Representative group to form Covenant of Separation
Clerks at Newberg Friends recommended a formal process for separating into two congregations in a letter emailed to the church info list on June 8. The message, signed by Mark Ankeny, Phil Smith and Ron Mock introduced an interim budget and a plan for forming a representative group that would “draft a Covenant of Separation to be effective on or before September 30.”
The purpose for the process is “our abiding concern that the coming transition be done well, to preserve relationships and allow both congregations to be thriving bodies of believers following the leadings of Jesus,” according to the letter.
The proposed minute acknowledged that the group is already in the process of dividing, that “none of us wish to leave Newberg Friends Church,” and that “each group includes people who have been members of Newberg Friends Church for all or most of their lives.” The minute also lays out parts of the Northwest Yearly Meeting restructuring process, especially those points that apply to the split at NFC.
The over 150 people present for the business meeting Sunday approved a second check signer and an interim budget of $101,100 – continued employment of one pastor, support staff, utilities, maintenance, program expenses, and yearly meeting local church support – for the period beginning July 1, and ending September 30, 2017. The meeting also approved the following minute:
We direct that a representative group be convened by our clerks to develop a Covenant of Separation to be effective on or before September 30, 2017, which focuses on our relationships, finances and other matters.
Each group names reps to Saturday meeting
Newberg Friends Church didn’t split on Sunday night. The roughly 250 people who attended the business meeting were unable to reach unity to approve the recommendation from the leadership team that members “discern whether we are being called to form two congregations,” so presiding clerk Mark Ankeny asked people to keep doing the work of talking to “folks we disagree with.”
He said elders and clerks would meet the following night and schedule a follow-up meeting: “We’re not going to wait weeks before we meet again. It could be as early as two weeks [from now].”
But on Tuesday, a letter was sent to “each of the emerging congregations,” encouraging them in their meetings “Wednesday or Thursday evening” to choose “thoughtful people representative of the diversity of opinion and experience in your group” for a Saturday morning meeting. This afternoon, an email was sent to the larger congregation, announcing the Saturday meeting as well as the five named representatives with an “affinity for staying in NWYM” and the five named representatives with an “affinity for leaving NWYM.”
“Since our Sunday night congregational business meeting the clerks have heard from people who expressed great concern about having another meeting in two or three weeks as announced at the end of our meeting. We have decided to honor those concerns and have invited leaders from each of the emerging congregations to send five people to meet this Saturday at 10 a.m. to discuss possible ways forward.”
Julie Anderson, Hank Helsabeck, Dick Sartwell, Ron Stansell, and Dave Woolsey will represent the first group. Davida Brown, Aaron Dunlop, Gary Fawver, Lisby Curtis Gemeroy, and Lisa McMinn will represent the second group.
How a Bible-believing Christian can accept gay marriage
Former NWYM Superintendent Becky Ankeny released an ebook this weekend, A Leisurely Introduction to How a Bible-Believing Christian Can Accept Gay Marriage in the Church. The study, designed to take 10 days, starts out with the following excerpt from the introduction:
“When I did a rhetorical study of the introduction and opening chapters of C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, I realized that he was not actually trying to convert atheists. In fact, he says several things that exclude atheists from his intended readership. Instead, I found he was writing to those on the fence, those who wanted to believe in God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit and the Church, but feared it was intellectually disreputable to do so.
“This linked study is one that I hope you will take ten days or so to digest. It is intended for those who have the intuition that God wants LGBTQ people welcomed into the church, that God accepts their marriages and families, but they fear that leaning into that intuition and allowing it to become a conviction will mean they must throw out the Bible as a source of guidance and accountability.
“This study is not intended to convince those with the opposite convictions. I do not even expect them to read it, but if they do, I hope to help them recognize how someone can claim to be following the Bible and yet disagree with the exclusion of LGBTQ persons from the local congregation or the church in general. If they recognize this, perhaps they can continue to worship and serve alongside those whose convictions in this area differ.
“As a former church leader, I was in the middle of the denominational debate over full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the life of the church. I have listened to many folks stake out their positions and use the Bible to do so. I saw no one convinced by arguments using history, the original languages, the changes in culture, the unchanging nature of God. My own response came to be that the central themes of the Bible support full inclusion.
“However, someone recently said they had not heard anyone present a systematic approach to explaining biblical support for those affirming gay marriage and full participation in the life of the church. So I’m giving that task a shot. I do not claim to express the point of view of all affirming churches or individual Christians, nor do I expect my thoughts to be adequately systematic for all readers.”
Speakers offer glimpses of what might be next
At least four churches are being removed from Northwest Yearly Meeting by June 2018. Members from 14 monthly meetings gathered Saturday at Hillsboro Friends to grieve together and to process what’s next.
The four-hour meeting didn’t generate answers, but in the listening and sharing, there were glimpses of what might be next. The following is an incomplete but ordered summary of excerpts from that meeting:
Lorraine Watson: “We want to rush to what’s next. There are lots of feelings. The most important work we can do is to listen together in community to God who is present.”
Cynthia Price: “People feel grief over the loss of connection.”
Julie Peyton: “How long can I wait before I know? How do I not try to control this?”
Peggy Senger Morrison: “The force that draws anything – any soul – to the center is Love. It will draw all things to itself, and everything is attracted to it…. When you’re near somebody else who’s grown to God you feel in line with them. Jesus has been saying to me recently he doesn’t care about our buildings. Jesus cares about love. Jesus cares very much about how we treat each other. Jesus doesn’t give a fig about what we build except that it might be a place where people are loved.”
Cherice Bock: “What does it mean for us to be the Friends of Jesus in the Pacific Northwest?”
Greg Morgan: “I have no sense of what we are in the process of becoming, and I don’t need to know that. I’m just deeply moved by the desire to be part of a community of love. What do we have that we can offer? And what do we need?”
Paul Frankenburger: “Just because you want to send somebody out doesn’t mean they stop being part of the body. We don’t get to throw people away. We need to find a way to be together that isn’t exclusive.”
Jade Souza: “I’m mindful of those who will be left behind. Some are prepared to move forward earlier than others.”
Bethany Muhr: “When you’re on the outside, [you find] people you didn’t know were there. It took being thrown out to see that.”
Cynthia Price: “I was hurt by a lot of churches. I thought this was God hurting me. I don’t want us to be that body. I don’t ever want to be that person who is not showing God’s love.”
Gil George: “What you see depends on where you sit. I’ve been on the margins for a year and a half. The view is very different from the edges. I was able to find healing from others who were wounded. As Christians, we have to defer to the margins.”
Becky Ankeny: “I’ve always wanted the church to be a place where there was space for anyone…. I thought I could do some good from the inside, but I undoubtedly did harm. I’m sorry.”
Click here for minutes from the meeting.