Some Pieces of My Journey
Part 2 of 3

[This is a compilation - with slight editing and correction of some errors, and a few parenthetical updates - of several email messages written to a small, private Friends (Quaker) list in September 1995. Please excuse references that may have been clear to all those on that list but not to non-Friends readers. The compilation was too long for one article, so I've broken it into three parts. If you have not read the prior part, I suggest you start with Part 1.]

Well, I'll fast forward a few years. You'll hear a few bits and pieces as the tape speeds by...

In the 1980's, there would be Thursday night series at Adelphi. These would be organized around some reading material - something from the Bible, a Quaker writing, a prayer workbook (one of the best), etc. The reading served mainly as a springboard to spiritual sharing. This was a time of spiritual exploring and growth. Although the group opened up for each new reading, there was a small core of us who almost always participated. I'm convinced this group was an important part of moving me from the swamps of liberalism (not trying to be offensive here, just describing how it feels for me) back to Christ.

In 1987, I was a Baltimore Yearly Meeting (I have been very active in the YM since the late 1960's - it just hasn't seemed saying much about that fit into my spiritual history) representative to the 1987 Friends United Meeting Triennial at Guilford - my first Triennial. I came feeling the need to represent the diversity of my YM, but also feeling drawn to the more Christ-centered heart of FUM. This Triennial represented a century since the 1887 Richmond Conference and the Richmond Declaration of Faith. Some Friends wanted to reaffirm the Declaration to restore (in many eyes) the orthodoxy of FUM, while others were firmly against it. We spent many long hours wrestling over theological issues and faith perspectives in business sessions, and in the worship-sharing sessions. I took a posture of defending a broad spectrum approach, considering that many in my YM were not Orthodox. At the same time, I felt drawn to the Christian expressions of many and loved the Christ-centered music. The conflict came to a head within me. One night, I felt so depressed that I really didn't feel life was worth living. I walked out onto the grounds at Guilford, sat under a tree, and cried, not caring whether I ever got up from there. But I was visited by a presence there, comforting and encouraging me. I knew it was the same presence that George Fox wrote about when he heard the message, "There is one, even Christ Jesus, who can speak to thy condition." I found an inner peace, and a sense of abundant life. I got up, ready to continue. From that point, I have known that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior, and that I owe everything to Him. It was time for the temporizing to stop!

FUM became very important for me. A year later, a vacancy occurred in BYM's representation to FUM (due to a Friend leaving the YM in order to find Christian companionship) and I was appointed to fill out a Commission term. I loved going to FUM meetings and being amongst committed Christians with whom I could share in a way I couldn't with many back home. For the next Triennial, I was appointed by BYM to the World Ministries Commission and the General Board. The Board appointed me to the Executive Committee and the Budget and Priorities Committee, which I clerked. This turned out to be a very key period in FUM's history.

FUM was soon thrown into turmoil. Our General Secretary, Stephen Main, issued a call for realignment, in which Friends would essentially divide into two groups, those who were Christ-centered and those who were "universalist." The Christian meetings in FUM would merge with Evangelical Friends International. Within a few months, such a call was formally issued by Friends Church Southwest YM, then a member of FUM. My initial reaction to the call for realignment was anger at what I saw as a threat to my beloved FUM. I felt a responsibility to share what was going on with Friends in Baltimore YM. To do that, I needed to understand what was behind the realignment thrust. I also felt strongly that the turmoil was in large part a result of the failure of Friends to communicate over the years - the failure to send living epistles, members visiting among Friends who were very diffferent. Both of these feelings led me to visit the sessions of Southwest in June of 1991. And in the meantime, I was listening carefully to the thrust for realignment, absorbing the feelings that were behind it. The more I understood it, the more sympathetic I became. I became able to communicate to Friends back home why other Friends were so disturbed that the felt the need for realignment. The story I told was far different from the conspiracy theories widely spread among liberal and centrist Friends. Many Friends appreciated the opportunity to begin to really understand the concerns of other Friends. Other Friends felt I was entirely too able to present the views of those favoring realignment, and not being representative of BYM views. And within FUM, I began to feel like a person in the middle - not convinced of the structural proposals of the realignment advocates, but also feeling there was some real truth in some of the bases for their concerns.

The realignment proposals were rejected by many YMs, most vehemently by those in the center of the FUM spectrum who also provided the bulk of the support for FUM. No YMs united with Southwest's position. But FUM had clearly been shaken up (and I believe God was behind this), and needed to find a way forward. The late Harold Smuck, who held no official position in FUM, came forward with the proposal that we scrap our spring meetings for a retreat in which we would pray together. It was clear this was rightly led. The resulting Clearness Meeting was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. We met without a pre-arranged agenda. There was a focus on repentance, individual and corporate. We broke up into small groups to pray together. I will never forget that session. We didn't have breakout rooms at the hotel where we were meeting, so our small group met in someone's room. We felt the need to kneel and hold hands during our session. Because of the room, this was very awkward, as some Friends were on beds and others on the floor. But we did it for I think an hour and a half. We prayed vocally, sharing our need for forgiveness for our sins our hopes for God's work among us. In this I found unity. Similarly powerful experiences took place during plenary sessions. Out of that session came a clearness minute which we lacked the time to get really right, but which set the stage for the re-emergence of FUM as a vital Christian organization.

The turmoil continued with varied reactions to what was happening in FUM, and I was at the center of this in the Executive Committee which was struggling to help the movement forward, amid rumors, the publishing of untruths, and staff turmoil. The Executive Committee was a wonderful Christian community for me. There was a lot of love there, despite serious differences and some misunderstandings among us. I was convinced that Christ was in the midst of the turmoil, and if we would only keep focussed on Him, we would come through and see the many blessings He had to bestow upon us. The process of revitalization continued, with the approval of the Statement of Purpose. FUM had come out of a period of malaise to a clarity about its mission of furthering the work of Christ in the world. It was exciting and fulfilling to be part of this.

Back home in BYM, things were not so great. Another BYM rep. did not feel good about what was happening in FUM, and the YM was confused in getting reports from both of us in which it didn't seem as if we had attended the same meetings. The FUM issue became very divisive in our YM, and a number of Friends were quite suspicious of me and the way I had acted as their appointed representative. I felt clearly led to stand firm in unity with Friends in FUM, and to resist efforts from BYM Friends to move in ways that would be divisive within FUM. I prayed much about this, and was blessed with other Friends who joined me in several prayer sessions at BYM sessions. In the end, I felt I must speak in ministry during the business sessions. The Clerk told me that I must stop, and only speak directly to the business issue at hand. But I wasn't released from my call to ministry, and had to tell the clerk that I simply wasn't free to act as she requested. Friends from the floor insisted I be allowed to finish. This whole experience was extremely powerful, even physically, as I actually became sick during the closing meeting for worship.

Indeed, Friends were correct that I didn't represent the spectrum of BYM Friends at FUM. I felt it was my role to be part of the corporate search for how Christ was leading us in FUM, even though this was in a direction many BYM Friends could not understand. I was not reappointed as an FUM representative. There was objection on the floor even to the Nominating Committee's suggestion of me as an alternate to a commission. Within me, there was more and more question of whether I, as a Christian, fit into this YM.

Continue on to Part 3