Group discusses details, documents
In a brief notice dated July 10 and released July 14, the Transition Team announced it had met on Saturday, July 8, to discuss details and documents “needed for further clarification on several issues before moving forward.” The notice also referenced but did not disclose details of a report from the Friendsview Retirement Community board.
The transition team, according to Northwest Yearly Meeting Presiding Clerk Brad Holton, “will facilitate the creation of a newly formed yearly meeting,” though the team may not have authority to act, as it must report to the Administrative Council, which “is committed to completing the transition with dignity and honor for all churches.”
In a report released in March, the Transition Team identified itself as having been “appointed by the Administrative Council to facilitate a fair and equitable division of assets for the restructure of Northwest Yearly Meeting.” In April, the team announced research of a fiduciary trust that “would empower both yearly meetings by holding certain assets that are non-theological in nature and currently benefit all parties.” In June, a sub-committee was assigned to work out the details of that trust, and it was clarified that “the work of the Transition Team is subject to review by the Administrative Council.”
At a meeting hosted by North Valley Friends Church in February, NWYM Superintendent Retha McCutchen said that questions “for the Transition Committee to consider and answer” should be directed to her by email – firstname.lastname@example.org.
At least four members of the Transition Team attend churches that are leaving NWYM. Churches leaving NWYM do not have representation on the Administrative Council.
AC decision intended ‘to lessen the tension’
In a letter sent to pastors today, yearly meeting presiding clerk Brad Holton issued four clarifications “regarding NWYM churches and the current restructure.”
1. “It was not the intention of the AC [Administrative Council] to force churches to discuss this division.”
This clarification may be in response to churches such as Newberg Friends, which announced on March 3, that “because of the yearly meeting decision to restructure, all churches have decisions to make” or North Valley, which announced on March 21, that “because of the yearly meeting decision to ‘restructure,’ all churches in NWYM have decisions to make.” The transition team also clarified on March 22 that “churches are not under a deadline to make decisions.”
2. “NWYM would be composed of meetings who align with current Northwest Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice. It also may include churches who have internal disagreement but have agreed to align their practices with current NWYM Faith and Practice.”
This clarification repeats information from the March 22 transition team report: “It was the intent of the AC decision, as revised at the Mid-Year Representatives meeting, that churches that have not made a statement regarding human sexuality are welcome in either yearly meeting. NWYM will require support of the current Faith & Practice. The new group envisions including those affirming churches as well as those who agree to disagree.”
3. “The AC made the decision to restructure in order to lessen the tension within NWYM and to open a path where everyone could move forward in their respective ministry.”
This clarification adds background insight for the June 3 transition team report that it is “the spirit and intent of the AC to be respectful, fair and impartial” to all churches.
4. “Under the AC decision, churches who are diverse and choose to value their shared community and not divide over this issue would be able to stay in NWYM. Or they may discern to go independent or join another yearly meeting.”
This clarification repeats information from the January 28 AC announcement: “This may include churches who have internal disagreement but have agreed to align their practices with current NWYM Faith and Practice.”
Group hopes to avoid splitting ‘non-theological’ assets
A report from the yearly meeting transition team, released yesterday, identified one research item, one item of discussion, three recommendations and one next step. Two of the recommendations in the 278-word document were clarifications from the working group’s last report.
The transition team identified a fiduciary trust as an ongoing research focus. The trust would allow Northwest Yearly Meeting and the new coalition of monthly meetings to avoid splitting as-yet-undefined assets by “holding certain assets that are non-theological in nature” and distributing the dividends of these assets proportionally between the two groups.
Superintendent Retha McCutchen has not yet responded to an emailed request for clarification as to which assets might be included in this trust, and according to one member of the group, others are remaining “silent, at least for the time being, in agreement with the stated policy” of the transition team. McCutchen confirmed in an earlier email that “the group decided that I would be the spokesperson for all communication from the group and its work.”
The three recommendations from the transition team are “to the Administrative Council.” Earlier language from Presiding Clerk Brad Holton said the team would report to the council, leaving some ambiguity about what deliberative body has final approval. Holton had earlier written that the Administrative Council “is committed to completing the transition” but that the transition team would “facilitate the creation of a newly formed yearly meeting.”
The recommendations, the first two of which are clarifications of an earlier report, include the following:
- All current churches (whether they choose to stay in NWYM, join a new YM, or go independent) will retain their property along with any associated debt.
- Employed pastors and staff (current and future) will continue to have access to the 401(k) pension plan and be able to contribute new funds.
- All current churches will have access to the Friends Church Extension Fund.
The transition team reported ongoing discussion of Quaker Hill, Quaker Cove, Twin Rocks, and Tilikum camps. The team has asked each individual camp board to review its “bylaws and policies and report back to the transition team” whatever changes seem best in light of the yearly meeting restructure.
The transition team did not list Twin Lakes Friends Camp, nor has it commented on the disposition of that property, 22 acres on Upper Twin Lakes near Rathdrum, Idaho.
The next meeting of the transition team is scheduled for Saturday, June 3, and members plan to “look at related organizations” during that meeting.
Plans for parallel summer session placed on hold
One possibility for monthly meetings leaving Northwest Yearly Meeting might be some kind of combination with the Western Association of the Religious Society of Friends. The three WARSF meetings – all in California – have expressed interest, according to Brian Young (Berkeley), but there are also reasons for caution.
Young said the physical distances may be daunting, “especially for the folks from southern California. That will have to be determined as we get further into this process, and visitation will probably give us the best indication.”
In a 45-minute conversation at the Friends World Committee for Consultation Section of the Americas meeting in Stony Point, NY, this last month, Julie Peyton (West Hills) and Young discussed the possibility of representation from WARSF at annual sessions this summer.
Peyton had originally been given a green light from NWYM Presiding Clerk Brad Holton and Superintendent Retha McCutchen “to pursue a parallel program, one geared towards those leaving the yearly meeting. My intent was to share dorms, cafeteria, and worship but have some programming … that would help ground this new thing.” But Peyton reported that in a meeting last Tuesday, McCutchen shared with Peyton her concern that this not be “a divisive situation, where Friends see some workshops geared toward one group or the other,” effectively putting plans for a parallel program on hold this summer.
Young said he intends “to draft a report to WARSF’s Board of Oversight on [the] dialogue thus far in the next week or so, and I will be sure to mention the annual session dates” as an option for visitation.
No matter what happens, the priority for WARSF meetings, according to Young, “is to provide connections with Friends United Meeting and other Friends organizations – American Friends Service Committee, Friends Committee on National Legislation, and FWCC. I believe that I can speak for most WARSF Friends in saying that we would want any organization that we might join, or any meetings that might want to join with us, to actively support those same connections.”
The next meeting for churches leaving NWYM, as well as anyone interested in the process, will be from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 22, at Eugene Friends Church, 3495 W 18th Ave, Eugene, OR 97402.