Last night’s banquet officially closed the 2012 NWYM annual sessions, six days of deliberation, and discernment, with some celebration to help us focus on Jesus. In spite of good food, great fellowship and lots of laughter, I slipped out of the banquet room early and got my over-stimulated, introverted self home and into some refreshing silence. In retrospect, I see much to rejoice over.
--Our focus on prayer this year included 50 days of preparation as people throughout the yearly meeting covenanted to pray for the sessions, Becky’s passionate preaching every night, and several good workshops, one of which I facilitated.
--Four workshops this year provided good support for writers as they focused on different aspects of growing as publishers of truth. Two of these had to do with writing on the Internet, not surprisingly.
--I also noticed a strong focus on mission, with new efforts to expand Quaker presence, service and witness in Russia, the Middle East, and North Africa. A highlight was the appointment of Elizabeth Todd to pave the way for some kind of long-term service in the Middle East, using the Friends School in Ramallah as a starting point for the discernment process. (“Discernment” and “process” were words I heard a lot this week.) Another personal highlight was my appointment to the support team (“Global Outreach sub-committee” is the official term) for the work in Russia. I see Friends open and eager to partner with God in God’s mission in the world.
I felt personally affirmed and stimulated in my callings to pray, write, and participate in cross-cultural mission.
--We addressed the issue of human sexuality through small group discussions, with the understanding that this issue would not come to the floor of the meeting this year. I was only able to attend on Tuesday, and due to confusion with room numbers, I got lost and couldn’t find my assigned group. But several of us lost ones gathered and made our own group. People were open, willing to share their views and willing to listen. That’s good. All of us agree that we need to love all people, and that the church needs to be a hospitable place for all. But I’m sensing a growing polarization of those who feel open to bless homosexual unions and those who feel that this runs counter to a basic scriptural theology of human beings. Both ends of the continuum—and there are many of us in the middle—claim scriptural support and testify that listening to Christ has brought them to their position. Even though we’re trying to listen, these positions seem to be solidifying.
I confess that this keeps me awake at night. I confess that I alternate between trust that God will lead us and fear for our yearly meeting.
One thing that was life-giving, a small thing perhaps, was a perspective Gil and Louise George presented in their workshop on praying according to God’s will. They had prepared this before the controversy on human sexuality arose, and basically shared from their own experience in life situations not related to this issue. But the application that Gil shared, and that has proved so helpful to me this week, was the need to release to God our own strong positions on this (or any) issue, confessing our ignorance and asking God to teach and lead us.
Even with this heavy issue on everyone’s mind, I’m thankful that our sessions centered more on prayer and mission. I’m thankful for my faith community, the family of Friends.