Do you hear anything? Did you hear the cracking, the splitting – a sound like ice fracturing? like hearts breaking? It was a soft sound, muffled perhaps by the brick walls of the church building where it happened. It was a tired sound, a sigh of resignation for some, a sigh of relief, for others.  It was the sound of a fresh schism in Indiana Yearly Meeting. 

 “This is an occasion for sadness for nearly everyone concerned, the sadness that if, as we have always believed, God called us to unity, that we have not found the way to maintain that unity.” So reads the opening paragraph of the Task Force report recommending the separation.

 Sadness, yes, but the recommendation quickly says “IYM (the organization) will remain intact and those meetings choosing option B will continue to be part of this body. …  For the majority of Friends in IYM this will represent no organizational change, although the authority of the yearly meeting to hold its member meetings accountable will have been clearly affirmed.”

 For those being set off or released, our Quaker world hardly seems “intact” or “unchanged.” We are now outcasts from Indiana Yearly Meeting. Where do we belong?

 Do we still have friends? Can we still be Friends?

 Other than the those of us cast out for failing to meet some new test of orthodoxy, did anyone notice the separation? Did you hear anything? After this superstorm, has anyone called to offer us a place to stay? dry clothes? a cup of tea? A comforting word? I don’t think we’ve heard anything from you, our friends beyond Indiana. 

 Among the outcasts I hear often the sentiment that we (however we are organized in the future) will want to continue to be part of Friends United Meeting, but have we heard from FUM? I don’t know that anyone has called to offer us hospitality, an assurance that we are still welcome. 

 And are we still welcome? If we are no longer welcome in Indiana Yearly Meeting, where should we outcasts find confidence that we are still valued as members of FUM? Or will we hear the sound of splitting there as well? 

 How about Friends World Committee for Consultation? Have they reached out to gather in the outcasts? In the midst of celebrating the diversity of Friends gathered at the Kenya Triennial, have they no fear of a fresh schism?

Has any other Yearly Meeting discussed the separation? Sent a note of condolence? Offered words of encouragement?

 Did you hear anything?

 I hear Jesus saying this to his followers (John 15:14-17): “14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.”

 And so we call ourselves Friends. But are we friends with one another?

Views: 532

Comment by William F Rushby on 11th mo. 25, 2012 at 6:02pm

Be of good cheer!  Splitting is not the end of the world.  It will clear the way for you and like-minded Friends to pursue your own vision of Christian and Quaker faith without the burden of internecine strife and continual backroom politics and manipulation.

Comment by Howard Brod on 11th mo. 26, 2012 at 3:59pm
I suspect and hope that the lack of affirmation you have felt up to this point, is because:

(1) Quaker process is slow. So, it takes time to receive a unified welcome from another yearly meeting. Aside from other yearly meetings, I would suspect Friends General Conference (FGC) would be welcoming to you as a new yearly meeting, or as individual meetings. I don't think the fact that you are pastoral meetings would matter. FGC is the most welcoming and helpful organization I have ever experienced. I feel that they could be of assistance even if you choose not to be associated with them.

(2) most Friends organizations likely did not want to interfere in your "family feud" for fear of worsening the situation. Now that the schism has occurred, I think you will find much support. The issue you will have is discerning who's support to accept.

I know that I have been personally interested in your struggles within IYM. And I wish you the best going forward.
Comment by Ashley W on 11th mo. 27, 2012 at 9:59pm

I am sorry to hear that you have felt so alone, Friend.  Know that we have been praying for you and will continue to pray for you at Freedom Friends Church (freedomfriends.org).  When one part of the body of Christ suffers, every part suffers with it.  (I Corinthians 12:26)

Comment by Brent Bill on 11th mo. 28, 2012 at 8:48am

Hmmm.  "Did anyone notice the separation?"  I think lots of people have been watching with interest -- and prayer -- and searching for news.  I've heard (to paraphrase a certain someone) of "splits and rumors of splits" but somehow have missed any reporting of an official separation that was approved.

That said, I do know that Western Yearly Meeting, our local Meeting (West Newton) and others have been in prayer about this situation, have minuted their concerns and care for all parties.  So now that it's official, perhaps invitations will be forthcoming.

I do think the new group should take time to gather itself and determine what affiliations it desires -- if any.  And I do not think that any organization (yearly meeting or larger group like FUM/FGC) should rush out embrace ... embrace what?  A Yearly Meeting?  An association?  A??

I'm sorry for the feelings of abandoment by other Friends, but I don't think it's a case of no one caring.  It's more not knowing what to do -- yet. 

 

Comment by Paula Deming on 11th mo. 28, 2012 at 9:50am

Thank you, Doug, for sharing your feelings with us. I offer you tea, warm clothes, and an open heart. And I apologize for turning a blind eye, assuming that what was happening next door in Indiana was an issue that needed to sort itself out with no expressions of Christian/Quaker love from me.

To all Indiana Friends, I suffer with you in your feelings of abandonment.

Comment by Doug Bennett on 11th mo. 28, 2012 at 3:05pm

It isn’t sympathy I seek for any of us in IYM, but rather awareness of risks that extend well beyond IYM.  It’s recognition of common danger I hope to awaken. What has happened in Indiana Yearly Meeting results not from idiosyncratic dynamics within one yearly meeting, but rather from tensions that extend across the world of Friends. 

(1) There are immediate risks to Friends United Meeting. What will happen to FUM if it loses a third of its income from one member yearly meeting? FUM’s finances are already fragile enough. Wouldn’t it want to actively reach out to the outcast monthly meetings from IYM and let them know they (and their assessments) are still welcome within FUM? While those outcast monthly meetings are trying to figure out whether to form a new yearly meeting or take some other road, might not FUM want to provide assistance, perhaps just an interim arrangement to allow these monthly meetings to remain connected to FUM?

And there’s this larger question: will FUM want the IYM outcasts to remain in FUM? If the majority block of Indiana Yearly Meeting wanted, as they have, to ‘set off’ the outcast meetings, will they want them to be part of FUM? If so, what do we make of the schism that separated IYM?

(2) There are risks to the other yearly meetings (at least those in North America) that make up FUM, and not just the risk that comes with the increasing fragility of FUM. The same dynamics that fractured IYM are at play across the Midwest. Western Yearly Meeting has largely survived its recent troubles, but have the disagreements been really been worked through? Iowa Yearly Meeting is (I understand) attaching a requirement that each of its employees affirm the Richmond Declaration, making that not just a creed, but a creed with teeth. Doesn’t that suggest the same disruptive stresses are in play there? I imagine Wilmington Yearly Meeting has the same dynamics, and perhaps North Carolina, too. New England, New York and Baltimore Yearly Meetings have all had their own difficulties with FUM. It seems likely that the ‘purification’ of the midwestern yearly meetings will worsen those stresses.  (About Canadian and Great Plains Yearly Meetings I’ll admit too much ignorance to comment.)

(3) How about Evangelical Friends Church International (EFCI), Friends General Conference (FGC) and Conservative Friends: how might they be affected? I believe their identity as Friends is enhanced by the existence of FUM and its member yearly meetings. It grows increasingly difficult to identify a common denominator that distinguishes Friends from other Christians, but there are sufficient overlapping characteristics (family resemblances, to use another metaphor) among Friends from FGC to EFCI to yield a modest, common identity.  Would that still be the case if FUM fell apart? FUM forms the middle piece in the puzzle of Friends. Without FUM, would there be too large a dissimilarity between FGC and EFCI to maintain an identity, not to mention common endeavors.

(4) In the early 1990s there was a brief flurry of discussion of “realignment,” the suggestion that some meetings in FUM might affiliate with EFCI, others with FGC. Might the same prospect be in play today? If so, shouldn’t we be talking about it across the world of Friends, not treating the IYM issue as a divorce in one family up the block that has little to do with us?

What makes us Friends? The IYM schism asks us all, I think, to wonder “can we be Friends?”

Comment by David Bundrick on 11th mo. 28, 2012 at 3:12pm

This is the first time I heard that the IYM purge, which seemed inevitable,had happened. As a non-christian Friend, I shall hold your meetings in the Light as you seek your place. You will find it. I will also hold in the Light those whose intractability inflicted such pain. 

Comment by Colin Saxton on 11th mo. 28, 2012 at 4:34pm

Hello Doug!  As a person who gets to travel around a good bit, I heard from Quakers all over the world sharing in the pain and laboring over the future of IYM throughout the last year. At the FWCC world gathering in Kenya, Friends from many continents told me they were praying for/holding IYM in the Light of Christ. It was the same within N. American Yearly Meetings.

Several Friends (including me) did offer to be of help if there was need for assistance. Unfortunately, or maybe it is often fortunate, the same autonomy by which Meetings/churches sometimes live at a distance from Yearly Meetings, also applies in the relationship Yearly Meetings have with umbrella organizations like FUM. Could FUM have helped IYM? And by what authority?

I tend to believe that "authority" is more relational than organizational. Accountability, influence, etc emerge less out of whether a Faith and Practice emphasizes lots or little autonomy...and much more out of the depth of relationship individuals and organizations share. If we really rely on each other and practice at working together, it becomes safe and acceptable to ask for help or get involved when times are hard. I hope FUM will increasingly be seen and experienced as a help to local and yearly meetings...both in good and hard times. How true that has been in the past, I cannot say.


At the risk of sounding defensive (which I am not feeling...but think I may be sounding...) there have been several conversations about ongoing relationships with FUM. It is true, however, there has not been much that is formal. As I recall, the original IYM reconfiguration proposal expected two entities to emerge out of the split...both of which would be invited (even encouraged!) to join FUM. However, the reconfiguration plan continued to evolve. My sense is that we (or at least I) have been waiting for the dust to settle a bit to see what group(s) actually form and what can be done to connect with isolated Meetings/churches who are not at all ready to affiliate with either IYM or the emerging group. My personal hope is that FUM will be community that will be home to any Friends who resonate with and want to be part of its global mission, witness and life.

My even bolder hope is that FUM might be a place where Friends might actually experience a sense of being united together...in a common Life, work and way. This isn't uniformity--but something much more powerful--that unity that transcends our diversity and gathers into one great fellowship in which we belong in Christ and to Christ together. Who knows, within a community like that...maybe even former-yearly meeting members will experience something deeper than their old structures allowed.

Thank you for the reminder to reach out rather than wait, however. I will try to make some connections. We do want to support all the Friends connected to IYM.

I do hope, too, that the group of now, non-IYM Friends (many of whom I know and love) will be able to move through the sense of being "outcast"...at least over time. From the people I have spoken with who are part of this group, there is much more life and hope than simply living under a burden like that. Even though I tend to see our propensity to split with a great deal of personal sadness, I continue to pray hopefully that both IYM and the new group will find a new strength and vitality through it.

Comment by Doug Bennett on 11th mo. 29, 2012 at 9:09am

Thanks, Colin.  All terrific.  I especially like your take on "authority" among Friends.

Comment by Paula Deming on 11th mo. 29, 2012 at 9:18am

Dear Doug,

You wrote:

 Other than the those of us cast out for failing to meet some new test of orthodoxy, did anyone notice the separation? Did you hear anything? After this superstorm, has anyone called to offer us a place to stay? dry clothes? a cup of tea? A comforting word? I don’t think we’ve heard anything from you, our friends beyond Indiana.

 

That is what I responded to. I was not offering sympathy so much as empathy. That is what I had to offer you. I'm sorry if I missed the mark.

Yours in God's Love, Paula

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