What’s in a name?

Some time in the next year or so, Indiana Yearly Meeting plans to divide into two new yearly meetings. There are lots of issues which need to be resolved along the way. One question I hope we’ll think about soon is, “What will we CALL the new yearly meetings?”

When Friends have divided in the past, there has sometimes been a lot of jockeying for position around the names. For example, in the 1840’s, when Friends in Indiana split over the issue of whether or not to support the Underground Railroad, there was #1) Indiana Yearly Meeting and #2) Indiana Anti-Slavery Yearly Meeting.

Over the years, we have seen yearly meetings identify themselves using tags such as Hicksite and Gurneyite, Conservative and Wilburite. In most cases, both sides have claimed to be the “real” yearly meeting, while those “other” Friends are just the pretenders. Fighting over the name of the yearly meeting and the legitimacy of the “other” group made it difficult for Friends to have any kind of relationship with each other.

I’m still not 100% convinced that division is inevitable for Friends in Indiana Yearly Meeting – or that division is actually the will of God. But if we do divide, let’s not make the names of the new groups a cause for ongoing bitterness.

Many years ago, I served as pastor in another yearly meeting where two struggling local meetings agreed to merge. Neither was strong enough to support a pastor or continue many of the activities they wanted to do. During the merger, one meeting sold their building, and the other building was renovated and improved to hold the combined group. In a thoughtful and generous move, the combined group took on a new name which was different from the old names they’d had separately.

If Indiana Yearly Meeting divides, I strongly hope that the old name will be laid to rest, and that each group chooses a new name which will indicate something about its chosen character, location or beliefs. I don’t have any suggestions to make, but the new names should NOT suggest that they are the “real” heirs of the old Indiana Yearly Meeting, or make any kind of hurtful implications.

Indiana Yearly Meeting is dead. It lasted a little more than 200 years. Who do we want to be now?

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1 Response to “What’s in a name?”


  1. 1 Keith Esch October 25, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Who said we must have “yearly meetings”?


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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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