[saymaListserv] AFSC and SAYMA

CIsland at aol.com CIsland at aol.com
Thu May 31 22:32:56 JEST 2001

In regular Monthly Meeting for attention to business 13, 5th month, 2001, 
Chattanooga Friends approved the statement copied below for distribution to 
SAYMA as preparation for SAYMA's seeking discernment on its relationship with 
AFSC. We wish for it to be distributed to Meetings prior to our gathering in 
6th month. 

by Chattanooga Friends Meeting, Winter and Spring, 2001

Our concerns about AFSC are rooted in concern about integrity of witness to 
Quaker faith, practice and testimonies.  We are convinced that the Religious 
Society of Friends has borne through history, and continues to bear in the 
present, testimonies of unique focus and intensity, testimonies that 
society-at-large desperately needs to hear.  This does NOT mean that we view 
the past history of AFSC with condemnation.  To the contrary, we acknowledge 
and appreciate AFSC’s long history of bearing witness to Quaker values in 
answering that of God in everyone, attempting to remove “occasions” that 
lead to war and giving agape-love service.  Further, we acknowledge and 
appreciate those aspects of AFSC’s current programs that continue to bear the 
same witness.  Our concern is about the overall, long-term trend of AFSC 
drifting, small step by small step, away from being centered in the core of 
Quaker faith, practice and testimonies.

Although we felt some concern about the trend within AFSC before,  we were 
galvanized to speak out by the conditions surrounding Bill Holland’s sudden 
resignation from his position as director of AFSC-SERO in 1998.  Those 
conditions revealed actions within AFSC-SERO that bore a witness contrary to 
Quaker faith, practice and testimonies.  At least one person was being 
treated as though there was not that of God in him.  We recognize that anyone 
or a group takes a risk that such things will happen when he, or they, try to 
empower people who have long been socio-economically disenfranchised and are 
justifiably angry.  But, when the actions occur within an organization 
bearing the name “Friends,” it attaches to the name a witness contrary to 
our testimonies.  It was out of these concerns that we approved and published 
the following worshipfully considered minutes:       

From the Minutes of Chattanooga Friends Meeting 6, 6th month 1999:

.. After much thought, Friends approve the following:

Friends have considered Bill Holland's resignation and AFSC's actions that 
led up to it. We do not know everything about the matter so we seek 
clarification. We are so serious in our concern that we wish to withhold our 
$100 annual contribution to AFSC until the matter is clarified.

Chattanooga Friends Meeting further Proposes that SAYMA consider adopting the 
following minute: 

    In light of the serious indicators that the American Friends Service 
Committee has drifted away from Quaker principles in its internal operations, 
we will withhold financial contributions to AFSC until it has become fully 
clear to us that AFSC's internal operating processes are compatible with 
Spirit-led Quaker principles.

This minute came to SAYMA too late for the 1999 yearly meeting because that 
meeting’s agenda had already been completely filled and set.  The overall 
issue was discussed at SAYMA Representative Meeting in the fall of 1999.  It 
was in that meeting that Bill Holland proposed his “50-50” reorganization of 
AFSC, a proposal designed to correct the internal drift away from Quaker 
faith and practice. (As far as we know, there has not been any further 
discussion of this proposal by anyone, anywhere, at all.) Consideration of 
the Chattanooga Meeting’s proposed minute and the larger issue of SAYMA’s 
relationship with AFSC fell off the end of yearly meeting’s agenda in 2000 
due to our time being all used up.  This year it is set at the front of the 
Subsequently, AFSC-SERO circulated a set of queries to SAYMA (and other 
yearly meetings) Monthly Meetings and Worship Groups asking for input about 
views and desired changes in AFSC-SERO.  We sent in our deeply considered 
responses and waited to hear back from AFSC-SERO about them.  AFSC-SERO’s 
reply to our responses, summed up in a nutshell, explained that the 
characteristics of the organization, with a staff whose time is filled with 
work on the programs, is not able to be closely involved with monthly 
meetings.  However, there was a line in that response that said three task 
groups are working on “various activities which would help respond to some of 
your queries.”  We received this response a full year ago.  We have not heard 
anything since.

We have also noted that the very second paragraph of AFSC’s Mission Statement 
as published in their website contains the following statement:  
 “..., the AFSC draws into its work people of many faiths and backgrounds who 
share the values that animate its life and who bring to it a rich variety of 
experiences and spiritual insights.”  (Underlining added)  

The underlined phrases directly indicate that the operations of AFSC are NOT 
solely based on Quaker faith and practice.  

In addition, in the first paragraph on the AFSC website’s page titled “About 
AFSC,” we find this statement:
“The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is a Quaker organization that 
includes people of various faiths....”  (Underlining added) 

Yes, and since it is fact that the majority of the people who run AFSC’s 
programs are of faiths other than Quaker, is it legitimate to call it “a 
Quaker organization”?  We feel it would be honest to call it “an 
interdenominational organization”?

Conclusion: The facts outlined above, along with other facts not outlined 
above, confirm for us the impression that AFSC remains fully set in its 
current operating style and is not interested in a dialogue for reform. It is 
a robust organization firmly committed to moving forward without modification 
of the characteristics it has evolved into at this point in time. We 
acknowledge that this is not all bad and that AFSC is continuing to 
accomplish positive goals in its work. However, due to the significant degree 
of disconnection from essential Quaker practice, a disconnection that we do 
not believe will be changed in the foreseeable future, and due to our concern 
that Quakerism’s unique testimonies not be lost in a vague, glowing 
generality of social activism, we now suggest it is time for the word 
“Friends” in AFSC’s name be removed or replaced. Perhaps, “American Faiths 
Service Committee” would be good. 

In the Light, 

Bill Reynolds
e-mail:  cisland at aol.com

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