Growing Together in the Light

A place for Friends and others to explore Quakerism. A place where, in the Light that comes from God, we may all grow and where we may hope to find a unity that underlies our diversity of language.

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Location: Arlington, Massachusetts, United States

Raised a Friend, I am currently a member of Fresh Pond Meeting in Cambridge, Mass. I am also active in Salem Quarterly Meeting and in New England Yearly Meeting.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Be careful what you say

I think that this will be the last of my ruminations on New England Yearly Meeting Sessions. When I started this blog I said that I wanted it to be a place where people from all parts of the Society of Friends could come and explore the historical roots and beliefs of our society. I have held a concern for a while now that our claim to have a peace testimony to the world rings rather hollow if we have not found ways to resolve the conflicts between the various branches of Friends. I believe that early Friends had a powerful message and they witnessed to it with their lives. With the schisms among Friends, not only has our fellowship been broken but the message has been broken as well. Each branch has held onto some piece of the original message. We need to come together, not just because the Love of Christ requires it of us, but because we have a message that the world needs to hear today just as much as it did 350 years ago. Until we can speak again in unity or voice will be easily drowned out by the clamor of the world. I helped to lead a workshop on applying the Friends peace testimony to NEYMs relationship with FUM.

By now I should know to be careful about what I say and the concerns I raise because God will take me up on it. It happened again. I was asked to serve as one of the NEYM representatives to the FUM General Board. As I sat with this at sessions I found myself coming increasingly under the weight of this request. FUM is going through a difficult time right now. Much of the senior staff has resigned in the past year. There are serious financial difficulties. A number of the Yearly Meetings that are affiliated with both FUM and FGC have raised concerns about sexual ethics portion of the FUM personnel policy. Any one of these issues presents serious difficulties. All of them together makes for an incredibly delicate situation. I hope that I may be of some service but I have also been known to come into situations with all of the delicacy of a bull in a china shop. This will be certainly an opportunity for me to grow.

New England Yearly Meeting is one of the founding members of FUM. We have been actively involved in it and its work from the beginning. Eli and Sybil Jones who founded the Ramallah Friends School were from New England. Over the past 15 years or so, New England has developed a close relationship with Cuba Yearly Meeting as a result of an ongoing program of intervisitation. James and Eden Grace from New England are currently serving as FUM staff in Kenya. At the same time many Friends in New England are concerned about FUM policies that are seen to be discriminatory against gays and lesbians. As a yearly meeting that has been amply blessed by the gifts and work of our gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual and queer Friends this causes us much pain. As a representative I will have to carry this pain and these concerns with me when I go to board meetings. At the same time I will have to represent FUM to NEYM. And as a board member I will also have to act in the best interests of FUM.

LizOpp in The Good Raised Up had some good things to say about the importance of Love. So Friends, pray for me that I may be faithful, for FUM that it may be healed and for all of us that we might grow in Love.


Blogger Liz Opp said...

A fFriend once told me that when a situation is difficult or knotty, the least we can do is strive to be faithful.

It seems you are striving in this way, and I hope your faithfulness, and that of others, will bear fruit.

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

September 05, 2006 10:35 PM  
Anonymous Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...

Will, I don't suppose I need to tell you that I share your concern for FUM's fragile condition. But I want you to know I'll be praying for you in your service on the FUM Board.

September 06, 2006 12:45 AM  
Blogger quakerboy said...

Friend, you have your work cut out for you!

Watching North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM) is like watching a car crash in slow motion. The issues of affectional orientation, the peace testimony, Biblical inerrancy and continuing revelation threaten to rip the YM apart.

North Carolina is one place that has had only one division among Friends and that was around 1904 when NCYM began to hire ministers and engage in programmed worship. At that point they divided themselves from more Conservative Meetings. Since then, things have been fairly peaceful. I suppose that is a fairly good track record as far as church divisions go.

Like you, I believe that each branch of Friends have something to offer the other. But do we need to have a united organization to do this? Is this even possible?

Or, should we encourage participation in organizations such as FWCC which seeks to speak to the world with one voice on issues relevant to our faith tradition?

Anyway, you are in my prayers as well. Just remember that it is the Spirit that will lead you. Fall back into the arms of God and trust that God will guide you in this endeavor. "I will lift mine eyes unto the mountains. From wence cometh my help? My help cometh from the Lord."

Peace bro'

September 06, 2006 8:52 AM  
Blogger Martin Kelley said...

Hi Will, it sounds like NEYM's nominating committee is on the ball--I think you're a good Friend for the job.

When you get to the board meetings you might want to saddle on over to whoever is there for Great Plains Yearly Meeting. I was at their sessions this summer and was pretty impressed. They have the right to really be all divided. As a yearly meeting they're part of FUM but two of the meetings are directly affiliated with Friends General Conference and at least one church (their biggest) is part of Evangelical Friends International. They have the gay issue front and center with an openly-gay stalwart of the yearly meeting. They have tensions, to be sure, but when I was there I also just felt the love. It wasn't showy, this is the Great Plains after all, but it was heartfelt. There was a real commitment to be together. It meant living with odd arrangements and compromises that didn't necessarily hold up to logical argumentation but somehow they've made it work. Because they want to be together. I'm a complete FUM outsider but I care about what happens to them for all sorts of reason (Quaker solidarity, LGBT solidarity, love of unity and of love itself) and I thought Great Plains Yearly Meeting modeled the kind of Christian love that could bridge the kind of struggles the larger FUM body is going through. Good luck and do tell us how it goes!

September 06, 2006 7:04 PM  
Blogger Will T said...

Thank you all for your prayers. Please don't just pray for me, pray for FUM. I am just a little piece in this much larger puzzle.

And Liz, I laughed when I read what you had to say because I think that I have given you similar advice. I think striving to be faithful is the most we can do, not the least. In fact, it is all we can do.


September 07, 2006 9:24 PM  

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