The decision in Indiana Yearly Meeting to undertake a deliberate and collaborative reconfiguration (creating two yearly meetings out of the current one) was sparked by the different understandings meetings have about same sex relationships, which has brought to light the different views Friends have on the purpose of the yearly meeting (whether or not it has or should have authority over its monthly meetings). The yearly meeting’s official position on homosexual practices is that they are contrary to the will of God. However, a welcoming and affirming minute was approved by West Richmond Friends Meeting in 2008 that reads:
We welcome all who come as religious seekers or as fellow Christians to share in worship with West Richmond Friends Meeting, to participate in the activities of our common life together, and to apply for membership. The same standards and expectations for membership will be applied to all persons.
We affirm and welcome all persons whatever their race, religious affiliation, age, socio-economic status, nationality, ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation or mental/physical ability. … In an effort to be clear as to the meaning of “affirming” and “welcoming,” we offer the following examples. Members and attenders of West Richmond Friends Meeting are welcomed and encouraged to:
- attend and participate fully in meetings for worship
- take an active part in the life and activities of our meeting
- contribute their time, talents, spiritual gifts and resources to God through our meeting
- apply for and serve in positions of paid, public ministry or other positions of leadership in our meeting
- test and shape their personal beliefs and daily practices and help others to do the same
- invest themselves in our common efforts to improve and heal the world
- help our meeting to discern God’s will in our meetings for business
Neither the State of Indiana nor the Faith and Practice of Indiana Yearly Meeting currently makes provision for the marriage or civil union of same sex couples. In the absence of such legal or denominational provisions, we regard same sex couples who are in committed relationships as families.
We are willing to engage in open discussion on these issues with others, and we respect the Christian beliefs and spiritual integrity of those who may not fully agree with us. Approved: June 15, 2008.
Western Yearly Meeting
It was approved at the October meeting of the Indiana Yearly Meeting Representative Council to invite Western and Wilmington yearly meetings to join in the process of discernment, with the potential for reconfiguring the three yearly meetings into two bodies. At the November meeting of Western Yearly Meeting’s Administrative Council it was approved to decline this invitation, but to request that WYM be allowed to provide observers to the process.
Reconfiguration Task Force
A spirit of cooperation was evident as the 10 members of the Reconfiguration Task Force held their initial meeting on December 6. Facilitating an outcome that is life-giving for every meeting and person in the current Indiana Yearly Meeting, and discerning a result that energizes Friends and pleases God, emerged as common goals when members introduced themselves and shared their hopes. The group understands its charge to be to discern how to implement the decision IYM has made to undertake a deliberate and collaborative reconfiguration.
A healthy discussion centered on identifying and understanding questions and concerns about this process that exist across the yearly meeting. Among the issues are the diverse feelings present in various Friends, from those experiencing grief and anger to those feeling relief and hope. The task force aims to be sensitive to this range of feelings and helpful to Friends however they are experiencing the decision to form two bodies out of the current IYM.
As a starting point, sub-groups are drafting beginning descriptions of what two resulting yearly meetings might look like: “Yearly Meeting A,” a collaborative association of monthly meetings having more doctrinal freedom, and “Yearly Meeting B,” one which sets bounds and exercises authority over monthly meetings. These drafts will be working documents for consultation and input from across the yearly meeting, because the task force’s role is not to determine the shape of the resulting entities but rather to facilitate the discussion. As well as working with Friends to formulate these descriptions, the task force will be developing a later process for meetings to identify with which body they are led to affiliate. This process will begin after the descriptions of the two future bodies are approved. The task force is scheduled to meet again on January 21.