Dear children of light,
I write you from my new home, the William Penn House, just blocks from the United States Supreme Court, the US Capitol Building, the White House and many other monuments to civil authority. Since I moved in almost a month ago, I have been on the road a great deal. I’ve begun my work with Earlham School of Religion, and have made trips to Philadelphia and New England. October 12-17, I traveled to Richmond, Indiana, for the three-times-annually meetings of Friends United Meeting. This year, there were actually four meetings – the usual three in February, June and October, and and one more, a called meeting held at Stony Point, New York, late this September. I was not able to be present at this called meeting, as Faith and I had just returned from our honeymoon and I was moving my belongings out East from Kansas. The mood of our last regular meeting in June had been troubled, and a special meeting was called for board members to thresh out our shared difficulties and help us come to a clearer place in our ongoing discernment about God’s will for Friends United Meeting as an organization and as a fellowship.
As Friends began to arrive at our meeting this October, I realized that some serious work had been done at Stony Point. In June, many board members had been uncertain about the value of continuing FUM in its present form, suggesting that a “redemptive separation” might be necessary. Now, however, the board was united in love and respect for one another. I saw evidence of a deep willingness to bear one another’s burdens and seek the will of God together, even as many of us have sharp disagreements. I experienced the presence of genuine love among the board members, calling us into greater patience and humility.
There were some important affirmations made at Stony Point, that were re-stated at our meetings this October. The first, and most foundational, is that we are convinced that God still has a purpose for FUM. At the Stony Point meeting, Friends came together and openly examined whether it might be time for FUM change drastically in composition, or to be laid down entirely. Friends waited together to hear whether God did indeed have “a hope and a future” for Friends United Meeting as an organization and as a Christian fellowship. The answer that they heard was, yes. We sense a call to continued work together and to continued relationship with one another as Friends United Meeting.
Another important affirmation that came out of Stony Point and was re-stated this October is that FUM is a Christian association. For many years, the question had been held up: “What is FUM?” The alternatives that I usually heard given were: “Are we a denomination? An association? A non-governmental relief organization?” This fall, the FUM General Board has reached clarity that we are a Christian association, which, “does not have the ‘right’ to impose an authoritative will or doctrine upon constituent members.” Whatever pretensions FYM/FUM ever had to be a decision-making body for its constituent Yearly Meetings, any such notions have now been definitively set aside. The FUM General Board does not pretend to impose itself in the decision-making process of Yearly Meetings.
My sense from this meeting is that there has been a breakthrough in FUM this fall. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the General Board has been freed from the spirits of division, suspicion and enmity that have for so long plagued this body. While we acknowledge that there are still deep differences in understandings both within and between the Yearly Meetings of FUM, the Lord has opened the hearts of those on the General Board and granted us the Spirit of love and unity. Praise God for the work of Christ in our midst!
I ask that you continue to pray for Friends United Meeting. Now that God has given the General Board the gift of mutual love and spiritual unity, it is more important than ever that we pray for FUM. May we be completely healed as a society of the Body of Christ, not for our own sake, but so that the Good News might be proclaimed to the poor and the testimony of Jesus witnessed to among the peoples of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Congo, Belize, the United States, Canada, Jamaica, Cuba, Israel/Palestine, and the whole world. Pray that God will continue to make us one, united in Christ Jesus, so that the world may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven.
Love one another, and let there be no divisions among you. I send my loving greetings to you in the Name that is above all names.
Your brother in Christ,