Oregon Coast conference center faces ownership question in light of YM restructure
Twin Rocks Friends Camp distributed a draft to supporters Saturday regarding possible changes to bylaws in light of the Northwest Yearly Meeting restructure. The document includes two options for ownership, clarification of who can attend camp, how staff will be selected, and it addresses the possibility that a new yearly meeting might run its own camps at Twin Rocks.
“Twin Rocks seeks to continue its highly effective ministry, and hopes to conduct its future work in a matter that is – in as many ways as possible – consistent with its successful past. We desire that the watching world may see Twin Rocks’ ministry as one that cares deeply about one another and all those who desire to come to Twin Rocks.”
Twin Rocks is owned by churches in NWYM that are part of the Salem, Newberg, Portland and Southwest Washington areas. One ownership option approved by the board of directors in May would make no change, meaning that churches in these four areas that leave the yearly meeting – Camas, Newberg Emerging Friends, West Hills and possibly others – would not retain ownership.
The second ownership option would make the camp independent: “In an effort to avoid being ‘owned’ by either branch of the split among Friends, Twin Rocks will become an independent entity, not tied to any Yearly Meeting. This independent camp will maintain a Friends heritage, but board members will not be required to be members of a Friends church. Instead, board members will need to be Christian, and able to adhere to the expectations of camp volunteers.”
Camp volunteers are expected to “(1) sign a Christian Statement of Faith (which has to date been the same as George Fox University’s), and (2) avoid advocating beliefs in opposition to the following statement: “Related to human sexuality, Twin Rocks aspires to be a camp welcoming of all people…. We affirm the goodness of marriage, singleness, celibacy, and sexual intimacy exclusively within a marriage covenant between a man and a woman. Because God has called us to seek peace and unity, we call on all those who would serve at Twin Rocks to offer grace, love and forbearance to each other as we discuss issues of sexuality, always seeking to be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The document supposes that there would be no change as to which campers or churches are welcome to use the property or attend camps, and “Twin Rocks plans to continue to offer its impactful slate of summer camps.” In addition, churches that leave NWYM would continue to qualify for the Friends group rate, “which is 15 percent below regular rates.”
Congregational meeting scheduled for sharing, listening
In an email last week the North Valley transition task force and elders called a congregational meeting for sharing and listening. The meeting, scheduled for this Sunday evening, will give people an opportunity to consider the results of a meeting-wide survey about how NVFC might respond to the yearly meeting restructure.
“This is not a business meeting, and we are not seeking a decision at this meeting,” Scot Headley emphasized in the email. “Have conversations with your family and friends in the congregation, and with others you don’t know as well Now is a time to listen to one another about what are our hopes and concerns regarding the yearly meeting transition. Keep one another in prayer and remember our friends in our local congregations, as well.”
In the report, the transition task force presented several findings of fact:
- Based on inquires made about Evangelical Friends Church International (EFCI, an umbrella group for NWYM), churches may not be jointly affiliated with an EFCI YM and other YM, such as a Friends United Meeting (FUM) YM.
- Churches may not independently affiliate with FUM.
- Based on statements from the YM superintendent and presiding clerk, no appeals of the January YM administrative council decision will be heard.
- Information regarding the work of the YM transition team is not very conclusive at this point. There is general agreement from this group to seek fair and impartial means of apportioning physical assets, but as of yet, no clear guidelines or decisions have been published. NV Elder, Silas Olson, serves on this group.
- Information regarding a possible new YM that may emerge in the region is also inconclusive. There have been several listening meetings in this regard, but as of yet, no clear direction is apparent.
The survey results indicated that although the most selected option was some kind of joint affiliation with Evangelical Friends Church – North America and Friends United Meeting, a separate survey question illustrated that respondents were more willing to support joining a new yearly meeting than any other option.
Themes identified by the task force in responses to open-ended questions in the survey include the following:
- Schedule corporate discernment that incorporates meetings for worship, focused on healthy vulnerability, listening, and Quaker process
- Focus on welcoming, loving, and including our LGBTQ members and attenders
- Affirm unity in diversity as NVFC previously discerned
- Expressions of frustration and desire to appeal/reverse the YM decision to split
- Become independent now and acquire 501c3 status
- Hold fast to Quaker distinctions, history, process
- Desire that NVFC to be an example of love and trust to others
- Hope for trust/reconciliation with NWYM in the future
- Continue NVFC process/discernment/conversations around human sexuality
- Be transparent and informative during this process
Spring play includes critique of restructure discussion
The spring play at George Fox University explored the tension related to the restructure of Northwest Yearly Meeting. Deus Ex Millennia “centers on the stories of seven students who find themselves hiding in a closet during an active shooter event.” At least one of the students is gay.
In a university press release, Director Rhett Luedtke said, “Each character faces a specific hardship that millennials, and others, encounter on a daily basis…. How do our students navigate a divisive and divided culture?”
Specific hardships include aspects of poverty, sexual assault, immigration, loss, identity and equality.
Near the end of the performance, a modified pdf of Newberg Friends Church Discernment Process Information document is displayed on screens above the audience while two characters – both college students – discuss the announcement of “a split.”
PHILIP: What are we supposed to do with this? This is ridiculous.
QUINN: I don’t know, Philip. I really don’t know. I thought it wasn’t that bad, you know? Like what’s so terrible about a split? Maybe we could actually be in a denomination that cares.
PHILIP: Quinn, what if the church doesn’t decide to go that direction? What if we decide it’s not important? How many terrible meetings will we have to sit through? I can’t do this anymore. I can’t sit here and pretend like LGBT people don’t want to kill themselves while we take all of this time to argue…. I can’t do it. Do you hear me? This isn’t loving! This isn’t how families treat one another! Like their belonging is up for debate?
(Church member approaches their table and asks the two if they’ve heard about the split.)
CHURCH MEMBER: Maybe we don’t have to choose. This is bigger than human sexuality. It’s not worth dividing over.
PHILIP: I don’t know if you mean what you’re saying. Maybe it is worth dividing over.
CHURCH MEMBER: I get it, really. Like this is important. But we can’t just give up over an issue. I’m willing to live in the tension. We all have to listen to each other, you know? We have to love people where they are at and that includes the people with a traditional view on human sexuality. That’s what it means to be a church. A family. It’s not like it’s a life or death issue.
QUINN: Are you serious? It is! It is a life or death issue. People are literally dying because of this. They’ve done studies – you know that right? Conclusive studies that show LGBT people are bullied more, have more thoughts of self-harm and suicide than other populations. And it’s worse if you’re in a church where people talk about you all the time as if you don’t matter – as if you’re up for debate! Do we really need to listen to people who think others shouldn’t exist or have love? Maybe those people should shut up! I’m so tired. I’m just so tired.
CHURCH MEMBER: What did I say?
PHILIP: Some people are living in the tension, others are dying in it.
At the scene’s close, Philip comes out to Quinn as gay. She hugs him and tells him she loves him. Then, in the following interlude, Quinn crouches inside a closet while members of the ensemble yell at her:
“Why aren’t you willing to live in the tension? I don’t like her voice – it’s annoying. I love you anyway. You’re too aggressive, consider where the others are coming from. I mean it’s fine but just keep your sexuality to yourself. Care less. You’re making yourself sick. Just work harder. It’s not impossible. Wow, you’re not a scary feminist after all. I don’t support that lifestyle. I just feel more comfortable learning from a male pastor. You’re the problem. This is just the way things are.”
Survey report second of five discernment meetings
Newberg Friends released survey results this last week as part of its ongoing discernment about whether to stay a part of Northwest Yearly Meeting. Nearly 400 survey responses are included in the data, available online, and the meeting Sunday was the second of five scheduled by pastors, elders and clerks.
Of the two survey items given the most time in Senior Pastor Gregg Koskela’s review of the data – “I want NFC to remain in Northwest Yearly Meeting” – had 356 responses in which 51.4 percent of respondents disagreed and an additional 6.7 percent were unsure. The other item – “I agree with and support the current NWYM Faith and Practice statement on human sexuality” – had 353 responses in which 50 percent of respondents disagreed and an additional 8 percent were unsure.
Tim Goodfellow, an elder, reminded the more than 200 people in attendance that the survey “has limits. There are people who didn’t take the survey. There are people who didn’t answer every question. In each one of those columns, there are people, people we care deeply about…. How we move forward is not determined solely by the pastors, the elders and the clerks. Each of us plays a role and has responsibility in how we move forward in this process.”
At the next two meetings – listening forums scheduled for the afternoon and evening of April 23 – people will have an opportunity to share their reasons for staying in the yearly meeting or for leaving. Then on May 7, the NFC leadership team plans to bring a recommendation to the business meeting.
At an informational gathering on March 5, monthly meeting clerk Howard Macy said the 2-month discernment process is intended to “help us seek God’s guidance about our life together. We want to find a path forward, what we need to do to maintain our vitality.”
In that same meeting, Administrative Pastor Elizabeth Sherwood clarified that the survey was not designed to be “a voting process. It’s a way for you to share your heart.”
A similar survey for members of North Valley Friends closed on April 9. Results of that survey have not yet been made available.
‘New, Christ-centered, affirming Quaker yearly meeting’
Friends in Eugene created a bulletin board in January for anyone interested in joining a “new, Christ-centered, affirming Quaker yearly meeting in the Pacific Northwest.” Nearly 30 people have signed up so far.
“The NWYM Administrative [Council] reached a decision that a new yearly meeting would be created, and that the four churches with published LGBTQ+ affirming statements would be spun off into that new yearly meeting,” administrator John Price wrote in a post explaining the purpose of the site. “This is where we find ourselves today, and it is the reason this bulletin board exists… to provide a place where people from these four NWYM churches, and anyone else interested in joining the new yearly meeting can communicate with each other in a moderated, safe environment.”
The board, hosted by John and Elizabeth Price, features threads for people to process grief, share inspirational thoughts, and discuss Faith and Practice language on human sexuality. It also includes a proposal for a new quarterly meeting, and several collections of documents and notices.
Although the site-hosted discussions are slowly developing, some contributions have already suggested possible ways forward:
Lynsley Rollins suggested simplifying Faith and Practice “to see only one behavioral requirement written into a practice document: a statement that the new YM followed Quaker process, and that if at any time some of its members felt unable to await a uniform leading, and a schism threatened, then those who were unwilling to wait would be the ones to leave.”
Peggy Senger Morrison suggested a revision of Freedom Friends statement on human sexuality: “We hold dear the gift of our sexuality, which is given to all persons regardless of gender identity, orientation, or marital status. Because sexuality and spirituality are closely related, all believers are called to be thoughtful stewards of their sexuality. Sexuality that is de-humanizing, promiscuous, violent, non-consensual, manipulative, or predatory in nature is always harmful.”
The forum is public and read-only for anyone without a login. Click here to visit the site.