September 3, 2017
Dear Friends and Elders of Northwest Yearly Meeting,
It is with a heavy heart and deep concern that I write this letter. Due to my accident I have been unable to engage in much of the business of the YM the last couple of years. This has turned out to be a blessing and a source of sadness. As I look at the events of the last few years I see an influence at work among us that has led to the exact outcome we are witnessing. The influence is the scourge of instant gratification, discipling us in impatience. From the earliest times, the church worked with diligence to live differently than the impatient empire surrounding them, and that patience is what compelled so many around them to join their ranks. That same reemphasis on patience gave the earliest Friends power and life in the Spirit and was equally compelling. The damage among Friends leading to splits has always been heralded by a lack of patience and an unwillingness to cast ourselves in the mold of the long-suffering Jesus.
This is the true danger that I see at work, that we have abandoned the patience that God pours out upon us with new mercies every morning. What would the processes that led to the shattering of the NWYM have looked like if we had employed the long-suffering of Jesus rather than the desire for instant change? My mother-in-law has a saying she penned, which is posted on her bathroom mirror: “We want things done in a microwave minute. God uses a crock-pot.” It is my experience in my listening to many around the YM and who have fled the YM that we have thrown others under the bus many times in our impatience, and I humbly ask that rather than continue with a split in the spirit of impatience we instead repent of our impatience and seek again the mercy found at the throne of grace. Never in the history of the church has it agreed on everything, and the greatest outcomes in our history came when we exercised patience with each other rather than executed power in order to control outcomes to our personal comfort.
Friends, the Holy Spirit has laid this conviction upon me, and I call us to set aside our human politicking and desire for control and accept instead the burden of the long-suffering servant, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who suffered in the extreme for us. That burden is to bear with one another in love, and frankly it looks a lot more like human power plays than actions of love going on right now. There is a third way, but it is hard for everyone, and that is to discipline ourselves to the patience of Jesus. If we are to mold ourselves to the pattern of Jesus who, at the last supper, served first the one who was to betray him then we must change our actions and business to match his patience. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians we see an injunction to patience as the first key descriptor of what true Christian love is: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” 1 Corinthians 13:4 (emphasis mine) Can we truly say that our interactions over the last few years have been characterized first by these things? If we are honest, at least with ourselves, the answer is no.
It is time for us to lay aside everything else that seems so important and repent of the sin which has so easily ensnared us, submit to the discipline of the Holy Spirit, and declare the business of centralizing power, separation, and attempts to control the beliefs of others to be rooted in the sin of impatience.
I would like to take the opportunity at hand to begin with myself, and beg forgiveness of God and the NWYM for the impatience with which I have: acted towards, and thought of, many people in the Yearly Meeting. Friends, take some time to examine your heart in the presence of the Holy Spirit, because this sin is part of the very cultural air we breathe, and we are squandering the opportunity to be a witness to the power of the gospel which enjoins us to be patient with one another as we work out our salvation in fear and trembling.
There are many who have been greatly wounded by the lack of mercy and patience in recent years. Their cries have gone unheard in the anxious press to impose a resolution, and their patience has been the most Christ-like. Many left, not out of impatience, but from the knowledge that impatience going against the heart of God won the political battle for control. While it is too late for us to undo the results of the sin we have committed, what might God accomplish among us through our visible repentance?
With Deep Sorrow,
Gilbert L George
Recorded Pastor and Minister of NWYM