PYM Presiding Co-Clerks Frank and Jean-Marie Barch presented the following report in the called December 8th Meeting for Business in Continuing Sessions. They shared information gathered from Monthly and Quarterly Meetings in response to the three PYM Initiatives launched at Annual Sessions in July 2020.
Clerks of Meetings who have not already submitted feedback to Jean-Marie and Frank Barch may use this form to do so.
As of December 7, 2020, a total of 19 Monthly and two Quarterly Meetings have responded to the general call to consider the three issues:
- Concord Quarter
- Western Quarter
- Central Philadelphia MM
- Centre MM
- Chestnut Hill MM
- Doylestown MM
- Gwynedd MM
- Germantown MM
- Hockessin Monthly Meeting of Friends
- Lancaster MM
- Lehigh Valley MM
- London Grove MM
- Medford MM
- Millville MM
- Mt Holly MM
- Newtown MM
- Old Haverford MM
- Radnor MM
- Sadsbury MM
- Third Haven MM
- Trenton MM
We are thankful for the time and tenderness with which these meetings entered into discernment and provided a report about their considerations. We expect that we may hear from other meetings as way opens for them to consider these issues as well.
What follows is an attempt to summarize what we have heard from meetings as of yesterday. As will be clear, this is an interim report including what we have learned thus far and suggesting a possible way forward based on that information.
Of the two Quarters that have responded
- One of these raised concern about the timeline of requested response as well as the process; the response timeline was lengthened in response to this request as well as that of several Monthly Meetings. The Quarter in question has not yet submitted any further responses.
- The other Quarter “…affirmed the three concerns of PYM, and commits to support all the monthly meetings under our care in their discernment on these issues…
Summary of Responses to Issues
A total of 16 Monthly Meetings and 1 Quarterly Meeting have responded to the Membership issue.
A total of 16 Monthly Meetings and 1 Quarterly Meeting have responded to the Eco-Justice issue.
A total of 18 Monthly Meetings and 1 Quarterly Meeting have responded to the Racism issue.
In terms of their discernment processes, Friends described a mixture of surveys and worshipful discernment via Zoom, with some meetings considering the issues during Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, and others holding separate threshing sessions to consider one issue at a time or all three at once.
The Membership issue generated the most detailed of the responses to the three queries. It is clear that many Meetings & Friends are unclear why this is under consideration or what is being sought in response to the 2016 & 2019 YAF Epistles.
Though some questioned the current role of membership, most voiced support for not changing the process of membership at the Monthly Meeting level, while also asking if the membership process at times is abbreviated or used to maintain things the way they always have been.
Friends lifted up the potential for membership issues to discourage Seekers from participating. Several Friends also pointed out that many Attenders who never seek membership are important contributors to the life of their meeting.
Some Friends were concerned that this was bringing forward a plan to get rid of Monthly Meeting membership and replace it with membership only at the level of the Yearly Meeting. (Your clerk wants to be clear that this is not in any way part of the plan. )
Many supported exploring the possibility of membership being held by the YM when a membership in a Monthly Meeting was not possible but were also clear about the value of the current process as described in Faith & Practice and expected that similar processes would be used at the Yearly Meeting level.
Generally, there was a willingness to explore the issue more fully in order to speak to needs of people who identify as Quaker but who are not in a position to seek membership in a Monthly Meeting. Many actively encouraged PYM to seek a way to address this need. A few actively supported the development of a process for membership to be held by the Yearly Meeting.
Many also spoke of the understandings, implications and expectations of membership, with particular focus on the importance of community. Some meetings reported that they are re-examining their requirement that people must be meeting members in order to serve on committees or in leadership roles.
One quote of note is: “I’m not a Quaker because I’m member of a meeting, I’m a member of a meeting because I’m a Quaker.”
It is your clerk’s sense that even though this issue has been alive within PYM for more than 4 years, many Friends are not fully engaged with it at this time.
It is clear that acting upon the call by our Young Adult Friends would require the creation of a detailed plan that speaks to the concerns and ideas lifted up by our monthly meetings and explored in the two plenary sessions this past year. Once such a proposal has been developed, it can then be tested with our constituent Monthly, Quarterly and then finally the Yearly Meeting.
In order to create such a proposal, the Governance Committee has tasked the Clerks Group with creating a Sprint (short-term committee) to look at the question of membership more closely, gathering the information we already have available, making sure that space has been made for voices that need to be heard, and using all this to develop a proposal for the body to consider.
The Clerks Group recognizes that the Sprint members must be widely inclusive. If you have names to lift up for possible inclusion on the Sprint, please share them with the clerk: Barch@pym.org.
Eco-Justice and Climate Crisis Minutes
The eco-justice/climate crisis minute has come before annual sessions in some form many times over the past 23 years. Most recently: 2020 Annual Sessions Minutes document that two Minutes concerning climate change were addressed.
A minute from the Eco-Justice Collaborative and a summary minute from the Clerks Group were read and received for consideration.
Support for the Climate Change Summary Minute
One meeting understood that the minute had been adopted during 2020 Annual Sessions, and clearly was ‘in Unity’ with this action. Your clerk was not able to find report of this action having been taken during 2020 annual sessions.
Nine Meetings supported the PYM Climate Change Minute, and one Quarter supported it, though without specific language.
No meeting opposed the Minute.
Support for the Eco-Justice Climate Crisis Minute
Three meetings approved this Minute, one of which also approved the PYM Minute.
In responding to this concern generally:
- Many Meetings reported in significant detail their actions and ideas for addressing Climate Change.
- The Meetings that did not specifically record their support for either Minute generally presented information about their activities to reduce their environmental impact that suggest they might be supportive of one or both Minutes.
- Several Meetings noted that while supportive of the Minute(s), they felt that actionable specifics should be identified, shared & acted upon, and that words in a Minute were insufficient.
It is your clerk’s sense that there is much support at the Monthly Meeting and individual Friends level for action on climate change.
This implies that there may be widespread support for PYM to record a Minute committing the Yearly Meeting to a witness on climate change.
There does seem to be some lack of clarity about the PYM Minute vs. the Eco-Justice Collaborative Minute, with different Meetings approving support for one or the other, or, in one case, both.
Way forward might include support in principle by the body for action on climate change as a yearly meeting witness followed by formation of a sprint to review the many documents we have and to outline the specific and actionable behaviors we could undertake. The resulting specific document would then come back to the body for approval.
Given that this issue has been before the yearly meeting in different forms for many years, and given also the urgency of addressing climate change, your clerk would propose final review of this document no later than our summer sessions. As is true for the sprint on membership, this Sprint membership must be widely inclusive with significant membership from the eco-justice collaborative. If you have names to lift up for possible inclusion on the Sprint, please share them with the clerk: Barch@pym.org.
Support for Addressing Racism
All those Meetings responding reported, often at great length, on significant witness against racism.
Two Meetings noted their donation of funds to support the Ujima Friends Peace Center.
Some specifically referenced support for PYM to undertake anti-racism work without offering a formal Minute, while the need for a formal initiative to provide financial support for such work was also lifted up.
Some saw the invitation from PYM to consider the matter as a call to individual meetings to engage in anti-racism work, such as the four suggestions contained in the Fellowship of Friends of African Descent’s Minute.
- Some offered their own Minute on Racial Justice.
- Two Meetings specifically recorded their endorsement of the Fellowship of Friends of African Descent’s Minute.
- The anti-racism collaborative is collecting further detailed information about the work in monthly meetings across the yearly meeting. This information will help the yearly meeting move forward in developing and sharing anti-racism work, so that we may move toward being an anti-racist religious organization.
It is your clerk’s sense that much work is being done at the local level, both Monthly and Quarterly meetings as well as by individuals.
Many Meetings are committed to expanding and continuing their work to move toward the blessed community and to becoming an anti-racist religious organization; some seem to want help in addressing the issue.
It is not clear from the information provided thus far whether or not most Meetings would support a PYM Minute or the Fellowship of Friends of African Descent’s Minute, though the amount of work being done by the constituency of PYM from which we have information so far suggests that such support might be present.
How we address racism among PYM Friends is another issue that has been before the yearly meeting for many years and one which we know has caused both division and pain.
Quaker Life Council’s Ministry and Care Committee has been working to create a process to address racial wounding and the rupture of community that goes along with that wounding. The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Sprint is already beginning work to look closely at what systems we need to put into place to move the yearly meeting toward the anti-racist community we aspire to be.
Noting the minute of 2015, in which the yearly meeting minuted intention to engage anti-racism work, it is clear to your clerk that intention is but the first step on the road to fulfilling our goals. We need clear plans with actionable steps if we are to move the work forward effectively.
We already have one sprint underway to look at our systems; the Anti-Racism Collaborative is working hard to collect important data on the specific anti-racism actions monthly meetings are engaged in and to help meetings connect with one another to support one another in anti-racism work. Though there is clearly more work to do, this is a concrete beginning; we look forward to seeing the fruits of the work already underway as a foundation for what is to come.