conditions.” (By “these conditions,” the commi-ttee delicately acknowledged that the liberal meetings were there and unlikely to be expelled.)
Option three, by contrast, would brook no such mollycoddling. Its first step would be to create “a mechanism for removing meetings from NCYM that do not support the theological positions of NCYM as currently expressed in Faith and Practice . . . .” Its second step would be to subject every one of the YM’s 70-odd local meetings to a searching doctrinal “audit.” Those that were deemed “out of com-pliance” would be put on probation, and then if they failed to toe the line, as indicated by submission of letters affirming compliance with the doctrinal sections of Faith & Practice, personally signed by all members of a meeting’s Ministry & Counsel Committee – out they would go.
Option Three had one major virtue: its intentions were unmistakable.
But extensive debate showed that there was no more “unity” in the Representative Body than there had been in the New Committee. The Clerk stated this, and once its options were described, the New Committee was laid down.
In sum, for those expecting definite resolution, “D-Day” for NCYM was a dud.
Those intent on “purification” were not about to give up, however. They insisted that a newer new committee be set up, this one called a Task Force, which would pick up the New Committee’s work. And then one of the purger pastors called for a fourth option to be added to the list, that of the Indiana YM “reconfiguration,” (recounted in QT’s issues #18-#24) as that body’s recent purge was branded.
And to top off the long, grueling session, the purgers insisted that there be an extra, called session of the Representative Body in early August, shortly before the 2015 Annual Sessions, in hopes of getting their winnowing ready for approval when the full body gathered.
When the called Representative meeting convened on August 1, another major factor in the course of the struggle was highlighted: the role of YM Clerk Michael Fulp, Sr. Fulp is hardly a liberal, but through the months since last autumn he had shown considerable regard for the essentials of Quaker process, resisting the purgers’ disregard for NCYM’s Faith & Practice, and insistence on what amounted to voting. Perhaps most important, he was not to be browbeaten into declaring a “consensus” or “sense of the meeting” when no such existed.
For this session, he resolved to take a canvass of the meetings, collecting their “official” statements of preference for the options in play. It was a means of separating the actual sentiments from the claims of massive support by some.
On this list, two more “options” had been added to the three presented at the June 6 Representative meeting. The new, fourth one was adapted from the Indiana model, dubbed a “complete sepa-ration,” by which all NCYM assets would be divided between two (undesignated) subgroups, and each would then go their own way. And the fifth, a rather vague new entry worked up by the Clerk and Superintendent Don Farlow, was called the “Unity Option.” It was, frankly, a mishmash of the other four; but the “unity” label proved appealing. (5 Options online: http://wp.me/p5FGIu-Mf )
Sixty-three of NCYM’s 70 meetings were present. The after-noon-long session consisted entirely of their representatives coming forward, one by one in alphabetical order by meeting, to declare their group’s preference among the five.
The outcome was, as one Friend put it, lots of results, but no decisions. Yet the tally was informative: for instance, the inquisition and purge option, championed by Pine Hill’s Johnny Simmons, was preferred by only eight. The quasi-divorce proposal drew even fewer nods: five.
The vaguest of all, the “Unity option,” drew sixteen, the most; next was the Indiana-based “Total Separation” idea, with fifteen. Close behind was the status quo, non-purge “Bless and release” plan, with thirteen. (But there was a kicker in the tally here: six of these meetings stated that they would resist any proposal that permitted expulsions, and would refuse to stand aside from that opposition.)
Half a dozen more meetings admitted that they had not been able to choose; and one, Prosperity, rejected all five and announced its departure from NCYM, forthwith. (More on the results: http://wp.me/p5FGIu-MX )
Some of the reports were very brief, others were accompanied by lengthy statements; so there was no time for discussion, and the spread of results was, again, far from anything resembling a consensus or “unity.” Clerk Fulp said the results would be reported to the new Task Force and the Yearly Meeting, and for the group not to expect any quick resolution.
This summing up, quite proper from a procedural standpoint, was anticlimactic for the meetings most devoted to a purified body. Two of them, Poplar Ridge and Holly Spring, had already, in mid-July, resolved to move from talk about an alternative structure to action in the form of allocating up to $9000 to hire a “consultant” (an unemployed pastor) to do the legwork involved in setting up their proposed alternative yearly meeting, outlined in March.
And here, as in several other earlier moves, it could be said the purge leaders overplayed their hand.
Perhaps the purgers’ most shocking mistake came in early June, a few days before the “D-Day” session; and it had to do with staff. The NCYM Personnel Committee had sought to fill the vacant post of Religious Education Director, and had selected a young adult Friend, Emily Albert, for the position. They expected to announce this hire officially at the June 6 meeting.
However, when the moment came, late in the afternoon, the committee clerk rose to announce that they would not in fact be offering Albert’s name for consideration, because late the previous night she had called and withdrawn from the position.
Why? The reasons soon leaked out: Albert had been made the target of a campaign of assaultive opposition by certain persons, (likely from Holly Spring), who said she would not get any coop-eration in her work for the yearly meeting.
Why the opposition? Albert was a graduate of Guilford College, and its Quaker Leadership Scholars Program (QLSP), and had been doing RE work for High Point Meeting. The intimidators had nothing solid for their campaign: Albert’s character is unspotted; her academic record superior; her experience relevant; and her faith sincerely Christian.
Ah – but was she the right kind of Christian? For most of the purgers, the Guilford degree alone was one strike, and the QLSP connection was at least two more. Then High Point was one of the meetings which had eloquently rebutted the purgers’ campaign in a letter distributed last fall. (High Point Meeting letter: http://quakertheology.org/High-Point-Kellum.pdf ) What more did one need?
After all, was not QLSP known to be friendly to religious liberals, and open LGBTs? And wasn’t its founder and longtime director none other than Max Carter, a member of the arch-heretical, dually-affiliated New Garden Friends Meeting? And had not Carter even stood up for New Garden in the D-Day discussions that very same afternoon?
(Lest one think this is exaggeration, NCYM-FUM had gathered at Guilford for decades, until opposition among the proto-purgers to the school’s atmosphere of “liberal heresy” obliged the YM to move its sessions to a YMCA facility near Asheville, more than three hours away.)
Many who heard this announcement sat in stunned silence while taking in its implications.
It was time for pushback. Not long afterward that a series of open letters and statements appeared, decrying a pattern of “bullying” and abusive behavior in pursuing the purge over doctrinal differences within NCYM. Max Carter & Frank Massey’s was the first:
“We have watched with growing concern and pain as people we love have been privately and publicly bullied, harassed, and discouraged for honestly held differences of opinion. This has occurred in congregations, in our representative gatherings, in committee work, in phone calls and e-mails, and in individual conversations. It has resulted in distress, retreat from work for the Yearly Meeting, and in extreme cases in hospitalization for stress and anxiety.
It must stop.”
Another, from the NCYM Personnel Committee and Superintendent Don Farlow was also forthright:
We are concerned about rumors, innuendo, gossip and bullying not only concerning prospective personnel, but among the larger body of Friends in the Yearly Meeting. This behavior is hurtful to some and a hindrance to all, is unbecoming and not consistent with our Quaker Christian expression of love.
Two meetings, Jamestown And Spring, added letters of their own. (Excerpts: http://wp.me/p5FGIu-JY )
There was plenty of fodder for these protests, a long string of over-the-top statements associated with the purge effort, since the call for “radical surgery” on unwilling liberal victims at the 2014 annual sessions; to accusations that liberal meetings were on the road to becoming mass murderers; (Jones-Koresh: http://wp.me/p5FGIu-A3) to the Emily Albert harassment. Despite the purgers’ occasional talk about acting only from “Christian love,” the pattern was all too clear. It was significant that thepurge advocates issued no public rebuttal to these critical letters
And there had been one earlier, more fateful action that ultimately backfired: On March 18, 2015, Poplar Ridge took the first documented steps toward a Plan B: if the ‘dually affiliatedཁ liberals could not be forced out, then they would organize a rival yearly meeting. In a letter addressed to “Like-minded Friends” and others, the meeting leadership wrote (http://afriendlyletter.com/wp-content/uploads/Poplar-Ridge-03-18-20151.pdf ):
“The Ministry & Counsel of Poplar Ridge Friends cannot recommend remaining linked to the North Carolina Yearly Meeting. . . . With much prayer, fasting and discernment we believe the Holy Spirit is leading us in a new direction at Poplar Ridge. We seek to gather with like-minded Friends to explore the possibility of forming a new association. . . . From there, we would like to gather with like-minded Friends who share our convictions and our desires for a new association. Gathering formally with Friends who share our vision will help us lay the logistical and administrative groundwork for this endeavor. We imagine that we could potentially formalize our new association and amicably part ways with the NCYM by the 2015 Annual Sessions.”
Included with the letter was an outline and a summary creed for the new body, described there as a yearly meeting, which included provisions for enforcing doctrinal compliance on pain of expulsion; these took pains to exalt the Bible as “wholly inspired by God,” permit outward sacraments of communion and water baptism, to insist that marriage was only for one male and one female, and to tolerate the use of alcohol and tobacco.
The “new body” was also expected to come into being with an endowment, or the equivalent of a divorce settlement, from NCYM:
“There are many properties, trust funds, etc. that would have to be divided,” the March 18 letter said. “Other groups, including Yearly Meetings, have found ways to do this. Surely we can as well. . . . In order to legally move into a New Yearly Meeting that would have assets, recorded ministers, etc., the New Yearly Meeting would need to be established before we would transfer our membership from NC Yearly Meeting.”
“Divide” the “properties”? And the “trust funds”? These last comments would come back to haunt the writers.
Poplar Ridge followed up with a series of meetings through the spring with “like-minded Friends,” while still hoping the NCYM Representative Body would adopt some form of forced separation, expelling the liberal meetings and dividing the YM assets with the “like-minded” meetings headed for the “new association.”
But as we have seen, these sessions, culminating in the irresolute “D-Day” meeting of June 6th, did not meet their hopes, or keep to the timetable to divide assets and “amicably part ways” by the annual session in early September.
So along with Holly Spring, they agreed, as recorded in Holly Spring’s minutes of July 19, to hire a local pastor, “someone who can work full-time, to research and develop a path to setting up a new association.”
(Holly Spring Minutes: http://quakertheology.org/Holly-Spring-Minutes-Pay-for-Thames-07-2015.pdf )
Within days, a copy of the Holly Spring minutes recording this decision came into the possession of the NCYM Executive Committee. The Executive Committee’s Clerk, Wallace Sills, saw in them an imminent threat to the entire yearly meeting, which could to be ignored.
He approached a Quaker attorney, Thomas Terrell, and asked him to prepare guidance for the Committee.
Terrell obliged with a detailed memo, which included a legal analysis and proposed action. In the Poplar Ridge/Holly Spring decision to hire, he saw a deep conflict of interest and the fiduciary duty of NCYM committee and board members to put the best interests of NCYM first:
“It is not an insignificant matter that these two meetings are actively engaging in decisions over the manner in which the NC Yearly Meeting is organized, how it spends its funds, and what its missions and future will be while simultaneously establishing another yearly meeting that will compete with the NC Yearly Meeting in many ways.
Service on NC Yearly Meeting committees is a fiduciary duty, and the essential quality of a fiduciary is that he or she fully serves, without compromise, the interests of the beneficiary. This conflict is most pronounced in the month of September when Friends gather for their annual session and when planning and budgeting for the coming year commences in earnest.
This is not a situation that the NC Yearly Meeting has created, but it is a situation that the NC Yearly Meeting cannot ignore. Indeed, the timing and severity of this conflict require a response devoid of lengthy discussion and handwringing.”
Thus, Terrell called for action:
“Based upon (1) the foregoing description of a situation comprised of facts that are publicly described by Poplar Ridge and Holly Spring themselves in various communications and monthly meeting minutes, and (2) the severity of the conflict of interest it creates as to these two meetings in particular, I recommend that the NC Yearly Meeting Executive Committee act decisively and without delay, acknowledging that Poplar Ridge and Holly Spring have already proclaimed their decision to leave the NC Yearly Meeting and that they are hereby released from their membership in the NC Yearly Meeting so that they may complete the formation of the yearly meeting they have already started and funded. We should do this in full respect of their decision. Because their conflict occurs at a time when the NC Yearly Meeting’s future is being decided, they have neither purpose nor rightful claim to participate in the decision of the yearly meeting they are leaving. I therefore recommend that their release is effective immediately, and posit that there is no reasonable alternative.”
Then, strangely for many who read it later, Terrell’s memo turned from what he saw as an imminent threat to NCYM to an entirely different matter: the fact that the largest liberal meeting, New Garden, had in March joined the new Piedmont Fellowship Yearly Meeting (as reported in QT #26, pp. 25-27). Here he saw a “dual affiliation,” which he also deemed unacceptable, notwithstanding the fact that there was no prohibition thereof in NCYM’s Faith & Practice, and that two efforts to establish one at Representative sessions this year had been turned aside. (Terrell memo excerpts here: http://wp.me/p5FGIu-NP )
The Executive Committee met on August 20, read and discussed Terrell’s memo, and followed his advice. It adopted a resolution “releasing” all three meetings from NCYM effective immediately.
While New Garden’s circumstances, motivations, and financial actions were acknowledged to be different from the other two: for instance, it saw the Piedmont connection as an expansion of its NCYM presence rather than a rival to it; they were not recruiting anyone to leave NCYM; and they had made no financial contribution to the new body, which in fact did not even have a treasurer or a bank account.
The Executive Committee, however, deemed these differences insignificant, and included New Garden in its “release.” Executive Committee Members were dispatched with copies of the resolution, for personal delivery to each of the three meetings. The meetings were also informed that they had the right to appeal their “release” to the yearly meeting, but that during the annual business sessions, any of their members in attendance would not be otherwise eligible to speak to any matter before the body.
As a way of changing the subject at the annual sessions, the Executive Committee action was extremely effective. News of the “releases” (immediately redubbed, more accurately, as “expulsions,”) spread like wildfire across the NCYM constituency, and fueled outrage on all sides. Evangelicals were shocked. Liberals were stunned. And practically all those headed into the mountains to the YMCA center where the annual sessions gathered, were loaded for bear.
Prominent exceptions were the two meetings which had precipitated the Executive Committee’s action. For them. shock soon turned to resolve: On August 30 and 31 respectively, Poplar Ridge & Holly Spring each issued “Dear Friends” letters, announcing that they would not appeal and were cutting all ties to NCYM forthwith.
Poplar Ridge, while proclaiming their innocence of any wrong actions or motives, noted,
“However, this expulsion has clarified many things for us. The attitudes and decisions being made by NCYM over the past 13 months further convince us that no reasonable progress is in the foreseeable future. We have been sensing a leading to leave this yearly meeting and to form a new association of Friends, and now, we have confirmed that this is a true calling. . . . So it is with a heavy heart that as of August 30, 2015, we acknowledge the end of our one and a half century ministry partnership and membership with North Carolina Yearly Meeting.”
Holly Spring’s letter was briefer:
“While we were initially disappointed and hurt that the Yearly Meeting leadership, in particular the Executive Committee, misinterpreted our intentions, we are now at peace with the release and are pleased that our ministries will go forward unimpeded by the issues that rankle North Carolina Yearly Meeting. . . . We recognize that an appeal process is available; however, we do not plan to appeal this decision. We love all of you and will continue to pray for NCYM and all of its members.”
But New Garden Friends were in a fighting mood. Their August 20 response was direct:
“New Garden Friends Meeting . . . rejects the Executive Committee’s offer of ‘release’ of New Garden from NC Yearly Meeting. New Garden rejects the purported establishment of a rule against dual affiliations as done without authority and rejects the application of that rule to New Garden as done without authority and contrary to Faith and Practice and the proceedings in Representative Body. New Garden requests that the Executive Committee reconvene immediately and rescind its action.”
(All three Letters: http://wp.me/p5FGIu-Qg)
The Executive Committee compounded their tactical errors in another letter dated August 25, directing that any consideration of appeals of the “releases” would not be heard at the annual sessions, but postponed from the annual sessions until sometime in the late fall or winter of 2016.
But Friends were not having it. When the YM’s first morning session opened on September 5, within fifteen minutes the Executive Committee report was front and center. Committee Clerk Wallace Sills read a report of their actions; attorney Tom Terrell followed up. Then the floor was opened.
The floor? More like the floodgates. Opposition from the body was vehement, nonstop, and across the board. “Release” was denoun-ced as fake terminology; “expulsion” was what had really happened. Tyranny was what the Executive Committee had presumed to estab-lish. Who would be next? And on what grounds, other than Execu-tive Committee displeasure?
After nearly an hour of this, Presiding Clerk Michael Fulp, saw the handwriting on the wall. He told Friends that the body could act to accept or reject the Executive Committee’s report, and the “releases” it contained.
The shouts of rejection were overwhelming. The “releases” were not appealed as such, but rather overturned, vacated, made null. The rebuke to the Executive Committee could not have been plainer.
But Fulp must have been relieved, because with that crisis resolved, the session was able to turn to other, routine matters, substantive but not controversial, with which the agenda was filled.
On reflection, while the Executive Committee had to endure much obloquy, and open rejection of its August 20 actions, as autumn 2015 arrives, it begins to look as though they may have unwittingly “taken one for the team,” and helped the major parties involved achieve many of their key objectives.
But if their “releases” went down, the Executive Committee had fulfilled what they saw as their prime institutional duty, that of keeping whole the NCYM properties, other assets, and trust funds.
Or take Poplar Ridge and Holly Spring: They had, remember, hoped to “part ways” with NCYM by the time of annual sessions; and so they had. True, they did not do so “amicably,” or at the head of a new yearly meeting drawing the large majority of NCYM meetings to its banner, and endowed with a substantial chunk of NCYM assets
But when the dust settled, they saw that they were finally done with being “unequally yolked”, as two Holly Spring members wrote, with liberal Friends and “dually affiliated” meetings. (http://quakertheology.org/Yorks-Holly-Spgs.pdf) Moreover, with the rejection of their “release,” they can hold their heads up when they tell the story. Hardly a total loss for them either.
Further, as this is written, Pine Hill, Plainfield, and Prosperity are unattached as well. There could be more departures from NCYM as the last months of 2015 unfold. So they may gather their new “association” after all. And with all their talk about vigorous ministries, there is a big troubled world to keep the exiting groups plenty busy in their own ways, without the distractions posed by NCYM’s diversity.
For New Garden, the ordeal was wrenching, but also turned out well: at this point they are back in good standing in NCYM, where they wanted to be and have been since before the American Revolution. Further, the proposal to ban “dual affiliations” has now been rejected three times by NCYM in this one year. And three of the most vocal crusaders against the liberal groups are gone.
So by rights, the NCYM scene ought to be ready to calm down some, at least for awhile. Instead of some apocalyptic schism, there is attrition. And several of the mainsprings of the troubles that erupted at annual sessions in 2014 have been removed.
Would that it were so simple.
Within an hour of rejecting the “releases” by the Executive Committee, the body listened to a report from the Task Force set up at the end of the D-Day session, which presented its plan to find a “Way Forward” for the yearly meeting in light of all the controversy. (Text of The Task Force Plan here: http://bit.ly/1OMQiet)
But even only a few weeks later, this grand plan has a distinctly obsolescent, not to say musty air to it. It envisions all NCYM meetings signing on to the creedal statements of Faith and Practice, even though they are repeatedly described there as not constituting a creed; it undertakes yet one more time to ban “dual affiliations,” and to forbid any use of alcohol, and codifies an approach to sexual matters that is right out of the 1950s, and leaves no room for any Friends to support of same sex marriage; and there’s more.
It also intimates that meetings which don’t go along with these specifications will eventually face expulsion.
In other words, in this “plan,” most of what had been repeatedly rejected over the past year, most explosively that very morning, could be revived and turned loose on NCYM yet again.
Or maybe not. When the next Representative session convenes, it will not include several of the main advocates of a purifying purge. Maybe a few more will have left to join them. Will the remainder of the body really be so full of the spirit of masochism as to be eager to go through it all yet again?
What’s the right phrase for this? Zombie Theology?
We’ll leave further exploration of this dim prospect for the next issue.