31 August 2017

August shorts

For most of the last month, Judy and I have been on vacation -- first in Ottawa, Ontario, then in Raymond, Maine. We have spent many hours with relatives and friends who have shared our time here, and with books (and Judy has been painting and repairing windows, too).

We have spent hours walking to Raymond village and along nearby roads, and visiting the cemetery. But I confess that one of my favorite pursuits has been simply to stare at the lake, watching the ducks and loons play.

Elsewhere in the world, we are aware of the winds and rains -- and the political storms as well -- but we have been faithful to our friends' and supporters' strong advice to rest. Thank you!

Next week I might be checking in here a day or two late. We expect to arrive back in Elektrostal late on Thursday evening.

Reedwood Friends Church, Portland, Oregon -- our church -- has been a strong supporter of Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends Church, contributing money and countless volunteers over the years. In a few hours, Reedwood will no longer be part of the yearly meeting.

The only public announcement I'm aware of is the following terse memo, which church members received nearly two weeks ago:
NWYM Board of Elders action.

On August 19, 2017 the NWYM Board of Elders approved a minute discontinuing Reedwood Friend Church's association with NWYM effective September 1, 2017, as authorized by NWYM Faith and Practice page 33: "In situations in which a ministry point or local church continues to deteriorate, remains ineffective or out of unity with NWYM Faith and Practice, the BoE, acting for the Yearly Meeting, may discontinue the church or the association of the church with Northwest Yearly Meeting." With this decision, the supervisory work of the Care Committee has ended.

Pastoral Changes

Effective September 1, 2017, Jade Souza and Martha Wood will complete their ministry at RFC. They both will receive severance packages covering the last four months of 2017. We commend them both for their care and concern for those attending RFC.

Phil McLain, Clerk
NWYM Board of Elders Local church Care Committee for Reedwood Friends Church
We have heard numerous (and clashing) private interpretations of the rifts within Reedwood and between the church and the yearly meeting, but no public explanation. As far as I can tell, this action involving Reedwood Friends has little or nothing to do with the upcoming departures of other Friends churches from the yearly meeting and the formation of Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting of Friends.

My Reedwood office (2001)
The Newberg Graphic, in a Web story dated today, counts Reedwood Friends as a part of the new yearly meeting, but I have not heard any word from Reedwood itself that this decision to join Sierra-Cascades has been made or even discussed.

After many years as a denominational bureaucrat, I suppose that nothing surprises me anymore when it comes to church fights, but I can't help wonder how anyone believes these fights and splits are consistent with the central question that every church governing body should be asking: "What does GOD want to say and do in the world through us?"

Friday update: We received a Reedwood community e-mail about an hour ago. I'm including the relevant text, without comment, below, just before the blues dessert.

Young E. Stanley Jones in local dress.
One of the books I've been reading on my vacation has been A Song of Ascents: A Spiritual Autobiography by E. Stanley Jones. I've mentioned reading his book The Christ of the Indian Road, early in my time among Friends, and re-reading it more recently, but this is my first time with A Song of Ascents. I am glad Jerry Baker (recently retired pastor of Netarts Friends Church) recommended it to me, and I would like to pass along this recommendation.

As Jones describes his ministry among India's intellectuals, and the things he learned about revolution, nonviolence, racial and class prejudices, so much in this book remains relevant and useful fifty years after it was completed. His love of Christ is infectious, firmly setting secondary controversies in their place.

Just to remind me that the debates between "conservatives" and "liberals" among Christians are nothing new, E. Stanley Jones at age 83 seems to delight in reporting how, all through his lifetime, his fans and critics could not find the correct categories to classify him. Was he a "modernist" or was he "fundamental"? One conservative journal decided to have it both ways: Jones had a "fundamental heart" and a "modern mind."

He got into one particular controversy at the time of Gandhi's assassination:
When Mahatma Gandhi was martyred, some Christians of South India asked me whether he had gone to heaven. My reply: "I am glad I don't have to decide the destiny of men. I am not the judge of all the earth. It is my business to preach the gospel and leave judgment to God. He is wise enough and good enough for that responsibility -- I'm not. All I can say is that if Mahatma Gandhi didn't go to heaven, then heaven would be poorer without him, as it will be poorer without you." The newspapers came out the next day saying, "Stanley Jones said that heaven would be a poor place without Gandhi." Next version I heard: "Heaven would be a miserable place without Gandhi." Next: "Heaven would be hell without Gandhi." And last: "Heaven would be no heaven without Gandhi." I have heard no further versions. It had reached bottom -- no heaven!
Isn't it fascinating how people can twist a quotation to create, in effect, a false witness. Gandhi's example might be a great occasion to decide, once and for all, to verify quotations and contexts when people come to us with gleeful reports about someone else's heresies.

Christopher Douglas responds to Kurt Anderson: "Conservative white Christians, in other words, had had one foot in a parallel information ecosystem for a long time." (Kurt Anderson's original article in The Atlantic.)

The battle for the Catholic past in Nazi Germany.

Related: The newest addition to the Russian Quaker online library is a translation of Brenda Bailey's lecture, "The Integrity of German Friends During the Twelve Years of Nazi Rule."

From the 24/7 Prayer blog: Transforming the story of forgotten Germany in Neubrandenberg.

Ten reasons our good intentions to fight poverty backfire.

A reasonable and non-hysterical call for the U.S. Congress to open a formal impeachment inquiry.

Reedwood update received today:

Reedwood Friends (Quaker) Independent Church
A red letter day for RFC.

September 1, 2017 Reedwood’s Independence Day

Today begins a new chapter in the Reedwood Friends Church history. We begin a journey of faith and faithfulness to God as we seek to follow the direction we are called to take.

As the Northwest Yearly Meeting (NWYM) began the process of dividing, there were three options offered to all NWYM churches; continue with NWYM, join the new yearly meeting or become independent. On August 13, 2017, at a meeting open to all, a decision was made to go independent. *The letter below is what was sent to NWYM announcing our decision.

Having chosen independence we acknowledge that we will have much work to do to meet the expectations of our new independence. At another meeting on August 27, 2013 there was a start. Officers, Elders, Stewards and Nominating committee were approved with September 1, 2017 being the startup date. Additional decisions were made to update account management.

As we continue the transition to being our own meeting independent from any yearly meeting connection I welcome all who are willing to serve. I am hoping we can be a better presence in the community surrounding our church. As we reach out to those around the church building may we better understand our commission to share the good news in very tangible ways. Are there those in our neighborhood that need our help? How? Are there those in our own community that could use our help? How? Are there those that can make our building and property more welcoming? Please make yourselves known.

I appreciate everyone that considers RFC their church home whether attending every service or somewhere around the world. I covet your prayers and ideas as we move into new territory.
There will be many things to consider as we move forward.

My God bless you as we work together in this new venture.
Lloyd Pruitt, Presiding Clerk

*Reedwood Friends Church (letter cited above)
2901 SE Steele St.
Portland, OR 97202

August 15, 2017
Retha McCutchen, Interim Superintendent, Northwest Yearly Meeting
Phil McLain, Interim Clerk of Elders and LCCC Clerk, Northwest Yearly Meeting

Dear Retha and Phil,
As I informed you at the LCCC meeting on August 8, the Reedwood Friends Church, an Oregon nonprofit corporation (“Reedwood”) held a membership meeting at Reedwood on Sunday, August 13, 2017 at 1:00pm. Forty members of Reedwood were present, and the attached agenda was followed. After prayer, the members of Reedwood were invited to discuss the three options that have been presented to the churches of the NWYM by the NWYM Transition Committee: (1) remain a part of the NMYM, (2) join the new yearly meeting, or (3) elect to become independent. All Members and guests were invited to participate in the discussion, and all views were respected and heard.

In the discussion, many members spoke to having concern about the human sexuality language in the current NWYM Faith and Practice. Some felt the new yearly meeting, Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting, is still too new to consider joining. After much discussion, the issue was presented to the members for a decision. The members determined that there was overwhelming desire to become independent from any yearly meeting. The final count was thirty (30) favoring independence, four (4) favoring staying with NWYM and four (4) members not indicating a preference. (Two individuals left before the vote was taken).

Reedwood Friends Church will now begin the process of independence, and we respectfully request the NYYM’s assistance and cooperation in this endeavor. Reedwood members will be meeting again August 27, 2017 at 1:00pm. Between now and then my prayer is that we can work with you to begin the transition in a way that is honoring to Christ and the members of Reedwood.

If you would like to make a report at the August 27 meeting we are open to this, provided you are respectful of the wishes expressed by the members of Reedwood. We know the LCCC has put a lot of work in trying to help us and we appreciate the attempts. Our hope is that both you and we have learned something as participants in this attempt. It is our desire that we go in the knowledge that you have given us much to consider and we further hope that your experience with us has helped you and the NWYM Elders as you work with other churches.

This is our official notice that Reedwood is withdrawing from the Northwest Yearly Meeting. Reedwood predates the NWYM and has always been an independent Oregon nonprofit corporation with an independent 501(c)(3) tax-exempt designation. We look forward to working with you as we transition into our new independence and exit from the NWYM. We ask for your prayers in this process.

Very truly yours,
Lloyd Pruitt, President, Reedwood Friends Church

Blues dessert: More from James Harman in Denmark.


Anonymous said...

kudos to Christopher Anderson's analysis!

As a former member and recorded minister at Reedwood, I was aware of blowback regarding decreasing functionality at Reedwood, especially centered on its tendency to "devour pastors." I knew they were under the care of YM Elders in regard to this issue, and that they had reached a "final" crisis point -- but had not heard the details of what had recently occurred. Thank you, Johan, for providing this distressing information.

Anonymous said...

Correction -- Christopher Douglas, not Christopher Anderson!

Anonymous said...

As an active member of Reedwood Friends Church during the timeframe yku describe, I received no notice of the above mentjoned meetings and actions that resulted. Apparently my membership was not worth the time to correspond with me. I grieve the loss of trust, but I grieve even more the death of my church community, without notice to thise who like myself considered themse!ves a part of the church community.

Lucy Davenport said...

As an active member of Reedwood Friends Church during the timeframe yku describe, I received no notice of the above mentjoned meetings and actions that resulted. Apparently my membership was not worth the time to correspond with me. I grieve the loss of trust, but I grieve even more the death of my church community, without notice to thise who like myself considered themse!ves a part of the church community.

Peggy Senger Morrison said...

The final count was thirty (30) favoring independence, four (4) favoring staying with NWYM and four (4) members not indicating a preference. (Two individuals left before the vote was taken).

As a former member and recorded minister I find the above to be appalling.

Johan Maurer said...

I wish I had more wisdom or even just some words of comfort (for you and for myself). After reading some related Facebook debates, I realize that I don't have the resources or even the incentive to get to the bottom of all this, but I totally share the distress.

David H. Finke said...

I join you Friends (most of whose names here I recognize) in grieving the unraveling and separation.
Those whom I've known are predictable voices for charity and reconciliation.
In God's Grace and God's Time (Kairos) this all may well create creative new Opportunities. But in the meantime I hear the anguish of the broken-hearted who have tried their best... and can now leave it all to The Divine Presence.