Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Time for a New Yearly Meeting in Indiana

I am finally ready to cave in on this issue. For a long time I have held out that, despite the troubles in Western Yearly Meeting, there was no need for a new yearly meeting. I said that to the so-called Progressives and I have said that to the so-called Evangelicals.

But I have changed my mind. I think it's time for a new Yearly Meeting here in Indiana and I think I'm just the fellow to organize it. No, I don't have any backing for this, other than my own sense of self-appointment, but that's never stopped any Quaker before (well, maybe it has in the past, but doesn't seem to be an issue these days).

To this end, I have contacted an attorney at the law firm of Dewey Cheatum and have asked them to draw up incorporation papers for a new Yearly Meeting. It is to be called "Mid-Indiana Yearly Meeting of Progressive Evangelical & Evangelical Progressive Friends." I wanted to call it Brent Bill Yearly Meeting, but the attorney (an Episcopalian by the way) said that sounded a bit pretentious and haughty and not at all God-led. So I deferred to his wisdom.

The creatures joining me in this proposal for a new Yearly Meeting are my dog Princess and Ebony, one of my cats. The other cat said she didn't want any part of it -- my own fault, I guess. I should have named her Judgement instead of Grace. I did not ask Nancy to participate.

That's because she and I use far different theological language and I didn't want a separation to be the first point of business for the new group. Besides we disagree on how a phrase in Faith and Practice should be interpreted. In Part III there's a section it says under the title "Friendly Method" that, "After due consideration, it is the duty of the clerk of the meeting to weigh carefully various expressions and to state what he or she believes to be the sense of the meeting. Action is by approval of the gathered meeting." Nancy agrees with that. I say that it's all fine and good, but the nuance of that is "approval of the gathered meeting unless they decide something that I disapprove of." I mean, let's face it, some Friends just cannot be trusted to hear the words of God in their souls or through the Bible.

Hence the need for this new Yearly Meeting.

Of course, I will -- I mean the new Yearly Meeting will -- have to write a new Faith and Practice. Here are some of the changes you'll notice:

  • Removing all affiliated groups that I don't like, depending on the day and my mood and whether they agree with me or not.
  • Adding "Faith and Practice" to the Biblical canon. Hey, it worked for the Mormons!
  • Adding a Loyalty Oath for pastors to sign. After all, we want to have a clergy caste now -- this idea that a Quaker pastor is a member like all other members is just plain silly. We know that pastors should have to live up to standards that normal followers of Jesus (aka the laity) shouldn't have to. And besides, what's with this Quaker abhorence to signing stuff? It's not like it's a creed or swearing an oath or anything.
  • Pastors only will be allowed to be part of the Executive Committee, clerks, or other officers of the Yearly Meeting. We really can't trust the "laity" to know God's will for us, now can we?
  • Adding to the Rescinding of Recording portion a section about not agreeing to whatever the current mood of the Yearly Meeting (i.e. Brent) is.

I -- I mean the Yearly Meeting -- would have no assessments for the first year. Or probably any year thereafter, since many Meetings don't pay their share anyhow and still come to Yearly Meeting and complain. If I -- I mean the Yearly Meeting -- does institute assessments, only those people from Meetings who actually pay their full assessment will be allowed to speak. And then only if they agree with what I -- I mean the Yearly Meeting -- thinks.

There won't be any committees. There's no need for them. After all, the Yearly Meeting will all be of one mind and so everyone in it -- Princess, Ebony, and me -- will know what to do.

Oh, and the official scripture verse of the new Yearly Meeting will be John 11:35.

Well, I think those are the highlights. If you're interested in joiningg the new Yearly Meeting I invite you to come to a meeting the second Tuesday of next week. We'll be gathering at the David B. Updegraff Memorial Swimming Pool.

-- Brent


Brent Bill said...

The most current version of the Loyalty Oath, I mean statement of faith, can be read (and electronically signed) at www.mywayorthehighway.com

Bill said...

I don't know, Brent. To quote an ancient theologian, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Since the current system is working so well, why change it?

Brent Bill said...

Actually, were I propose a serious way to address the "troubles," I would suggest inviting all Western affiliated Meetings to spend the next year addressing a query --

Is there a need for a Yearly Meeting at all or would some other structure better serve Friends?

And then proceed from there, possibly.

David H. Finke said...

Some of us first saw this tongue-in-cheek commentary on Facebook, and commented there.
For those who have that access, I recommend checking it out:

Bill said...

It seems to me that we already are dealing with the question "Is there a need for a Yearly Meeting at all or would some other structure better serve Friends?" And perhaps the dysfunctional process we are going through is the only way we can get to that question. Too many people have too much invested in the current structure and so this question likely would never be dealt with head on.

I see God leading in some profound ways in all of this. Unfortunately, when God leads it typically ends up looking very messy from our perspective, as witnessed by God's leading among Friends in the 1650s.

Brent Bill said...

I would further ask why a new Evangelical (and I hate to use labels, but since that's one that's been bandied about, I will use it) Yearly Meeting is needed? Why not affiliate with Central Yearly Meeting in Westfield or Evangelical Friends Church -- Eastern Region?

Both of those YMs have Faith and Practices that would be very close to what some Friends want -- and, in EFC-ER, a structure that comes down hard on congregations/pastors that do not stick to it, which is also what seems to be desired by some.

One the "Progressive" side, I would see more of a need, I guess, for a new YMtg if they decided one was needed -- as nothing else really exists for pastoral Friends. I know some have looked at joining Ohio Valley, but I think that would be a mistake for Ohio Valley. A influx of pastoral meetings into an unpgrogrammed YMtg would, I think, change it very much -- and not for the better.

I still would like to see a way of unity and reconciliation. But I am at the point where I despair of that happening. I don't think there are enough people who are really willing to lay agendas aside and listen to each other with faith and good will. It's almost like a failing marriage -- too many hateful things have been said and done. Can reconciliation ever come?

Those are my thoughts.

Bright Crow said...

Don't you think Genesis 18:12 might work better?


Michael Bright Crow

Brent Bill said...

@Bright Crow -- only because laughing is more uplifting, often, than crying is... ;-)

Nate said...

Frogs and relative pond size comes to mind concerning your thought about joining with other more congenial groups, Brent.

CJ said...

Brent, sign me up! I have been away from Quakers for 15 years now, but I am progressively evangelical, as long as that means there is silence and electric guitars in worship. I am ready to pledge my loyalty to you (I mean the yearly meeting) and, in fact, would like to volunteer to be Vice-President...uh, I mean an elder...wait, I'm not a pastor so I'm not eligible. Never mind.

Brent Bill said...

@CJ -- silence and electric quitars. Good combo. Perhaps "Blue Pick-up Truck" could be the official hymn with a few wording changes. ;-)