National Quaker happenings . . .
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This page provides brief notes on the main Quaker non-routine business at the national level. Please send any comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
The details given below briefly record business at Yearly Meeting (YM)* and Meeting for Sufferings (MfS)*. Most major initiatives find their way to completion through one or both these Meetings.To see the reports on each MfS made to Devon Area Meeting by Devon's representative, note the date of the meeting that interests you from 5 October 2013 onwards, and go to the Sufferings page in the menu on the left.
Entries are listed below with the most recent higher up, with MfS normally in black but the latest subjects picked out in brown, with any earlier entries on the same topic(s) also in brown. Where a topic comes up at two or more meetings of MfS between two YMs, its entries may be merged under one heading at the most recent date. All YM entries are in blue. The page does not claim to be correct or complete, but may help to show what MfS and YM have been up to since 2009. Routine and minor business is not included, but items are shown particularly if they lead to decisions, or request input from AMs, LMs or Friends. Starting February 2013, there is a link to all the papers for each MfS meeting on the national website.
*Footnote: For those not yet in the know, Yearly Meeting (YM) is normally held at Friends House or elsewhere once a year. All Friends in the UK are able to attend without giving notice in advance, and about 800+ are likely to do so. It is the highest decision-making body in the Society. Meeting for Sufferings meets every two months between YMs and acts then as 'the church in session'. It is particularly responsible for 'the vision thing', and consists from July 2012 of about 90 Friends, with each Area Meeting having one representative attending, whereas a much smaller group, BYM Trustees, deals with routine business and finance. The name of MfS dates from the 17thC, when its main business was to relieve the sufferings of Quakers persecuted by the authorities.
NEW: From July 2012 Meeting for Sufferings has nearly halved in size, with only one representative and one alternate from each Area Meeting in Britain. For Devon AM the current representative is Alan Ray-Jones (Tavistock) and the Alternate is Bob Lovett (Torbay).
From February 2013 the presentation on this page has changed, with the main subjects at each MfS meeting under one heading and with links to all the papers, on the BYM website.
MfS at Friends House on 5 October 2013
Click on 'agenda & papers' to see them all, and the minutes; or on any paper number below.
Young Friends met to consider what changes to Quaker Faith & Practice they would like to see.
Israel and Palestine. The April decision was confirmed. Friends were asked to write to Catherine Ashton, EU ʻForeign Ministerʼ, to ask the EU to resist lobbyists for Israel's settlements/trade with the EU.
Government cuts: welfare reform. There is still no project behind which Friends at MfS
feel they can unite. All Friends can raise cases of hardship and the need for taxation reform with MPs.
Quaker Housing Trust. The triennial report was given. Funds have run down and need replenishment.
Funding the centrally-managed work. There will be no quota and the figure of £150 per member
is not prescriptive. Experience shows that requests for donations are most successful in Meetings when knowledgeable Friends explain how the money will be used.
Divestment: fossil fuels. MfS advised Trustees that we should divest. (Trustees have since done so and we are the first denomination to do that).
MfS at Friends House on 6 July 2013
Click on 'agenda & papers' to see them all, and the minutes; or on any paper number below.
Operational Plan MfS 13/07/08b a year ahead.
Vibrancy in Meetings MfS 13/07/10 Preparatory research is being done. No proposals yet.
'Economy of Life; Justice and Peace for All': A World Council of Churches paper for debate at WCC in October, the ideas in it were greatly welcomed by MfS MfS 13/07/11 The language is Christo-centric.
Revision of Quaker Faith & Practice:Is it time to start the revision? All Friends are invited to give their opinion online.
Government cuts: welfare reform:What should be our policy, a statement is not enough (the one at Qf&p 23:21 is as relevant now as it was in 1987). What are Meetings doing eg campaigning, contributing to food banks?
MfS at Friends House on 13 April 2013
Click to see the agenda & papers, and the minutes.
Boycott of all goods from State of Israel. Minutes from three AMs discussed. No change, the present policy (of boycotting settlement goods) to continue. AMs were asked to review local action for another discussion in October. Friends are invited to read the paper S/13/04/5e 'After the boycott decision' and 'Trading away Peace' - and lobby government.
Welfare Reform Friends were asked to join with other local churches to demand more equitable changes, and make use of specific stories. 'What Friends can do' is an excellent paper by Helen Drewery of QPSW.
Fund raising.Trustees are not reintroducing the idea of a quota for area meetings, but want to hear what good practices area and local meetings use to encourage giving
MfS at Woodbrooke on 1-3 February 2013
Click to see the agenda & papers, and the follow up papers.
Better working of MfS, ideas to be considered by MfS Arrangements Committee. Connections, communications, ways of working. No decisions needed this time.
Welfare Reform Area Meetings were asked to engage with this issue;
Drone Warfare * The papers emphasise that we are not powerless, and suggest actions Friends can take. individually."); and the Kabarak Call for Peace & Eco-Justice
Kabarak Call for Peace and Eco-Justice
This accords with our concern for sustainability. We need spiritual guidance on reducing our own comfort level, then engaging with others and speaking out nationally. Representatives are encouraged to take the call to Area Meetings.
NB: Note change in presentation of MfS business from this point upwards, ie from Feb 2013
Minute 36 Group - 1st Report to MfS
1 December. The 'baseline' for our present use of carbon has only been established so far for 40% of Local Meetings. MfS representatives could help by finding out why the 'silent' Meetings have not yet sent calculations to the Group, which also seeks guidance from MfS on their future work, not provided at this meeting due to lack of time.
1 December. Northumbria AM reported that an anti-Trident Pilgrimage for Peace and Justice will start on Whit Sunday 19 May, & asked for national publicity and help in planning the ending in London in July. Help will be given.
Quaker Faith & Practice
1 December. Substantial revisions to QF&P Chapters 6 (MfS and Trustees) and 8 (Central work) are likely to go to YM 2013 for possible adoption.
Commemoration of World War 1
6 October. Friends are asked to consider how it should be remembered locally and by BYM without glorifying or celebrating war.
Registration of Meeting Houses for Civil Partnerships
6 October. Local charges vary enormously. Friends house is considering possible action. Friends are asked to challenge local authorities and to bring to their Members of Parliament the inequality and injustice inherent in the registering of religious premises
6 October. The Recording Clerk will bring forward proposals for sharing Registering Officers between AMs following the Registering Officers Conference on 22-24 March 2013. AMs are invited to experiment.
Burial of radioactive waste
6 October. The government proposes to bury it in Cumbria, not because the geology is considered safe according to internationally accepted best practice (it isn't) but because the LA is the only one willing to receive it. The Clerk will write to the Minister for Energy.
Framework for Action 2009-2014
6 October. Should it be renewed, or should Friends consider some other format for guiding our future actions? Trustees suggest the latter. There was a clear sense that we need a document which builds on A framework for Action. MfS will consider at a future meeting how to achieve this.
7 July. Friends everywhere asked to contact friends in Syria and refugees and inform us of the situation there by means of articles, talks etc
7 July. 'Speaking out' group set up to bring forward new processes for advocacy and public statements.
YEARLY MEETING 2012 IN LONDON: May 2010.
General impressions: Income inequality was much discussed at the Meeting by Friends. The main papers were available for electronic readers such as iPad and Kindle for the first time. Less to carry on the train! See BYM website, also the Friend and this report.
World Conference of Friends 2012 in Kenya
YM heard from conference delegates and the Kabarak call for peace and ecojustice was heard.
Economic justice and sustainabilty
Immediately before the start of YM the Saltire Lecture was on this theme. YM discussed it at length. From the Minutes: "Many of us see the current system as inherently unjust and therefore unsustainable. Can we change it to embrace our testimonies to peace and equality?"
What it means to be a Quaker today
This marked the start of a discussion which will continue throughout the Religious Society of Friends until YM 2014.
Advocacy in parliament and government
31 March. Continuation of the discussion in February. Trustees asked to give more priority to contact with political decision makers, following the offer by Southern Anglia Area Meeting to provide additional funding for a year to strengthen parliamentary liaison work; bearing in mind that a higher priority for one area of work means a lesser priority for other areas.
31 March. Continuation of the discussion in February. The procedures for corporate public statements dating from 2006 to be reviewed by the Recording Clerk and brought back to MfS, to make them more suitable for use with fast moving modern media.
31 March. QPSW asked to produce a statement calling for the end of 'the disgraceful practice' of indefinite deterntion of migrants and asylum seekers.
31 March. Agreed that it was right to publish the QPSW statement on economic inequality deploring that there is a greater disparity on incomes in the UK now than at any time since the 1930s, and recommending that it should be circlulated to Meetings.
4 February. First consideration, introduced by several staff members and by QCEA, FWCC (& QUNO over lunch) representatives.
Radical resistance and the State
4 February. The discussion started last June concluded. General principles reasserted, no new initiative.
4 February. The terms of reference for the 'Minute 36 Commitment Group' were agreed.
3 December. MfS started to follow up the decision at YM 2011 in Minute 36 about the Quaker commitment on climate change, by asking every Local Meeting to use the Sustainability Toolkit and the 'Climate impact calculator for Quaker meetings' included with it to establish a 'baseline' against which their future progress in reducing the use of carbon (eg for heating and lighting the building or for coming to Meeting) can be tracked. Individuals may also use the 'Climate impact calculator for Individuals' to measure their carbon footprint. Informal Quaker groups and independent Quaker bodies are invited to join MfS in this concern, and a 'Minute 36 Commitment Group' will be set up to do the detailed thinking and collate reports from Area and Local Meetings.
1 October 2011. First consideration. Disparity in incomes is greater than at any time since the 1930s, testimony to equality re-affirmed. Lobbying in House of Lords on the Welfare Reform Bill supported, particularly the benefit cap which takes no account of family size, and cut to mobility elements of the Disabled Living Allowance. Letters from Friends to press and MPs encouraged. Local Meetings could consider paying Living wage instead of Minimum wage.
Effect on MfS of BYM Minutes
1 October 2011. New membership structure from YM 2012 for triennium 2012-15 - one representative and one alternate. AMs asked to support them both in 3-way communication between AMs, reps and MfS.
Strengthening Area Meetings
1 October 2011. Main discussion. The Minute, a paper from the Recording Clerk (S/11/10/D) and Minutes from AMs provided many ideas. Are AMs clear about their purpose, are they fit for purpose, what support would they welcome?
Reflections on AMs' experience of 'A framework for action 2009-2014'
1 October 2011. First consideration.
YEARLY MEETING IN CANTERBURY: July 2011.
Review of MfS/Trustees
Recommendations accepted. MfS to reduce in size: each Area Meeting to have (only) one representative and one alternate (from Minute 26); starting from the rise of YM 2012 to the rise of 2015 (Minute 33).
All couples married under Quaker auspices (whether same sex or opposite sex) to have a legal status for their partnership (with separate registers while waiting for government action (from Minute 30).
(We) make a strong corporate commitment to become a low-carbon, sustainable community. (Minute 36).
Review of Trustees and Meeting for Sufferings
4 June 2011 Agreed that the MfS Clerk and Assistant Clerk would put into practice the Review recommendations which are in MfS's power to accept (the main decisions concerning MfS will be made by Yearly Meeting in Canterbury in July/August)
2 October 2010. The planned discussion at MfS on the 'Framework for Action' priority 'Speaking Out' had had to be cancelled due to the amount of other business, despite the creation of the Trustees body. Friends thought the conflict between the role of MfS as the 'link' between central work and local meetings, and the need for MfS to be prophetic (which argues for a smaller body without an 'oversight' and 'link' role), has to be faced. The Review Group will report later.
3 July 2010. The Review Group's Interim Report was welcomed. There will be a longer discussion of a later version in October. There was discussion particularly about the size of MfS and the tension between communication and discernment.
Local and Area Meetings and members of MfS are encouraged to respond directly to the Review Group through the Recording Clerk's Office
Radical Resistance and the State
4 June 2011 First consideration, introduced by two QPSW staff members, focussed mainly on police, and on media distortion.
Boycott, divestment and sanctions - BDS (Israel/Palestine)
4 June 2011 More supportive Minutes were received from Area Meetings, with additional suggestions, eg: a positive message on the BYM website, explanations of our actions, teach English in Palestinian schools, source Palestinian products, twin with Palestinian towns, enter into dialogue with Jewish groups. These were not discussed.
2 April 2011. MfS continued the discussion from the last meeting, a Minute was agreed on boycott, and a press release issued later.
5 February 2011. Marigold Bentley of Quaker Peace and Social Witness (QPSW) introduced a paper suggesting that MfS may wish to consider BDS actions in response to a request from the Palestinian Churches. In the short time available for the discussion MfS decided to continue to support the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme (which is organised by QPSW) and its work on labelling goods from illegal settlements in Palestine. MfS asks Friends to consider this issue in their local and area Meetings, recognising that there needs to be a 'challenge to political systems that deny the equality of Israeli Jews and Palestinians'.
Strengthening Area Meetings
2 April 2011 First consideration of how to strengthen Area Meetings. For the suggestions made, click here.
Staffordshire AM: Possible Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire
2 April 2011. MfS endorsed the proposed memorial, on which work will continue.
2 October 2010. MfS were told that Staffordshire has had a good response to the idea, which may come back to MfS later. More responses would be welcomed.
3 July 2010. MfS heard about a possible memorial to the Friends Ambulance Unit and the Friends Relief Service. It would be seen by many people who would not normally hear of the peace testimony and Quaker work for peace. See www.thenma.org.uk/
Refurbishment of the Large Meeting House
2 April 2011. MfS will see the proposals in June and the Trustees will decide in July whether to proceed
2 April 2011. The 125 yr lease has been signed, releasing capital for use. The building will be used as student accommodation.
Pattern of future Yearly Meetings
5 February 2011. Agreed that following Yearly Meeting Gathering in 2014 there will be a three-year cycle of YMs, with a London YM in early May in year 1, a London YM in late May in year 2, and a residential YM Gathering in late July in year 3.
Quaker concern for the abolition of torture (Q-CAT)
5 February 2011. Having received Minutes from North Wales AM and Wirral & Chester AM, endorsed the proposal that Q-CAT, which is delegated to them and Bristol AM, should work with other churches and appropriate bodies to develop initiatives.
5 February 2011. The shares have been sold and a loss incurred
Quaker Housing Trust triennual report
4 December 2010. Extension of their funding to non-Quaker projects for the last three years has been valuable. QHT offers environmental assessments to Meetings
Experiment with Light groups
4 December 2010. Minutes received from Area Meetings. MfS accepted that it was not appropriate to add this to centrally managed work.
4 December 2010 Katie Frost, of Quaker Communications, hopes to be invited to local meetings to talk about the Ministry of Giving
A deficit will only be avoided in 2010 because of a generous legacy
Appointment of Paul Parker as Recording Clerk
4 December 2010. Paul Parker, a member of Thaxted Area Meeting will start work at Friends House on 1 May 2011
Friends House lettings policy
2 October 2010. MfS agreed the present policy as fit for purpose despite occasional problems with some hirers
Quaker Faith & Practice
4 December 2010. MfS Reps to comment by 7 January 2011 (to the Recording Clerk's office) on the draft text of chapter 5 of Quaker faith & practice concerning general meetings and other gatherings (paper S/10/12/A), and the draft text of chapter 11 concerning membership (paper S/10/12/B).
2 October 2010. A plea for plain language to help people with less knowledge of English language, was supported by MfS in principle
2 October 2010. MfS supported Minutes from several Area meetings concerned about the effect of cuts on vulnerable people. Friends are asked to write to their MPs: for examble about cancelling Trident, using fewer prisons, ring-fencing overseas aid, introducing a tax on financial transactions and using half the proceeds for the domestic budget. Pressure to ensure child detention ends would be helpful.
Draft budget and Operational Plan for 2011
2 October 2010. The budget includes a considerable overspend which can be met but must be brought back into balance. It was mentioned at MfS that the central work costs £150 per member, but contributions are well below this at present. Some Area meetings give much more than others. Costs need to be reduced and finance from Friends increased.
Senior staff resignations
2 October 2010. At MfS the clerk of Trustees reported on Trustees' activities since the last meeting as usual. Concerning the resignations, there has been no impropriety of any sort, and recruitment of a new Recording Clerk is under way by Trustees. Friends are asked to encourage suitably qualified Friends to apply.
Framework for Action Priority G: responses to resources queries
3 July 2010. Quaker Stewardship Committee has collated responses from Meetings to the questionnaire sent earlier, providing a valuable compendium of ideas which is available on the BYM website. (It will not be available on paper)
MfS hopes that Meetings will continue to review the way they use resources.
Criminal Justice project by QPSW's Crime, Community and Justice Group
3 July 2010. MfS received a report on the Group's 'Learning from Experience' work. Leaflets were presented
Meetings are asked to spread the work and encourage the contribution of stories of personal experience from people affected by the UK's criminal justice system. See Learning from Experience. Experience doesn't have to be at first hand, nor only that of Friends.
Framework for Action Priority D: Sustainability
4 December 2010. MfS Home Groups had many ideas in preparation for Yearly Meeting Gathering: click here to see them. A 'toolkit' (book) for greening meeting houses will be available shortly.
3 July 2010. MfS heard about the work being done by QPSW with others towards Yearly Meeting Gathering in 2011
Meetings may like to consider the following three questions to prepare for YMG (no response is asked for):
- How are we supporting each other to live simple, joyful and spirit-led lives that sustain the world we live in?
- To what extent do you see your Meeting's response on this issue to be driven by guilt and fear, and to what extent by love and joy?
- How has your meeting engaged with this priority as a faith community? How do our testimonies shape our reponse?
For further information on the QPSW Sustainability and Peace programme and preparation for YMG 2011 see www.quaker.org.uk/sustainability
or contact Sunniva Taylor on 020 7663 1047.
Quaker Marriage - revision of QF&P Chapter 16
3 July 2010. MfS discussed the May 2010 draft, and sent comments to the Church Government Advisory Group
The text can be seen at Chapter 16 revision. Friends can pass drafting suggestions to the Assistant Recording Clerk before the end of August.
2 October 2010. MfS discussed the latest draft which incorporates suggestions on key points from Area meetings, and agreed it should go forward to Yearly Meeting 2011 with a few minor changes.
YEARLY MEETING IN LONDON: May 2010. Presence of journalists at future Yearly Meetings.
YM accepted the recommendation of Meeting for Sufferings at their December meeting, and will open selected future YM sessions to journalists. Agenda Committee was asked to decide with Quaker Communications Department on procedures and advice for Friends . These may include the possibility of private (or closed) sessions
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