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.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Impressions from the October FUM General Board Meeting

The FUM General Board met last week. This was the first meeting of the new triennium so we had new clerks, some turnover in membership and we had to reappoint our standing committees. Because of other commitments and my travel schedule, I didn't arrive at Quaker Hill until almost the end of the morning session on Thursday. As soon as I walked in I felt a different spirit. It seemed gentler and more open. I wasn't sure if it was due to changes in my attitudes or the beautiful weather but I heard other people making similar comments. I took encouragement from even this small sign.

On Thursday night and Friday morning, informal discussions were scheduled while the various board committees were meeting. I caught the tail end of the discussion on the Richmond Declaration on Thursday night. On Friday I participated in the discussions on “The Christian Faith of Friends,” a pamphlet by Ben Richmond, and one that followed on the Bible. Through all of this there was respectful listening. I think that this was a good opportunity for us to discuss our beliefs outside of the context of decision making.
Meanwhile the Executive Committee was wrestling with the Personnel Manual. There are a number of items that need to be cleaned up. They wanted to change the vacation and sick time accrual and usage to be based on the FUM fiscal year and not the calendar year. They also wanted more clarity about exempt and non-exempt employees. While different parts of the manual have been approved, it is not clear that the General Board has approved the entire manual. This normal sort of organizational housekeeping, of course, runs smack into the controversy about the sexual ethics policy. There were efforts to craft a minute that would acknowledge the differences but acknowledge that there was not unity on changing it. The hope was that this would allow the Board to proceed with approving the non-controversial parts of the manual.

When this issue came before the Board, these hopes were proven to be futile. There were people who would not approve of dropping the paragraph. There were others who could not approve a manual that included a discriminatory policy. As the discussion progressed I found myself becoming increasingly uneasy with the approach of trying to come up with acceptable language. It seems to me that trying to find a solution in carefully crafted language is a political approach to what is really a spiritual problem.

The immediate resolution was to send the proposed manual to a labor lawyer to see that it conforms with Indiana labor law. There should also be consultation with someone familiar with immigration law to see what risks we are exposed to by our policy of not requiring people to submit I-9 forms. Our position as a church makes us exempt from the anti-discrimination laws concerning gays and lesbians but there were questions about whether our acceptance of US Government grants for the Kenyan hospitals and Ramallah Friends School has any impact on this. Basically we said that we could not approve the manual until this consultation happened, any required revisions were made, and our questions of fact were answered. This of course does not resolve the problem, it only provides more time. Whatever the lawyers say, I do not expect that it will resolve the problem.

As far as I can tell, we cannot solve the problem of the sexual ethics policy by any of our normal organizational means. This does not mean that the problem is insoluble. Nothing is impossible to God. At some point, the General Board will have to be willing to spend as much time in prayer as is needed to find God's will. We will need to be humble enough, all of us, to recognize that the solution we favor may not be what God would do. It may also be that we have to spend a long time in prayer together before we can see a way forward. I would ask everyones prayers for FUM in dealing with this issue. In particular I would ask for prayers that we can all lay down our agendas and be able to listen carefully to God and to each other so that we can come to a place of unity in Spirit that can lead us forward. God is working here already. God is always working with us. I pray that we can find ways to work with God.

Blessings to all,

Will T


Blogger Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

We are, most clearly, not in unity.

I could wish that acknowledgment made, because it does make clear that this is not so much a political problem as it is a spiritual one.

I do trust Spirit to lead us forward together. Passionate as my convictions are in this matter, I am committed to waiting for God to lead the Society forward together. My own prayer is that whatever laboring I am part of in this process, I approach with love and openness to the leadings of Spirit.

I do trust that Light to shine and help us find our way.

Thanks for reporting, Will. I am always very anxious for your words.

October 18, 2008 11:17 AM  

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