[saymaListserv] AFSC Considerations

Brett Miller-White quaking at earthlink.net
Sat Jun 2 01:12:29 JEST 2001

To SAYMA Friends...

Upon reading the Statement regarding the AFSC, drawn up and offered "in
the light"
by the Chattanooga Friends Meeting, my first reaction was not one of
light but of
darkness. My second reaction leads me to offer my own personal
'statement' which
undoubtedly might be criticized as being premature for my not first
listening to, nor
exploring Chattanooga's concerns.

The thing is, I already know enough in terms of having 'been there, done
that' long before
the bottom-line issue was raised i.e. I've been around the AFSC too many
years to stand
by and allow the attempt of some uncomfortable Friends to have our
Quaker identification
removed from AFSC's outstanding work, either historically or currently.

This is not to say that I would not be available to listen and perhaps
even join in with
some of the concerns that prompted the Statement. Those, however, are
side issues.
They, by themselves, do not excuse this attempt to turn the AFSC into
some sort of
oddball faith and/or secular entity. No way. Not during my Quaker life.

I will briefly offer two AFSC examples out of my overseas experience (as
the Church
World Service Representative to the Middle East) in working with
Palestinian refugees.
Our relief program was the largest within a group of ten major
international voluntary
agencies which included the AFSC and the latter used our distribution
centers to handle
its clothing program. Which bundles of clothing do you suppose were
cherished above
all others. You got it...the one with the red and black star! Quaker!

Another example...one segment of the CWS program involved village
development work
in 112 villages on the border of the West Bank. I had three staff
internationals, each one
introducing limited self-help concepts into 37 villages. Meanwhile, AFSC
placed a
single staff worker (Ralph Johnson) in just one village where every day
for two years he
played an ongoing role in the productive life of those villagers. Now,
which book would
you want to read? A fleeting glimpse of short-term projects in 112
villages or an intimate
in-depth look at the long-term impact of a Quaker pilot project upon one

AFSC is in a class by itself whenever one looks at the work of the
voluntary agencies. It is
highly individualistic and is known particularly for its 'seed'-planting
concepts. It's Quaker
logo is recognized all over the world and has been since 1917. All of
its 150 corporation
members are Friends. And of its Executive Corporate body, only 7 of its
48 members are
non-Friends who are on the Board because they serve as Clerks of various
program committees.
As to the presence of non-quaker staff, whether you go overseas or
whether you are dealing with
the needs of the inner city or elsewhere, why not hire the cultural
peers of whomever requires help?

What would be the next step in this scenario? Would we be measuring the
Quakerism of the
Canadian and British service committees, both of which work closely with
the AFSC?
I think not. In closing I'm wondering whether Chattanooga might need to
be reminded that
AFSC does not officially represent any Yearly Meeting nor does AFSC ever
attempt to speak
for the Society. However, any hard look, particularly at the recent
visionary efforts of its former
Exceutive Director, Kara Newell, would disclose an ongoing effort to
emphasize its longstanding
identification as a bonafide Friend's service organization. It knows
better than to hide its light.

With pride...

Brett Miller-White
Swannanoa Valley Monthly Meeting

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