The Road Back from Indiana to North Carolina

January 21, 2015

I’ve been following the news of possible schism from North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM). It all reminds me of Indiana Yearly Meeting’s schism though with still the possibility of a happier ending.

National Road Bridge

Bridge over the National Road, the migration route of Friends from the Carolinas to Indiana

This past October, Max Carter wrote a piece in Friends Journal about Divisions in North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM).  And just this past week (though dated September 29, 2014), Chuck Fager released a special preview issue of Quaker Theology with the title Quaker Thunder in Carolina.  It includes links to some of the key documents in the matter.

The controversy has been brewing for some time but apparently boiled over at the yearly meeting sessions this summer. Several monthly meetings on the more conservative side have written open letters insisting that other meetings adhere to their view of what orthodox Quaker belief requires or else get out of the yearly meeting.  As Fager puts it:

The issues included the prevalence in some meetings of allegedly heretical views about Jesus, atonement, the authority of the Bible, dual membership, financial concerns, and lack of fidelity to the Richmond Declaration of Faith (or RichDec). The RichDec is a creedlike document formulated in 1887 by a conference that was a forerunner of Friends United Meeting (FUM).

Two of the monthly meetings called out as heretical have responded, one saying it is leaving NCYM and other saying it certainly will not depart. Max Carter’s account has suggestions of work behind the scenes to prevent a full schism.

Neither Fager’s nor Carter’s accounts make any mention of the 2012 schism in Indiana Yearly Meeting when more than a dozen monthly meetings were ‘set off’ and subsequently formed the New Association of Friends.  While there are local flavorings, the issues in North Carolina look very much like the issues in Indiana.  Views about same-sex marriage were more an issue in Indiana, and the existence of the Piedmont Friends Fellowship (affiliated with FGC) are more an issue in North Carolina, but the common, deep issues include views of the Bible and the authority of the Yearly Meeting. The more conservative majority in both cases insist on adherence to an infallibility reading of the Bible and the responsibility of the yearly meeting to set limits on statements and affiliations of monthly meetings.

Indiana Quakerdom was largely formed out of a migration of Friends, leaving slavery behind, from the Carolinas to the midwest in the early years of the 19th century. Now the tensions manifest in Indiana are making their way back to the Carolinas.

In August 2012, while the Indiana schism was in the making, I made some observations about schisms among Friends, including this one: schism in one yearly meeting affects schism in others.  Did the events in Indiana directly affect the events in North Carolina? I don’t know. Perhaps the same internal stresses are simply revealing themselves. But you can see the same tensions elsewhere among the FUM Yearly Meetings: Wilmington and Iowa, for example.

Other posts on the Indiana schism are here and here.

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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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