16 November 2017

"Becoming the church we dreamed of" part one

Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting of Friends approves its name.
When I arrived in the Pacific Northwest in 2000, I found myself in an extraordinary community of Quakers: Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends Church. It seemed to be a marvelous association of churches: it was a humanely and intelligently evangelical Christian community with a warm, generous culture and a deep commitment to Quaker discipleship.

No doubt my joy at finding this beautiful community, after seven years of leadership in the (then) polarized atmosphere of Friends United Meeting, lulled me into a false sense of security. Of course, Northwest Yearly Meeting had its own ancient fissures and unhealed traumas. Its decision in 1926 to leave Friends United Meeting (at the time it was Oregon Yearly Meeting leaving the Five Years Meeting of Friends) was surrounded by conflict, echoes of which I could still detect in my first visit to Oregon eighty years later. Other tensions were newer. However, my own experiences over my seventeen years' connection with Northwest Yearly Meeting have mostly confirmed my first positive impressions.

If I had my way, the community would have been preserved and I would be continuing to serve it with uncomplicated devotion. But unity was not preserved. Reedwood Friends Church, where I'm a member (along with my dual membership in Moscow Meeting, Russia) is already no longer a member of the yearly meeting, and Eugene Friends Church, where I worship most Sundays, is on its way out.

I described the rupture from my point of view last February in this post. Toward the end, I tried to express a "silver lining" for the separated churches:
Churches that are already clear that their local practices cannot remain in alignment with the Yearly Meeting's Faith and Practice have now been invited to form their own new yearly meeting with help from a NWYM transition team ... and compile their own Faith and Practice. I dearly hope that, first, the churches that are unable to align with current NWYM Faith and Practice will in fact have the dedication and energy to form this new body in collaboration with that NWYM transition team. Second, I hope this new body is as committed to biblical authority and Quaker discipleship as NWYM wishes to be. The task of compiling a new Faith and Practice is a wonderful chance to restate core Friends insights for a jaded world. Third, I hope that this new yearly meeting will lavish love and care on its mother yearly meeting, rejecting resentment and cynicism in favor of an enduring hope for reconciliation.
Some of these wishes are already coming true. Not having had anything to do with these developments, having been in Russia most of the time since last summer, I can't provide on-the-spot reporting or take any personal credit, but what I've seen from a distance is encouraging.

The new yearly meeting that is emerging from these developments named itself Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting of Friends. The formal membership structure and entry process are still being defined, and it's by no means clear that all churches or individual Friends who might find themselves outside Northwest Yearly Meeting will become part of this new yearly meeting, or even when they might make that decision. This uncertainty has not kept the new yearly meeting from working toward clarity on its identity and discipline

Some of this progress is evident on its Web site, scymfriends.org. On a more journalistic level, there's background information on quakernews.com. After the founding sessions at George Fox University last summer, there was a general meeting last month at Eugene Friends Church in Oregon, and another is scheduled for February 2018. In the meantime, I've joined a task group that is working on recording and licensing policies to propose to Sierra-Cascades Friends.

Another piece of this work: at our last Eugene Friends Church monthly meeting, we were all invited to submit our thoughts on the following questions as a contribution toward the yearly meeting's development.

Why are we joining together instead of going our separate ways? What holds Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting together? (Examples: Common beliefs/theology? Relationships? Friends' testimonies? Other?)

How should we make decisions that affect the whole of SCYMF? (Examples: refer all decisions to the yearly meeting as a whole? Choose reps to make some or all decisions? Let a specified group make urgent decisions? Other?)
My fondest wish -- that Northwest Yearly Meeting would remain united -- did not come true. It was tempting to grieve that rupture indefinitely ... and, to be honest, the grief is not going away soon. However, it is a wonderful comfort to realize that nothing so far is blocking my existing friendships and actual collaborations with Friends in Northwest Yearly Meeting, and I plan to hold on to every relationship I possibly can. In the meantime, I look at developments in Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting of Friends with the attitude that Shane Claiborne expressed in his book, The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical.
... [W]e decided to stop complaining about the church we saw, and we set our hearts on becoming the church we dreamed of.
Part two.

Amy Hollywood on prayer and the Psalms.
Psalms are crucial to understanding Christian practices of prayer because they are full of images, rich with detail about the relationship between the speaker and the persons, animals, and objects around her, including, of course, God. God is named, praised, and thanked, worshiped, feared, and railed against, not without images, but through and in them
RT.com as a foreign agent: a Russian journalist's view.

Greg Yudin: Who writes Russian history nowadays: the state or the citizens? (Also see Nanci Adler's response.)

Tim Berners-Lee on net neutrality and the future of the Web.

Edvard Munch through the eyes of Karl Ove Knausgård and Ingrid D. Rowland.

"It's Too Late Brother" ... psycheDELTA Blues Band, Moscow.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing Johan. I hope we will always be friends too. :)
Shawn Leonard

Johan Maurer said...

Shawn! Please count on it.