Additional Information about FGC Affiliation and a Request for Monthly Meetings to Season

To Meeting Representatives and Clerks of Monthly Meetings,

At Pacific Yearly Meeting Annual Session in 2017, Ministry and Oversight Committee (M&O) brought forward for discernment the question of Pacific Yearly Meeting’s affiliation with Friends General Conference.  During the consideration of this question at the 2017 Annual Session, some Friends asked for additional information and time for seasoning at the monthly meeting level.  Ministry and Oversight Committee has prepared materials to aid in our continued discernment at the 2018 Annual Session.

In order to be well prepared for discernment, M&O is now asking monthly meetings to season the matter of affiliating between now and April 30, 2018 by reflecting on these queries:

  1. What could Pacific Yearly Meeting and your monthly meeting gain by affiliating with FGC?
  2. What undesirable consequences might result from affiliating with FGC?
  3. What additional information would be helpful to members of your meeting in considering the pros and cons of affiliation?

Please note that we are not asking your monthly meeting to reach unity or make a recommendation as to whether or not to affiliate with FGC.  We are asking monthly meetings that have not already done so to season this matter in order to help us prepare for a deep and well-grounded discernment at the 2018 Annual Session.

Monthly meeting clerks are asked to send a summary of the reflections arising from the seasoning process to M&O member Shan Cretin by April 30, 2018. M&O will then have time to synthesize and share the reflections from monthly meetings and provide the most complete information available prior to our discernment at Annual Session.

The appended Frequently Asked Questions document below has been prepared by M&O to aid in your seasoning. The document includes links to information directly from Friends General Conference.

If you have any questions, please contact M&O Member Shan Cretin: scretin@me.com

Kylin Navarro and Sally Kingsland, Co-Clerks, Ministry and Oversight Committee


Frequently Asked Questions about Pacific Yearly Meeting Affiliating with Friends General Conference

What is Friends General Conference (FGC)?

Friends General Conference nurtures the spiritual vitality of the Religious Society of Friends in the USA and Canada by providing programs and services for individual Friends, meetings, and people interested in the Quaker path.  Affiliated yearly meetings (including yearly meeting officers, committees, and member monthly meetings and worship groups) have access to an array of programs offered by FGC and become part of a nation-wide community of yearly meetings to share spiritual and organizational practices and learnings.

For more information, see linked documents: Benefits of Affiliation with FGC and FGC programs June 2017 and the December 2017 issue of Vital Friends .

What is the Current Relationship between Pacific Yearly Meeting and FGC?

Pacific Yearly Meeting (PYM) currently sends an Observer to the annual Friends General Conference Central Committee Meeting. The PYM budget includes a $500 annual contribution to FGC and $1,000 for the travel expenses of the Observer to Central Committee.

Three PYM monthly meetings have already individually affiliated with FGC: Davis, Grass Valley, and Sacramento.  One of these meetings has sometimes but not consistently  sent a representative to the FGC Central Committee Meeting. Their representative often contributed to their own travel, with the meeting, when necessary, providing up to $400 from a general scholarship fund. Another affiliated meeting has sent a representative for the past two years.  Two meetings reported that their annual contribution to FGC is $180 and $200.

In addition, dozens of PYM Friends attend the FGC Annual Gathering and many have offered workshops at the Gathering.  Many individual Friends and Monthly Meetings make use of the FGC Bookstore, the Quaker Finder, and online resources available for First Day School and Adult Religious Education such as Faith and Play™. Other  FGC resources that have been used by PYM monthly meetings include the Friends Meeting House Fund and the website hosting services of Quaker Cloud.  

What do Monthly Meetings and the Yearly Meeting Gain from Affiliation?

Many Pacific Yearly Meeting individual Friends, monthly meetings, quarterly meetings, and yearly meeting committees already make use of the FGC Bookstore, the Gathering, the Friends House Meeting Fund, Faith and Play™,  and many online resources without fully participating in the core support and governance of FGC. Pacific Yearly Meeting benefited from FGC’s Ministry on Racism for many years without fully paying the cost to FGC of supporting this work.

While FGC is generous in offering access to these services, formal affiliation would be a step towards better balance in paying more fully for services we already use.  Affiliation would also increase PYM Friends’ and monthly meetings’ awareness of less public FGC programs, such as the Young Clerks Training Program, the Meeting House Fund, and would likely increase our participation in and use of these resources. By deepening our Yearly Meeting’s connections to FGG, our yearly meeting would also be in a position of offer incoming Yearly Meeting officers and committees easy access to a network of peers and potential mentors in other yearly meetings.

Monthly meetings currently affiliated have valued the opportunities for fellowship and spiritual enrichment with the wider group of Friends who are part of FGC and have benefited from participation in the FGC Gathering and in programs such as Quaker Quest and Spiritual Deepening.

Friends General Conference is able to take on projects that are too large for any single Yearly Meeting. Worship in Song, the Quaker hymnal, is a much loved resource within PYM that FGC developed.

Does FGC’s spiritual and theological approach support the range of faith and practice in PYM Monthly Meetings?  

FGC affiliated yearly meetings consist largely, but not exclusively, of unprogrammed meetings.  FGC approaches social issues such as racism and the full inclusion of LGBTQI people in religious life from a spiritual perspective, saying “In order to know God, we have to know all the faces of God.”   FGC embraces diverse faith foundations, covering the broad umbrella of Quaker faith identities from Bible-centered Christian to Universalist mystic.  This seems consistent with PYM’s Faith and Practice and also distinguishes FGC from Friends United Meeting with its emphasis on a more conservative and strongly Christ- and Bible-centered approach to Quakerism.

Some FGC affiliated yearly meetings include Quaker Churches with paid pastors as well as unprogrammed meetings. Some yearly meetings have chosen to dually affiliate with both FGC and Friends United Meeting.

What is the process for affiliating with FGC?

Pacific Yearly Meeting Presiding Clerk and Ministry and Oversight Committee have been in discussion with the FGC Committee for Nurturing Ministries. M&O Committee recommends that affiliation be considered at the 2018 Annual Session.  In order to be well prepared for that discernment, M&O is again asking monthly meetings to season the matter of affiliating between now and April 30, 2018  by reflecting on these queries:

  1. What could Pacific Yearly Meeting and your monthly meeting gain by affiliating with FGC?
  2. What undesirable consequences might result from affiliating with FGC?
  3. What additional information would be helpful to members of your meeting in considering the pros and cons of affiliation?

Note:  We are not asking your monthly meeting to reach unity or make a recommendation as to whether or not to affiliate with FGC.  We are asking monthly meetings that have not already done so to season this matter in order to help us prepare for a deep and well-grounded discernment at the 2018 Annual Session.

Monthly meeting clerks are asked to send a summary of the reflections arising from the seasoning process to the M&O member Shan Cretin by April 30, 2018.

If Pacific Yearly Meeting decides to request affiliation with FGC at the 2018 Annual Session, a formal letter of application will be prepared and sent to FGC.  The FGC Committee for Nurturing Ministries will consider this application and make a recommendation to the Central Committee, hopefully at its Fall 2018 meeting.  

See linked document: Process and Procedures for a Yearly Meeting to Affiliate with FGC

What would Pacific Yearly Meeting be expected to do if we affiliate with FGC?

Formal affiliation includes these requested commitments.

  • The affiliate participates in FGC by approving representatives to serve on Central Committee, FGC’s governing board.  Affiliated yearly meetings are asked to name two appointees to Central Committee for every 500 members.  However, some affiliates name fewer representatives and not all representatives necessarily attend Central Committee every year.
  • Each representative participates in one FGC administrative or program committee.
  • The affiliate funds the cost of their representatives’ participation.  At the minimum, this includes travel to the annual Central Committee (outside of Baltimore), and registration for Central Committee (in 2017, registration cost $350 for a shared room and all meals).  Affiliate expenses  may also include representative travel to mid-year committee meetings, although FGC committees also permit remote participation.
  • The affiliate makes a contribution to the FGC budget commensurate with their budget.
  • Affiliates provide an updated email list annually.  FGC sends up to three mailings per year to this list, inviting participation in and support of its programs.  No more than one of these mailings will be a fundraising appeal.
What financial support to FGC would Pacific Yearly Meeting be expected to provide if we affiliate?

There is no fixed amount or formula.  The amount of the contribution may be impacted by the anticipated travel expenses of their representative(s) as well as the financial wherewithal of the affiliate.  Friends General Conference receives support from several sources: contributions from member meetings, contributions from individual donors, and grants from foundations. The contributions from member meetings currently represent an important though relatively small source of support.

If Pacific Yearly Meeting decides to affiliate with Friends General Conference, the yearly meeting could appoint as many as 4 representatives to Central Committee and 1 representative to Executive Committee.  If Pacific Yearly Meeting appointed all of these roles (which is not mandatory), it would need to budget for a maximum of 4 trips a year to the East Coast plus a total of $1400 in registration fees for the annual Central Committee meeting.  Each representative is also requested to attend mid-year program or administrative committee meetings, for which remote participation would be possible.  Assuming that airfare plus transportation to and from the airport is about $450 per trip, travel and registration costs would depend on the number of representatives appointed as in the table below:

Four (4) Reps Three (e) Reps Two (2) Reps One (1) Rep
Central Committee Meeting Travel (Air+Ground) $1,800 $1,350 $900 $450
Central Committee Meeting Registration $1,400 $1,050 $700 $350
Executive Committee Travel (1 person only) $450
Total for Central Committee/Executive Committee Participation $3,650 $2,850 $2,050 $1,250
Other FGC Committee Participation (Range) $0 to $900

Finally, Pacific Yearly Meeting would also need to decide how large a contribution to make to FGC over and above these travel costs. Based on the contributions currently made by other affiliates, this could be as little as $300 or as much as $10,000.  

Most likely the three currently affiliated monthly meetings would no longer send individual representatives to FGC Central Committee or other administrative meetings. Monthly meetings whose members are chosen to serve as PYM representative to FGC might be willing to offer some support for their members to participate in Central Committee or other FGC committees.     If some meetings and/or Friends are willing to pick up part of their participation costs, the impact on the yearly meeting assessment could be less.

How much are other FGC affiliates currently contributing?

FGC received gifts from affiliated yearly meetings in FY17 totaling $71,500, about 11% of contributions received in FY17 designated for that year’s budget.  These yearly meeting contributions ranged from $300 to $20,000.  On a per member basis, yearly meetings’ contributions averaged $2.45 per member, ranging from 25 cents to $8.43 per member.

FGC also received gifts from directly affiliated monthly meetings ranging from $100 to $600 a year.  Gifts from all monthly meetings totaled $71,000 in FY 17, approximately 11% of the contributions received in FY17 designated for that year’s budget.

The combined contribution from all monthly meetings is roughly equal to the contributions received from all yearly meetings. The total contributions received from all monthly and yearly meetings constitute about 22% of FGC’s total budget with the remainder currently coming from foundation grants, individual donations, and income from investments.

What is the current financial status of Friends General Conference?

In 2012, when FGC completed spending the money raised for programs in the previous major fundraising Campaign, spending from accumulated reserves increased in order to continue a number of programs that were seen as important by Central Committee.  For a while, extraordinary stock market gains balanced these draws from reserves.  When the market slowed, the reserves began to be depleted. Now even in as good a year as 2017 has been, market gains no longer balance the draw from reserves needed to balance the budget.  

In the last few years, FGC recognized this situation and took a series of steps to right size its budget. Each effort reduced the total yearly deficit that had to be funded from reserves.  This deficit was about $322K in FY15, $264K in FY16 and $164K in FY17.  While there has been improvement, there is still more to be done to achieve sustainability (i.e., an expense budget that equals fundraising plus sustainable draws from reserves). As of the close of FY 2017, FGC had $3.6M in reserves plus $468K in Endowment.

In October 2017, Central Committee, not wanting to see reserves fall much further, instructed Executive Committee to make additional changes to get to that sustainable level no later than FY2020.  It’s not just a question of prioritizing the work – it also involves looking at HOW the work is carried out, and decreasing the Administrative/Development/Overhead costs now that the FGC staff is half the size it was 10 years ago.

PYM’s observer to FGC reports that FGC is making progress in resolving its financial issues.  As a formal affiliate, our representatives to Central Committee and Executive Committee would have more input and greater responsibility.