Freedom Friends Church was formed in 2004 by three Friends in response to the perceived call of the Present Christ. Early in the formation process we realized that we needed to be able to articulate that call in a way that highlighted our deep resonances with traditional Quakerism and our unique interpretation of how those traditions could be lived out in a post-modern age. This Faith and Practice is one of our attempts to articulate our call.
We are a uniting meeting, having received members by transfer from Friends General Conference, Friends United Meeting and Evangelical Friends International. But equally important to our call is the fact that a majority of our members are new to Quakerism. Teaching the ways of Friends is an important part of our mission. We set out to be Christ-centered, Quaker, and inclusive. We are semi-programmed, lightly pastoral and socially progressive. We believe in continuing revelation. Our Faith and Practice reflects all these things.
We believe that this is one Quaker Faith and Practice – a contribution to a conversation. It speaks for Freedom Friends and no one else. We are quite aware that there are parts of it that will thrill some and annoy many, sometimes doing both at the same time. We believe that being inclusive is about making things accessible, not acceptable.
The first three sections are a clear expression of a progressive Christian faith. It is a Quaker flavor of Christianity focusing on the leading of the Spirit of Christ in our lives. We hope that it reflects what others have called a “generous orthodoxy”. This document is a call to Gospel Order, not a creed. The distinction is one of function. Members interpret this faith as they are led. No one is required to assent to it. We have great theological diversity in our meeting and this expression of faith is a center for us – a campfire to sit around, each at their own comfortable place and distance.
The fourth part presents our guidelines for our life together. In this first edition we are attempting to document what we have been doing, set healthy boundaries for our community, translate and transmit the ways of Friends, and anticipate the needs of a growing group.
Many Friends assisted with the writing and editing of this document. Sarah Katreen Hoggatt and Mike Espana-McGeehon, especially put in much work as members of the Faith and Practice Task Force. But this work really belongs to the members and attenders of Freedom Friends Church, who considered it, word by word, month by month, these five years. Their expectant listening and heartfelt approval is what makes it real.
The glossary was not subject to Monthly Meeting approval and is simply our gift to Friends and others as an aid to understanding.
We expect this to be a living document. We expect that future incarnations of Freedom Friends will continue to hear revealed Truth, and will be bold to speak it, and so will need to revise this document.
It is our hope and prayer that this effort will be useful, fruitful, and will contribute to the beautiful polyphonous voice that is Quakerism at the beginning of this 21st century of the Present Christ.
With much gratitude,
Peggy Senger Parsons
Most Christian churches have some statement of belief. It may be called a creed, or the doctrine of the church, or a book of discipline. Most groups of Friends have what is called a Faith and Practice, this may be a collection of testimonies, advices and queries, or it may be an explicit declaration of Faith. At Freedom Friends we think that the distinctive thing about our Faith and Practice is how it is used and how it is not used. This is not a creed, it is not written in stone, it can be changed by the discernment of the meeting for worship business. It is not used as a test of acceptability. You do not have to agree with everything in this document in order to participate in the community. But it is the best articulation of the beliefs of the Friends who felt called to start this church. We use it to call to people, and as a starting point for discussion and study. We are orthodox in our Christianity, but we are not fundamentalist. We are a peace church. We are socially progressive. We think the traditional practices of Quakerism have a lot to say to the 21st century. We believe we are still learning.
We invite you to read this document; it has four parts. The first part describes our basic ideas about God - our theology. The second part describes how we apply these beliefs to the world around us. The third part lists just a few things that we really don't tolerate. And the fourth section, which is still under discussion by the meeting, outlines the functional structures of the church. There is a glossary for words that may be obscure or used in an unusual sense - they are underlined in the text - just click on them and you will be sent to the glossary item. And there is a Biblical reference page which gives places to go in the Bible for further reading and study. We are interested in your feedback, you can send us a note at email@example.com, or e-mail the pastor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We believe in God, sometimes called Yahweh, creator of all that is, seen and unseen. God is all powerful, unchanging and holy. God exists outside of time and space. God is spirit and does not have physical form; does not have gender, age, race or other human characteristics. This God loves, and likes, each and everyone of us beyond measure. God desires to be in direct relationship with us.
We believe in Jesus Christ, the ever present Divine Word, God’s personal conversation with us. He was, and is, the instrument of creation. This part of God responded to our sin and displacement by becoming one of us, and from this inside position worked towards our healing and replacement, this process is called redemption. Our redeemer was born of a virgin, crucified as a freely chosen demonstration of His love for us. He was resurrected, conquering sin, death and hell once, and for everyone. He was, and is, the perfect teacher of Gospel Order - living as we are intended to live. Through the agency of the Holy Spirit He is present, now, to the believer as teacher and guide. We believe that He is both come, and coming - that His kingdom is among us, and that we can live as citizens of that kingdom in this life. We also believe that there will be an end to this age, and that Christ will come and gather His church when the time is right. We do not believe that it is possible to predict the time of this gathering. We believe it to be unethical and morally wrong to use this hopeful promise to promote fear, and a spirit of coercive evangelism.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the very presence of our God and Redeemer available to, and in, the believer. Spirit is the source of counsel and conviction. It is Spirit that calls for, and empowers holy, or Spirit filled, living. The transformation and sanctification of the human soul is the work of the Spirit and cannot be manufactured by human effort - but this transformation cannot begin without human permission. All willing persons are being sanctified.
(1-4) The Three
We believe that these three; Creator, Christ and Spirit are One, and this is a precious mystery.
(1-5) The Bible
We believe that the Bible is inspired writing. It is a divinely authorized history of God’s relationship with humanity. It is useful for instruction and illumination; and when interpreted with the aid of Spirit and an understanding of its historical context, it is an unfailing source of truth. All individual and group leadings, if from God, will be harmonious with the principles outlined in scripture. The canonical scriptures are our primary spiritual text.
We believe that the only essential baptism is an immersion in the presence of God. This baptism is the work of Spirit and cannot be produced by ritual. This work is a mystery and comes to various people in various ways, but is always evidenced by the fruits of the Spirit as listed by the Apostle Paul in the letter to the Galatian Church. These fruits are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Rituals that remind us of this baptism are not forbidden and may be useful in the life of some believers but are never required.
We believe that the only essential communion is a conversation of faith and intimacy between the believer and the Present Christ. When this occurs in a group, in silent worship, we call it ‘communion after the manner of Friends’ - during this time the body of Christ is gathered into His presence and they partake of Him and He of them. Communion may also be highly personal. This experience is essential to the spiritual walk, and is available to every person who seeks it, without need of an intermediary or ritual. Rituals of remembrance are not forbidden and may be useful to the believer, but they are not a substitute for this essential communion.
(1-8) The Church
We believe that the church is that body of persons who, throughout time and place, have availed themselves of the mercies of Christ. We are inspired by those who have walked this path before us and we believe that these saints are not separated from us, but watch and encourage us from their places near to the heart of God. The Work of the church present, is to preach the Good News of Freedom, to bind the wounds of the brokenhearted, and to open the prison doors of the enslaved.
( 1-9) Heaven
We believe in Heaven, the blessed home that all our souls long for. Christ has assured His church that He will gather us there and that we need not fear death. Who else Christ gathers there is Christ’s business alone, and we make no judgments about this based on our flawed observations of this life. Christ also prayed for, and promised, that by His presence and through the transformational work of the Spirit, that His kingdom could be experienced now. This is why we dedicate ourselves to the life of Gospel Order and freedom - to build and enjoy the Kingdom present and to anticipate, and be made fit for, the kingdom to come.
We believe that any separation from God is possible only by human choice. No temporary conditions, including sin, have the power to keep the God we seek from finding us. When a person chooses to be separate from God they place themselves in Hell; we sadly acknowledge that in some cases this resistance to grace becomes entrenched in life and may persist beyond this life. But God’s love also persists beyond life and no one takes this path without exhaustive attempts by Christ to retrieve them. We choose to work with Christ and His angels to seek all those mired in slavery, despair and darkness; like Him, giving up on no one.
Worship is the natural response of the human heart to the presence of its creator and redeemer. This adoration can happen in a group or in solitude. It is not tied to time or place. It can be noisy or silent. Friends find that the silence helps us become better listeners. It is during this worship that God sends messages to God’s people. Idolatry is the practice of worshipping that which is not God.Top | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Biblical References | Glossary
We hold dear the expression of faith through ministry. All God’s children are given gifts for the use of the body of Christ, and the world, therefore all can be ministers. The church should encourage the use of these gifts in and out of meeting. At times, Spirit may call an individual to specific service that requires their entire attention, but this person’s service is not better than any one else’s. Obedience to the call - whatever it is - is the important thing.
We hold dear the goal and possibility of peaceful living. We believe that war, violence, and hate are totally incompatible with holy living. Violence harms the aggressor as well as the victim. Non-violent alternatives are always available to those who seek them. Peace needs to begin inside the person, then in the home, then the church, the community, the nation and the world.
(2-3) Equality and Justice
We hold dear the goal and possibility of just living. We believe that discrimination, inequality, and prejudice in all their forms, and against any person, are incompatible with holy living. Because we are the presence of Christ in the world, it is our work to seek economic, political and social justice in ourselves, our community, our nation and the world.
We hold dear the goal and possibility of simple living. We believe that greed, envy, and security based on wealth are incompatible with holy living. It should grieve us to amass wealth while so many go hungry. We believe that we are accountable to God for our use of resources. Freedom Friends Church tries to live as a good corporate steward of resources and a friend of the Earth.
We hold dear the expression of faith through integrity and truthfulness. We attempt to be honest in all our dealings, as a group and individually. We attempt to live the life we profess. We take personal responsibility for our thoughts and behaviors, believing this to be the path to sobriety, sanity and spirituality. We work at resolving our own problems before we address the problems we see in others. This is our witness of Christ; without integrity, our preaching and practice are useless.
We hold dear the gift and sacredness of human life. This is lived out in a commitment to end hunger and preventable disease, and to make sure that no one ever has to choose abortion because of economic or relational coercion. We oppose capital punishment, domestic violence and child abuse. We have an enduring commitment to mercy and compassion.
(2-7) The Body
We hold dear the gift of our physical bodies which play host to God’s Spirit. It behooves us to consider our health, without worshipping our bodies. To this end, we fight slavery to any substance, legal or illegal. We refrain from behaviors that are clearly harmful to our bodies. We seek to keep both mind and body active. We reject shallow cultural values that enslave people based on their appearance. We value every mind and body that holds God’s light regardless of its apparent ability or value to society.
We hold dear the gift of our sexuality, which is given to all persons regardless of gender identity, orientation, or marital status. Because sexuality and spirituality are closely related, all believers are called to be thoughtful stewards of their sexuality. We believe that fully intimate sexual relations are intended to be expressed within long-term, committed, monogamous relationships, and then always with dignity and love. Sexuality that is de-humanizing, promiscuous, violent, non-consensual, manipulative, or predatory in nature is always harmful.
We hold dear the manner in which Friends conduct business. Business meetings, whether comprised of the whole community, or committees dedicated to a specific purpose, conduct business as an extension of worship. During worship business we strive to listen first to God, and then to each other. We come to business with our whole persons: thoughts, feelings, knowledge, and gifts. We also know that we bring our own agendas and prejudices and we come with the willingness to lay these down. Decisions are made when it is the sense of the meeting that God has been heard - this is a spiritual consensus. Lobbying, politicking and voting lead to divisions which weaken our witness of Christ.Top | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Biblical References | Glossary
While we prefer to express our faith and practice in positive ways, there are a few things which we renounce in no uncertain terms.
We renounce slavery in all its forms. Free people must always be vigilant, guarding against creeping bondage. Physical slavery is still a scourge on our planet in many places, and many are enslaved in poverty. In our lives more insidious forms often replace the old forms of this evil: the slavery of addictions; to food, drugs, tobacco, sex, alcohol, spending and many more. Pride can become a slavemaster and so can power. We acknowledge only one safe master, and that is our God and Redeemer. We see complete surrender to God as the most effective prevention to slavery. We have found that the best treatment for active addictions and slaveries is a spiritually based 12-step group, such as Alcoholics Anonymous. We find the precepts of AA to be harmonious with the gospel and with Holy living. We incorporate these precepts into the life of the church in every way we can.
We renounce the intolerance of religious fundamentalism in all its forms. Free Christians need only to live according to Gospel Order and hold up Christ, in order to fulfill The Great Commission. We believe that God calls human souls in more ways than we can imagine, and that God abides with anyone who seeks God in spirit and in truth, regardless of how they name God. We can and will make clear the truth and power that has been given to us, our Gospel path, but in no way do we think that we possess the whole, or only, truth. We prefer to live in relationship to the truth. We believe it to be blasphemous for a human, or human group, to claim to hold the whole truth.
In our experience, Fundamentalism, which we define as asserting the absolute truth and completeness of one’s own beliefs and practices, to the deliberate exclusion of possible truth in other beliefs and practices, often leads to pride, judgmentalism, strife, rancor; and in the extreme, to hatred and violence. We believe that religious fundamentalism is incompatible with holy living and grace, and we renounce it as sin.
And we now, and forever, do renounce our only true enemy, sometimes called satan, the accuser of the children of God, the father of lies. We renounce all his acts, temptations and deceits . We pledge ourselves to the fight against him and against the consequences of his lies: slavery, hatred, despair, envy, and greed. This is called ‘The War of the Lamb’, in scripture and Quaker tradition. It is our only acceptable war, and the lamb’s army is the only army that has our allegiance. It's weapons are truth, peace and persistence. We pledge ourselves to the rescue of all the good souls caught under the spell of our enemies’ lies. We offer them hope, comfort, love, truth, and a way of escape.Top | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Biblical References | Glossary
(4-1) Our Place in the Quaker Continuum
In the mid 1600’s, Englishman George Fox along with some others started what they hoped would be a revival of authentic Christianity. When the rest of Christendom did not immediately embrace, in fact, vigorously opposed what was so obvious to them, they formed The Religious Society of Friends. Their core beliefs included universal ministry, a non-creedal faith, and emphasis on inward sacraments over ritual, a deep and practical commitment to integrity, honesty, and pacifism. Despite severe persecution they flourished in England and the New Colonies.
Without creeds and with not much in the way of hierarchical church structure, the Friends movement has become exceedingly diverse over the next 350 years. There are over 300,000 Quakers in the world today; two thirds of which live in the developing world. Whether they call themselves The Religious Society of Friends, The Friends Church, Monthly Meeting or Yearly Meeting – they are all Quakers from the same stock. Friends have, by all accounts, had an impact upon the world disproportionate to their relatively small size. There have been two great separations among Friends: both in the 1800’s. Because of this most Friends will fall into on of these four general groups.
Conservative Friends - a small group, mostly in Ohio, North Carolina and Iowa. They are unprogrammed in worship style, Christocentric in theology, non-pastoral, and pacifist. In some ways they are most like early Friends.
Unprogrammed Liberal Friends
- This group organizes under Friends General
Conference in North America, but includes Britain Yearly Meeting and two independent Yearly Meetings in the west. They are usually unprogrammed in worship, non-pastoral, usually Universalist in theology, socially progressive, and pacifist. Social justice and peace activism are a major part of their outreach.
Pastoral Friends – This is the largest group including ~ 150,000 Friends in Kenya. They are organized under Friends United Meeting, which was once called the Five Years Meeting. They are usually programmed or semi-programmed in worship style, mostly pastoral, Christocentric, pacifist, and more socially conservative than Liberal Friends. They support evangelistic mission work, as well as justice and peace work.
Evangelical Friends -This group organizes under Evangelical
and includes US yearly meetings as well as yearly meetings in South America and Central Africa. They are pastoral, Christocentric, sometimes fundamentalist, usually programmed in worship style, not always pacifist, usually socially conservative, and strongly missions focused.
Freedom Friends Church, in Salem, Oregon, is a very unusual, but not completely unique hybrid in the Quaker world, falling somewhere between Liberal and Pastoral Friends. We were founded by Friends from Northwest Yearly Meeting, Evangelical Friends International, but have come to include Friends from Friends General Conference and Friends United Meeting. We are Christocentric, semi-programmed, pastoral, socially progressive, and pacifist. Our outreach is focused on justice, relief, and peace work.
There are presently no Yearly Meetings within easy geographic reach that are a good fit for us. Consequently, we are an independent Monthly Meeting. Because Quakers are by nature communitarian we hope this is not always the case. We are attempting to maintain good relations with all Friends in our area. We support Friends Organizations like Friends World Committee for Consultation, American Friends Service Committee, Right Sharing of World Resources and Friends Committee on National Legislation. If Friends history tells us anything, it is that change is to be expected; we hope to be part of that history of change.
(4-2) How We Conduct Business
Business needs to happen. Even a very simple organization has decisions to make. Friends, or Quakers, are communitarian in their structure - they make decisions as a community. Our way of doing things is very different than other organizations. We are not a democracy, although everyone can be involved. We are not a hierarchy - a top down power structure, although we may have folks among us who carry considerable spiritual weight. We do not believe in anarchy - no structure - although our structure is fairly light.
Our core ideas concerning business:
Just as we sit in worship and listen to God and to God in each other, during business we try and hear what God would have us do. God may speak directly to our hearts or we may hear God in the voice of our neighbor, the presiding clerk, or even the visitor among us.
The way decisions are made are as important as the decisions themselves.
If we have a testimony to peace, but do not make decisions peacefully, we will not have much impact. If we testify that truth telling and doing things in the light of day is essential, but do business secretly or deceitfully, we will have lost our witness. All the testimonies expressed in our Faith and Practice are visible in our business sessions.
Business sessions should be a safe and constructive place to learn. We can learn when to speak courageously, and when to hold our tongue. We get to practice listening and making ourselves understood. We get to learn the lesson of letting go of our own preferences and agendas. We get to take small steps outside our comfort zone. We are given the opportunity to learn to be tolerant, and how to handle frustration patiently. Business meeting can be a laboratory of sanctification.
These core ideas are lived out this way at Freedom Friends Church:
The clerk collects and sets the agenda, opens the meeting, names each item of business, opens the time of discussion or questions, calls for silence and prayer when necessary, listens to see if there is a ‘sense of the meeting’ (a clear direction that the group is hearing) or if the item needs to be tabled or ‘seasoned’ (held over to the next meeting); if there is a clear sense, the clerk articulates, or speaks that sense.
The recording clerk may help the PC find the right words to articulate the sense of the meeting. Anyone in the meeting may ask that a particular minute (piece of business) be read back to the meeting. Reviewing and approving the previous month’s minutes are the first order of business at every meeting.
Members and attenders are given the duty of listening to God
and each other, and
praying before and throughout the meeting.
They speak when they are led, and ask questions. They speak in an orderly fashion, raising their hand, or saying ‘clerk please’ and waiting for the clerk to recognize them. They attempt to speak in a focused manner and leave a little silence between speakings so that Friends may think. They attempt to take business one piece at a time. When they approve of the business at hand they make that clear. They accept the direction of the presiding clerk.
Most often business moves smoothly and the sense of the meeting is easy to find. If we are not clear, and there is no sense of the meeting, there are certain things we will do. We will pray, hold the piece of business over to the next meeting and season it, or assign the piece of business to a committee or task force for research. If only one person is not in harmony with the decision they may choose to let go of their concern or ‘stand aside’ of the decision - this means that they decide to trust that of God in the others - this is a powerful conflict breaker. In certain situations the presiding clerk may decide to ask each full member of the meeting to state their position and the sense may be drawn from the membership.
There are certain things that just should not happen in meeting for worship through business. These things are considered to be outside of ‘Gospel Order’, or the way Friends do things: refusing God and denying the meeting your wisdom by not speaking when you are led, refusing to give up your opinion or position out of pride or stubbornness, filibustering - speaking at length, or at volume, or repeatedly, for the purpose of wearing down the meeting, lobbying for a position outside of the meeting time, name calling or personal attacks, voting which causes us to have winners, losers and factions, and going away mad, holding a grudge, or saying an “I told you so” after a decision is made.
We do not do this process perfectly, we probably never will, but we are committed to work at it until we become good at it. Peacefully doing God’s business is one of the most powerful testimonies.
(4-2.1) The Sense of the Meeting
As Quakers, we believe that the Spirit leads us in our decision-making, both at a personal and communal level. We believe that God’s Spirit will be present to us and instruct us. We believe that the Spirit is available to everyone regardless of age, experience or membership status.
What we call the sense of the meeting
is not the collected wisdom of our members and attenders, but a collective
discernment of God’s will. Meeting
for worship through business is conducted in
the context of worship, and with the same
expectant waiting upon the Spirit. Therefore in business
we seek the leadings of the Spirit through prayer and active listening.
Freedom Friends Church expects all the participants to share the responsibility for a decision. The clerk serves as a facilitator, seeking an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect while guiding the decision making process. All are expected to listen deeply to the concern presented and to the discussion. The clerk, sensing unity among the participants gives voice to that sense and asks for approval. There is no vote taken, for voting presents the differences of personal opinion, not the unity of a leading of the Spirit. Finding the sense of the meeting is not the same as finding consensus. Consensus can be built by compromise and cooperation. The sense of the meeting is discovered through prayerful listening. If unity cannot be reached the matter is seasoned and held over until the next meeting.
(4-2.2) Calling and Timing of Meetings
A called business meeting for unusual business may at times be necessary. The presiding clerk may call such a meeting with the agreement of Ministry and Oversight. Such a meeting should be published in such a fashion that regular attenders and members would have sufficient notice. The presiding clerk opens and closes meetings.
There will be an annual meeting for worship through business in the first month of each calendar year that receives summation reports of the previous year, fills committee positions for the coming year, and extends calls to pastoral staff. The annual meeting may be held on the same day as that month’s regular monthly meeting.
(4-2.3) Keeping on Minutes and Reports
Freedom Friends Church attempts to do business responsibly and transparently. Records will be kept of our business meetings. The recording clerk will keep minutes of Ministry and Oversight meetings, and both regular and called business meetings. These draft minutes will be made available in a timely manner. They may be posted electronically and/or read at the next regular monthly meeting. At that time they will be approved or amended. A copy of the approved minutes will be added to the Monthly Meeting minute book, which will be kept at the meetinghouse. This book is a public document. In the absence of the recording clerk, the assistant or a person appointed by the presiding clerk will take minutes. Reports received by the meeting from the pastor, treasurer or others will be attached to the minutes of that meeting and added to the minute book. The minute book will include traveling minutes, minutes of service, and all other official business done by the meeting.
(4-2.4) The Faith and Practice
Most Christian churches have a statement of belief. It may be called a creed, or the doctrine of the church, or a book of discipline. Most groups of Friends have what is called a Faith and Practice. This may be a collection of testimonies, advices and queries, or it may be an explicit declaration of faith. Usually the Faith and practice is written at the Yearly Meeting level. The Faith and Practice is the collective testimony of the group and the written document describing how business is done. At Freedom Friends Church, we think that the distinctive thing about our Faith and Practice is both how it is used and how it is not used. This is a statement of our present belief. It is not a creed; it is not written in stone. It can be changed by the discernment of the Monthly Meeting for worship through business. It is not used as a test of acceptability. You do not have to agree with everything in the document in order to participate in the community or be a member. We recognize that parts of it can be believed in different ways: whether truth is metaphorical or literal, it is still truth. We recognize that there can be agreement in principle, but divergence in application. This is the best articulation of the beliefs and intentions of the Friends who felt called to start this church. We use it to inspire, and as a starting point for discussion and study; it is our organizational guideline. It is the campfire that we sit around.
We are fairly orthodox in our Christianity, but we are not fundamentalist.
We are a peace church. We are socially
progressive – we believe that faith and continuing revelation can
change society for the better. We think the traditional practices of Quakerism
have a lot to say to the 21st century. We believe we are still learning.
The Faith and Practice of Freedom Friends Church is intended to be a stable but dynamic document. If the meeting feels that additions or changes need to be made, the Ministry and Oversight Committee will appoint a Faith and Practice Task force to work on the concerns of the meeting. The Task Force will consist of at least one member of Ministry and Oversight, one seasoned Friend, and one fresh Friend. The Task Force will make a recommendation to Ministry and Oversight, who will bring a recommendation to the business meeting. This recommendation may be in the form of a proposed addition, proposed change, or the recommendation that no addition or change be made at the present time. Each addition or change will stand for at least three readings, at least one month apart. A public posting, or e-mail transmission may count as one ‘reading’. After three readings the business meeting may approved or not approve the additions or changes, or may send them back to Ministry and Oversight for further work. Minor changes of spelling, grammar or syntax may be approved at the next regular business meeting.
(4-2.5) Church Policies
Some group decisions do not rise to the level of Faith and Practice. We call these decisions policies. A church policy will come as a suggestion from a standing committee such and Ministry and Oversight or from a task force. It will be something that is needful for clearness and good order in the meeting. These decisions can be made without multiple readings by one session of the Monthly Meeting. In addition to being recorded in the minutes of the Monthly Meeting, a copy of the policy will be kept separately in the current minutes book. Examples of policies are: Library Policy, Publicity Policy, and Music Policy.
(4-3) The Structure of the Church
It is our intention to keep the structure of Freedom Friends Church as simple and light as possible while maintaining functionality and Gospel Order. We want the members of our community to spend the bulk of their ministry time outside of the meeting; living out, rather than maintaining, Quakerism.
Though the presiding clerk facilitates the proceedings, there is no expression of hierarchical power. We believe that every person, whether a member, attendee, or first-time visitor, may have a message or an opinion to bring to the group that we need to hear and we hold each message with respect and openness. We strive to honor each person and the unique gifts they bring. We do not micromanage the committees and task forces; we trust them even as they are accountable to the Monthly Meeting.
Every piece of business goes through the Monthly Meeting and it is the final decision making body. We desire to be transparent and have no closed doors or secrets. Even though this can sometimes mean waiting until the next monthly meeting for a piece of business, we believe this is crucial for gospel order. In meeting, we hold each item for business before God, trying to sense the movement of the Spirit and the sense of the meeting.
We believe doing business together
as a church is an essential part of our life as a community.
(4-3.2) Standing Committees
Standing committees do the bulk
of the work in preparation for meeting for worship
through business. They are filled annually by nomination and approval
of the Monthly Meeting. We envision three standing
(4-3.21) Nominating Committee
Nominating Committee is charged with the responsibility of finding qualified people to take up the positions and roles of service to the meeting. This committee should include the presiding clerk, the pastor and at least two other individuals named by Ministry and Oversight. During the early years of our meeting, Ministry and Oversight may act as the Nominating Committee. This committee usually meets in November and December of each year and brings a slate of nominations to the annual meeting in January for the consideration of the Monthly Meeting. Members of Nominating Committee should themselves be members of the church and should be discerning individuals who are aware of the strengths and limitations of the members and attenders of the Meeting. Members of this committee will meet to look at the needs of the Meeting, consult with the people presently filling the roles to see if they feel led to continue, and consider who else might be called to the tasks that are available. Members of Nominating Committee will contact members and attenders and see if they are willing to fill the vacant positions. When the slate has been filled, Ministry and Oversight is notified. If they approve the slate comes before the Monthly Meeting. It is the Meeting that does the final discernment.
(4-3.22) Ministry and Oversight
Ministry and Oversight is a standing committee charged with the physical and spiritual care of the Meeting. This committee will be made up of the presiding clerk, the treasurer, the recording clerk and assistants to those positions, as well as the pastor, and such members as the Nominating Committee recommends and the Monthly Meeting approves. Ministry and Oversight meets monthly in advance of business meeting, to address the needs of the meeting, pray for the meeting and prepare an agenda for the meeting. The presiding clerk will be clerk of Ministry and Oversight. The recording clerk will keep minutes of Ministry and Oversight meetings. These minutes will be available to the Monthly Meeting.
At a future time it is anticipated that the functions of Ministry and Oversight may be split into two committees. Ministry would be charged with the spiritual care and nurture of the meeting and the pastor. Oversight would be charged with the financial and physical needs of the meeting.
In the early stages of development, Ministry and Oversight may also fulfill the responsibilities of Nominating Committee and Outreach Committee. These will be constituted when the membership has grown, the need is apparent, and the Monthly Meeting approves.
(4-3.23) Outreach Committee
The Outreach Committee coordinates our witness to the world, defined as any public outreach or ministry outside of ourselves as a church. This can include, but is not limited to, publicity, public witness, and financial donations to other organizations. Though we do not have a standing Outreach Committee at this time, this will change as we grow as a community.
(4-3.3) Occasional Committees
When an official task with a finite time frame needs to be completed
by more than one member of Freedom Friends Church, an occasional committee
may be formed.
(4-3.31) Clearness Committee
A meeting for clearness is an application of our belief that the Spirit leads us in our decision making process. A Clearness Committee meets with a person who is unclear on how to proceed in a concern or dilemma, in hope of helping this person move towards clarity through a search for the will or leading of God.
The purpose of a Clearness Committee is not to give advice, or to fix a situation. Rather, it is an attempt to find the will of the Spirit in a decision. This is accomplished through listening to the concerns of the person who is unclear, without prejudice or judgment, and to help clarify alternatives, improve communication, and provide emotional support as an individual seeks the right course of action.
A Clearness Committee can be requested by anyone for any reason. However, there are moments that a meeting for clearness may be encouraged or required by Ministry and Oversight. Such situations include, but are not limited to, a meeting before marriage, before a ministry or service, in preparation for recording or before taking membership in our meeting.Clearness Committee members will usually be appointed by Ministry and Oversight. However, input by the person seeking clearness is encouraged.
(4-3.32) Task Forces
Task forces are created to perform a specific task for a specified period of time. Unlike committees, when the task at hand is finished, the task force disbands. Examples of tasks might include planning events, care of an individual in need, or executing other meeting projects. Members of a task force are appointed by the Monthly Meeting and the task force is responsible for reporting back to the Monthly Meeting when the task is complete.
The officers of Freedom Friends Church are individuals who feel a call to serve God and the other members of the community by taking an active role in the business of the church. They represent the church legally to the State and other organizations. They are accountable to the Monthly Meeting. With the exception of the pastor, they will be asked to affirm their call annually, will be nominated to their posts, and approved by the Monthly Meeting in the Annual Meeting in January. The pastor may be called to a longer term at the will of the Monthly Meeting. There is no specific end limit set on their service, but they will be attentive to fostering the ministry of others as appropriate. All officers will be members of the church. As with all ministry at Freedom Friends Church, our call to service is inclusive and any member may serve regardless of age, gender, race, marital status or orientation.
(4-3.41) Pastoral Staff
Freedom Friends Church believes that all members and attenders share the responsibility for the spiritual health of the meeting. We also acknowledge that there are some who are led by the Spirit to a sustained and public pastoral role. We believe that this call may come to anyone, regardless of their race, gender, or sexual orientation. A pastor serves at the leading of the Holy Spirit and the call of the Monthly Meeting, and is accountable to, and nurtured by, Ministry and Oversight.
Our pastor’s primary concern will be the spiritual condition of the individual members of the community - providing or facilitating support, nurture, education, counsel, and healing. The pastor will be a Quaker diplomat, reaching out to, and ministering in, the wider Quaker world. They will be a public voice for the Meeting in our community. They will lead by example, both in their strengths and weaknesses.
Ministry and Oversight and the pastor will mutually determine the tasks that the pastor will perform. The meeting may financially release the pastor, according to the meeting’s ability and the pastor’s needs. For tax purposes our pastor is an independent contractor, and may be subject to all legal privileges and responsibilities of an ordained minister.
(4-3.42) Presiding Clerk
The presiding clerk is the chief listener in a community of listeners. The presiding clerk is active in the entire life of the Meeting and observes and articulates the movings of the Spirit among us. The clerk should be a spiritually mature person, grounded in love, with deep listening skills, and the ability to work with, and be present to, all people.
In meeting for business the clerk listens to God and the Meeting and has primary responsibility for articulating the sense of the Meeting. Gospel Order is explained and maintained by the clerk. The presiding clerk also presently clerks Ministry and Oversight, as we grow, this might change but the presiding clerk will always serve on Ministry and Oversight.
(4-3.43) Recording Clerk
The recording clerk is the historian and archivist of the Meeting. Along with the presiding clerk they are charged with the responsibility of finding the words to convey the sense of the Meeting. This important ministry shapes the past, present and future of the Meeting.
The recording clerk takes minutes of monthly meetings and Ministry and Oversight sessions. They collect all minutes, reports, documents and correspondence and keep them in a minute book, which remains in the Church.
The treasurer takes responsibility for the finances of the Meeting. They have a concern for the solvency and stability of the Meeting. They work to make sure that the Meeting has financial integrity. They will encourage creative, generous and responsible giving.
The Treasurer collects and deposits donations. They report to the Meeting and Ministry and Oversight the status of our finances. They keep and maintain good financial records that are open to the Meeting and could be reviewed by an outside party for accountability. They supply tax information to donors.
The treasurer will be a person with good accounting skills, but more importantly, deep personal integrity and a history of personal financial responsibility.
Quakers are intentionally communitarian. We choose to build bridges rather than walls. We recognize that combined efforts have a multiplied effect and cooperation is an expression of our peace testimony. Freedom Friends Church will consider two kinds of affiliations: affiliations of affinity and structural affiliations.
Affiliations of affinity would be joining a group that works in the world for a cause that is in harmony with our testimonies. Our affiliation with such a group would be supportive of the common goal but would not change our structure in any way. The Community of Welcoming Congregations would be an example of this type of affiliation. A recommendation for an affiliation of affinity would come from Ministry and Oversight, and could be approved in one Meeting for Worship through Business.
A structural affiliation would be a more significant decision. This type of affiliation would be a joining of function and structure with a Quaker organization such as a Yearly Meeting or a larger Quaker group like the Western Association of Friends or Friends General Conference. This type of affiliation might involve coming under another Faith and Practice or engaging functionally and financially with the larger group. At the time of this writing, Freedom Friends Church does not have any such affiliation, because there is no such group that affirms all that we hold in our Faith and Practice. If at a future time, such an affiliation becomes possible, it would require a significant season of exploration and discernment, and would require the final decision to be considered over at least three meetings for worship through business.
Membership is a mutual commitment made by an individual and the church, as represented by its people. The member makes a public statement of commitment to the health of the church, and the church commits itself to the spiritual support of the individual. The member and the church enter into a form of mutual care.
Members do not have a higher status than attenders. Attenders can participate fully in the life of the church through worship, business meetings and other opportunities. But members have made a commitment of stability that is a strong foundation for the church. The church needs members.
Members express their commitment in many ways. They try to attend worship and business on a regular basis. They voluntarily support the church financially according to their means. They pray for the church and its ministry and they participate as the Spirit leads.
Application for membership should not be made lightly, but in a spirit of responding to a Divine call. Membership is open-ended but it can be laid down, life situations can make it necessary to let go of the commitment and this can be done gracefully.
Members will be at least 16 years of age. Membership is an individual choice, married couples must apply individually. When a person feels a call to be a member of Freedom Friends Church they will write a letter to the presiding clerk stating their desire. The presiding clerk will call a Clearness Committee for the consideration of membership. This committee may be made of the members of Ministry and Oversight or a subset of that committee. Other members may be asked to serve by Ministry and Oversight.
The Clearness Committee will meet with the individual one or more times to talk with them about their desire for membership. This will be a mutual Clearness Committee where both the committee and the individual must become clear before the application can be proceed. The Clearness Committee will discuss at least these things although other issues may arise: the individual’s sense of call to be a member, their personal ability to make a commitment at this time and their understanding of the Faith and Practice of Freedom Friends Church and their harmony with it.
The Clearness Committee will come to one of three conclusions: membership is right at this time, membership is not right at this time, membership seems possible but needs seasoning while certain issues are resolved. The Clearness Committee may decide that further study is needed and may ask the pastor to conduct an individual or group membership class.
The clerk of the Clearness Committee will report their conclusion to Ministry and Oversight. Ministry and Oversight will review the process and make a recommendation to the Monthly Meeting for action. The Meeting will act on the application at the next business meeting. The recording clerk will keep records of membership and a certificate of membership will be given to the new member upon action by the Monthly Meeting.
Freedom Friends Church will accept transferred members in good standing from other Friends Meetings or Churches. A Clearness Committee may still be called at the discretion of the presiding clerk. If an individual desires membership and is a member of another Friends Church or Meeting and for whatever reason, after a reasonable request and consultation, that Church or Meeting does not send a certificate of transfer, the person will be given a Clearness Committee by the presiding clerk and if approved for membership, a letter will be sent to the Church or Meeting informing them of the action of Freedom Friends Church.
A member who desires to move their membership from Freedom Friends Church to another Friends Church or Meeting may request a certificate of transfer from the presiding clerk. The presiding clerk will consult with Ministry and Oversight about the request and issue a certificate of transfer if appropriate.
Occasionally, a member of our community may live at a distance and attend another Friends Church or Meeting. If they are an active part of that meeting, but wish to retain their membership with Freedom Friends Church, they may write to the presiding clerk and request a minute of sojourn. If the Meeting approves, the presiding clerk writes the minute and sends it to the presiding clerk of the other meeting. In the same manner, Freedom Friends Church will receive and accept proper minutes of sojourn. The member will retain their primary concern for their home Meeting, but make plain their active participation in their temporary home.
A member may request in writing to be dropped from the membership rolls of Freedom Friends Church. In this case Ministry and Oversight will attempt to discover the reason for the withdrawal. By recommendation of Ministry and Oversight and action of the Monthly Meeting, a person’s membership may be terminated if it is clear that the individual is no longer living out their commitment to the Church. This action will not take place without significant prayer and consultation and the individual will have ample opportunity to meet with Ministry an Oversight before such a recommendation is made.
In accordance with Quaker tradition, Freedom Friends Church recognizes that all are called to minister, in and out of meeting. However, some ministries require special attention, nurture and accountability from the Meeting. These ministries may be brief or prolonged, they may be exercised among us or in other locations, but they will be in harmony with the Faith and Practice of Freedom Friends Church and will benefit the Society of Friends.
(4-5.1) Recording of Ministers
We recognize that God gifts and calls some individuals to sustained and public service. We recognize that God ordains these individuals. Friends can only recognize and record their gifts and calls. The purpose of this recording is to nurture and hold accountable these individuals and to give them the benefit of community discernment in the exercise of their gifts for the benefit of Friends and the world.
The process of recording is observational. We record ministry which we see exercised in our midst. Such ministry will be consistent, persistent, public, and fruitful and to the specific benefit of our Monthly Meeting and the wider Quaker world.
Individuals who feel led to minister test their leading by doing ministry. Individuals led to sustained public ministry are encouraged to talk to Ministry and Oversight about their leading. Prayer and guidance will be given to them.
When Ministry and Oversight has observed such ministry over time, and sees the need for nurture and accountability of the minister, they will start the process of consideration. The Monthly Meeting will be notified, and if they approve, a meeting for clearness will be held with the individual to commence a season of discernment and preparation. Ministry and Oversight may assign a mentor, or ask the individual to enter into a spiritual direction process with a Quaker minister. While no particular degree is required to be a Friends minister, some education or study may be suggested or required. A series of meetings for clearness may be appropriate. Other formational activities may be suggested. When Ministry and Oversight feels that the observed ministry is solid and sustained and that the season of discernment has produced clearness, they will make a recommendation to the Monthly Meeting that the minister be recorded. The Monthly Meeting will do the final discernment.
Pastoral ministry and recorded ministry may overlap, but are not identical. Pastoral ministry is a service to the Monthly Meeting that could be provided by a person who was not recorded. However, sustained, fruitful pastoral ministry in our midst would likely result in consideration for recording. Some recorded ministers do public ministry among Friends that is not pastoral in nature. Some examples of non-pastoral recordable ministry might be: teaching at a Friend’s seminary, significant writing to the benefit of the larger Society of Friends or other sustained public ministry.
Freedom Friends Church will receive recorded ministers by transfer. Ministry and Oversight will contact the previous meeting at the time of the transfer of membership to make sure that the recorded minister was in good standing at the time of transfer.
Freedom Friends Church may record a minister by recommendation of Ministry and Oversight if that minister has been previously recorded by a Friends body, and voluntarily surrendered that recording in order to join Freedom Friends Church. If a minister is discontinued solely because of their membership with Freedom Friends Church, that minister’s recording may also be taken up. In these cases, Ministry and Oversight will consider the circumstances and standing of the minister and make a recommendation to the business meeting.
All ministers recorded or received by Freedom Friends Church will be given a certificate of recording. At the minister’s discretion, they may submit their certificate to the county clerk and according to the laws of the State of Oregon; they shall have all the rights and responsibilities granted to ordained ministers of other denominations.
Recordings are open ended. Recorded ministers are accountable to the Monthly Meeting. Ongoing nurture and accountability will be provided through minutes of service and traveling minutes. (4-5.2 and 4-5.3) Recorded ministers can also arrange for nurture and accountability through other means that they desire, such as requesting elders, clearness or care committees, or spiritual direction. Our pastors are cared for and held accountable directly by Ministry and Oversight. (4-3.4) If a minister feels that their call is fulfilled, they may lay down their recording by notifying Ministry and Oversight and the Meeting. By recommendation of Ministry and Oversight and action of the Monthly Meeting, a minister's recording may be terminated if it is clear that the individual is no longer living consistently with their ministerial gift. This action will not take place without significant prayer and consultation and the individual will have ample opportunity to meet with Ministry and Oversight before such a recommendation is made. If they transfer their membership to another Monthly Meeting or Yearly Meeting, their recording shall be transferred with their membership, unless the receiving Meeting discerns that the recording cannot be taken up. The presiding clerk would facilitate the process of transfer.
(4-5.2) Minutes of Service
When a Friend undertakes a ministry
at the leading of the Spirit the meeting may
choose to recognize this ministry with a minute
of service. This ministry may or may not include
travel, but will be a sustained task that benefits Friends
and/or promotes our testimonies. A recommendation of a minute of service will
come from Ministry and Oversight for the approval of the Monthly
Meeting. When the service is completed the Friend will bring a report
back to the Monthly Meeting.
(4-5.3) Traveling Minutes
A traveling minute has been a tradition among Quakers since our earliest days. Originally it was a kind of “Quaker Identification” that allowed the individual or traveling minister to receive hospitality, protection, and opportunities for ministry from other Quakers. In recent times it has come to be a written commission and blessing of an individual’s temporary ministry from their meeting.
To follow the proper Quaker etiquette
concerning a traveling minute, the individual makes their meeting
aware that they have a call to travel under a concern. This means that they
feel God is asking them to carry out some ministry
away from their home meeting. The meeting
takes this concern under advisement, and if it is the sense
of the meeting that the call is according to Gospel
Order, the presiding clerk writes or asks
the recording clerk
to write an official minute concerning the proposed ministry.
A copy of this minute is given to the traveling minister. The minister carries
their minute with them. If they are traveling to another Friends Church, Meeting
or a Quaker organization, they present their
minute to the clerk of that gathering who will
read it into their minutes. Normally the clerk
of that gathering will add written greetings, sign, and return the minute
to the minister who will then bring the minute back to their own meeting
with a verbal or written report. If the minister is traveling among non-Friends
it is up to their discernment to decide
if it is appropriate to ask someone to sign their minute. After the ministry
is completed, the minister will bring a report back to the Monthly
Freedom Friends Church recognizes and supports marriage. We do not believe that there is more merit in a married life than in unmarried life, but we recognize the stability and blessing that marriage may bring into our lives. We are inclusive in our marriage practices, believing that any two adults can make a spirit-led, long-term commitment based on love before God and the community. We believe that the two people give themselves to each other, and that the community, including the pastor, is witness to, not makers of, this sacred event.
We believe in equality in marriage, and that married life is based on mutual respect, love, friendship, and devotion. We believe that marriage is an equal partnership, and we promote marriages that are free from violence and abuse of any kind. As with all things, we seek the will of the Spirit in our marital relations. We wish to support all marriages in our midst: those that are made in our presence, as well as those that arrive already made.
The public celebration of the making of a marriage is always a time of joy in a faith community. Freedom Friends Church wants to give attention to our members and attenders who are taking this step.
When we become aware that a couple in our midst has made a commitment to each other and is ready to plan a public celebration of that commitment, The pastor and/or the clerk of the meeting will sit down with the couple and talk to them about marriage among Friends and ask them how the community may best help them at this time.
We encourage the wedding to be an occasion of worship. Our pastor may facilitate if the couple chooses, but will not use language that implies that the marriage is made by anyone other than the couple.
We encourage simplicity in the wedding. We will make sure that the couple is aware of the simplest of Quaker wedding traditions and that a wedding may happen at a regular or special meeting for worship. We discourage the practice of indebtedness to finance ostentatious ceremonies.
We encourage the couple to make promises to each other that are truthful and meaningful. We encourage them to have a service that reflects their testimony. We encourage them to be creative as they are led in making a ceremony.
We encourage joyfulness and community; meeting, family and friends becoming a special community for the purpose of blessing.
We will encourage the couple to consider a traditional Quaker marriage certificate, making all present witnesses. For purposes of fulfilling the legal requirements, our pastor will sign the license issued by the state.
(4-6.2) Care of Marriages
We believe marriage needs to be cared for and supported by both the individuals who make and sustain the commitment, and by the faith community surrounding them. We hold the marriages among us in love and respect, believing the couples themselves knows what they need. We will not step in to intervene in a marriage unless asked by the couple or under dire circumstances such as abuse or addiction. When care has been requested, Ministry and Oversight will provide prayer, referrals for counseling, and guidance in a confidential and honoring manner.
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