Update on North Carolina Yearly Meeting

Quakers in North Carolina have been pressured for years to take sides and separate from each other. The issues have shifted from time to time and haven’t always been stated openly. Sometimes it’s been over music and worship, sometimes it’s been about accepting gay and lesbian people as members.

A lot of the time the stated issues – particular points in Faith and Practice, arguments over nominations or hiring staff, whether to allow membership in more than one group – seem to have been a cover or proxy to the real disagreement.

For many years the majority of Friends in North Carolina were determined not to separate, but more recently the arguments have become louder and (according to many witnesses) more hateful. Attendance at yearly meeting sessions has dropped as many Friends just decided to stay home.

More pressure on the yearly meeting came during this last year, as first 3, then more, and now a total of 17 monthly meetings have withdrawn from the yearly meeting.

Last weekend, the Executive Committee acknowledged to the representative body “the differences among Friends in North Carolina Yearly Meeting that are continuous and unabating regarding the use of Scripture and the freedom available to interpret Scripture through leadings of the Holy Sprit; the autonomy of individuals and individual meetings within the broader authority of the Yearly Meeting; and whether the Yearly Meeting has or should have authority to discipline meetings for what are determined to be departures from Faith and Practice.”

The Executive Committee recommended that “the member meetings of North Carolina Yearly Meeting patiently commit to an orderly, deliberate, compassionate and mutually respectful plan of separation into two yearly meetings, and in that plan of separation, allow each meeting, if it chooses, to join either of the two new yearly meetings, however organized.”

This recommendation was discussed for more than 4 hours at Representative Body on June 4th, and was approved. There are no specifics for how the separation will take place, but the Executive Committee’s report says that Friends must “consider matters of (1) faith (2) organization (3) property and (4) law.”

I’ve observed similar divisions taking place in Western and Indiana Yearly Meetings, and they have been painful. In my next post, I’ll reflect on things which North Carolina Friends may want to think about – lessons I’ve learned from the way this has gone elsewhere.

Meanwhile, I hope that folks will be careful not to feed the rumor mill, make unfounded accusations, or do anything to make things worse. If separation does take place, I hope it will be done cleanly, fairly, and at the minimum level necessary, so that friendships built over many generations will not be broken.

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6 Responses to “Update on North Carolina Yearly Meeting”


  1. 1 Bob Carter June 7, 2016 at 10:56 am

    Sorry, Josh. Seems you just can’t get away from it. But perhaps your experience in IYM as it was wrestling with similar issues will be helpful in NCYM.

  2. 2 Janette Carson - New Castle, IN June 7, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    When God made humans, He created us in His image. And God is relational, therefore humans are relational. We have been endowed, by our Creator, to give and receive love, to WANT to be in relationship with other individuals, with our communities, with society, and with our culture. We want to be in harmony with our fellow man, at peace.
    A cow cannot be made to live alone in a field all of her life without suffering the effects of her isolation. She was designed by her Creator to be a herd animal. She has an intrinsic, innate drive – she feels compelled – she longs and yearns for the companionship of other cows. That’s the way God made her, and that yearning cannot be stopped – because God is sovereign. As long as she is alone, she will never be a happy cow.
    Humans have this same innate, intrinsic yearning and longing to be in relationship with other humans. It begins as babies, as children, as teenagers, and continues throughout life even unto death.
    When we reach puberty and continue developing into adults, we ALL intrinsically long to date, mate, fall in love, and marry. That’s the way God designed us – we all want to find the love of our life. Telling God that He did not make humans correctly is as arrogant as walking up to God and telling Him He did not make raccoons correctly, or polar bears, or alligators. “Listen to me, God, I know more about how to make rabbits, squirrels, and birds than You do. Let me tell You how You should have created them, let me tell You how You could have done better.” How absurd!
    God’s written and discerned spoken Word is holy and true. Human interpretation of that written and spoken Word is NOT holy and true and without error. Very often, human interpretation is incorrect, mistaken, misguided, wrong, and downright evil. God’s Word is used for damaging, evil purposes frequently. It is not God’s Word that we worship, that we find holy and true. It is our own human interpretation of that Word that we hold up as being holy, true, and without error. How ridiculous! How audacious and egotistical of us to think we can summarily and arrogantly know the will of an unfathomably infinite and unfathomably vast and eternal God.
    In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said “Judge not, lest ye shall be judged.” Why is that, do you suppose? Could it be that humans are totally incapable of judging rightly, fairly, or correctly? How can any human know the genetics of another human? How can any human know anything of the experiences of another human, or know anything of their environment in the womb and later? How can any human know the extent to which any person is responsible for the circumstance in which he finds himself, as opposed to what extent he is a victim of his circumstances?
    We can’t. It is not the job of any human to judge. Only the all-knowing God can know our motivation, and therefore only God can judge rightly or fairly. Only God.
    There’s only one thing God asks us do. It is the ONLY thing we as humans CAN do. How merciful of God to ask us to do the only thing we can do. The only thing we can do is love, and that is all God asks of us – to love.

  3. 3 Janette Carson June 7, 2016 at 9:11 pm

    When God made humans, He created us in His image. And God is relational, therefore humans are relational. We have been endowed, by our Creator, to give and receive love, to WANT to be in relationship with other individuals, with our communities, with society, and with our culture. We want to be in harmony with our fellow man, at peace.
    A cow cannot be made to live alone in a field all of her life without suffering the effects of her isolation. She was designed by her Creator to be a herd animal. She has an intrinsic, innate drive – she feels compelled – she longs and yearns for the companionship of other cows. That’s the way God made her, and that yearning cannot be stopped – because God is sovereign. As long as she is alone, she will never be a happy cow.
    Humans have this same innate, intrinsic yearning and longing to be in relationship with other humans. It begins as babies, as children, as teenagers, and continues throughout life even unto death.
    When we reach puberty and continue developing into adults, we ALL intrinsically long to date, mate, fall in love, and marry. That’s the way God designed us – we all want to find the love of our life. Telling God that He did not make humans correctly is as arrogant as walking up to God and telling Him He did not make raccoons correctly, or polar bears, or alligators. “Listen to me, God, I know more about how to make rabbits, squirrels, and birds than You do. Let me tell You how You should have created them, let me tell You how You could have done better.” How absurd!
    God’s written and discerned spoken Word is holy and true. Human interpretation of that written and spoken Word is NOT holy and true and without error. Very often, human interpretation is incorrect, mistaken, misguided, wrong, and downright evil. God’s Word is used for damaging, evil purposes frequently. It is not God’s Word that we worship, that we find holy and true. It is our own human interpretation of that Word that we hold up as being holy, true, and without error. How ridiculous! How audacious and egotistical of us to think we can summarily and arrogantly know the will of an unfathomably infinite and unfathomably vast and eternal God.
    In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said “Judge not, lest ye shall be judged.” Why is that, do you suppose? Could it be that humans are totally incapable of judging rightly, fairly, or correctly? How can any human know the genetics of another human? How can any human know anything of the experiences of another human, or know anything of their environment in the womb and later? How can any human know the extent to which any person is responsible for the circumstance in which he finds himself, as opposed to what extent he is a victim of his circumstances?
    We can’t. It is not the job of any human to judge. Only the all-knowing God can know our motivation, and therefore only God can judge rightly or fairly. Only God.
    There’s only one thing God asks us do. It is the ONLY thing we as humans CAN do. How merciful of God to ask us to do the only thing we can do. The only thing we can do is love, and that is all God asks of us – to love..

  4. 4 Ann L Webb June 11, 2016 at 3:23 am

    1 Corinthians 5 reads:
    9 I wrote you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. 10 I was not including the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a verbal abuser, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.12 What business of mine is it to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”b

    I have found that many Quakers use such general terms when regarding the Scriptures as if one doesn’t explain another. Paul, founding the churches after Jesus, explicitely says that we are to judge those inside the church, not those outside. If we cannot even judge those inside, then there’s no point being a cohesive community is there? Generic terms such as ‘that of God’ to include even atheists as members and ‘do not judge’ to warn people they don’t have a right to judge another’s behavior does nothing to help a community remain cohesive and committed to Jesus Christ.

    • 5 joshuakbrown June 17, 2016 at 11:32 am

      Ann, I think that many readers of this blog will not agree with you on this issue. However, I think they need to hear and understand your point of view, which I think is sincere and reflects your faith. I’ve read the same Scriptures many times, and I don’t expect you to change your mind. Maybe this difference is irreconcilable, but I keep being surprised by what the Spirit can do to bring people together.

    • 6 Janette Carson June 17, 2016 at 7:43 pm

      Ann, God’s written and spoken word is holy and true. Human INTERPRETATION of that written and spoken word of God is NOT holy and true. Human interpretation of God’s word is fallible. Often it is incorrect, mistaken, misled, ALWAYS influenced by the current cultural thinking, wrong, and just plain evil. God’s word is used for evil purposes all the time.

      It is not God’s word that we humans hold up as being holy and true and without error, but rather our own human interpretation that we assert is holy, true, and without error. How absurd that we should be so arrogant as to think that we as humans can interpret and apply God’s word perfectly and without error. Who are we to think so much of ourselves? We worship our own opinions and make idols out of our own interpretation.

      It’s easier to see that Christians and Christianity have been wildly wrong in their human interpretation of God’s word when we think historically rather than currently. Take slavery vs abolition. Why did so many devout, sincere, Bible-reading Southern Christians and Southern ministers believe so vehemently that slavery was God’s plan for the world – for the civilization of the black, inferior race?

      I think they were making the same mistake then that we are making now. That of going ape-shit over our own human interpretation of God’s word, pretending that it is our own human interpretation that is infallible and without error. How ludicrous!

      Can we avoid making their same mistake over and over again? I think we can. One thing I like about Louie Giglio is that he uses the awesomeness of outer space to help us to understand the sheer, unfathomable awesomeness of God. For example, there are more stars in the sky than there are grains of sand on ALL the beaches of the world. Think of that.

      It seems clear to me that we humans need to humbly admit, though try as we might, that what we know, as compared to what there IS to know, is so infinitesimally small as to not be measurable. It is the permanent, unavoidable human condition to ALWAYS be stumbling around in the dark. We have no right to be so full of ourselves, and to hold our own opinions in such high esteem.

      Judge not, lest ye shall be judged – those are Jesus’s words spoken in the Sermon on the Mount. Why? Because ONLY God Himself knows enough to judge rightly and correctly. Any judging done by humans is going to be disastrously wrong – humans are INCAPABLE of judging rightly or correctly, and that’s why Jesus forbids us to do it at all.

      So where does that leave us? Mercifully, God only asks us to do the one and only thing we are capable of doing – to love. To humbly love one another, as He has loved us. We treat 3-year-olds kindly and gently, because we KNOW that they don’t know much. That’s how God treats us, like 3-year-olds, because He knows that we’re like 3-year-olds who don’t know much. Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do.

      We need to treat each other like 3-year-olds – not condescendingly and disrespectfully, but rather kindly and gently, knowing that we ourselves are bumping around in the dark as much as others are.


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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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