Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Report on Indiana Yearly Meeting

 This is an excerpt of a blog written by ESR Student Michael Jay. For his complete blog post, visit http://michaeldavidjay.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/indiana-yearly-meeting-report-and-reconfiguration-thoughts/.

I enjoyed Indiana Yearly Meeting much more than I thought I would.  I found the experience to be prayerful.  I found that worship was indeed gathered, and people spoke respectfully during sessions in spite of their differences.  At some points, (such as the separation of two meetings who will transfer membership to Evangelical Friends Church Eastern Region) the Yearly Meeting showed compassion, and generously forgave at least some of what the accountants named as debts to the Yearly Meeting.  This was in spite of what is certain to be a period of austerity.  By my measure — the Yearly Meeting sessions were very good, people prayed together and sought God’s will in a difficult time.  In spite of this — it is a difficult time, and I will share my own thoughts (which, are only my own impressions and thoughts.)

I will soon be an employee of one Monthly Meetings within Indiana Yearly Meeting.  As I will be an employee — I have a personal interest in what happens.  The best outcome for me would be the decision not to split, which I blindly hoped for until Yearly Meeting sessions.  After attending, I realized that the sense of the meeting is that the split cannot be avoided — so, it must be done in a way which causes the least damage possible.

That being said, I moved from being against the split, to simply hoping that it will do the least possible damage.  This year, no one was recorded.  No one was appointed to any boards or committees.  The business of equipping ministry was shut down so we could deal with the equivalent of someone saying: “remove him from the room, or we will leave.”  There was a sense that it was better to stop doing ministry than risk that the “wrong person” might be involved in the work.  While I think this behavior is deeply sinful — I would choose a split before choosing a complete stop to our share of God’s work.  As this stop has happened — I accept the split as the price to restart the work of the church.

What was laid out was that there are certain meetings which cannot exist in the same organizational structure as certain other meetings.  These feelings are not reciprocal.  There  is a third class of meetings that would prefer to maintain fellowship with both groups of meetings.  (The smallest group is those that “must be removed from fellowship”.)  Whether the group that wishes to somehow restore them to fellowship, or the group that wants to see the yearly meeting split is larger is difficult to guess.  Either way — the reasons to fellowship with the more ‘pure’ group are more compelling for the majority of meetings.

The sense of the meeting was, that they would allow the meetings to self identify.  They specifically said that the Yearly Meeting would not force a choice on any meeting (including those that must choose option A in order for the split to happen in the way the Yearly Meeting considers best.)  This choice is literally trusting meetings which are believed to be outside God’s will to rightfully discern God’s will for the future of the Yearly Meeting — even though this is against what these meetings consider to be in their best interest.  I consider this ‘easy’ option of the larger body setting off the smaller body (which is out of unity) through self identification to be overly optimistic.  Many of the meetings they wish to leave actually wish to stay.

This becomes even more difficult, because the answer to the question: “May we choose both?” was answered with “No!”  This means that the desire for continued affiliation with these ‘liberal’ meetings is seen as evidence of insufficient purity.   (These meetings have the option of remaining in the Yearly Meeting, but not being allowed to serve on boards.)  Bluntly, the easy route is that every meeting that does not wish a split is invited to leave quietly.  It would require Divine intervention for this to happen — so, baring certain meetings pragmatically bowing out, against what they currently believe is the correct action, the current plans will not be accepted at the Monthly Meeting level, which is where the decision must be made.

Michael's complete post can be viewed here: http://michaeldavidjay.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/indiana-yearly-meeting-report-and-reconfiguration-thoughts/.

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