The following two epistles were written in July 2017 to introduce and welcome a new Quaker yearly meeting in the Pacific Northwest – Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting of Friends, a community of evangelical Friends churches that affirm same-sex relationships and welcome the participation of LGBTQ+ people.
“I’m about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19)
To All Friends Everywhere: Earlier this year the leadership of Northwest Yearly Meeting decided that the best way forward was to split off a new yearly meeting for those local meetings who could not align with the current NWYM Faith & Practice statement on human sexuality. Local meetings who had written minutes or statements affirming same-sex relationships were given no option; any other local meeting could choose to join with those first four (West Hills Friends, Camas Friends, Eugene Friends, Klamath Falls Friends) or could go independent. The legal separation deadline, set by the Administrative Council, is June 30, 2018.
During this, our last annual sessions as an entire meeting, the departing local meetings and several interested individuals met in parallel business sessions to begin our work. Did we feel led to form a new yearly meeting or association? How will we begin? How will we know if we want to be a part if we don’t know what is it?
It has been difficult. We need to make clear our desire to be radically inclusive, as Jesus was, without falling into the same exclusionary trap that caught Northwest Yearly Meeting.
We used small worship sharing groups to get to know one another. We listened deeply to a panel of four LGBTQ Friends who spoke movingly of their experiences in faith communities through their lives. We began to form committees to help us with our work, determined to make any new structure or work open and inviting especially to marginalized people, especially from sexual minorities but also aware of racial, economic, cultural minorities.
In an earlier informal meeting last spring, the gathered Friends stated their intent to be inclusive, acknowledging that NWYM had not been so in the past. This week we approved the following statement:
“We are led by the Spirit to commit ourselves to recognizing the full participation of LGBTQ+ people in all aspects of the life of the New Thing organization we develop.”
We also were clear that we did want to move forward as a Quaker, Christ-centered yearly meeting. To that end we have approved the following Friends to serve:
Co-presiding Clerks: Cherice Bock and Eric Muhr
Assistant Clerk: Jon Kershner
Recording Clerk: Matthew Staples
We covet your prayers, your support, and your visits if you feel so led.
And we found our name: We are the Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting of Friends.
In the name of the One who makes all things new, and on behalf of those Friends gathered today (both in body and in spirit), signed, Jan Wood, Acting Clerk; Epistle Committee: James Hibbs, Julie Peyton, and Tom Stave ~~~
To Friends in Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends Church and Friends in Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting of Friends: Dear Friends, We remember the many years of connections between our Yearly Meeting and Northwest Yearly Meeting. We remember that when our Yearly Meeting was set off from Pacific Yearly Meeting, representatives of Northwest Yearly Meeting were present and brought us blessings from you. We are happy that the Holy Spirit has given us opportunities to build friendships in Friends World Committee for Consultation, the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conferences, the School of the Spirit and the Greater Seattle Council of Churches.
We have been sensitive to the differences you have dealt with and the difficulties you have been going through. We remember that similar questions tried us some years ago and we wrestled with many of the same concerns; we remember how painful were the divisions and the conflict. Our emotions ran high and hurtful things were said by some. We are thankful that God led us to unity at last and we have been able to move forward, although some individuals did break from us, leaving hard feelings. Because of the painful history of schisms among Quakers, we have been concerned for you, many of us holding all of you in Divine Light to discern the path forward.
We hope you are in unity about the good order of your division and hope to see both of your Yearly Meetings move forward renewed with the Spirit’s energy to serve God in the world.
North Pacific Yearly Meeting will continue to honor the accords we have with Northwest YM Friends. We look forward to welcoming your representatives to our gathering, to sending our observers to your Yearly Meeting sessions, and to continuing friendships with individuals in your churches.
North Pacific Yearly Meeting welcomes Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting to the family of Friends and looks forward to exchanging representatives to each other’s Annual Sessions, to participating with you in gatherings and to continuing friendships with individuals in your churches. Friends in the Pacific Northwest, in all our meetings, are challenged to hold each other in the Light, to pray for each other’s ministries, and to model Friendship, Community and Harmony for the people of our region. We, as much as you, are challenged to be open to the new ways where the Holy Eternal is leading us and to finding new ways to work together for the Kingdom of Heaven in these times. We welcome future dialog with you in walking faithfully and humbly with our God. We ask for New Light to discern the best way to maintain ties of friendly interchange in the coming years and imagination to follow leadings in
“All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world . . . Protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:10-11)
Your friends in God’s Light, signed in and for the gathered Friends of North Pacific Yearly Meeting, Warren Ostrom, presiding clerk, and Angelia Alexander, recording clerk ~~~