News October 2017

Wilmington Yearly Meeting continues discernment over same-sex marriage

At its annual sessions July 27–30, Wilmington Yearly Meeting (WYM) considered the way forward regarding monthly meetings’ differing stances on marriage. WYM, begun in 1892, is comprised of monthly meetings in Ohio and Tennessee.

WYM has considered the understanding of marriage in the context of same-sex marriage multiple times in the last 40 years. In 1997, WYM’s permanent board approved a working document stating that the yearly meeting would not “bless” same-sex unions. Individual meetings, including Community Friends Meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Cincinnati Meeting, have expressed greater openness to supporting same-sex marriage. Community Friends left WYM after disagreements over its same-sex marriage position arose at yearly meeting sessions in the mid-1990s; Cincinnati Meeting identifies itself as an “open and affirming” congregation, a phrase commonly used by Protestant churches to identify support of same-sex couples.

Fairview Meeting in New Vienna, Ohio, adopted a minute in January entitled “Same-Sex Marriage Wilmington Yearly Meeting Position.” In the minute, Fairview Friends praise the courage of Quakers to stand in difference, and the opportunity for growth that is posed when Friends disagree. The minute “advises that the yearly meeting not discipline any monthly meeting for their stand on such issues.”

Before the yearly meeting sessions this year, David Goff, clerk of WYM, asked Friends to consider the Fairview Friends minute and come prepared to state their meeting’s position in regards to it. Additionally, listening sessions were held in which Friends could share their views and how they have evolved over time. Goff sent a letter announcing that finding a way forward concerning the differences around marriage would be the focus of the business at annual sessions.

The yearly meeting was not able to come to unity regarding a way forward. Disagreements were considered over the authority of scripture as well as the authority of the yearly meeting in relation to monthly meetings. The WYM epistle from annual sessions quotes Goff: “Our hearts hurt. We love each other, but this disagreement still divides us. We don’t want to separate but we don’t see our way clear to go forward together.”

Unity was not found regarding yearly meeting policy nor regarding possible disciplinary action against Cincinnati Meeting for its earlier decision to marry a couple without approval from the yearly meeting. WYM will continue to discern how Friends can best move forward and how the structure of the yearly meeting can best support the needs of monthly meetings under its care.

Correction: We’ve updated this post to clarify that Community Friends Meeting of Cincinnati, Ohio, is no longer a member of Wilmington Yearly Meeting. See also the statement from five clerks in the comment section below.


Foulkeways community celebrates fiftieth anniversary

Foulkeways, a Quaker continuing care retirement community in Gwynedd, Pa., celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with a lunch and invited speakers. On June 6, over 150 people, including political leaders and healthcare partners, gathered for a “50 and Forward” lunch at Foulkeways to both celebrate the community’s history and discuss the future of senior living.

Founded in 1967, Foulkeways was the first continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in Pennsylvania, and one of the first Quaker CCRCs in the United States. Located on 130 suburban acres in Montgomery County, Foulkeways is home to 255 private-entry garden-style apartments and cottages, surrounded by wooded walking trails and abundant natural foliage. Foulkeways offers independent living, personal care, hospice, memory support, and skilled nursing care.

The keynote speakers at the luncheon included Katie Smith Sloan and Larry Minnix. Smith Sloan is the current president and CEO of LeadingAge, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that works on aging-related education, research, and advocacy. Minnix is a former CEO of LeadingAge. The panel was moderated by Foulkeways CEO D. Michael Peasley.

The “50 and Forward” lunch provided an opportunity for those involved in Foulkeways and in CCRCs in general to come together and discuss the issues and challenges they see moving forward in the senior care industry.

Topics covered included the pace of change among CCRCs, consumer expectations, public policy, changing language (LeadingAge introduced the suggested name change “Life Plan Community” from “Continuing Care Retirement Community” during its annual conference last year), the great need for affordable housing, the merging of single-site communities, and the branding of religious affiliation.

Peasley questioned the trend of communities rebranding and changing their names to lose the connotations of religious affiliation. Minnix offered his opinion that communities grounded in a faith affiliation drive their service, decision making, and hiring through that affiliation. “Foulkeways’ Quaker values go back more than 300 years,” said Minnix.


Zimbabwe Food Relief Action shutting down

After 15 years in operation, Zimbabwe Food Relief Action (ZFRA) is shutting down. ZFRA provided food assistance to families in Matabeleland South Province in Zimbabwe who are affected by drought conditions. ZFRA was formed in 2002, when South African Quakers asked founders John and Kelitha Schmid to take up the work.

ZFRA was financially supported by Friends around the world, along with some contributions from U.S. Mennonites. A local alliance called Churches in Bulawayo provided additional support and documentation for the work. ZFRA delivered cornmeal, the staple food of the area, to families affected by drought in the Matobo District of Matabeleland South Province.

ZFRA operated from 2002 through early 2017, with intermittent breaks in operation when food relief was not needed or when governmental action prevented the distributions. In 2016, health problems affecting John and Kelitha became a major concern for ZFRA, as they continued to distribute the provisions to local communities themselves.

In June, ZFRA announced that the organization would shut down. John and Kelitha could no longer continue the physically strenuous task of delivering the food relief to communities, and no replacement for them was identified. ZFRA’s advisory panel approved a plan to wind down the work by operating until all funds are exhausted.

A report released by ZFRA in June noted that in the village of Zwehamba and surrounding areas, subsistence farmers were ordered to vacate their lands, which were to be turned into commercial grazing areas. ZFRA planned to use the remaining funds available in the organization to assist the affected farmers with a larger distribution of food assistance. The report states that ZFRA is “very grateful for your past support and hope[s] you will find other deserving and well-run projects to support.”

ZFRA is no longer accepting donations, and will continue to provide food assistance to their communities until current funds held are exhausted.

3 thoughts on “News October 2017

  1. Concerning news from our neighbors in Wilmington YM. I pray that they find a way forward that causes the least amount of pain to those affected.

    I am curious as to why Community Friends Meeting in Cincinnati is mentioned in this context, though. As I understand it, they are affiliated with Ohio Valley YM and not Wilmington YM. On the other hand, I believe Eastern Hills Friends Meeting in Cincinnati is affiliated with both Ohio Valley YM and Wilmington YM.

  2. We are concerned that the intent and tone of the summary of Wilmington Yearly Meeting annual sessions in the “News” column, Friends Journal, October 2017 (page 23), does not adequately reflect our experience and perception of the meetings for business. We offer the following as a correction and clarification.

    The stated focus for Wilmington Yearly Meeting business sessions was on the rights and responsibilities of yearly meeting oversight of its constituent monthly meetings in light of differing positions on marriage. It is important to note that some 12 years ago, Community Friends Meeting, after months of Spirit-led discernment, withdrew from Wilmington Yearly meeting for a variety of reasons, and did not take part in these proceedings. We also wish to point out that all our monthly meetings have “Friends” in their title — Cincinnati Friends Meeting and Fairview Friends Meeting are no exception.

    Fairview Friends Meeting brought a minute to the Permanent Board meeting in February 2017, expressing their concern to remain together as a yearly meeting. “God speaks to us-independently- all we have to do is listen.” The minute went on to say, diversity “presents an opportunity for reflection and growth.” Fairview Friends invited its sister meetings to consider the following: Fairview supports the ability of each Monthly Meeting to chart its own course on sensitive and complex issues. Yearly Meeting clerk, David Goff, asked all monthly meetings for a written response.

    As meetings responded to the Fairview Friends’ Monthly Meeting minute about the role of the yearly meeting in oversight of its monthly meetings, disagreements were evident, both about the role of Yearly Meeting in oversight, and about issues of marriage in the new legal environment which precipitated Fairview Monthly Meeting’s minute. Though never an item for consideration, the question of biblical authority did arise as some Friends expressed their rejection of same—gender marriages. Monthly meeting responses to the Fairview minute ranged from affirmation, to indifference, to rejection of anything which might indicate recognition by the yearly meeting of same-gender marriage.

    However, it is the final paragraph of the News report which raises the most concern because it is not accurate. “Disciplinary action” against Cincinnati Friends Meeting (or any other monthly meeting), was never brought to the floor as an item for discussion, and to report otherwise is a misrepresentation of the business session.

    Gary Farlow, Mary Ellen Krisher, Patricia Thomas, Miriam Speaight, Mike Miller

    (Each of the undersigned is presldlng clerk of his or her monthly meeting and attended all sessions of Wilmington Yearly Meetlng, 2017)

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