First, let me say that I first came to Indiana (and Indiana Yearly Meeting) in late 1978. I have served as the released minister of two congregations in IYM and was recorded as a Friends minister there in 1980. I have a deep love for IYM and the people there -- many of whom have been instrumental in my spiritual growth over the years. And that's people on both sides of the current issue. My current membership in Western Yearly Meeting has not changed how much I care for IYM and the good people there. It has, however, given me a different perspective allowed by both geographical and emotional distance.
Second, my concern is not with the good, kind, thoughtful, faithful people of IYM. I know a good number of people serving on the task force. I believe they have served well and faithfully. They have labored long in an attempt to find a way forward that will speak to the conditions present among Friends in Indiana Yearly Meeting and its member congregations. I am grateful to them for this work.
My concern is with is the task force's continued attempts at pushing for a solution. This has nothing to do with my disagreement over the solution they propose. The solution seem rational and well considered. It makes sense in an intellectual way and offers a way to resolve many issues. I trust that these good people offer it as coming from their best collective wisdom and after much prayer and worship.
Still, it seems, from the documents I've read (Angell and others) that there is no clear sense of unity among the ENTIRE membership of IYM about the way forward. In the face of that, it seems (I humbly submit) that IYM task force should decline of offer a solution.
We Friends say we believe that Christ is our present teacher and the God's will can be known and obeyed -- in community. Where is the trust that God will lead God's people Himself? Why the persistence in asking one group of wise, seasoned Friends to come up with a solution?
Perhaps the task force should take another tack. Maybe it's time for them to say, "We have labored faithfully at the task with which we were charged. You other good people across this Yearly Meeting all hear the tension and concern expressed by our members on all sides of this matter. We, therefore, as servants of the living Christ, will not offer any more solutions/ideas. We have discharged our duties. We return the matter to the Yearly Meeting and its members. Let us endeavor to listen to the voice and will of God and labor until we have unity."
What would it be like, then, for the Yearly Meeting to commit every time it gathers over the next year (including Yearly Meeting) to sit as a people and labor together. Everybody! Let committees do their Christian education, evangelism and outreach, and more. But let the times when people come together be set aside solely for worship and prayer together, listening for and to the voice of the Jesus we profess to love and follow. That includes Representative Council and Yearly Meeting. Clear the agenda. Have no reports. Gather in worship. Sing together. Pray together. Listen in love to each other. Trust Christ!
What greater spiritual exercise, and model of Christian discernment and faithfulness, could there be?
Well, in this Friends humble (and I say that with all sincerity) opinion, the Quaker assertion that we are the Friends of Jesus is something we cannot truly declare if we are not willing to put all our trust as a community of faith in Christ's ability to lead us. What have we to declare to a world that needs the peculiar proclamation of the Quaker message of immediate, personal encounter with the God who is present with us and leads us into truth and righteousness if we don't practice that ourselves?
With sadness and hope in my soul,