The story below on the Friends Committee on National Legislation’s (FCNL) Annual Meeting and work to reduce child poverty comes from one of PYM’s collaboratives (a network of individual Quakers working jointly on common interests specific to themselves). Collaborative work and witness are distinct from corporate ministry of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. Though many individual Quakers join together in addressing social concerns, Quakerism is a faith of continuing revelation and PYM is a ‘big tent’ with many opinions.
The PYM Legislative Policy Collaborative meets at PYM Annual Sessions, FCNL Annual Meeting (each November) and hosts 4–5 conference calls annually. They support monthly meeting individuals who wish to be informed on legislative initiatives, engaging them in strategic policy initiatives and mentoring Young Adult Friends interested in policy witness.
Outreach Work on Poverty
In November 2021, fifty-five individuals from across Pennsylvania worked with FCNL to speak with their senators and representatives about the the Build Back Better Bill, and in particular the sections dealing with child poverty in the U.S. Child tax credits and other portions of the Bill would cut child poverty in the U.S. by nearly half, and FCNL has long worked to find a more permanent solution to hunger, homelessness, and poor health amongst America’s children.
The temporary Covid recovery money has run out, yet it is credited with bringing hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty. Though the Build Back Better Bill has passed the House, in January 2022 many senators still state objections to it. To know that hundreds of Quakers from across the country were speaking (virtually via Zoom) with their representatives about poverty reduction that day, buoyed us all. We felt as if the Spirit was leading us all to be clear and faithful in lifting up this aspect of the Bill.
Eleven individual New Jersey Quakers advocated for the passage of the bill with their senators and representatives. They made six visits – two to senators and four to representatives from all around southern NJ. 44 Pennsylvania individuals from Friends Meetings met with PA congressional staff or representatives at two senate and nine congressional offices. Three of the visits included the member of Congress, and those felt particularly useful. Having 55 people Zooming around the Hill working on child poverty was remarkable.
News of FCNL’s 77th Annual Meeting
During FCNL’s 77th Annual Meeting, FCNL’s governing board (the General Committee) addressed numerous items of business, heard reports from standing committees, and approved next year’s budget and nominations to the General Committee. Collaborative members’ time in Washington also included attending informative workshops and hearing a keynote address from the author of Fit for Freedom Not for Friendship, Vanessa Julye, a member of Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting.
An FCNL Justice Award was presented to Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat from Connecticut, in recognition of her advocacy for America’s working families.
The Edward F. Snyder Award for National Legislative Leadership in Advancing Disarmament and Building Peace was presented to Indiana Republican Senator Todd Young who has worked to bring an end to endless war.
During the rest of its Annual Meeting, by Zoom, FCNL tackled many items of business, conducted training on the content of the Build Back Bill, met in 10 Congressional delegations with representatives, focused more work on DEI initiatives, met in committees, approved a strong, spirit-led new General Secretary (Bridget Moix), and joyfully celebrated Diane Randall’s decade of inspired leadership of FCNL.
It was a full, deep, and satisfying Annual Meeting. There were regrets that we were not in-person, but we were gratified to know we had a smaller carbon footprint, welcomed a larger and wider group (350 F/friends – many of whom wouldn’t ordinarily be able to travel to DC), and still enjoyed having coffee in small groups, participated in a scavenger hunt, and were moved by our worship together.
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting appoints nine representatives to the General Committee of FCNL, and those people, along with any others who desire, serve together in the Legislative Policy Collaborative. The Collaborative educates PYM members about issues before Congress and supports legislation that matches the testimonies and values of Quakers. It meets with legislators in a non-partisan, respectful manner, based on knowledge, faith, and conviction.