Newberg Friends Church finalizes split of its members
Completing a process that was set in motion by the Northwest Yearly Meeting's decision in January to reorganize over theological differences regarding homosexuality and the LGBTQ community, the two factions at Newberg Friends Church finalized their split by approving a "covenant of separation" at separate meetings held Sept. 24.
"While we accept this covenant as the basis for both congregations to move forward, we believe God is not finished with either group, nor with our relationship," the document's conclusion states. "We expect God to continue to move in the hearts of members of both congregations to complete with justice and equity our story as brothers and sisters in Christ who shared for so long the life and ministry of the historic Newberg Friends Church."
A group was formed to decide and document how the unified church's assets, liabilities and ministries would be divided. It included three representatives each from the portion of the congregation that elected to remain in the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends (NWYM) and the group of members breaking away to create Newberg Emerging Friends Church (NEFC).
The working group also included three clerks from historic Newberg Friends Church — Mark Ankeny, Ron Mock and Phil Smith — as well as representatives from relevant committees from both churches.
Citing frustration with the process and a desire to end conflict, the delegation from NEFC proposed relinquishing its power in the process and leaving all decisions on the division of assets to NFC. The congregation at NEFC, which in June began meeting for worship on Sunday evenings at Joyful Servant Lutheran, approved the decision in a "minute" at a business meeting July 16.
"We feel the call to love one another outweighs the inclination to fight," the minute reads. "Above all else, in fidelity to our shared faith, we desire that love mark the conclusion of this difficult process."
The covenant document recognized the withdrawal as "a profound gift from NEFC," and characterized the division of assets as "a tangible expression of their love and concern" from the congregation remaining at NFC.
The division includes an equal split of the proceeds from the sale of the Friends Center, which will be "sold at a time beneficial to market value," and a direct release of physical assets and funds to NEFC, which will also be released from responsibility or liability regarding Newberg Friends Cemetery.
Among the physical assets to be transferred are a 12-passenger van and a seven-passenger SUV, along with a split of nursery items, curriculum and classroom teaching supplies.
The funds transferred total $27,714, but are restricted for use only by the stated purpose of the original donor, with those ranging from refugee response and camp scholarships to vehicle and office equipment replacement reserves.
In an email to the Graphic, current clerk Carl Anderson indicated that Newberg Friends Church has chosen not to comment on any details of the covenant or the process to create it so as to better promote healing on both sides.
"The circumstances that have led to the Covenant of Separation between Newberg Friends Church and those known as Newberg Emerging Friends Church are a source of sadness to all of us," Anderson wrote. "Representatives of the two groups have worked for months through discussion and prayer to agree on this Covenant and to preserve long-standing friendships."
Newberg Emerging Friends Church did not respond to requests for comment.