Faith and Practice Committee Annual Reports
The text of recently received Annual Reports are below, with the most recently received at the top and older reports below. To jump to a particular report, simply click the year listed below.
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Since fall of 2018, Faith and Practice Committee has met via zoom, and we start each meeting with waiting worship and reading the Anit-Racist queries. We think about the many aspects of diversity as we move forward with the work: racial, economic, faith, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, ability etc.
This year, the Committee’s main focus has been on asking for, and responding to, comments on the proposed revision of the marriage provisions of Faith and Practice in preparation for Second Reading at Annual Session, 2021. We heard from several meetings--some had edits, others had suggestions, and some offered remarks of appreciation. Diane Bowden (Richmond) and Sarah Bur (Homewood) were the main writers. They also personally responded to the comments. As a committee we looked at the revised section several times, and it was not unusual that during the waiting worship after we had our discussion, that an elegant observation would be made, and resulted in a better draft.
Other details have been attended to as well:
We have updated the Sojourner Truth quote in the 2013 Resource for Faith and Practice to more closely reflect her authentic words. A Friend showed us that the quote formerly in the 2013 resource was one that had been published and widely circulated as her voice, when it clearly was not. Errata sheets were placed in all of the Faith and Practice copies at the YM office.
Our committee has been made responsible for the yearly meeting’s style manual. We are not making changes to the manual at this time. As noted at its start, “This style manual has been developed by the Publications Committee as an aid in editing the Baltimore Yearly Meeting Yearbook” which “might be helpful to other Yearly Meeting committees and to Monthly Meetings.” Our committee is using a style different from that in the manual in revising Faith and Practice. We are also seeking to identify changes and additions to the style manual that would advance the yearly meeting’s effort to be an anti-racist community. We note that yearly meeting committees, not yearly meeting staff, are responsible for making stylistic changes to documents.
The most current version of Faith and Practice is available on the BYM website. Printings will only occur after major revisions have been approved (or if additional print copies are required). We strive to communicate clearly with all. We will include a reference in future print versions to the website where the most recent version will be found. We added “The version at bym-rsf.org is the most current” to page iii version on the website, and this will be included in future printings. We also decided that it would be best to summarize the changes for each edition that would be posted inside of the first page of the document.
Sections we are considering revising:
Meetings and Membership: Questions arose at Fall interim about the role that meeting membership plays in selecting committee members, and what constitutes a “meeting”. We have been thinking about naming communities that are not monthly meetings and have found several distinctions:
Quaker camp communities (campers, staff, volunteers) do not hold business sessions, do not have a hierarchy or clerk, committee structures, and rotate all of these any given year. So these do not seem to have the same structural requirements that a monthly meetings has.
Quaker Youth Communities such as JYF, YF, and YAF, have a structure with clerks and other volunteers who serve in various roles, so this is closer to a monthly meeting. Budget issues may vary. Unlike monthly meetings, none of these groups meet in a specific place or at a regular time.
The Women’s Retreat does not have a structure similar to a monthly meeting, and meets only annually.
Several important questions about membership need to be considered. What is the purpose of membership? What are the privileges and the benefits as compared to attenders? What are the responsibilities? What are the legal requirements for officers, trustees etc? Why do these requirements exist and how may they be used to discriminate against others who may not reach the “weighty Friend” status?
As we craft and/or revise content, we understand Faith and Practice to be a document that clarifies our current practices in general. For some groups this may be aspirational rather than reflective of the current practice in an individual meeting. Other meetings may see the document as prescriptive. But when it comes down to the moment, the decision in a body, the one thing that remains is that we corporately gather in Worship to discern how the Spirit will move among us- whether it is a meeting for worship with a concern for business, a committee meeting, a marriage, a meeting for worship, or some other occasion when Friends gather in the Light.
Life of the Spirit
The diversity of Friends' beliefs in our yearly meeting is vast. The current yearly meeting consolidated two yearly meetings that held very different views, as reflected in our affiliation with both FGC and FUM Friends. We know this will be a tricky section for us to come to unity about. While some Friends felt that the 2013 version was just right, while other friends from different ends of the spectrum felt that it did not suit them (too little scripture or too much scripture is one example.) So how do we clarify this when we know that the truth, the spirit, may be much larger than the words we use to describe our faith? That is an ongoing challenge, not just for this committee, but also for each one of us.
Other sections that arise out of Yearly Meeting concerns.
At its November, 2020, session, Interim Meeting asked Faith and Practice address how the Yearly Meeting should respond when a monthly meeting disaffiliates. Our committee will work with other committees to develop and propose changes to Faith and Practice and possibly the Manual of Procedure. As a standing Committee, we understand that various sections will be revised throughout the years, as the committee proposes or as the Yearly Meeting directs.
Throughout the year the Faith and Practice Committee met monthly via Zoom calls which we have found enriching. As we settle into worship and check in we are usually able to develop a sense of truly being gathered in Spirit. Two new members of our committee have helped inform our work by bringing depth and breadth of understanding of the wider world of Friends, as well as adding historical context from this yearly meeting and other yearly meetings around the world. We have also been delighted to have visitors to our committee who have added their insight as well. Like other Friends, we have missed the face-to-face communication at interim meetings.
Last year, our accomplishment was getting print copies of the Faith and Practice of Baltimore Yearly Meeting and the 2013 Resource for Faith and Practice into the hands of Friends. Digital copies are on the yearly meeting website.
During the past year we have considered the Marriage Section of Faith and Practice. Two members of our committee revised the Marriage Section, which incorporates content from our current Faith and Practice as well as the 2013 Resource for Faith and Practice. The revision was also informed by the faith and practice documents of other yearly meetings. In April, after the March Interim Meeting was cancelled, we sent out a letter asking meetings and committees to season the document. We received responses from seven groups (monthly meetings and a yearly meeting committee), and we are very grateful for these comments, most of which we have incorporated into the draft. We will bring the first reading to Annual Session.
At the last Annual Session, we learned about the proposed statement on theological diversity. We have discussed its purpose and have recommended to Advancement and Outreach Committee that a statement such as the one proposed should be based upon what Friends affirm in a revision to Faith and Practice.
As the year has progressed we have gotten better at reading and incorporating the use of the Anit-Racist queries to inform our work, but continue to hone our process. Often we have an item or so on the agenda that we don’t get to as we consider the implication of certain phrases or concepts. For instance, some of the traditional language such as marriage oversight committee brings up haunting images of overseers on plantations. We have deleted that phrase from our marriage section. We are aware of the Kenyan and Tanzanian Friends who worship at Stony Run in their programmed and Christ-centered form of worship and consider how their perspectives on this new marriage section may inform our work. We feel the need to have greater diversity on our committee.
We look forward to engaging with you in our future work.
Helen Tasker and Davis Balderston, co-clerks
Faith and Practice Committee
In 2016, it was recognized that the charge of the Faith and Practice Revision Committee was unclear, so that it was difficult to find members to serve on the Committee. At Tenth Month 2016 Interim Meeting, an ad hoc Faith and Practice Process Clarification Committee was established to offer changes to the Manual of Procedure and provide more detailed guidance to the Faith and Practice Revision Committee on how to approach its work.
“Advice and Guidance for Faith and Practice Committee” prepared by the ad hoc Committee was presented at 2017 Annual Session and attached to the Minutes (Attachment Y2017-19).
The Advice and Guidance of the ad hoc committee suggested that a new standing Faith and Practice Committee be created to take the place of the previous Faith and Practice Revision Committee, and suggested the new committee could
--consider the 2013 Faith and Practice as a resource;
--propose changes, additions or deletions to the 1988 Faith and Practice in sections, showing how they differ from the approved 1988 Faith and Practice;
--identify and focus first on sections of Faith and Practice that are out-of-date, no longer reflecting current practices, or are unclear or incomplete;
--establish points of contact with groups that may season and propose changes to Faith and Practice;
--engage in ongoing dialog with all BYM groups about faith and practice and Faith and Practice.
At 2018 Annual Session, five members were appointed to the new Faith and Practice Committee that took the place of the previous Faith and Practice Revision Committee.
The Committee has met monthly (via Zoom) and at Interim Meetings face to face. We hope to have new members join us incrementally, so as not to leave the committee bereft of Friends who will share the “institutional” memory for the group.
Our first work has been to spiritually ground ourselves as a group, and by meeting monthly via zoom we seem to have done so.
Our next task was to make available both the 1988 Faith and Practice and the 2013 Resource for Faith and Practice. With much help from the Associate General Secretary we have prepared the two documents for publication on our webpage, and in hard copies. We seek to revise the 1988 Faith and Practice over the years. The 2013 document will remain as is, adapting portions of it as we revise Faith and Practice.
We look to work on updating the Faith and Practice by looking at the overall structure of the two documents, the marriage sections, the queries and advices, and the language used. We are also discerning how to get feedback from others within the yearly meeting. We aspire to maintain transparency by reporting at Interim Meetings, and updating others through the Interchange. We plan to seek input regarding the vision for Faith and Practice at an Interest Group at Annual Session.
Davis Balderston (Alexandria) and Helen Tasker (Frederick), co-clerks
No report received.
ad hoc Faith and Practice Process Clarification Committee
The creation of an ad hoc Faith and Practice Process Clarification Committee (F&P PCC) was approved at Tenth Month 2016 Interim Meeting with this minute:
Baltimore Yearly Meeting establishes an ad hoc Faith and Practice Process Clarification Committee, which is asked to bring forward a proposal for a first reading at Interim Meeting in March 2017 to 1) offer changes to the Manual of Procedure entries relating to Faith and Practice and 2) provide more detailed guidance to the Faith and Practice Revision Committee (F&PRC) on how to approach its work. A second reading of its proposal would come to Interim Meeting in June 2017. If Interim Meeting reaches unity on a way forward at that time, the ad hoc Committee would be laid down, and the Nominating Committee would be asked to bring names for the F&PRC to Annual Session.
F&P PCC membership was open to all who expressed interest. In addition, the Presiding and Interim Meeting clerks recruited additional members to expand the age and regional diversity on the committee. Committee membership fluctuated for the first couple of months then settled to eleven members, including both the Presiding and Interim Meeting clerks.
The F&P PCC was slower getting off the ground than anticipated. Our first meeting was in January 2017, with five additional meetings occurring from late January through July. We met in person at the BYM offices, often with one or more members calling in. Our discussions were spirited, as we had a wide diversity of opinions about faith, practice, and process. We also held three listening sessions in April. To facilitate participation by as many people as possible, we scheduled the sessions across the Yearly Meeting. Two were held in conjunction with Stewardship and Finance Committee’s apportionment meetings at Oxford Friends Meeting and Floyd Friends Meeting. The third was at Bethesda Friends Meeting.
We reported on our work at March Interim Meeting and made some preliminary recommendations regarding the Faith and Practice Committee, including that it be a standing committee with six to ten members and that “Revision” be struck from the Committee’s name. We heard some comments and suggestions at Interim Meeting and received additional ones via e-mail. Interim Meeting asked Nominating Committee to bring the names of six people prepared to work on Faith and Practice to Annual Session
We gave an update on our work at June Interim Meeting and brought suggested language to replace the current description of the Faith and Practice Committee on page 14 of Manual of Procedure. We again heard a variety of comments and suggestions in response to our report and recommendations.
At Annual Session, we will present for approval revised language to replace the current description of the Faith and Practice Committee in the Manual of Procedure. We will also share a set of advices for the Faith and Practice Committee, should it be appointed at Annual Session. The advices are based on the listening sessions, feedback received at Interim Meetings, comments submitted though email@example.com and directly to committee members, and our committee’s own discernment. We expect that additional comments and suggestions from the floor will be included in the Annual Session minutes.
Having completed the work described in our charge, we ask that the ad hoc Faith and Practice Process Clarification Committee be laid down at Annual Session.
We held open committee meetings at the three Interim Meetings, following the first of these at annual session, 2015. With our encouragement, we have received one additional report from a monthly meeting. At present we are in dialogue with 2 others.
Following the instruction given to us by Presiding Clerk, 2013, Betsy Meyer, we continue to work with other portions of FAITH AND PRACTICE, 2013, 2nd reading. (YRBK, 2013-56). As editing proceeds, these portions will come forward for approval.
Finally, we have met with Nominating Committee in order to assist in bringing names forward at annual session, 2016 for 2 additional members to your Committee.
Katherine Smith (Maury River), Clerk
No report received.
No report expected.
Last September the Clerk of Yearly Meeting published a letter to Friends throughout Baltimore Yearly Meeting: “Proposed Faith and Practice: A Guide for Discernment.” In that letter the Clerk noted that “for the past ten years, a revision committee has been working on a new version, circulating drafts and incorporating feedback from Friends and from Meetings.” Urging Friends to review the 2012 “First Reading” of the proposed document, the Clerk posed four guiding queries:
• Understanding that our faith is too deep for words, does the Faith & Practice adequately articulate our Quaker beliefs and testimonies, in order both to inform those new to Friends and to inspire and challenge those with long experience of Friends?
• Does the Faith & Practice provide sufficient resources, such as queries and advices, to assist us in accountability one to another in our Monthly Meetings and as a Yearly Meeting?
• Does the Faith & Practice provide sufficient explanation and guidance for our Quaker process?
• Does Faith & Practice provide guidance and structure while inviting the work of the Spirit and continuing revelation?
Armed with copies of the text and these queries, the Faith and Practice Revision Committee asked Meetings for permission to visit and listen to the response of Friends. From Abingdon Friends to Monongalia Friends Meeting, from Floyd to Dunnings Creek, from Maury River and Richmond to Langley Hill and Alexandria, members of the committee visited thirty-eight Quaker Meetings between October 2012 and April of this year.
We listened and we heard the questions and suggestions of our Yearly Meeting. We heard that many Friends were excited about the proposed Faith and Practice, that questions were posed by the revision that Friends had not fully considered before, that some procedures were clarified, that some queries led to deep introspection, and that some statements posed challenges which led Friends on a new journey.
In addition to affirmation and appreciation, we also heard concerns, suggestions, and ideas for improvement. We recorded hundreds of comments from our Friends and in February began a process of reviewing each one, amending, reworking, and revising the proposed Faith and Practice as a result.
From editorial corrections to major enhancements, this document echoes the voices which we heard throughout the Yearly Meeting. Notably we added a discussion of eldering, and a more detailed treatment of aging in our communities. In a new set of Queries, Advices, and Voices, we recognized the importance of diversity in our Society and stressed inclusion of each member and attender in our Meetings. We thoroughly expanded the index so that existing and new features could easily be found. We gave explicit attention to the queries and advices in the 1988 version of Faith and Practice, and reintegrated many of the original queries that where precious to Friends.
As many of us on the Faith and Practice Revision Committee have spent the last nine to eleven years on this project, we are very pleased to present a much improved document. The evolution of any Faith and Practice is, we recognize, a task that will never be completed. With continuing revelation our understanding of the Truth evolves, and we expect that the urge to modify, to revise, to enhance, and to rewrite this document will be ever with us.
Your committee has given this project its diligent attention, and has considered your suggestions for improvement. We deeply appreciate the input not only of our Meetings, but of many Yearly Meeting committees. We are especially grateful for those who gave us hands-on assistance in developing or amending some sections. We have pursued these revisions to our Faith and Practice with worshipful consideration, and have completed our service in good order. We offer this 2013 Draft of the Revised Faith and Practice of Baltimore Yearly Meeting for approval at Annual Session in 2013.
With the help of many Meetings and many individual Friends, we now have a final draft Faith and Practice of Baltimore Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. We thank you very much for your help. This year marks the tenth year of working on your Faith & Practice.
Each and every one of the comments and suggestions you have sent to us have been carefully read and worshipfully considered. We have accepted many and incorporated them into this 2012 version. There were some which we felt were not consistent with the other comments and suggestions and so are not incorporated in this. We are sure that you are not surprised by this!
We ask that each and every one in BYM listen carefully as you read this book. As with all major decisions made by those present at Annual Session, this will lay over so that Friends can contemplate what they will be asked to approve. You will notice that the cover says “First Reading” on it. With God’s help, it will be approved at Annual Session in 2013.
As you go through this copy, both as individuals and as a meeting, you may find some wording is really troubling to you. If so, you might ask a group from your Meeting to get together to read it. There are times when individual perceptions in a particular passage may vary. A group discernment is helpful to understanding.
There have been quite a few comments about the alphabetical way the headings of the Queries, Advices, and Voices are listed. We arranged them this way because we feel that each is as important as all others.
Another comment from several sources wonders why there are seventeen Queries, Advices, and Voices. Again, once we started writing, we realized that there were aspects of our lives that needed to be considered in this section. We also realized that not all Meetings have a Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business every month of the year.
As you get familiar with all that is in this new book, you will find that there are many more sections to help individuals and Meetings. Many of the sections carry much more information than the 1988 Faith & Practice. We feel that the Faith part has been enhanced considerably. The Practice has also been enlarged greatly.
While it would be impossible to write about every possible situation that could arise out of all the Meetings within Baltimore Yearly Meeting, we do hope that each Meeting will use what is here as a guideline and mold the information to fit their own particular needs. For instance, the wording for the wedding certificate is the original, and it must be changed to suit each couple.
This is your Faith & Practice. We encourage you to read it well, use it faithfully, and practice what is here. May this new Faith & Practice become part of your spiritual life.
The faithful Faith and Practice Revision Committee keeps writing, rewriting, and searching for just the right word to produce our new Faith and Practice. The 1988 Faith and Practice was written after the Orthodox and Hicksite Yearly Meetings were consolidated. When the new Faith and Practice of Baltimore Yearly Meeting is approved, it is anticipated that we can then call ourselves a united Yearly Meeting.
We have met 13 times between September 2010 and the end of June 2011. Regretfully, all members of the Committee were not able to make all meetings and we missed their participation. We interrupted our regular schedule in May because two of our members were married on our usual second Saturday of each month! In some months we had two meetings.
With all the writing we have been doing, we have not had the time to go through all the comments and suggestions we have received. This will be our main task in the coming months after Annual Session. We encourage every person in every Meeting to read carefully the 2011 Draft version of the Faith & Practice, either alone or in groups. This book will be on sale at Annual Session and from the Baltimore Yearly Meeting office.
Many of the sections describe areas that are common to each Meeting but are not as detailed as some may want. We have tried to make it comprehensive without saying “this is the only way to do this.” Each Meeting has its own way of handling marriages, divorces, and memberships. We tried to provide both flexibility and guidance in these areas, as well as others. Each Meeting has their own unique manner in which they approach these three practices.
Your thoughts, comments, and suggestions on this draft are very important to us as we head towards the final version. As you read through the book by yourself or with others in your Meeting to discuss the contents, we want to hear your thoughts. What questions do you have about each of the sections? We need your input to help us make this be a book that fits our Yearly Meeting.