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Friends United Meeting and the
Dually Affiliated Yearly Meetings
(Last updated October 27, 2009)
Friends United Meeting (FUM) is the largest organizational representation of the strain of Friends stemming from the Orthodox side of the great Orthodox-Hicksite schism among North American Friends in 1827-28. During the middle part of the 20th century, interest among some Friends in bridging the divisions among Friends resulted in five yearly meetings assuming dual membership in both FUM and Friends General Conference (FGC), the organizational heir to the Hicksite side of the schism. These are Baltimore, Canadian, New England, New York and Southeastern Yearly Meetings. These are all in North America, while the majority of FUM's membership is in East Africa.
For a number of years, there have been tensions related to perspectives widely held in the dually affiliated yearly meetings but not commonly held in the yearly meetings solely affiliated with FUM. Some of these tensions relate to different faith understandings, particularly with respect to Christology and approaches to scripture. However, the issue which has been in the forefront of dialogue between representatives of these five yearly meetings and the rest of FUM has been the issue of homosexuality, specifically in relation to FUM's personnel policy that staff should not engage in sexual relations except in marriage, understood as being between one man and one woman.
There has been growing resistance within the dually affiliated yearly meetings to support of FUM, as long as FUM retained their personal policy, which the concerned Friends view as discriminating against gay and lesbian Friends. In Baltimore Yearly Meeting, this led to the suspension of membership contributions to FUM in 2005.
These differences were highlighted at the historic FUM February 2007 General Board meeting in Kenya, the first joint meeting of the North American and East African Boards of FUM. The Board reaffirmed the Richmond Declaration of Faith, the historic Orthodox Friends statement of faith which has long been an official faith statement of FUM (although member yearly meetings are not required to adopt the Declaration). Five Board members from dually affiliated yearly meetings asked to be recorded as standing aside from that decision. While no minute was recorded on the matter of the personnel policy, some speakers at the Board meeting vehemently denounced homosexuality, and some Board members representing dually affiliated yearly meetings came away with the feeling that there would be no movement on this issue in the next few years and that discussion of it would be discouraged.
This Web page is to provide information and views, mainly through links, regarding the controversy about the Board actions. I have seen several reports of representatives to the Board meeting that are not linked here because they are not on public Web sites at this time. If the authors are willing to make such reports available, I would be willing to put them up on this site. I intend to update this page from time to time. Please email me with reports of further actions by yearly meetings and letting me know of links that might be usefully added here. Note that the Other Views entries include blog links which often include comments on the blog entries from people with a variety of views.
North American Yearly Meeting Superintendents' Letter of Concern, October 2008The General Superintendents of all North American FUM-only yearly meetings with Superintendents, jointly wrote the FUM General Secretary on October 28, 2008 "expressing our deep concern for the mission and future of Friends United Meeting."
The Superintendents stated "we believe that the current composition and structure of FUM is not working." They said their yearly meetings (Indiana, Iowa, North Carolina, Western, Wilmington) "share the frustration of being yoked together with Friends who do not share a common sense of identity or a common vision for ministry. We observe that the FUM staff struggles to lead an organization divided by competing theologies and priorities."
The Superintendents stated that General Board meetings "often feel like times of outward filibusters and underlying tensions. We observe that deep differences in crucial matters such as the divinity of Jesus Christ, the atonement, the authority of scripture, and issues related to the FUM personnel policy continue to deeply divide us, with no real unity looming on the horizon."
The Superintendents did not present a proposal for a restructured FUM. They asked the FUM Executive Committee to search "for options that would address these concerns and that specific strategies be presented at our next meeting of the FUM General Board in February 2009." The Executive Committee met in mid-December.
You can read the full text of the letter (PDF).
Reports and Actions of and to Official Friends Bodies
FUM-Triennials - Rough transcripts of sessions of FUM's July 2008 Triennial, in blog format.
FUM Press Release summarizing the February 2007 FUM General Board meeting
Southeastern Yearly MeetingReport to Southeastern YM by Lisa Stewart, Representative to FUM
Southeastern Yearly Meeting 2007 sessions minute:
07YBM15 SEYM is in unity in declaring that our Yearly Meeting has entered a period of transformation with regard to our membership in Friends United Meeting. We acknowledge great pain and struggle within our body and, as we have heard, among other members of F.U.M. as well, over this process and we strive to hold each other in love and Light as we labor.
New York Yearly MeetingReport on Friends United Meeting from the NYYM Representatives to FUM, April 2007
NOTE: The minutes of the 2007 annual sessions of New York Yearly Meeting do not report any discussion of the relationship between the Yearly Meeting and FUM. The only action relative to FUM reported in the minutes was appointment of representatives to the FUM Board.
New England Yearly Meeting2004 Minute of Exercise on FUM's Personnel Policy Concerns
2005 Minutes relating to a concern with Friends United Meeting Personnel Policy
Baltimore Yearly MeetingReport to BYM Concerning FUM, By John Smallwood & Rachel Stacy, BYM Reps to FUM, August 2007
From Baltimore Yearly Meeting 2007 Epistle:
Over the past year, our new General Secretary, Riley Robinson, has interacted with Friends United Meeting (FUM) in a variety of contexts. As an openly gay man, he might have wondered how he would be received. His reports on these meetings have consistently challenged our assumptions about others in FUM and opened us to the richness and complexity of the FUM community. We are grateful for the respect with which he has been received. Also, we are deeply blessed by his dedication, hard work, and the depth of his spiritual gifts.
BYM Committee of Four Committees Report, March 2008
From Minutes of BYM Interim Meeting, March 29, 2008I2008-9 Financial Support of Friends United Meeting. Katherine Smith (Maury River) presented the report and recommendation of the Committee of Four Committees for a first reading:
[See link above for the report]
The question was raised of how this recommendation relates to the discernment being done in our monthly meetings regarding whether we should remain members of Friends United Meeting. Katherine Smith explained that this recommendation only addresses the past, and the unpaid amounts that have accrued while we have been members of FUM. The issue of future membership and contributions will be decided by the monthly meetings.
After other questions for clarification, the report and recommendation were LAID OVER until annual session 2008. Trustees and the Stewardship and Finance Committee are asked to prepare a comment on the financial feasibility of the recommendation for presentation at that time. Friends asked that the recommendation be widely disseminated prior to annual session so that as many Friends as possible can have an opportunity to consider it.
I2008-10 Support of Quaker Kenyan Relief. Malachy Kilbride (Friends Meeting of Washington) presented a proposal from the Peace and Social Concerns Committee, growing out of a leading to respond to the violence in Kenya. The Committee prayerfully suggests that Baltimore Yearly Meeting send two-thirds of the funds that have been held back from FUM over the past several years to the Kenya Relief Fund to meet urgent needs.
In response to questions about how we could be sure that such a donation would serve the purposes for which it is intended, Rich Liversidge (Sandy Spring) and Mary Lord (Adelphi) explained the functioning of the Kenyan Relief Fund. This Fund will support both humanitarian relief and Alternatives to Violence programs. Friends United Meeting has been named the lead agency in administering the Fund, because of its resources and staff in Kenya and its ability to ensure that the money will be well spent. Contributions to the Fund have already been received from many Quaker organizations, including Friends World Committee for Consultation, the American Friends Service Committee, Friends General Conference, and Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns. It was noted that FUM has agreed to forego its usual administrative cut, so that the entire amount contributed will go toward relief and peace work.
Questions were raised about whether we can responsibly commit to donating a substantial portion of the funds set aside for Friends United Meeting in past years, since these funds are not being held in an escrow account and thus may not be readily available. It was noted that any sizeable donation might have to be spread out over a period of months, because of cash flow problems.
Mindful of such constraints, Friends UNITED with the concern presented by the Peace and Social Concerns Committee, and agreed that Baltimore Yearly Meeting should contribute $9,000 — the amount of undesignated funds in this year’s budget – to the Kenyan Relief Fund administered by Friends United Meeting to support the Kenyan Friends peace initiatives. Since individuals and monthly meetings may also want to support this work, the Yearly Meeting treasurer is empowered to accept earmarked contributions to be added to this donation.
Canadian Yearly MeetingCanadian Yearly Meeting (CYM) had a Consultation and Renewal Working Group which has considered many matters concerning the future of CYM, including its representation on wider bodies. It made its final report in March 2007. This is from that report:
L. Representation on Wider Bodies
2007 CYM Letter to FUMDear Friends of Friends United Meeting;
In our time together at Yearly Meeting, August 3 – 11, 2007 in Windsor, Nova Scotia, Canadian Friends laboured over our relationship with FUM, especially in light of the recent reaffirmation of the Richmond Declaration of Faith, made at the meeting in Kenya in February 2007, and the continuing employment policy that excludes many of us from service within FUM. Our valuing of community with Friends of different traditions and of the work of FUM programs throughout the world is tempered by our difficulties with processes and issues such as these.
When, in the 1980’s, there was interest among some yearly meetings that FUM reaffirm the Richmond Declaration of Faith, our yearly meeting was quite clear that we did not agree. Our position has not changed, and we very much regret that the document was affirmed without full consideration by the constituent yearly meetings. From reading the FUM general board minutes, and reports of those present, it seems clear that unity was not reached. We question why it was felt necessary to affirm this document as a statement of faith for FUM when there was clear disagreement from some representatives. Our understanding of right ordering is that this should have been referred back to member yearly meetings for further study and seasoning.
We were distressed by reports of the message delivered as the devotional by Andrew Kurima, clerk of Uganda Yearly Meeting, prior to these deliberations. He quoted Romans 1:8-32, saying that homosexuals and even those who support them are worthy of death. Although in his later letter of apology he said that he was referring to spiritual death, we find these remarks hateful and completely unacceptable. We need to let you know that based on these remarks, every Friend in Canadian Yearly Meeting would be “deserving of death”, spiritual or otherwise, because we view homosexuality as being no more intrinsically good or evil than heterosexuality. Openly gay and lesbian Friends serve in positions of responsibility and respect within CYM. We ask that a clear statement be made by FUM condemning all acts of violence towards homosexuals or their allies, particularly because such violence exists and is acceptable within some countries where FUM has membership and projects.
Canadian Friends continue to be much exercised by the continuing policy of FUM that implicitly excludes Friends in committed gay relationships from service as employees of FUM. We believe this is in direct opposition to our Quaker Testimony of the equality of all people and, as well, that this policy is not in agreement with the Spirit of Christ. While FUM’s employment policy is limited to employees and volunteers, such a statement validates attitudes of intolerance that can lead to violence towards gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered and queer persons.
Due to our concerns, we have decided to designate our financial contribution to FUM for 2008 to a specific project, rather than to the general fund. We are also appointing a committee to review the involvement and participation of CYM in FUM.
As members of the FUM family, we feel appreciative of the great work that Friends of FUM have done in many countries, and of the efforts to carry out this work in a spirit of partnership. We continue to desire unity and community among all Friends, and look forward to a time when hurtful issues that divide us are resolved. We invite Friends among FUM into further dialogue about biblical interpretation and Quaker process.
In the living Spirit of Christ,
Canadian Yearly Meeting
Bill Samuel's Reflections blogNOTE: This is the blog of Bill Samuel, 1990-93 member of FUM's Board.
Valiant for the Truth blogNOTE: This is the blog of Micah Bales, a member of Great Plains Yearly Meeting, affiliated with FUM.
Growing Together in the Light blogNOTE: This is the blog of Will T., a New England Yearly Meeting representative to FUM.
Can you believe? blogNOTE: This is the blog of Johan Maurer, a former General Secretary of FUM now a part of Northwest Yearly Meeting, which is not a part of FUM.
Unwavering Bands of Light blogNOTE: This is the blog of Kody Gabriel, a Friend from Florida now transplanted to Philadelphia.
An open letter on Friends United Meeting affiliation (December 15, 2008)
The Seed Lifting Up blogNOTE: This is the blog of Zach, a Friend from Boston.
Early Report on NEYM and FUM (August 6, 2007)
That God blogNOTE: This is the blog of Claire, a Young Adult Friend from North Carolina, who sojourns in Massachusetts 9 months a year.
FUM +/- NEYM, Some Queries
raised in the light blogNOTE: This is the blog of Anna, a Young Adult Friend from New York Yearly Meeting.
Out of the Silence There is a Voice Calling
A Friendly Letter blogNOTE: This is the blog of Chuck Fager, long-time commentator on matters relating to the Society of Friends and long-time critic of FUM.
Wrestling With A Roomful Of Elephants: FUM After Kenya
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