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Sessions 2019 Discernment on the FUM Withholding Policy
Friends, I am writing today as your new presiding clerk of the Yearly Meeting. While I know many of you already, I look forward to visiting more meetings and connecting with more of you over the next 3 years. I write today to share news about some decisions discerned at this year’s Annual Sessions regarding our relationship with Friends United Meeting (FUM). Monthly meetings which have chosen to withhold funds designated for FUM will be particularly affected. I want you to know that I and others are available to meet with you, to listen, to discuss the implications of these decisions, and to help with discerning way forward.
As some of you may be aware, for the last 10 years New England Yearly Meeting has had a mechanism which enabled monthly meetings to withhold the percentage of their contributions to NEYM which would have gone to FUM. While many Friends in New England believe in the work that FUM does, others, as a matter of conscience, cannot accept donating to an organization whose personnel policy does not allow gays and lesbians to work for them. This mechanism, created when no other way forward could be found, was intended to be a “temporary solution,” allowing us time to reflect, and discern how God was leading us regarding our relationship with FUM. If you are not familiar with the history of the withholding policy, this presentation by Honor Woodrow (M&C Clerk), and Callid Keefe-Perry (M&C member) is worth reviewing: M&C Presentation
Attached below are my own summary of the discernment and the pertinent minutes. I have tried to capture the wide variety of views that were expressed. I do want to celebrate that those gathered at Sessions this year affirmed that “every person is deeply beloved in the eyes of God,” and that “We are clear that the FUM personnel policy causes harm to LGBTQ+ Friends.” During the business sessions, Friends were holding in tension both the truth of the harm being caused by the personnel policy, and the unity of “desire to continually engage with the wide diversity of Friends worldwide.”
While the gathered body was unable to reach unity on continuing the withholding mechanism, or on a new policy, we recognize that this minute setting an end-date for withholding may be challenging news for meetings who have discerned to withhold. Coordinating and Advisory Committee, the group that coordinates the work of the Yearly Meeting, which I clerk, will be in touch with each meeting which has been withholding to see how we can be helpful. We could support your meeting's discernment in several directions, including how to participate in NEYM's effort to change FUM's personnel policy, how to approach budgeting without the withholding mechanism in a way that honors the conscience of friends in your meeting, or how to draft a proposal for a new way forward as suggested by the minute of exercise.
Praying every day for Friends in New England,
Bruce Neumann, Fresh Pond Monthly Meeting
Presiding Clerk, New England Yearly Meeting