Congregations disagree on split of NFC assets
Newberg Friends Church began the process of splitting into two congregations in May, and at a business meeting in June, clerks “recommended a formal process for separating into two congregations.” Representatives from both groups would meet “to develop a Covenant of Separation to be effective on or before September 30, 2017, which focuses on our relationships, finances and other matters.”
But at a business meeting Sunday, July 16, the group leaving Northwest Yearly Meeting (NEFC) approved formal withdrawal from the negotiation process: “We leave the choice of what to share in the hands of NWYM-NFC [the congregation that will stay with the yearly meeting], releasing all expectations.”
On a series of projected slides, leaders of the emerging congregation claimed they had received a “best and final offer” worth between $250,000 and $375,000. They estimated that the church’s net assets have a value in the range of $3.5 to 5.5 million.
“The process was not a good faith negotiation,” was listed as a point on a slide titled “Why it is Unjust.”
Leaders presented a minute for approval, and although the spirit of that prepared statement was approved, Brandon Buerkle shared in an email that several people in the meeting recommended the minute be revised “to take out language that could be perceived as antagonistic. They wanted to soften it to make sure that the minute spoke out of a desire to love while also speaking truthfully.”
“Some of those who spoke in the meeting about these kinds of revisions were tagged by the clerks to revise the minute alongside the CoS team this last week,” Buerkle wrote. “After a number of revisions over email, the revised minute was brought before the NEFC elders, who made a few more tweaks before approving it.”
The revised minute was shared with clerks and members of the Covenant of Separation talks in an evening meeting on Saturday, July 22, and is excerpted below:
“An offer of 50 percent of the sale price of Friends Center, some restricted and designated funds, and some material assets (e.g. two vans) was offered to NEFC from NWYM-NFC. These represent an estimated 5 to 10 percent of current NFC assets net of liabilities. Subsequent attempts to negotiate have not yielded a change in this offer.
“As members of NFC, we do not affirm an assumption that ascribes ownership and the right to distribute NFC resources to only one of the two NFC communities. Given our assumption that we should be equal partners at the table, we find the situation to be unjust and the offer to be inequitable. We find ourselves at an impasse, with no peaceful path forward.
“As a body, we discerned the call to love one another outweighs the inclination to fight. Above all else, in fidelity to our shared faith, we desire that love mark the conclusion of this difficult process. Knowing both communities have felt the hand of God leading us forward in unexpected ways, we leave the choice of what to share in the hands of NWYM-NFC, releasing all expectations.
“We recognize deep wounds in everyone involved. We pray for the grace to forgive, and for healing for all.”
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.