Members of the EFCI may be shocked to find that, in 1993, there was talk underway of possibly realigning the FUM. If that had taken place, it is very likely the FUM and EFCI would have merged.
Here is what’s so shocking to me about this “near-event.” Although they may describe themselves as evangelical, the FUM is not an evangelical denomination. The many differences between the FUM and the EFCI can be seen in a detailed history of the FUM.
Still, of all Quaker denominations, the FUM is probably the nearest in theology to EFCI. In a nutshell, here is a listing of several Quaker denominations and their theologies:
EFCI – evangelical (I would say it is becoming “progressive evangelical”)
FUM – “middle-of-the-road”
FGC – liberal
Following are two more groups of North American Quakers:
There are other Quaker denominations as well, but the above five are the major groups/denominations.
Back to my point: in 1993 the FUM apparently came very close to merging with the traditionally evangelical EFCI. Was the EFCI opposed to this? Or, on the contrary, was the EFCI open to this?
Following are some excerpts from an article describing the FUM “Realignment Controversy” in the early 1990s. The entire article can be viewed by clicking on the title of the following article. I have emphasized certain points by bolding and [bracketing]:
by Bill Samuel
Originally published August 1, 2000 at Suite101.com
The Realignment Debate and FUM’s Direction
The 1990-93 Triennium of Friends United Meeting (FUM) was marked by an energetic debate over a possible “realignment” among Friends and the fallout from that debate. Stephen Main, FUM General Secretary, early in the Triennium began speaking out calling for such a realignment. Main saw a real problem in the lack of true unity in FUM on the centrality of Jesus Christ because of the many Friends in the united yearly meetings who didn’t share this understanding of the Quaker faith.
Main saw [FUM] Friends as being basically in two camps. One camp was strongly centered in Jesus Christ and committed to spreading the Christian gospel. The other camp was “universalist” in approach, and accepting of other spiritual paths as being equally valid as the Christian path. Main felt that each camp could be most effective if it was united in working from its perspective, and not trying to bridge the gap between the two perspectives. He saw the presence of universalist Friends from the united yearly meetings in the basically Christ-centered FUM as being divisive and eroding FUM’s effectiveness. [Interesting. In a supposedly non-evangelical Quaker denomination, a Secretary was taking a biblical stance and opposing universalists!]
Structurally, the realignment position suggested the joining together of Evangelical Friends International (EFI) and Christ-centered FUM Friends into one association. Universalist Friends would not fit into this association, potentially resulting in splits within some of the yearly meetings affiliated with FUM. Only one FUM yearly meeting minuted support for realignment, and a number of yearly meetings expressed strong opposition. Main wound up resigning before the end of his three-year term. [Hmmm, interesting – and sad. It sounds almost as if Main was a “lone ranger” in standing up for biblical Truth.]
Although the idea of realignment did not obtain widespread support within FUM at that time, the issue did prompt major attention to examining the purpose of FUM. The resulting discernment process led to FUM adopting the following purpose statement in 1993:
Friends United Meeting commits itself to energize and equip Friends through the power of the Holy Spirit to gather people into fellowships where Jesus Christ is known, loved and obeyed as Teacher and Lord.
[Warning – the FUM phrase “Teacher and Lord” is a phrase used by non-born again, non-evangelical Quakers. It should throw up a big red flag. Among EFCI Quakers who still proudly proclaim themselves as born again, the phrase “Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord” would be used – Saviour being the key word. In my lifetime, I have never heard anyone in the EFC-ER (my Region of the EFCI) refer to Jesus Christ as “Teacher and Lord”.
Also note: an FUM realignment would have resulted in part of the FUM perhaps merging with the evangelical EFCI, and the other part likely becoming more “Quaker universalist”. Instead, the entire FUM remained intact. By rejecting any realignment, the entire FUM in essence chose to remain staunchly non-born again/non-evangelical.]
The Picture Since FUM’s 1993 Purpose Statement
The FUM General Secretary appointed after Main’s resignation, Johan Maurer, resigned that position this year to join the pastoral team at an EFI church [interesting – and scary – the FUM emphasizes the Inner Light over being born again, yet Maurer joined the pastor team of a “born again” EFI church]. In a closing message to the FUM community, Maurer noted, “Eventually it will make sense for Friends United Meeting and Evangelical Friends International to merge…” (Quaker Life, July/August 2000, page 4) While he did not use the term realignment and did not address the broader issues raised by such a possible merger, it seems to me his assessment brings back to the public arena the concerns raised by his predecessor.
The approach taken by FUM was to be unambiguously Christ-centered and evangelical [evangelical? – I don’t think so], while allowing room for the united yearly meetings which don’t themselves take that stance to remain active in FUM. Those yearly meetings have remained in FUM, and do not appear to have done anything overtly to challenge the stance of FUM. But beyond that, how successful has FUM been with this approach?
In its World Ministries work, the work outside North America, this approach has had some success. FUM has greatly increased the number of field staff abroad, whose support largely comes from earmarked contributions. After many years of fairly steady-state operations, this is noteworthy. But FUM still is not opening up new areas for planting churches like Evangelical Friends Mission (the missions arm of EFI) has done.
In its work in North America, the picture has been somewhat grim. FUM has had serious problems raising money for its regular budget, out of which most of this work is funded. It has faced a series of budget and staff reductions. Directly related to the newly declared purpose, FUM tried to start a program to help people plant new meetings/churches. But that fell victim to resource problems. Now FUM tells people that they must look to local or yearly meetings for this support. But the united yearly meetings generally aren’t involved, and are unlikely to become involved, in starting the kinds of meetings/churches described in FUM’s purpose statement. FUM now takes an approach focused on networking among constituent yearly meetings rather than FUM programs themselves in its North American work. This means that the extent to which FUM’s purpose statement actually translates to activity varies enormously in areas where FUM-affiliated yearly meetings operate.
The Future of North American Friends
There are real obstacles to organizational realignment that, to the best of my knowledge, nobody has yet come up with good ways to overcome. Most notably, we have the issue of the united yearly meetings which generally lean more to the universalist end of the spectrum, but which contain individuals and sometimes meetings which are oriented towards FUM’s purpose. How do we avoid leaving those Christ-centered Friends hanging out there, without solid ties to a larger grouping that shares their vision? [Interesting – it appears there are various “concerned” Quakers who I could network with to various degrees in forming “confessing ministries.”] I agree with the implication in Maurer’s statement that organizational realignment will not come quickly. But I think leaders among Friends need to keep this question in their minds so that some way forward may emerge. And I also think that the movement, while not very visible as well as being tender and small, towards independent worship groups and meetings centered on Christ within the geographical confines of the united yearly meetings may wind up playing a significant role in how this all works out in the next couple of decades.
These events occurred 18 years ago. What are the associations, the conferences, the transfer of pastors now between the EFC-ER, the other EFCI Regions, and all the non-evangelical Quaker denominations?
Click here for a history of FUM crises between 1988-2008.
Fortunately, the FUM and EFCI did not merge. But that is not the end of the story. The FUM and EFCI still maintain many close ties. For example, representatives (denominational leaders, and pastors) from the EFCI meet at various gatherings with representatives from other Quaker denominations on a regular basis (annually, triannually, etc.). To me this is unacceptable. Why does the EFCI, a supposedly evangelical denomination, meet at all with non-evangelical Quaker denominations? It seems that the bond with other Quakers (no matter what their theology) is more important to the EFCI than the bond of fellowship between born again believers.
I will provide more details on intra-Quaker associations as I locate them. I believe this is something born again members of the EFCI should keep a close eye on and be very concerned about.