Setting the Stage - NEYM Part 2
The theme of the sessions was “War, God Help Us.” The idea was that we would look at our response to the current wars that have been going on for 7 years without much response from Friends in New England. At least not corporately. There were references to the Peace Testimony but they as often related to divisions among Friends as they did to our external condition. The greater part of our corporate discernment was devoted to our finances and our relationship to FUM and our reaction to the personnel policy of FUM which restricts employment by FUM to people who are celibate or in a heterosexual marriage with only one other partner. One can look at this as a valuable exploration of our condition and a continuing exploration of our differences, something that a regular reader of this blog will know that I generally favor. Or you can look at it as another victory for the forces behind the war who have skillfully managed to distract their opponents into disputes on the topic of sexuality. As far as I can tell, both are true. God will have to help us sort this out.
Last year NEYM had begun addressing the issue of the FUM personnel policy. We had realized that we could not address the statement of sexual ethics contained in the personnel policy when we, as a yearly meeting, had not examined our own sexual ethics. We have been asked a number of times by our Young Friends to provide some guidance but we have so far not done so. The Yearly Meeting had minuted our commitment to begin exploring these issues. On Sunday night we heard reports from all eight of the Quarterly Meetings about the progress that had been made on this issue. There was a range of responses. Some meetings actively embraced the discussion. Some meetings felt that other issues were of higher priority and had done nothing. Many meetings fell somewhere in between.
There was a group of people, who came with a concern that they could not, in good conscience, see their money go to FUM because they felt that it would make them complicit in the discrimination that they see being practiced by FUM. There were some who went so far as to say that New England should disaffiliate with FUM because of the reaffirmation of the Richmond Declaration.
In addition to these issues there were issues with the Yearly Meeting budget. There was a significant shortfall in donations both from monthly meetings and from individuals. The Finance Committee presented a budget that contained some deep cuts. One area that was eliminated completely in the initial presentation was representative travel. Another significant cut was that our donations to both FGC and FUM were cut in half.
The stage was set for a difficult Yearly Meeting Sessions.