28 July 2005

Newberg notes

from left - Rachel Hampton, Grace Kuto, Peggy HansonNorthwest Yearly Meeting: Thanks to Aj Schwanz's wonderful weblog, I know something about what's going on at yearly meeting sessions. I've heard enough hints about the controversies surrounding our Friends World Committee for Consultation membership to be glad that my terribly prejudiced self was not at the business sessions. This year, as last, all I've been able to do during the yearly meeting sessions has been to attend the meetings of the Board of Peace and Social Concerns meetings each afternoon.

Kayla Edin, Colin SaxtonTo do that, I've violated every sensible rule of living lightly—it takes me nearly an hour to drive the 28.1 miles between my home and George Fox University, and the round trip lasts almost as long as the board meeting itself. But I promised to serve on that board, and it is a wonderful community with a wonderful clerk (Rachel Hampton, just ending her current service as clerk), and I come home refreshed. There are lots of worse ways to find gratification.

Among our most important tasks: saying "thank you and farewell to our outgoing peace education coordinator, Cherice Bock of Newberg Friends Church, who is leaving shortly for the World Gathering of Young Friends in Lancaster, England, after which she begins her studies at Princeton Seminary. We've also welcomed her replacement, Kayla Walker Edin of West Hills Friends Church here in Portland. We were all very glad to hear that funding for this part-time position seems assured at least for this coming year.

Ralph Beebe, Carl Magruder (visitor from Pacific Yearly Meeting)Another important concern is strengthening our connections to the yearly meeting as a whole. To help with this, we had visits from Colin Saxton, current general superintendent of the yearly meeting (and former clerk of our board) and from former NWYM clerk Mark Ankeny, who visited on behalf of the committee preparing the yearly meeting's draft vision statement.

My heart sang when I read the draft vision statement. One of the things I love about Northwest Yearly Meeting is that, perhaps uniquely among the capital-E evangelical yearly meetings, it does not conceal the diversity of concerns and emphases within the community. It isn't ashamed of the words "peacemaking and social JUSTICE" (my emphasis!), putting them in the same sentence as evangelism and missions. The equality of men and women in leadership is (at least now!) given visibility. There's no embarrassment about being Friends rather than rootless cultural evangelicals. Granted, the vision statement (not yet available online, I believe) is aspirational rather than journalistic—we have a long way to go before we achieve the liveliness and comprehensiveness of the statement—but what worthy aspirations they are.

(By the way, I'm actually not qualified to make the claim about Northwest's uniqueness among capital-E evangelical yearly meetings. I have only been to two others in North America. Care to challenge me?)

J.E. McNeilOn Tuesday, J.E. McNeil of the Center on Conscience and War made a presentation to our board concerning conscientious objection. Much of the material she presented was familiar to me, but I very much appreciated knowing how she presents it. I have rarely heard as eloquent a plea for taking our peace testimony seriously, for our own spiritual health as well as the well-being of the nations.

I agreed to be on a subcommittee to recommend peace-related books for the reading list for pastors and for the recording process (that is, the process of discernment and preparation to be recorded as public ministers of the Gospel in the minutes of Northwest Yearly Meeting). We keep hearing that some pastors feel inadequately acquainted with the social and ethical dimensions of Quaker discipleship, and people who come from outside Friends to serve as pastors are even less likely to be prepared. And it is also true to say that the peace testimony meets with variable acceptance in some of our local churches.

Next year I hope I can attend more of the full yearly meeting sessions and reduce the gasoline-to-inspiration ratio. But if all I got was this year's eight hours of a board meeting, it was time well spent.

Photos: for those who don't see the "alt" text, the photos (top to bottom) show: (1) Rachel Hampton, Grace Kuto, and Peggy Hanson; (2) Kayla Edin and Colin Saxton; (3) Ralph Beebe and Pacific YM visitor Carl Magruder; (4) J.E. McNeil.

Perspective: In connection with her third tour of duty with Christian Peacemaker Teams (or is it her fourth? I lose count!), Maxine Nash writes that she has "arrived safely in Baghdad." Our family was thinking over this interesting phrase last night at dinner. From our perspective, wherever Maxine came from must surely have been safer. (For the record, it was Amman; and just a few weeks ago she was in Iowa!) But to her credit ... to the credit of her strong faith and sense of being led ... she probably wrote those words without irony.

Friday PS: During my academic year at Woodbrooke, ending a little over a year ago, I really enjoyed getting to know the city of Birmingham, England. It reminded me in some ways of my favorite American city, Chicago.

However, it wasn't the Birmingham weather that reminded me of Chicago ... at least not until yesterday. One familiar feature of living in the midwestern USA is the threat of tornadoes. Yesterday, a destructive tornado hit Birmingham (coverage by Birmingham Post is here; BBC West Midlands here). Amazingly, in all this destruction there were apparently no deaths, although a number of people were seriously injured.


Anonymous said...

I too have been excited to read AJ's blog. I think Martin Kelley is right that the Spirit is blowing through all the branches of Friends in much the same direction.

With various bloggers reporting on their Yearly Meeting and other gatherings, I feel like my travel budget has expanded greatly this summer.

I wanted to ask though, why you are glad not to take your "terribly prejudiced self" to business meetings? I know other Friends who find the large business meetings so over-stimulating and frustrating that they don't go to plenaries either. They (and you) are probably taking good care of themselves that way. But is this healthy for the Society? If the people who feel strongly don't go, don't we leave decisions to be made by people who don't really care? Is there any wonder that young Friends find there isn't enough passion and authenticity in our institutions?

I'm sure I am in no place qualified to judge your decisions on this question. But I'd be very interested in your opinion.

Johan Maurer said...


Your comment is very fair. I actually do believe in participating fully in business sessions, whether or not I have strong feelings on the subject.

(I don't believe in picking and choosing sessions based on what's on the agenda.)

In the case of this year's Northwest Yearly Meeting sessions, I would have loved to advocate for continued membership in Friends World Committee as part of a more complete participation in the yearly meeting. Because of my work, I could not attend more than the afternoon board sessions anyway; I wasn't really staying away from the business sessions in order to avoid getting excited. If I implied that this was so, it was a weak attempt at irony. I did firmly squelch my temptation to go to a discussion session and to do personal lobbying on the subject in my limited time at YM.

Thank you for digging deeper with your good question.


PS: A related background note on this issue: Some (certainly not all) of the support for staying in FWCC has come from Friends who also oppose adding the word "Evangelical" to the yearly meeting's name; and some of the support for ending the YM's relationship with FWCC has come from those who desire a more up-front evangelical identification. I'm one of those who advocate both a stronger evangelical identification AND staying with FWCC.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your kind and honest answer. I too missed one of the most contentious plenaries of my yearly meeting, in my case because my three year old son didn't want to let go of me or sit quietly in my lap. I specifically went to the follow up session to try to keep up, but I still had the sense of missing what apparently was a very moving session.
For better or worse, the topic was not decided this year, so I will have plenty of future opportunities to consider it. Not so many future opportunities to respond in love to a three year old.

I love your description of coming home from a board meeting feeling refreshed. For all the stress of yearly meeting this year, I too came home energized, all lit up.

Anonymous said...

Inspired by all the summer travelogues, I have started my own blog to report on Pacific Yearly Meeting. You can see some of our new ideas at Robin M: What Canst Thou Say?

I also borrowed your plan of once a week. This seems a doable plan for me, it will probably appear on Second Days.