It has been over a month now, that the decision of the NYWM Board of Elders was made to expel our meeting from NWYM. Over the course of this month I've been interviewed twice over the phone. One by the Willamette Week, and the other by Stephen Angell, a fellow Quaker who is writing a piece on what has happened to be published in the Quaker Theology journal. In both circumstances I was asked to summarize how West Hills has been "feeling" and whether or not we would appeal the decision.
I've been reluctant to speak for the "feeling" of West Hills Friends, mainly because I am one person in a community of about 120 people. To think that I could speak for the entire community is absurd, and I've done my best to speak from my experience, and to the reality of our community...mainly that almost everyone has different feelings about our expulsion from NWYM.
It's a scary place to be, to be asked to speak for other people. It also feels un-Quakerly to do so. My hope is that my words shared during the interviews will reveal my hesitation to speak on behalf of anyone, but rather to communicate my love for a community that has released me into ministry for it. A community that includes dear LGBTQ Friends.
Chuck Fager, just completed a blog post that uses some of the interview I did with Stephen. You can read that blog post here: http://afriendlyletter.com/eight-plus-appeals-of-northwest-welcoming-meetings-expulsion/
The quotes from me are as follows:
"Other reports indicate that the WHF community includes quite divergent feelings about NWYM. WHF pastor Mark Pratt-Russum spoke with my colleague Stephen Angell about this, for a major report on NWYM. His report will be forthcoming in the next issue of the journal Quaker Theology, which published the first independent report on the West Hills/NWYM situation in 2014. (Watch for updates about the new issue’s completion):
“There is no way that a congregation as varied as ours could draft a letter of appeal in 30 days.” . . . .
“There are congregation members who have grown up in the yearly meeting, who have relied on the yearly meeting, and for them, the decision was extremely painful. It felt like a family split.
On the other end of the spectrum, many LGBTQ members in our congregation had looked at NWYM as an oppressor, and for many of them, the decision came as something of a relief. For other LGBTQ Friends, it was painful because they were once again being told that they are not welcome at the table. The majority of the members of the church fall in the middle and feel all of these emotions.”
They responded also to the statements of affirmation in the Elders’ letter: West Hill Friends “have listened to the Spirit of God for a long time, and the yearly meeting honored the process we went through in its letter.”
Pratt-Russum summarizes, “There is heartbreak all around, for many, many reasons. We’re doing our best to surround our LGBT Friends with love. We reassure them that nothing has changed about how we – or how God – loves them. The bottom line is that we’re OK – nothing’s really going to change.” (Pratt-Russum to Angell, 8/20/2015)"
Thanks again to everyone who has continued to support our meeting. My hope is to keep on writing about our community. About what I love about it, and how we are going to be OK.