Can We Still Be Friends?

November 25, 2012     Update below

Do you hear anything? Did you hear the cracking, the splitting – a sound like ice fracturing? like hearts breaking? It was a soft sound, muffled perhaps by the brick walls of the church building where it happened. It was a tired sound, a sigh of resignation for some, a sigh of relief, for others.  It was the sound of a fresh schism in Indiana Yearly Meeting.

“This is an occasion for sadness for nearly everyone concerned, the sadness that if, as we have always believed, God called us to unity, that we have not found the way to maintain that unity.” So reads the opening paragraph of the Task Force report recommending the separation.

Sadness, yes, but the recommendation quickly says “IYM (the organization) will remain intact and those meetings choosing option B will continue to be part of this body. …  For the majority of Friends in IYM this will represent no organizational change, although the authority of the yearly meeting to hold its member meetings accountable will have been clearly affirmed.”

For those being set off or released, our Quaker world hardly seems “intact” or “unchanged.” We are now outcasts from Indiana Yearly Meeting. Where do we belong?

Do we still have friends? Can we still be Friends?

Other than the those of us cast out for failing to meet some new test of orthodoxy, did anyone notice the separation? Did you hear anything? After this superstorm, has anyone called to offer us a place to stay? dry clothes? a cup of tea? A comforting word? I don’t think we’ve heard anything from you, our friends beyond Indiana.

Among the outcasts I hear often the sentiment that we (however we are organized in the future) will want to continue to be part of Friends United Meeting, but have we heard from FUM? I don’t know that anyone has called to offer us hospitality, an assurance that we are still welcome.

And are we still welcome? If we are no longer welcome in Indiana Yearly Meeting, where should we outcasts find confidence that we are still valued as members of FUM? Or will we hear the sound of splitting there as well?

How about Friends World Committee for Consultation? Have they reached out to gather in the outcasts? In the midst of celebrating the diversity of Friends gathered at the Kenya Triennial, have they no fear of a fresh schism?

Has any other Yearly Meeting discussed the separation? Sent a note of condolence? Offered words of encouragement?

Did you hear anything?

I hear Jesus saying this to his followers (John 15:14-17): “14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.”

And so we call ourselves Friends. But are we friends with one another?


Update: A few did notice. I definitely should have mentioned Quaker Theology, which has chronicled the saga:

Issue #21 — Vol. 11 No. 2 – Autumn 2012

Issue #20 -Vol. 11 No. 1- Winter-Spring 2012


About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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