Faith and Practice Revision Committee
Katherine Smith, Clerk
Maury River Friends Meeting
York Friends Meeting
Hopewell Centre Monthly Meeting
During Annual Session 2013, a proposed revision to the complete text of Faith and Practice was considered by the Yearly Meeting. (click here to download a copy of this text) At the conclusion of the week, Friends were not in unity with approving the text. The minutes record the decision at Y2013-56. The complete text of this minute is below:
2013-56 Faith and Practice Discernment. The Clerk recognized that yesterday we shared deeply around the draft Faith and Practice, speaking from our hearts. She said she would state for Friends her sense of the Meeting to test it with us.
We have a current Faith and Practice. It is the 1988 version, as revised in 2001. This stands as our Faith and Practice until we reach unity to revise or replace it.
A proposed new Faith and Practice (which I will call the “2013 draft”) has been brought before us. My sense is that we do not have unity to adopt this 2013 draft Faith and Practice as it stands now. This lack of unity has two parts:
- Substance: While some Friends whole-heartedly endorse the contents of the 2013 draft Faith and Practice, others cannot unite with many parts of it.
- Process: Many Friends feel overwhelmed by the task before us, finding it impossible to have meaningful discernment on so large a document all at once. Especially with regard to matters at the core of our faith, these Friends suggest that the best process would be for discernment involving deep meaningful discussions on manageable amounts of material over the course of years.
Thus, we cannot adopt the 2013 draft Faith and Practice as presented, and our 1988 Faith and Practice (as revised in 2001) stands as our current Faith and Practice.
However, we want to acknowledge that the 2013 draft Faith and Practice has been a gift to us, and many Friends have found it both useful and inspiring. The process of reading and discussing it has been a source of spiritual renewal among us. We do not want to discard the 2013 draft. We would like to make it available to Friends as a resource, as long as it is clear to all that it has not been adopted as our Faith and Practice.
We ask Nominating Committee to bring forward to us by next Annual Session a new Faith and Practice Revision Committee according to our Manual of Procedure. That Committee will bring forward revisions to our existing Faith and Practice in segments small enough for meaningful discussion and discernment. The 2013 draft might be a resource for this Committee. We recognize that our Faith and Practice may go through many incremental changes over the next few years, and we may come to rely on electronic versions in order to have the most current Faith and Practice at hand.
There was much deep discussion on this topic. Many Friends united with the Clerk’s statement and talked about what a wonderful resource and gift the 2013 draft is, helping us to plumb what we believe and to explore our faith. Many felt and expressed that this discussion of Faith and Practice has been a wonderful help to Meetings.
Some hoped that we could approve all but one part, “The Life of the Spirit” section, and although there was support for that idea, Friends were not in unity to do this. Continued concerns were expressed both with the substance and with the process. A number of Friends suggested some specific new process steps or changes for the way forward, including asking Nominating Committee to bring forward names for the new Committee before next Annual Session, if possible. One Friend read from the Manual of Procedure, page 14, which describes the Faith and Practice Revision Committee. This Committee is appointed only when proposed revisions are presented in writing to the Yearly Meeting. The 2013 draft is the proposed revision being presented.
The Clerk said that it remains clear that we are not in unity to accept the latest draft Faith and Practice, even for accepting part of it. The draft Faith and Practice, however, will be available for dissemination among the Baltimore Yearly Meeting Local Meetings as an important document. We are directing the Nominating Committee to bring forward a new Faith and Practice Revision Committee when it is ready to do so, but no later than Annual Session next year.
The Clerk’s initial statement was APPROVED as the sense of the meeting, with the modification that the new committee will (rather than “might”) use the 2013 draft as a resource.
Visioning Project Report
In 2010 and 2011, Baltimore Yearly Meeting undertook a project to consider the vision of the Yearly Meeting community. As a part of that project, each committee was asked to respond to a set of queries that had been promulgated by the ad hoc Visiting Ministers Committee. The Faith and Practice Revision Committee's responses are available here.