What about retired Friends?

Dividing the yearly meeting may seem like a neat and tidy solution to our conflict — but as we’re already finding out, it isn’t. Problems and challenges keep cropping up, and here’s another one.

Pastors and ministers serving in Indiana Yearly Meeting are eligible for two special sources of financial assistance when they retire – the Friends Ministers Fund at Friends Fellowship Community, and the Disbursing Fund of Indiana Yearly Meeting.

What will happen to them if Indiana Yearly Meeting divides? Will both yearly meetings respect the service of their pastors and recorded ministers? Or will the spirit of division lead to recriminations against those who have served our meetings faithfully?

Here are descriptions of the policies for the funds. From the FFC web site:

“The Friends Ministers Fund, created in 1995, provides financial assistance to Friends ministers, missionaries, and their spouses who have faithfully served Friends in Indiana Yearly Meeting for a minimum of 10 years as a recorded minister and whose resources may be insufficient both for entry fees and monthly care fees. Availability of assistance from this fund does vary, since it is dependent on the number of individuals receiving assistance at any one time.”

From the IYM Pastor’s Handbook:

“1. To be a recipient, the applicant must be a member of the Society of Friends and shall have served as a minister, missionary, full-time Christian worker, or spouse of same, in Indiana Yearly Meeting, and must be at least 65 years of age or in poor health as certified by a medical doctor, or are in need.

2. At the time of application, applicant must have given no less than 10 years of service to Indiana Yearly Meeting in capacities stated above.”

Before any plan for division is approved, Friends should agree how to handle this issue fairly. Many ministers in Indiana Yearly Meeting have not taken sides in this conflict. Others have labored to prevent division from taking place. Years from now, it may be difficult to judge what part individuals have taken, and it would be unfair to penalize our retired ministers for the actions of Friends who have sought to divide the yearly meeting.

A formula for handling this issue should be created before any final plan for division is approved. It should be communicated in writing to the management of Friends Fellowship Community, and the guidelines for the Disbursing Board should be updated to reflect it.

Here are some suggestions for such a formula:

  • all ministers and their spouses will be eligible for assistance from the Friends Ministers Fund and the Disbursing Board who have served a full 10 years in Indiana Yearly Meeting before the time of the division, regardless of which yearly meeting their monthly meeting chooses to join
  • ministers and their spouses who have served for less than 10 years in Indiana Yearly Meeting at the time of division will also be eligible for such assistance, without prejudice as to which yearly meeting they serve in, providing that they complete at least 10 years of combined service in the original Indiana Yearly Meeting and either of its successors
  • both yearly meetings will be encouraged to continue to contribute to the Friends Ministers Fund
  • IYM should take appropriate legal counsel to make sure that the wording of any changes protects the interests of all of our ministers, whatever monthly meeting they have served in, and in whatever yearly meeting they complete their 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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