Issues to deal with

If Indiana Yearly Meeting proceeds with division, a number of issues need to be dealt with.  If they are dealt with fairly and openly, there is at least a chance that the division can be peaceable. Otherwise, we will be sowing seeds of bitterness which may last for generations.

Here are some of the issues which I have identified as critical for Friends in Indiana Yearly Meeting:

  • Affiliations – will both new yearly meetings be affiliated with Friends United Meeting? Or will the leaders of IYM B try to exclude IYM A from participating in FUM?

FUM itself has taken no official stand during the process of division, but several years ago, the superintendent of Indiana Yearly Meeting, along with the superintendents of 4 other yearly meetings, joined in calling for FUM to be purged of Friends with whom they disagreed theologically. Neither yearly meeting should be maneuvering to try to keep the other from being part of FUM.

  • Endowments – Indiana Yearly Meeting controls a good deal of money, much of it in the form of endowments dedicated to the support of missions. Logically, these funds could be a) divided on a membership per capita basis (though this would entail a good deal of legal work) b) assigned to one yearly meeting or the other (though this might cause bitterness) or c) handed over directly to the missions they support.

There are also funds which have come from the sale of local meetings which have been laid down, which should be divided on a membership per capita basis.

  • Ownership of local property – there have been rumblings that the yearly meeting might try to seize control of certain local meetinghouses, which were purchased years ago with the assistance of loans from the yearly meeting. More than any other issue, this has the potential to cause enduring bitterness.

Local meetings should be able to remain undisturbed in possession and ownership of their meetinghouses. If loans have been paid back, the issue should be considered closed. If there is still an outstanding balance, the debt should be assigned to the yearly meeting with which the local meeting chooses to affiliate.

Meetings should examine their property deeds to see whether they include a “reversion clause” to the yearly meeting in case they are laid down. Such reversion clauses should be changed as necessary to reflect their yearly meeting affiliation.

  • Friends Fellowship Community – the trustees of this large retirement community are currently appointed by Indiana Yearly Meeting. If the yearly meeting divides, FFC should become independent. The trustees should continue to be Friends, but FFC should consider having a self-perpetuating board, with trustees nominated internally rather than by the yearly meeting. This is similar to what has already been done with Earlham College and White’s Residential and Family Services.
  • Recorded ministers – Many previous cases of division among Friends have been accompanied (or even triggered) by accusations of “unsoundness” or heresy and by calls for taking away or “rescinding” the recording of Quaker ministers. So far, this has not happened in the current controversy in IYM. If the division proceeds, each yearly meeting will need to establish its own process and standards for recording.

Also, by tradition and in Faith and Practice, most yearly meetings accept the transfer of status when a recorded minister moves from one yearly meeting to another. Will IYM A and IYM B recognize each others’ ministers? Or will they set up new standards, doctrinal tests, or statements which ministers must sign in order to be accepted? Will graduates of all Quaker seminaries and graduate programs be accepted, or are some seminaries suspect and their graduates effectively banned from service?

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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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