What kind of Friends do we want to become?

As Indiana Yearly Meeting moves towards dividing itself, one of the questions I’ve heard many people ask is, “What kind of yearly meeting do we want to become?”

What kind of organization do we want? What kind of atmosphere or culture do we want our group to have? What values do we want to share?

I’m sure that there will be a lot of discussion. Here are some dreams and ideas for a new yearly meeting:

  • I want us to be Christian – drawing our inspiration, vision and life from the words and actions of Jesus, and from his living presence among us. I want to be part of a group which deeply reveres the Scriptures, and a prayerful community of interpretation which studies both new and old ways the Bible speaks to us.
  • I hope we will be distinctively Quaker – not tied down by our past, but drawing strength from the experience, spirituality, worship and practice of Friends. Our old testimonies need to be updated, and our new testimonies need to be tested and shared.
  • I dream about a yearly meeting which will be intentionally inclusive and joyfully diverse – not just paying lip service to welcoming all kinds of people. Right now, the hot button issue among Friends in our area is sexual orientation, but we could do a lot more to reach out to other kinds of people who aren’t currently part of our meetings. I see diversity as a gift, not a threat.
  • I’d like a yearly meeting which is more user-friendly and newcomer-friendly – I’m tired of Quaker organizations where you can only be heard if you use obscure Quaker jargon, or only be accepted if your great-grandparents were married here. It should be possible to be up and running as an active new member within 18-24 months of joining Friends.
  • I hope we can design an organization which truly serves our needs – one which builds strong ties between local meetings, offers exciting programs for youth and young adults, identifies gifted Friends and releases them for ministry, and helps us cooperate in different kinds of service and mission.
  • We need an organization which handles conflicts better than the old one – designed from the ground up to handle differences of conviction, diversity of experience, prophetic voices of all kinds, different priorities for giving and spending, and ways which individual meetings can test new practices which are outside the comfort zone of the main stream of Friends.
  • I’ve heard numerous calls for a yearly meeting which works more from the grass roots, and less from the top down. This one’s going to be tough, because we do need leadership! I’d like to see a yearly meeting which is less dominated by pastors (including myself) and which trains a new generation of “ordinary” Friends to be leaders. Maybe we need less central direction and control, and a stronger and more joyful sense of who we are as a yearly meeting.

I’m sure that readers will identify other priorities, or will express them differently than I’ve done here. Ideas? Comments?


4 Responses to “What kind of Friends do we want to become?”

  1. 1 Stephanie Crumley-Effinger October 25, 2011 at 10:42 am

    Thank you, Josh! I resonate with what you have written.

  2. 2 Lois Jordan October 25, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    Josh: I just found this web site. What you have written sounds wonderful to me. Lois Jordan

  3. 3 Annie Glen January 3, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    I agree with your statement about leadership, Joshua. I believe leadership is not an issue from which we should shy away. It is a practice of gently encouraging, guiding and presenting options as well as demonstrating boundaries by which we can proceed. It is a Quaker practice, one that unfortunately has been overlooked by recent generations.

  4. 4 Christine Greenland January 4, 2012 at 8:19 am

    Thanks, Josh —

    Many other yearly meetings are divided about other matters. One Friend in Ohio observed (now over a decade ago) that “we will always find something for which Friends have differing opinions.”

    For some of the eastern meetings, the matters are driven by fiscal austerity … and we still have “top-down” efforts. This was not the stituation when (and where) I first encountered Friends. (Intermountain Yearly Meeting).

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All of the posts on this blog are my own personal opinion. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the members and attenders of the meeting where I belong or any organization of Friends. For more information, click on the "About Me" tab above.



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