Western Yearly Meeting Sessions begin on Friday, July 31. The Yearly Meeting Program Committee has put together a schedule of worship, workshops and times for fellowship along with the usual business sessions. The program for children and youth has been expanded. I encourage you to attend as much of Yearly Meeting as possible. Registration information is available at the Meeting House.
Keep our Yearly Meeting sessions in prayer. Yearly Meeting is not just a business meeting. It is, in Friends terms, “a meeting for worship with a concern for business.” Pray for Jim Crew, Clerk of the Yearly Meeting, that he will be sensitive to Lord’s leading as he prepares for the meetings and as he presides. Pray for all the others in leadership as well.
There will be one item of business that has already drawn a lot of interest and generated a lot of discussion. The Yearly Meeting Board on Christian Ministries and Evangelism is recommending that Phil Gulley's recording as a minister with WYM be rescinded because of substantial disunity with WYM Faith and Practice. This is the culmination of a process that began six years ago when concerns were raised about Phil's theology as expressed in If Grace is True, written by Phil Gulley and Jim Mulholland. This minute is scheduled to be presented on Saturday, August 1, in the morning business session.
Unfortunately, over the years this process seems to have generated more heat than light. There has been anger and name-calling. Motives on all sides have been questioned. This is all the more reason that we need to be praying for wisdom, patience and God's grace on all who are involved in this issue.
I want to share a few of my thoughts on this issue as I prepare for Yearly Meeting:
Some see this as a personality clash between people who just don't like each other or who can't seem to get along. This is not true. I know from my involvement that the people at the heart of this issue deeply care for each other.
Some see it as a power struggle – a battle for the control of the Yearly Meeting. While it is true that we all deal with control issues on some level in our lives, I have not met anybody in this process whose goal is to “run the Yearly Meeting.”
As I see it, the immediate issue has grown out of some some deeper questions about the nature of a Yearly Meeting, and about Western Yearly Meeting in particular:
- Is the Yearly Meeting primarily an administrative body concerned with taking care of property, managing endowments and running programs, or is it a body with some degree of authority over constituent meetings and issues of faith? Historically, Yearly Meetings have had a fair amount of authority but beginning in the twentieth century that understanding began to change. Meeting autonomy has become a more important value. Is this a good thing?
- Where does the “Faith and Thought” portion of the WYM Faith and Practice fit in? Is it a description of who we are? Is it a set of faith statements that we pick and choose from? Do we want to have a common expression of faith? There has always been a tendency to emphasize some parts and pay less attention to others. Our contemporary desire for personal autonomy runs counter to the idea of a common faith.
- Is the Yearly Meeting structured for ministry or are we just structured for maintenance? There is a lot of good ministry going but a lot of resources, time and energy are spent maintaining the organization.
Connected to all of these questions is the bigger question of community. What kind of community is Western Yearly Meeting? Communities can choose to organize themselves around many things -- common beliefs, a common history, common tasks, or common needs. What kind of community are we and what are we organized around?
These are challenging questions. I'd like to hear what you have to say.
Wait, pray, trust