University Friends Church in Wichita, Kans., is ending its affiliation with Evangelical Friends Church–Mid-America Yearly Meeting (EFC-MAYM) as of July 25 due to conflicts over dual affiliation, authority, and same-sex marriage. Previously the historic church was dually affiliated with EFC-MAYM and Great Plains Yearly Meeting (GPYM), which is affiliated with Friends United Meeting (FUM).
“It has become clear that the diversity we value is not shared by EFC-MAYM to such a degree that . . . we can no longer engage in ministry together,” states a June 11 letter from University Friends Church signed by Doug Chambers, presiding clerk, and Catherine Griffith, intentional interim minister.
This outcome comes in response to specific requests from the Elders Board of MAYM, but also in the context of statements on same-sex marriage made by both Mid-America and Great Plains.
In January 2018, the Executive Council of Evangelical Friends Church–North America (EFC-NA) affirmed a statement on marriage and sexuality that says: “marriage is a God-ordained, covenant relationship between a biologically born male and a biologically born female.”
Great Plains Yearly Meeting approved a “Statement of Inclusion” in May 2019: “People of any . . . gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status . . . are welcome in our midst and are invited to fully participate in the life of Great Plains Yearly Meeting.”
At that time, University Friends Church neither affirmed nor repudiated either Evangelical Friends’ statement on marriage and sexuality nor Great Plains Yearly Meeting’s statement of inclusion. But then EFC compelled them to act.
“EFC-NA recently made the decision not to sanction dual affiliation among our churches which brought this issue to the forefront,” said Thayne A. Thompson, executive superintendent of EFC-MAYM. “As difficult as this process has been, due to our love for the people of University Friends Church and our long-standing partnership in ministry, the extreme differences in theology between FUM and EFC-NA forced the Elders of EFC-MAYM to ask University to make a decision regarding their affiliation.”
As it became clear that Mid-America would no longer allow dual affiliation, University Friends decided to leave on their own timeline and with their own conditions. “We wanted to tell others what had happened,” Griffith said. “We wanted . . . Mid-America to meet with our Ministry and Counsel because we wanted them to know that this was a difficult decision . . . and it was hurtful to have it pushed upon us.”
University Friends Church was established in 1899, as a part of Kansas Yearly Meeting (now Mid-America). From 1926 to 1968 Kansas Yearly Meeting held its annual sessions in the University Friends building. University Friends joined Nebraska Yearly Meeting (now Great Plains) in the late 1960s.
Top image: University Friends Church in Wichita, Kansas.