Held by Zoom video conference
Saturday, March 26, 2022
Earlier activities: On Friday evening, we had a multi-generational evening of uplifting and creative musical fellowship led by Molly Hicks of Old Haverford Meeting. This morning, we had a time of worship together, and heard an acknowledgement of the ancestors of this land. At 10:00, we heard Francisco Burgos talk about exploring the theological roots of social justice, and had wonderful conversations in small groups. Francisco serves as the Executive Director of Pendle Hill and attends Providence Meeting. From 11:40 to noon, we took a break for lunch.
Worship: At 12:00, we gathered and settled into worship.
Introductions: Frank Barch opened the session and introduced himself and Jean-Marie Barch, clerks, the recording clerk, Jim Herr, and Melissa Rycroft, Rising Clerk. Christie Duncan-Tessmer introduced staff present. Frank named Elders: Yelena Forrester, Bob Dockhorn, Ed Solenberger, Dana Houghton, Bethann Morgan, Paul Kerr, George Rubin, .O, Phil Anthony, and Jane Cadwallader. Council Clerks were also present: Jim Waddington, Administrative Council Clerk; Terri Whiteford, Interim Nominating Council Clerk.
Jane Cadwallader offered a message from the elders: “We are seeking the will of the Divine. Decisions that are Spirit-led are the only ones we can fully trust to take us forward in God’s Light. We want to listen to each other with open, loving and vulnerable hearts. We want to speak only with the words of our Inner Teacher, acknowledging Spirit’s transforming power, and seeking inner wholeness and Unity.” The following Friends have agreed to serve as our Pastoral Care Team for today: Carter Nash and Tom Armstrong.
Query: Jean-Marie posed the question “what are you happy about today?” She asked everyone to post answers in the chat for us all to appreciate. And she read a few that appeared quickly.
Tech Overview: Zachary Dutton, Associate Secretary for Program and Religious Life for PYM, provided an overview of the technology we will be using today and contacts for assistance if needed.
Administrative Council Report: Jim Waddington said he would attempt to reflect the spirit of the work done by the Council with his report. They worked to establish guidelines for climate work without breaking into political lobbying, which is not allowed by 501(c)(3) religious organizations. The initial guidelines needed to be reworked to help the collaboratives and this was approved. The Council accepted with gratitude the report of the Climate Witness Stewards. The sprint has been meeting weekly to provide guidance.
Jeanne Elberfeld, clerk of the Sprint, shared the report from the Climate Stewards Sprint. Hollister Knowlton told us that the Sprint worked well together, but could only come up with a few names for Stewards. She related her experience of finding Quakerism, and the environmental concerns committee. Hollister urged peopl, particularly young people, to join the Climate Stewards.
Are we tending to the needs and priorities of Monthly Meetings? Jim told us that Council members are establishing guidelines for visiting Monthly Meetings in PYM, with help from Christie. The Joint Council members all agreed with this concept and hope to join in the visitation.
A Friend from Upper Susquehanna Quarter told us about advocacy he has witnessed in the local Christian Leadership group, and urged us to avoid being too fearful of government reprisal. There will be a meeting on April 4 to discuss communications policy.
The report was accepted with deep gratitude.
Minutes to this point were read, corrected and approved.
Nominating Council Report: Terri Whiteford showed us a report of the members of Nominating Council.
There was a report of members to join Admin Council: Carter Nash and Kruskal Hewitt. These nominations were accepted.
Terri told us that she and Anthony Stover joined Councils as assistant clerks. When asked to become clerk of Quaker Life Council, he said yes. Over the past two years, through the pandemic, Quaker Life Council had radical changes and increases in activities. At this point, Anthony has asked to be released in order to devote his time to his community. Terri expressed great appreciation for Anthony’s years of service.
In addition, Washanna Leggett and Ted Spaeth also asked to be released. Terri said there are many reasons why people ask to be released before their time, but she is always sad to see them go. She then went on to tell us of the great importance of Quaker Life Council and invited everyone to consider being a member. We accepted the release with deep appreciation for their service.
There were three members of Nominating Council whose terms of service are complete. We all expressed great appreciation.
Quaker Life Council: Steve Elkington and Sue Dietz shared in the report. The Council oversees five committees, one panel, and nine collaboratives. There have been only 6 or 7 members; though they have been very effective, there should be 15 members. The Council is working to consider the challenges of small Meetings. There have been confusion and concerns about communication. The Council now has a reporting schedule, with two committees reporting every month. Friends had questions about reporting from Collaboratives.
So far there has only been one member-at-large application, Guinevere Janes, who was accepted.
We accepted with appreciation the QLC report.
Minutes to this point were read, corrected, and approved.
Westtown Board Concern: Martha Bryans, member of PYM and, coincidentally Clerk of the Board of Westtown School, told us we must consider an arcane subject, for the appreciation of the Westtown Board. This proposed minute was read (and projected on Zoom screens):
Proposed Minute Regarding Consent to Certain Amendments to the Articles and Bylaws of Westtown School
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting hereby consents to the amendments to the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws of Westtown School eliminating the Prior Consent Provisions in those instruments, as that term is defined in the letter from Westtown School dated March 1, 2022 (the “Letter”), with the effect that the consent of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting to further amendments to those documents shall not be required.
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting affirms its historic and longstanding relationship with Westtown School and affirms the relationship that will continue in effect following the changes described in the Letter and the attachments, including the provision that Westtown appoint a PYM Friend serving on its Board of Trustees to serve as a Bridge Contact with the Yearly Meeting to further contemporaneous communication and awareness.
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting affirms and encourages the Mission of Westtown School: “Guided by the essential Quaker calling to seek out and honor that of God in each of us, Westtown School challenges its students to realize their individual gifts while learning and living together in a diverse community. Westtown inspires and prepares its graduates to be stewards and leaders of a better world.”
We also heard (and saw) the following, from Administrative Council:
“The Administrative Council recommends that the yearly meeting bring an integrity to the gap between our practice and the bylaws of Westtown School regarding the school’s governance. Philadelphia Yearly Meeting has, in fact, no authority or responsibility for the school committee or for Westtown School. Our practice has been to receive the names of PYM Friends whom Westtown has appointed to the school committee based on their skills and interest in Westtown. It has not been our practice to nominate and approve those names. On occasion we have been inconsistent in how our role is reflected in the minutes of Annual Sessions. Those random reporting instances do not constitute our actual policy. The recommended change in Westtown’s bylaws articulate the truth that PYM does not nominate, appoint, or approve school committee members.”
A Friend asked if this represents a broadening separation of Westtown from PYM. Martha said the main purpose is to represent what is, and has been actual practice. There is no wish to separate further from Monthly Meetings and Yearly Meeting. Christie explained that historically, since 2003, PYM has not been responsible for governance of Westtown School.
Martha expressed deep spiritual connection between the school and PYM, but she said it is difficult to have two organizations have spiritual connection.
Martha explained that this minute will allow the School to have more Board diversity, to reflect diversity of their student body. In addition, it will allow finding younger governors.
A Friend expressed concern that the moral commitments enumerated in the minute will not be held as legally binding, and the upper middle-class, non-Quaker majority of the school community will have too much decision making facility. Martha drew attention to the re-authorization by the Friends Council On Education.
A Friend explained the current function of the Friends Council.
A Friend asked if there are documents in PYM that reflect this change. Arthur Larrabee explained that since he was a student he has been concerned with keeping the school connected to Quakerism. However, the current bylaws have this empty form, which, he feels, should be removed.
A Friend asked how Westtown will be connected to PYM. Martha explained that the bridge contact on the Board will help that, as well as a search for a logical way of reporting to the Yearly Meeting.
A Friend asked if would not be possible to have Board members, selected by Westtown, to be presented and approved by PYM. A Friend explained that the IRS would view such an activity as controlling influence or ownership.
Several Friends recognized the difficulty of finding people to serve the Yearly Meeting, without having to look for Board members of Westtown School.
Frank Barch asked for approval and felt he received it.
Kruskal Hewitt, Kent Julye, David Leonard, B Santini-Dumas, and Wendi Grantham expressed their discomfort. A Friend urged caution on this, saying once PYM relinquishes consent, it will probably never get back. Frank Barch said he no longer feels unity and we will carry this over to Annual Sessions. Friends approved. Minutes to this point were read and approved.
We took a 10-minute break.
General Secretary’s Report: Christie explained that, because of the time, she would not go into as much depth as she had expected. She brought to our attention the idea of PYM corporate-wide witness on racism and climate change. Monthly and Quarterly Meetings are very active on both these witnesses. Ecojustice Collaborative and Addressing Racism Collaborative both work with these subjects. Holding us accountable are climate witness stewards and deep listening. The budget, fundraising, funding for professional staff, and the QLC envelope help us to keep these witnesses funded. Staff support is becoming stronger and clearer.
A Friend wanted to recognize that there are other Collaboratives involved.
We accepted Christie’s report with gratitude.
Hearing from Meetings:
Green Street Meeting about its work on Reparations: Jean-Marie explained that this Monthly Meeting is doing something creative and bold as part of the witness on racism. She then introduced the presenters from Green Street. Lucy Duncan is a member of Green Street Meeting, a Truth and Reparations Fellow with the Truth Telling Project, the co-chair of the Philadelphia Mayor’s Commission for Faith Based and Interfaith Affairs Reparations Campaign, and a former clerk of the Undoing Racism Group of PYM. Gabbreell James is a member of Green Street Meeting, a Member of Reparations working group and a Former co-clerk of Undoing Racism Group. Eppchez Yes is a member of Green Street Meeting, a member of Green Street’s Reparations Working Group and co-clerk of the FGC Institutional Assessment Implementation Committee.
Gabbreell explained that the Meeting is old, in an old meetinghouse, that needed great repairs. An estimate for repairs was for hundreds of thousands of dollars, which could be paid without difficulty. Many in Meeting were surprised to find they had so much money. The next step was a series of workshops on spirituality of money. From this, the reparations working group was born. Gabbreell told us that Green Street is growing, appealing to many more.
Eppchez Yes explained that the first part of this work was to understand the meaning of reparations and the exact amount of money involved. In 2020, they decided that it doesn’t matter who was responsible for the wealth. Any African American in the neighborhood in need was owed.
Lucy explained that the Meeting has been having serious work on racism. A group of 12 people took a course on reparations. She explained that reparations is a vehicle for communications and support. We saw a powerful video with an African American woman talking about the enormous economic disparities in our society.
Eppchez explained the budgeting formula is fairly simple—fund your needs and give 50% of any excess to those in need. When considering Green Street, the Working Group decided the Meeting could give $50,000 per year for 10 years. The idea that came forward was to create a fund for Black Germantown homeowners to be assured of owning property in perpetuity. Eppchez reminded us of the history of Quakers in this area, including the holding of people in slavery. In 1975, PYM was asked for reparations and turned it down.
Lucy asked us all to work toward repair without feeling shame or despair. She named a few of the patterns faced by White people for fearing and resisting change. We need to change our relationship with the Black community all around us.
Gabbreell told us that the Meeting had agreed to put money aside, and then there were Black members and attenders trying to determine how to spend it. The hope is to be able to look back at the end of 10 years and see great improvements in their community.
Jean-Marie reminded us that there can be many different paths to the same goal. She acclaimed the richness of the path of Green Street Meeting. Considering the time, the clerk expressed her feeling that much more can be said, but we need to have more deep discussions at annual sessions.
The agenda item on Hearing from the Quarters will be postponed to the beginning of Annual Sessions. Minutes to this point were read, corrected, and approved.
Brief Announcements: Zachary Dutton.
We settled into a brief period of worship.
At 4:08, the Co-clerks thanked us all and said goodbye.