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Young Adult Friends Gathering, 2010: Save the date!

To all Friends everywhere,

We are excited to announce that University Friends Meeting is inviting Young Adult Friends (aged 18-35) from across North America to come together Friday, May 28 – Monday, May 31, 2010, in Wichita, Kansas. It is our prayer that this will be a time for Young Adult Friends from a wide variety of Yearly Meetings to gather to worship God, share in fellowship, and grow together in our faith as Friends.

Following the gathering, there will be an opportunity for a shared service project, Tuesday, June 1 – Thursday, June 3. YAFs will work together to let our faith shine, demonstrating our love for the people of Wichita. Finally, Thursday, June 3 – Sunday, June 6, Great Plains Yearly Meeting invites Friends to join them for their annual sessions, also held in Wichita.

We hope that you will join us as we worship God, share in fellowship, and are challenged to serve others as Christ calls us to. Please save these dates, and let other young adults know about this opportunity to deepen our faith together as we are gathered and led by the Holy Spirit.

In God’s love,

Karla Moran (Indiana Yearly Meeting)
karlamoran154 hotmail com
Tyler Hampton (Lake Erie Yearly Meeting)
hampton.tyler gmail com
Katie Terrell (Wilmington Yearly Meeting)
katiet fum org
Eileen Kinch (Ohio Yearly Meeting)
ekinch12 hotmail com
Faith Kelley (Evangelical Friends Church – Eastern Region)
ottergirlkelley gmail com
Kate Newlin (Pacific Yearly Meeting)
katenewlin gmail com
Micah Bales (Great Plains Yearly Meeting)
micahbales gmail com
Ruth Lowe (North Carolina Yearly Meeting [FUM])
lowerl guilford edu
Abbie McCracken (Northwest Yearly Meeting)
admccracken verizon net

Micah’s Ministry Newsletter #7

Dear Children of Light,
I write to you from Richmond, Indiana, home of Friends United Meeting’s North American office. This week, FUM’s General Board is coming together for its three-times-per-year business meeting. As I write to you about the way God has been working in my life and in the life of Friends in the Great Plains region, I ask you to take a moment to pray for Friends United Meeting. I further request that you continue to hold FUM in prayer. FUM as an organization and as a fellowship of Friends is severely tested at this time, with financial, spiritual and intercultural difficulties that threaten to overwhelm the tenuous unity that Orthodox Friends do have after almost two centuries of schism and contention. We on the General Board need your prayers this week, as we come together to discern the future of FUM. Please pray that Christ’s presence be keenly felt here among us, and that we be receptive to our Present Teacher and Lord.
Before I dive into the depths of discernment with Friends in Richmond, I would like to update you about the events of the past few weeks among Friends in the heartland of the United States. Three main events have taken place since I last wrote you: A visit among Friends in Saint Louis; a visit to the Meetings of Manhattan, Topeka, Lawrence, and Kansas City; and Great Plains Yearly Meeting, which met this past weekend at University Friends Meeting, in Wichita. This has been a time of intense activity, spiritual preparation, and discernment.
St. Louis Friends Meeting
I spent Sunday, 24 May, with St. Louis Friends Meeting, part of Illinois Yearly Meeting. I enjoyed my visit among Friends in St. Louis, staying with a lovely family from the Meeting who opened their home to me for several days. I was very grateful for their graciousness as hosts and their eagerness to share about their lives and their experiences among Friends in the St. Louis area. My interaction with the Meeting as a whole was limited to a few hours on Sunday morning. Despite the brevity of my visit, I felt that I received some sense of those who were gathered. Their meetinghouse was lovely. It seemed to have been converted from something else, but I was not sure what. I appreciated the meetingroom, which had soaring ceilings and enormous windows that bathed the space in light. The meeting for worship itself was quite grounded (“more than usual,” a local Friend told me) and fairly large (by Great Plains standards, anyway). I estimated that there were probably thirty or so in attendance that morning. I was grateful for the chance to visit Friends in St. Louis and for the hospitality that I was shown.
The I-70 Corridor
The following weekend, I made another trip to be with Friends in Manhattan, Topeka, Lawrence, and Kansas City. I am always astonished by the joy which I feel when I am among Friends along the I-70 Corridor. I tell them that they are the closest the Great Plains comes to being like “out East” – in this little strip of Kansas-Missouri, Meetings are less than an hour apart! But my joy at being with Friends here comes not from blessings of geography, but instead from the quality of their fellowship and their hunger for God’s presence. Friends in Manhattan are doing well, despite the recent loss of two key members who have moved to Virginia. They are presently exploring Quaker understandings of marriage, as two sojourners from the Kansas City area have asked to marry under the care of the Meeting.
I was delighted to see new faces everywhere I went during this trip, and my visit to Topeka was probably the prime example of this. I spent most of my time in Topeka with several members who I had not met before. They gave me a tour of the scenic Potwin neighborhood in Topeka, and we sat together on one family’s porch in that neighborhood, getting to know each other better. We talked a great deal about the history of Topeka Meeting, and Friends noted how it had been in decline in terms of membership and energy for the past decade or more. Friends expressed their hope that the Meeting might recover the vitality that it once had, but there was uncertainty as to what form that recovery might take.
I spent Sunday morning with Friends at Oread Meeting, in Lawrence, and I went out to lunch with three Friends from the Meeting after the service. I was sad that more Friends did not feel able to meet with me and share about their Meeting, though I was grateful for the few who did. In Kansas City, at Penn Valley Friends Meeting, quite a few Friends turned out to share a potluck dinner with me at their meetinghouse, and I was very encouraged by our conversation during and following the meal. Friends at Penn Valley Meeting are very earnest and have a hunger to learn more about the wider Quaker world. I was encouraged by their enthusiasm and their thirst for the things of the Spirit. I pray that I may be able to visit them, and all of these Meetings, again in the near future.
Great Plains Yearly Meeting
As I mentioned in my previous newsletter, I have sought to spiritually prepare myself during these past weeks for the annual sessions of Great Plains Yearly Meeting, which took place 4-7 June. It is as if my entire year had been inclining towards this moment, the yearly meeting being to my year what Sunday meeting for worship is to my week. Yearly Meeting time is a moment to pause and discern with the wider body of Friends what God is calling us to in the coming year. I went into the sessions holding before God my ministry among Friends in this region, and asking God to guide me and Faith as to the next steps in our walk in Christ. As a part of this discernment, there was a review of the past year’s ministry with GPYM’s Ministry and Counsel. We heard from my Oversight Committee, as well as from representatives from each Monthly Meeting in the Yearly Meeting about how they had experienced my ministry.
Finally, Ministry and Counsel considered the future of my ministry in the Great Plains. It quickly became clear that some Friends in the Yearly Meeting were out of unity with my ministry. Some were uncomfortable with their perception of my theology. Some did not see how my work fit into our current model of ministry – there’s really not an easy “job description” for what I am engaged in. Some were uncertain of how they felt about free gospel ministry – witness to the Seed of Christ in all people, in the tradition of the Apostle Paul and George Fox. A visiting Friend pointed out that Great Plains Yearly Meeting had a choice: We could stick to our status quo of routine and ritual; or we could embrace an apostolic ministry, which would not fit our current plans, but which would shake us up and call us to deeper faithfulness as a Church. The road that we were on, this Friend insisted, would lead ever downward into stagnation; but the apostolic ministry builds up, even as it challenges our feelings of self-satisfaction and safety.
Ministry and Counsel concluded by drafting the following minute:
Friends are deeply grateful for Micah’s faithful service among us this past year. Nevertheless, we do not feel able to lend the kind of support that would enable Micah to continue as a released Friend. Our Yearly Meeting simply is not yet at a place where we can corporately affirm an apostolic ministry. With needs so great and laborers so few, it grieves us not to be able to fully take advantage of Micah’s willingness to serve among us.

We are encouraged that Micah continues to feel a burden for Friends in the Great Plains. As we look to the future, we hope that opportunities will present themselves for Micah to continue in service to Friends in the Great Plains. We thus authorize the preparation of a general travel minute to facilitate his continued ministry as way may open. (One Friend stood aside on the authorization of a general travel minute.)
I was initially saddened by this outcome, because I had hoped that Friends would feel led to release me to continue ministry in the Great Plains region. But as it became clear that there was not unity for this, I felt an unexpected joy in my heart. I knew that I had been faithful, and that that was sufficient. I did not (and do not) know what the future holds for me and Faith, but I felt deep certainty in that moment that God’s purposes were being worked out in me and that God would provide for tomorrow, just as God is providing for today.
Most of the rest of GPYM was fairly routine, but Saturday evening was remarkable. “The future of GPYM” had been on the agenda for business meeting and was supposed to have been up for discussion during the second-to-last business meeting on Saturday. However, there was so much other business, including the approval of the long-awaited Yearly Meeting Handbook, that business was about to close without discussing our future at all. As the clerk was about to close our sessions, visitor Jonathan Vogel-Borne asked, “what about the future?” The assistant clerk looked at his watch and said, “well, we have two minutes left. Would anyone like to talk about the future?” I was on my feet and at the front of the assembled Body before I knew what I was doing.
I was so grateful for those Friends who were holding me in prayer in that moment, because I was quite disoriented. I just knew that I had to speak to the Body. I tried to calm myself, praying for guidance before I spoke. I told Friends, “I’m going to speak for myself, and I hope that some of God comes out.” I told Friends that I was disappointed with them for letting annual sessions slip by without wrestling with our future as a Yearly Meeting. I told them that I was concerned that we have become as formal as the Pharisees or the Christians of George Fox’s day, mistaking routine for virtue and form for substance. I told them that I loved them all, and I begged them to humble themselves and open themselves to the presence of Christ in their hearts, to follow that inward guidance. Because the status quo hasn’t been working for a long time.
This led to a time of open worship. It was a remarkable time of deep prayer out of which some Friends spoke, encouraging Friends in Great Plains Yearly Meeting not to give up the race, but to press forward in faith. Immediately following that, Friends reassembled downstairs to hear Jonathan Vogel-Borne speak for the third time. Jonathan spoke with reference to Ezekiel and the dry bones, and there was a palpable covering of the Holy Spirit among us, which continued as we returned to open worship. Some gave vocal ministry out of this silence that was distinctly Spirit-led and prophetic. Following this time of deep worship, we continued worship as we sang hymns together.
This was, without a doubt, the most spiritually-active session of Great Plains Yearly Meeting that I have experienced since I first attended in 2004. The air was thickened at times with God’s presence, and it was clear that the Holy Spirit was working on us, calling us to greater faithfulness and vision. I do not know what the future holds, but I am at peace. The Day Star shines in the darkness and exposes our strongholds of rebellion. The Lamb’s War is underway and Christ’s victory is assured. I only pray that we will turn, that we will yield, that we will allow God to shape us into what we were meant to be – a holy people, set apart to do the work of Love in the world.
Next Steps
My summer is looking to be quite intense. I will be in Richmond all this week for General Board meetings. The week after next, I will be helping out with Quivering Arrow Camp, a Friends summer camp for children in Northern Oklahoma, headed up by Brad Wood, pastor of Kickapoo Friends (Mid-America YM). Shortly thereafter I will be leaving Wichita to travel throughout the United States for most of the summer, up until my wedding on September 5th. Among my intended travels are: Evangelical Friends Church – Eastern Region, Northwest Yearly Meeting, and Ohio Yearly Meeting (Conservative). I also hope to visit Friends in Michigan, and may visit other Friends as way opens.
As for after September 5th – God only knows. Faith and I are in active discernment about where we are going to land after the wedding, but this has still not been made clear to us. We hope that God will let us in on the secret soon. We can wait, though; we know God is at work and has a plan for us, even if we can’t see it yet.
I pray that you experience the peace of Christ in your midst and in your hearts as we strive together in the work that God has laid out for us.
Your friend in Christ,
Micah Bales

Micah’s Ministry Newsletter #6

Dear Friends of Truth,

My travels in the ministry in the past weeks have been wide-ranging and diverse. I have been able to visit with brothers and sisters here in the Wichita area who, though sharing a common bond in the Spirit of Christ, are in many ways quite different from one another, and have in many cases have little contact with one another. I have also traveled in the wider region, to visit Friends in Oklahoma; and we’ve also been blessed to receive Friends from the wider region at Heartland.

On Saturday, 2 May, Heartland Meeting hosted a gathering of Friends from the wider region. In addition to Friends from Heartland and University Meetings in Wichita, we also had visitors from Great Bend and Lawrence, Kansas. We met at Heartland meetinghouse and shared a rich time of fellowship, worship, a potluck meal, and discussion about the state of our personal walks with God, our meetings, and our hopes for the future of Friends in this region. We agreed that more frequent regional gatherings would be a good thing, and we thought that it would be a step forward if there were four opportunities for regional fellowship each year. Great Plains Yearly Meeting (in early summer) and Missouri Valley Friends Conference (in early fall) seemed like good opportunities for Friends to gather regionally, and we considered how we might host winter and springtime gatherings for Friends in our part of the country. We plan to have workshops about this topic at both Great Plains Yearly Meeting and Missouri Valley Friends Conference.

The next day, I attended Sunday worship at Iglesia Evangélica Amigos, the Hispanic Friends church in Wichita. I was warmly received by the brothers and sisters there, and I took part in their Bible study and worship service. The service featured singing, with the lyrics of the songs projected onto a screen at the front of the worship space; and some of the young girls of the meeting danced and played tamborine at the front as we sang. The speaker that day was a visiting pastor. He was the founding pastor of the meeting in the 1980s, but had since moved on to shepherd another Friends church in Emporia. After the service, he told me about his ministry of teaching among Hispanic Friends in Western Kansas: He visits four different meetings in one day – one Sunday every month – and teaches workshops. It seemed he was doing the same thing at the Friends church in Wichita: After the worship service, he led a workshop on leadership for the brothers and sisters here in Wichita. I was very impressed with the meeting and leadership at Iglesia Evangélica Amigos, and wished I could spend more time with them. I suspect I’ll be back.

The following weekend, I was invited to attend Mennonite Church of the Servant’s annual retreat at Camp Mennoscah. I really enjoyed my time with folks there. We did scripture memorization (1 John 4:7-8), worshipped, and spent time discussing and discerning how Church of the Servant is to become more missional as a body. Church of the Servant is moving in the direction of becoming more in line with the New Monastic movement. They are seeking ways to be more intentional about their community life together, including seeking a cause/project that they can work on as a church. In my observation of this church, I would say that they are already more community-oriented than most congregations, and I am excited at their passion to continue to deepen their corporate life with God and to examine how they can live more Christ-like lives together. I felt grateful that they included me in their retreat. It was good to get to know them better, and spending time with them in the countryside was refreshing.

On a related note, I continue to assist with the Church of the Servant’s Celebrate Recovery program. The main organizer of the group, Amy, has been very ill in the past weeks and has been unable to attend, much less organize, our weekly sessions. Jerry Truex and I have been taking up the slack. Given the circumstances, however, I think things are going well. We have a solid core group at this point, and I hope that we will soon be ready to start advertising the group and seeking a larger attendance.

My one real out-of-town ministry trip in the past few weeks has been to visit Friends at Council House Meeting, near Wyandotte, Oklahoma. I headed down on Saturday and stayed with Frankie Sue Johnson, the clerk of the Meeting. I got the chance to meet her daughter-in-law, and to see her three grandchildren again when they dropped by for dinner. Sunday morning, I was asked to give the message at meeting for worship. I invited the meeting to share a bit of open worship with me, and several people shared out of the silence. Then, I spoke about my own spiritual journey and about the importance of waiting on God’s guidance in our hearts. It was a small group, so it felt silly to stand up on a platform and preach; I just turned around in my bench and spoke to everyone seated next to and behind me. Afterwards, we had lunch together before I headed back to Wichita.

I hurried home, because I had an engagement with the University Friends youth group that evening. Dave Kingrey, the youth minister there, had asked me to share about my ministry and experience. I spoke first to the high school group, and then to the middle school group. My topic with each was: “How does God speak to us?” I asked the youth whether God had ever spoken to them, and what it felt like. I led each group in a brief period of open worship and then asked them what their experience of the silence was. I was particularly impressed with how tender and spiritually sensitive the middle schoolers were. They had experienced silent worship before, but they had not understood what the purpose was. After sharing a few minutes in silence together, one boy said, “it was different this time, now that I know what we’re supposed to be doing.” I felt blessed to have this opportunity with the youth group.

I expect that the next few weeks will be fairly intense. For me on a personal level, the coming weeks will be a time of inward preparation for yearly meeting sessions, 4-7 June. Yearly meeting will be a time of discernment with Friends as to whether my ministry has been helpful, and as to whether we feel that God is calling us as a Yearly Meeting to continue this ministry. I am praying for God to grant me spiritual groundedness and peace as I go into this process, trusting that God is in control and will work all things for good for those who love God. As I do this inward preparation, I will continue my work. This coming weekend I will be visiting Friends in St. Louis, Missouri. The weekend following that, I hope to visit Friends in Manhattan, Topeka and Lawrence, Kansas; and Kansas City, Missouri.

I thank you for your prayers and words of encouragement, and ask that you continue to pray for me and my work of visitation and encouraging the Church to turn to its Inward Guide, Jesus Christ. I hope that you will join me also in prayer for the spiritual renewal of the Church in a world that is so deeply in need of Christ’s presence, love and justice.

Yours in Christ’s service,

Micah Bales

Micah’s Ministry Newsletter #1

This is a copy of the first edition of my ministry newsletter, which was sent out today. I will post my newsletter to this blog in the future. If you would like to receive the newsletter by email, please let me know by email at micahbales at gmail dot com.

Greetings, Friends!

Grace to you, and peace in the Lord Jesus Christ.

You are receiving this message because I believe that you would like to be kept informed about my traveling ministry in Great Plains Yearly Meeting, which has begun this month in Wichita, Kansas. In the coming weeks and months, I will be producing a regular newsletter to keep Friends informed of the work of God in our community. For this first edition, let me explain the nature of my ministry and how you can personally get involved:

For the next six months, I will be carrying out a ministry of intervisitation among Friends in Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas – primarily within Great Plains Yearly Meeting, but also reaching out to other Friends in the region. I intend to spend time with each monthly meeting in Great Plains Yearly Meeting, deepening my relationship with Friends and seeking to be of service in building up the Body of Christ in our local meetings and communities. Additionally, I will aim to be of service to our neighbors in Manhattan, Lawrence, Topeka, and Lubbock, encouraging them in their journey and seeking increased fellowship and cooperation between these meetings and Great Plains Yearly Meeting. Finally, as way opens, I will look for ways to lend encouragement and support to isolated Friends, helping them to find the material, human and spiritual resources they need to thrive.

The needs of Friends will vary from place to place, but I hope that some of the fruits of my ministry might be: the strengthening of the existing meetings of GPYM; a greater focus on intervisitation within GPYM; encouragement for our pastoral leadership; increased outreach in local communities; a focus on encouraging youth and a new generation of leadership; encouraging the growth of new meetings where there have not been any before; and outreach to other meetings in the region.

I plan to meet with as many individuals and households as I can, visiting families in their homes and seeking opportunities to share fellowship and worship. I hope for a time of intentional listening – praying with individuals and families, meeting with Friends for worship, and participating in the community life. I plan to be engaging in this ministry full-time in Wichita from now until early April. During this time, I hope to be in ongoing conversation with Heartland and University Friends, listening together for how God is guiding us as a body and seeking to be faithful to God’s plan for this ministry, now and in the future.

I hope that Friends throughout the yearly meeting will take on this ministry as their own, and I was pleased when Great Plains Yearly Meeting endorsed my ministry at yearly meeting sessions this past June and took this work under its care. I pray that we can foster a culture of regular intervisitation throughout our yearly meeting, and I invite Friends to join with me in visiting other meetings.

Ways you can get involved:

*Pray for your meeting and for Great Plains Yearly Meeting.

*Pray for me and my ministry of encouraging Friends to be attentive to God’s call for us.

*Let me know that you’re praying for me, and let me pray for you, too.

*Invite me to meet with you and your family and tell me about how God is working in your life and how you feel God is leading us as Friends.

*Tell me about specific ways I can be of service to you and your meeting. This could be anything: from helping you move or helping your child with his or her Spanish homework to helping with Sunday school or bringing a message at your meeting.

*Prayerfully consider whether God might be calling you to visit another Friends congregation. You might visit on your own, accompany me as I travel, or ask another Friend from your meeting to travel with you. I would welcome anyone who wishes to join me in visiting another Friends meeting.

I look forward to serving Christ together with you as we seek to live God’s justice and love.

Your fellow servant in Christ,

Micah Bales

Northwest Yearly Meeting

On the 15th, I flew from Greensboro, North Carolina to Portland, Oregon and spent a number of days with my cousin, Ben, who lives in the city. It was a blessing to be able to stay with him, relaxing for a few days without any responsibility beyond waking up at a certain point in the day, reading, and working on my backlog of email. Within a few days, Tyler Hampton, an attender at Detroit Monthly Meeting, arrived in the city and spent a couple of days with Ben and me, before Tyler and I made our way together to Northwest Yearly Meeting. It has been a pleasure to have Tyler as a traveling companion on this leg of the journey. We have been able to support one another as we experience a new Quaker culture and mingle with hundreds new people. I am grateful for his presence here this week.

On Sunday morning, we attended West Hills Friends Church with my aunt, Thea. It was an extremely friendly meeting, with a simple service, which began with a few people gathering early in the meeting room and holding silent worship for about fifteen minutes in anticipation of the arrival of the rest of the congregation. The programmed service consisted of several hymns, led by an electric-guitar-playing man at the front, rock and roll style, a brief message brought by a missionary couple who were back in the United States from the Middle East, a very humorous sermon by the pastor, and then a period of open worship, which was followed by a time of prayer requests and announcements. The sermon was full of humor, often seeming more like a stand-up routine than the usual message delivered in many churches, and the congregation was very responsive, clapping, cheering, and slapping the benches. Quite a different way to do church!

That afternoon, we rode down to Newberg, Oregon, where Northwest Yearly Meeting held its annual sessions on the campus of George Fox University, and that evening Tyler and I were able to attend a gathering of Northwest’s Young Adult Friends at the home of Bruce Bishop, former youth/YAF leader for the yearly meeting, and present director of communications for the yearly meeting. It was a good time to meet with younger Friends, tell them about why I am traveling this summer, and invite Friends into conversation with me.

That evening, Colin Saxton, Northwest’s superintendent, spoke to the body of the yearly meeting. He spoke on the subject of repentance, reminding us of Jesus’ message that we are to “repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Colin reminded us of the very real presence of Christ with us and of our need to repent and accept Christ’s call to complete obedience and discipleship, learning of him and taking on his easy yoke. He reminded us again and again of the real presence and leadership of Christ among us today in the Church, emphasizing that Christ’s presence as Friend and Lord is, “no peripheral doctrine – this is at the core of a Friends understanding of the teachings of Christ.”

I was very impressed by Colin’s message, and I was blown away by the fact that he spoke on repentance, a concern that had been weighing so heavily on my heart for weeks, becoming rather a theme of my travels among Friends from the Conservative, FGC, FUM and EFCI traditions. The wind of the Spirit is blowing through the branches and it is shaking every leaf. The Lion of Judah has roared, who can but tremble? The Word of the Lord has issued from Zion, who can but prophesy? Repent, Friends! Repent and turn from your waywardness and return to the bosom of Christ, the safety of your God’s care. Fall on your knees, hear and obey that which God has in store for us as a people.

Colin spoke for the Sunday night evening session, but the primary speaker for the week was Tony Campolo. Campolo was quite an impressive speaker, speaking three evenings in a row, and getting better each night. The first evening, I felt that he was laying the groundwork for the subsequent nights, pulling some of his punches, making us laugh, and preparing us for the lashing that he intended to give us in the two sermons to follow. The first evening, he focused on God not merely as a notion or idea, but as a transforming power that enters into us and changes us. He said that joy and love are signs that Christ has entered into us and saturated our being. He challenged our ideas of success, reminding us, in the words of Francis of Assisi, that “the poor and oppressed are sacramental,” and he told us that “the way to build the Church today is the same way that they built it in the first century: by people loving people and accompanying them into the household of faith.”

The second evening, Campolo took us deeper and laid greater challenges before us. The primary message of that night’s sermon was the distinction between power and authority. Power, he said, is the ability to coerce. Authority, on the other hand, he defined as, “commanding obedience through loving sacrifice. Jesus, he reminded us, had great authority (see Matthew 7:28-29), but he rejected power (see Matthew 4:1-11). The “Constantinian Heresy,” Campolo explained, was when the Church began to exercise power, rather than the authority that comes from sacrificial love. He drew our attention to Philippians 2:5-11, as an exposition of Jesus’ sacrificial love. The love of Jesus on the cross is the heart of the Gospel, the message: it is through sacrificial love that we gain authority. The Church does not speak with authority, explained Campolo, because it has not paid the price. It is not living sacrificially. The phenomenon of politicized religion is a case in point: we resort to power when we have no authority. Campolo went on to call us to a commitment to social justice, saying that “Jesus never allowed the second commandment to be separated from the first.” Campolo ended the evening with a direct call for concrete action on the part of those in attendance. He issued a call for everyone there that evening to begin to support a child in the Third World through Compassion International, and he called on young people to give him their name and address, to commit to a year of service among the poor.

For the last evening session, Campolo began with an explanation of Jesus’ saving work on the cross, explaining that Jesus reaches out through all time and both forgives us of our sin, and cleanses us of our sin, liberating us from it. He then went on to talk about how the term “fundamentalism” was once a respectable term, but soon became tied up in a lot of things that it was never meant to be about. He went on to say that the term “Evangelical,” a word that was to replace the word “fundamentalist,” has now taken on many implications that are more political in nature than religious. He suggested another term, “Red Letter Christians,” to denote Christians who take the teachings of Jesus as their guide and baseline.

During the previous evening’s session, Campolo had briefly touched on homosexuality, condemning “the oppression of gays,” but on this final evening he engaged us extensively on this very sensitive issue. Campolo explained that he is a “conservative” on the issue of homosexuality, believing that it is contrary to the intention of God for the human creation. But, he pointed out that his wife held an opposing view on the subject, and that they occasionally debated the issue publically, “to show that it is possible to differ on this issue and not get a divorce.” He said, “it’s crazy to split over this issue,” insisting that it is important that Christians not break unity, but instead hold together and keep wrestling. Furthermore, Campolo decried “the horrible oppression of gays” as “unacceptable,” even though he “disagrees with the lifestyle.”

To conclude, Campolo reminded us of the story of the rich young man and challenged us to accept the full implications of the Gospel, not just the parts that we think we can fit into our lives without completely giving ourselves over to Christ. “We’re all willing to be Christians up to a point,” he said, “but tonight Christ is going to call you to go beyond that point… to the cross.” Campolo urged us to give over everything to service to God, saying that scripture condemns retirement (citing the parable of the rich fool). He called retired people to account for being, “an enormous waste of the Church’s resources,” and called upon those who no longer worked for money to give everything they had, treasure and time, to the work of the Church of Jesus Christ. Addressing the other end of the age spectrum, Campolo encouraged parents to instruct their children, not being afraid to “tell their kids what to do.” As he explained that “everyone else is telling your children what to do with their lives – school guidance counselors, teachers, MTV,” and called on parents to give firm guidance to their children, I heard several high school aged Friends behind me say, “amen!” Every youth, he concluded, should feel that he or she is on a mission from God. All of us must be obedient to the teachings of Jesus and live out the call of the Church in the world.

The remarkable thing about all of Campolo’s sermons was the sense that, by and large, he was preaching Quakerism to Quakers. It occurs to me that it is probably a very good thing for us to hear true, inward Christianity preached to us by outsiders from time to time. But Friends in Northwest Yearly Meeting are most certainly Quakers. Indeed, it has been refreshing to find such an intensely Quaker body: both Christ-centered and distinctively Quaker. Friends here seek to live and preach the “whole gospel,” which I heard described as, “not only the verbal witness of Jesus Christ, but also peacemaking and social justice.” Friends of all stripes, pastoral and unprogrammed, could learn a great deal from the way in which Friends in Northwest hold together the tensions of the Quaker understanding of the Gospel of Christ Jesus. They recognize “that of God in everyone,” but at the same time are strongly missional, seeking to liberate the oppressed Seed of God in their own hearts and in the hearts of seekers outside of their fellowship. They are firmly biblical in their worldview, but avoid to a great extent the pitfalls of placing the written word, interpreted legalistically, as a higher authority than the Spirit of Christ, which inspires us to rightly interpret the Scriptures and be changed by them. They are committed to social justice and peacemaking, but do not separate that from a clear witness to the saving power of Messiah Jesus, whose Spirit takes away all occasion for war.

I was pleased to see that the character of Northwest’s business sessions were mature, grounded, and centered in the Spirit of Christ. While I was in attendance, I saw the approval of a minute condemning torture, as well as the approval of a series of amendments to their Faith and Practice, which is under revision currently. There was approval of a section of the Faith and Practice which allows local churches, with permission from the yearly meeting, to forgo using the name “Friends” in their “common name,” that is, what the church is referred to as in everyday conversation and on the meetinghouse’s sign. There was also discussion of a minute calling on the governing authorities of the United States to correct the present situation in which illegal immigrants are being separated from their spouses and children, breaking up families through deportation. There was discussion on this minute, but as there was not enough time to come to unity on it, it was laid over for a later meeting. The sense that I felt rising in the body was that Friends should be addressing, first and foremost, the question of how we ourselves are feeling called to act to ameliorate the present situation. How are Friends called to reach out to our Latino brothers and sisters in Christ?

The worship style at Northwest’s annual sessions was interesting. Each evening session was begun with several songs, led by a group up on the platform, with lyrics projected onto a large screen hanging above. Following these songs, we would hold about five minutes of silence, before that night’s speaker rose and presented. There were other times, too, where there was music and brief open worship, including during the business sessions. I found it quite nice to have time for musical worship in the midst of business meeting.

Apparently there was a yearly meeting reorganization that was completed last year, the most remarkable result of which is that Northwest’s missions and peacemaking are now organized into one function. Evangelism and peacemaking/social justice are not separated. For example, both Christian Peacemaker Teams and a new meeting-planting mission in Russia are under the care of NWYM’s Board of Global Outreach (Friends in Northwest use the term “board” to refer to what many Friends would call a “committee”).

To sum up, I have had a wonderful time at Northwest Yearly Meeting’s annual sessions. I am very impressed with the vibrancy, rootedness, friendliness and strong character of this body of Friends, and I look forward to continued contact with them in the future. I am particularly excited to think about ways in which my own yearly meeting, Great Plains, might move into closer relationship with Friends in Northwest. With all that we have in common, I hope that way will open for us to deepen our ties and come into greater partnership in living out and sharing the Good News of Christ Jesus.