from … Dick Sartwell, NFC Yearly Meeting Representative
The 126th annual sessions of Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends (NWYM) were the same as usual – and wonderfully different. By tradition, our Willamette Valley treated Friends gathered from throughout the state and from Washington and Idaho to some of the hottest days of summer. The fellowship was warm as well. And there were the typical opportunities for worship through beautiful music and inspiring speakers. As normal, yearly meeting boards presented helpful workshops to equip attenders with information and practical suggestions to take back to their local congregations. The schedule included the typical four-hour morning sessions for worship in the context of business. But that is where significant change from recent years occurred. The strong contention of recent years was gone.
With strong and clear unity Friends reached consensus on the following matters of business:
- James Le Shana was named the new general superintendent of NWYM. Jim grew up in Newberg and pastored for several years in California. In recent years he has served as a vice president at Barclay College in Kansas and will conclude his work there this fall. He will be in place in the headquarters by mid-October, and in the meantime Retha McCutchen will supervise the office staff.
- A major change recommended by the Board of Global Outreach was approved. NWYM and Evangelical Friends Mission (EFM), a cooperative organization of several evangelical yearly meetings, have worked together for many years. With approval of the recommendation, governance and policy matters will be handled by EFM. Our yearly meeting board will focus on missionary recruitment and ongoing support of those missionaries, developing specific support teams for each field. A chief benefit of this change is to reduce administrative cost.
- A proposal from the George Fox Board of Trustees to change nine items in their bylaws received immediate approval for seven of the items. The remaining two items had to do with numerical representation of Friends on the board, effectively reducing the required percentage of Friends, but maintaining the right of NWYM to approve or disapprove all trustees. Those two items, because of their significance to the governance of the institution will receive further discussion at the mid-year board meetings of NWYM.
- Joy Brown Lujan was recorded as a minister. She currently serves as pastor at Whitney Friends in Boise, Idaho.
- Phil Smith was approved as NWYM recording clerk (and therefore will step down as one of NFC’s YM representatives).
- The Administrative Council (AC) reported on the status of congregations leaving NWYM. Ten congregations have made a decision to leave. One of those congregations has gone independent for reasons unrelated to recent controversy over matters related to human sexuality. Four congregations are leaving to join the new Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting of Friends (SCYM). The remaining congregations have assumed the status of independent churches. Additionally the AC reported on their decision to provide for sharing invested funds from the Ministry Fund and the appraised value of the headquarters building. The amount to be shared is based on a complex formula built on a ten-year record of attendance and contributions to NWYM from each congregation. The only congregations leaving NWYM who will share in funds are those who actually join the new yearly meeting. Independent congregations are not eligible for participation in the distribution. Based on the formula used, SCYM will receive approximately a 9 percent distribution. No operating funds have been or will be included in the distribution.
- The loss of ten congregations (out of 51) predictably requires a smaller budget for NWYM. The proposed budget of $617, 283 was approved. The corollary of a reduced budget is that the number of permanent office staff in the headquarters has been reduced. Interim superintendent Retha McCutchen announced that a volunteer has indicated willingness to challenge 100 persons from across the yearly meeting to make $1,000 pledges to supplement the budget. In a spontaneous act, one person pledged $1,000 on the spot; several others immediately responded with similar pledges. It seemed like tangible evidence of a new and positive direction for NWYM.
In summary, the contention of recent years and the loss of congregations has been a sad time in NWYM for all involved, producing much grief. But the reorganization announced in January 2017 seems to have clarified and resolved much that separated us. The result for NWYM is new unity around renewed vision to share the good news of Jesus in our communities. Friends left these 126th sessions with great optimism and looking forward to the future.