Things to think about in North Carolina

As Friends in North Carolina move towards a formal separation, I hope that they will do more than heave a sigh of relief that maybe the fighting can be over. Friends also need to look carefully at the many legal and practical issues which separation involves.

Problems which Friends need to face up to include:

  1. Who owns the property? Many meetings have “reversion clauses” in their deeds, so that if their local meeting is ever laid down, the property goes to the yearly meeting. At a minimum, local meetings need to look at their property deeds, trust funds and other assets to make sure that their assets will go where they want them to go. When Indiana Yearly Meeting broke up, the yearly meeting paid to have the deeds of all of the departing meetings examined by an attorney, and provided “quit claim deeds” so that the yearly meeting would have no ownership or reversion of the departing meetings.
  2. Work out a fair formula to deal with assets. This can be handled well or badly – dividing the various trust funds and endowments is a complicated legal task. The intent of the donors needs to be respected, and both sides should receive a fair share.
  3. Deal with debts. Arrangements need to be made with meetings which have borrowed money from the yearly meeting for repairs and improvements. Other debts must be repaid, written off or assigned. This isn’t something which can be done quickly or easily.
  4. Agree to share resources. Both groups will probably want to continue to use Quaker Lake camp, and neither side probably has the ability to support the camping program on its own. Historians and genealogists from both groups will want to share access to historical records and minutes.
  5. Consider a new name for both groups. This can become a major bone of contention, as both groups claim to be the “real” North Carolina Yearly Meeting. It would be much healthier in the long run to lay down the old name – to retire the number on the T-shirt – and have each group start out with a fresh name.
  6. Membership matters – will individual Friends be able to move freely back and forth between the two groups? In the rest of the Quaker world, membership transfers take place almost automatically, with little or no friction. North Carolina Friends should be careful of setting up new and divisive standards for membership transfer between meetings.
  7. Recorded ministers – in the same way, most yearly meetings allow recorded ministers to transfer fairly easily, though most yearly meetings require that ministers agree to support the Faith and Practice of the meeting they’re moving into. A good deal of the hostility and bitterness among Friends in the U.S. today has risen from problems with pastors and recorded ministers. Careful thinking ahead of time can help shape our future around this issue.
  8. Retired ministers – North Carolina Friends have put a great deal of effort and resources into providing for their retired ministers. If the yearly meeting splits, arrangements need to be made so that ministers and yearly meeting staff who have devoted their lives to serving Friends will not suffer. Current pastors need to have their years of service count towards any future participation in retirement funds.
  9. Faith and Practice – Over the next few years, many adjustments will need to be made, but both sides will probably want to continue to use North Carolina’s current Faith and Practice, and both sides should be allowed to do so.
  10. Don’t try to make other Quakers take sides. So far, local groups from the United Society of Friends Women International (USFWI) are continuing to meet and work together regardless of the yearly meeting split (maybe they know something the rest of us don’t!). Quaker Men may well do the same. When Indiana Friends divided, Friends United Meeting moved quickly to recognize both groups and welcomes representatives from both groups to the Board. Other Friends may be sympathetic to our situation, but don’t expect them to choose one side or the other. Missionaries who we’ve supported for many years are especially at risk — they depend on us for their support! Don’t involve them in our unhappiness.

Whether we like it or not, separating is complicated. It can be done well or badly — a fair-minded division of assets and careful attention to detail will go far to helping the future of all Friends in our area. As we saw when Friends divided in 1828, a hostile separation will sow seeds of bitterness which can last for a hundred years.


7 Responses to “Things to think about in North Carolina”

  1. 1 Janette Carson July 8, 2016 at 7:06 pm

    I know Quakers don’t vote nor go by majority rule. But I think at least a non-binding “straw poll” could be helpful here. Just exactly how many people think this split is worth the effort and consequences, and who are they?

    • 2 Janette Carson July 10, 2016 at 7:24 am

      In presidential primaries, we vote for DELEGATES to the primary, not for the primary candidates themselves. In the general presidential election, we vote for the electoral college, not for the candidates themselves. This is meant to be one last step in the electoral process, and is meant to prevent the country from falling victim to “the tyranny of the majority.”
      In Quakerism, what is a Quaker consensus, and who decides when it has been reached? I wonder if North Carolina Quakers are falling victim to the tyranny of the majority, if not the tyranny of the minority?

      • 3 Janette Carson July 10, 2016 at 8:36 am

        Before any given meeting decides to “secede from the union” I wonder if a well-advertised straw poll, well-advertised well in advance of the “secession poll” date, should be taken, just to objectively determine whether or not a consensus has been reached? Who would be against that one last step, and why?

  2. 4 Janette Carson July 8, 2016 at 7:08 pm

    People can be very cavalier about what they say when they know they are not going to be held accountable for the words they speak.

  3. 5 Colin South July 9, 2016 at 2:42 am

    That’s a very helpful analysis and I hope NC Friends take note and love abides.

  4. 6 Janette Carson July 29, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    About 3% of the US population dies each year. In 10 years, 30% of the people you see around you will be dead. If you are Quaker, 30% of the Quakers you see around you will be dead. One of them might be you.

    In deciding whether or not to go ahead with this schism and divide up the assets, take possession of the deeds, divide the pastor’s retirement fund, have separate fellowship, I wonder if you have asked your young Quakers what they want. Because you are not deciding on your future, you are deciding on theirs. You may not even have a future.

    Is this the future young Quakers want for themselves?

  5. 7 Janette Carson November 5, 2016 at 9:48 am

    Luke 10:25-28

    1. The 10 Commandments is God’s Top 10 List of the Top 10 ways people make themselves and others miserable. The purpose of The 10 Commandments is to prevent human suffering. If what you are doing does not cause human suffering, then you are not in violation of The 10 Commandments. Jesus healing on the Sabbath was not a violation of the Sabbath because He was not causing human suffering, He was alleviating it.

    2. Loving your neighbor is what it means to believe in Jesus. If you don’t love your neighbor, you DON’T believe in Jesus.

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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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