American Friends Service Committee Corporation Meeting report to Annual Session 2016

Nancy Ahlberg Mellor, PYM Representative to AFSC Corp.

A quotation from the AFSC website reads: “The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is a Quaker organization that promotes lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action. Drawing on continuing spiritual insights and working with people of many backgrounds, we nurture the seeds of change and respect for human life that transform social relations and systems.” 

The Corporation of the American Friends Service Committee is the organizing body that chooses the AFSC Board, which in turn sets the direction of the organization.  The Corporation meets annually.  As a representative of Pacific Yearly Meeting to the American Friends Service Committee Corporation, I had the privilege to attend the most recent sessions of the 99th AFSC Corporation, held on March 4 and 5, 2016 at the Friends Center in Philadelphia.  In addition to the business meetings of the Corporation, the days and evenings were filled with workshops that reflected the theme “Change the Story, Change the World” and included material and ideas that are meant to be shared with our home Meetings.

The current work of the American Friends Service Committee is covered at other times at Yearly Meeting and will be explained by those who work directly with programs.  From my perspective as a member of the corporation, I can say that I am immensely honored to be a tiny part of the AFSC, the work of which I have known and respected for nearly sixty years.  In addition, my membership on the Corporation has increased my interest in the projects located in the Central Valley, the Pan Valley Institute in Fresno and Project Voice in Stockton.  That interest has led to visits and presentations at Sacramento Friends Meeting by Myrna Nateras and Luis Magana and by members of the meeting to their projects.   Thank you, Pacific Yearly Meeting for my appointment to the Corporation of the American Friends Service Committee.

FCNL in 2015


Friends in PYM engaged with FCNL in many different ways in 2015, from our delegation that participated in discernment at FCNL’s Annual Meeting in November and the legislative actions many Friends took in response to FCNL emails to Chico Friend Megan Fisher’s participation in the year-long Advocacy Corps and the Advocacy Team formed by Friends in Santa Cruz meeting.

“Pivot2Peace” was the theme of FCNL’s Annual Meeting, Nov. 12-15, 2015, at a new venue, nearer Capitol Hill and FCNL’s office.  Meeting spaces there were larger, and the location was much more convenient.

An obvious opportunity to bring FCNL supporters to lobby their Senators and Representatives, the annual meeting begins with the Quaker Public Policy Institute (QPPI).  FCNL really knows how to teach lobbying skills for impact and success!

The players:  FCNL Executive Secretary  Diane Randall

Speakers from the US Institute for Peace; Bureau for Conflict and Stabilization Operations, State Dept.; Genocide Prevention Program, Geo. Mason U.; Quaker UN Office; Central African Republic trauma healing project; Kenyan Human Rights Group (Haki Africa); Ed Snyder

Staff includes 17 registered lobbyists; a strong Field staff, a growing Young Adult program funded by a Capital Campaign, Young Fellows (interns), and many more.  

General Committee – 178 Quakers from YMs of all branches of Quakerism; provides oversight and stewardship, establishes policy and priorities for work with each Congressional session [Factoid: each Congress lasts 2 years after House elections occur], convenes at Annual Meeting.

Peacebuilding: the theme for 2015

The theme changes for each annual session to provide focus for the plenary speakers and lobbying topics.  (Q: If war is not the answer, what is?  A: Pivot2Peace.)  

Lobbying – learning and doing:

QPPI provides the background and inspiration for lobbying on a single current legislative issue that is likely to be acted on very soon by Congress.  We heard from experts in conflict prevention and practical de-escalation of violence from the US Institute for Peace and several African conflict-resolution projects.  Training for lobbying included practicing presentations with others from the same state or region.  Visits to Congressional offices, follow-up, and feedback to FCNL are always well-planned by staff, with some local advance work to schedule visits.  

It is an amazing and valuable experience to be part of professionally organized lobbying.  First, FCNL sets up the

Focus: a pragmatically chosen current opportunity for bipartisan support.  A single specific “ASK” made by many constituents from all over the country in a short period of time makes a great impact on Congress.

Logistics: arrangements – the Who, When, Where —  assigned roles for each member of a state delegation, background material to leave behind to reinforce the message, and different forms to prepare, track our activities, and report results back to FCNL.

Training: What works best is a personal story with emotional impact told by a constituent.  Prior to our visits, we prepared — with coaching and practice — in telling our stories to other team members.  Rehearsing the points to cover improved our ultimate presentations’ effectiveness.

Visits to members of Congress, step-by-step instructions:

  • Introductions of the group’s members,
  • Thanks for the legislator’s awareness of FCNL’s work,
  • Inquiring about the legislator’s interests/issues,
  • Telling our individual stories about our focus issue,
  • What we are asking for, specifically related to an upcoming bill or amendment,

Follow up: material to leave behind, report on visit to FCNL, plan next contact with legislator back home in district office.

The 2015 “ask” was to make the inter-agency Atrocities Prevention Board permanent (Sen. Ben Cardin’s bill, S.2551); 350 constituent lobbying visits happened during the two days of QPPI! When the legislation was introduced in early 2016, among the sponsors were several Republican Senators who specifically said they were cosponsoring the bill because of the engagement of Friends in their states.

Meeting with a Concern for Business

After QPPI, the annual meeting of the General Committee and supporters of FCNL takes place, covering the past year’s achievements and progress.  2015 saw advances regarding

  • Iran: diplomacy works,
  • Climate: opening bipartisan dialog,
  • Advocacy in Washington – expanded opportunities,
  • Growing and sustaining grassroots organizers in local communities,
  • Reducing mass incarceration,
  • Limiting the Pentagon budget and nuclear weapons,
  • Peacebuilding within the US government,
  • De-militarizing US police forces.

Ongoing Work at FCNL, Status and Updates

  • Staff changes, especially hearing from the incoming and outgoing interns: introductions and reports on their experiences during their year in Washington;
  • Advocacy Teams: regional networks of citizen activists doing grassroots lobbying in district offices;
  • Capital Campaign programs:
    • Quaker Welcome Center: meeting place on Capitol Hill plus a residence in 205 C St. next to the FCNL office;
    • Friend in Washington program: short-term residence for experienced Quakers; possibilities for various projects;
    • Young Adult Advocacy Corps summer intensive program and Spring Lobby Day;
  • FCNL on the Road events across the US in 2016 and 2017 (will be at Friends House, Santa Rosa, in Feb. 2017).
  • Futures Planning process.

GC Business (budget, etc.)

Setting or revising priorities for work during the new session of Congress starting in January.  Every odd-numbered year priorities for the newly elected Congress are set during Annual Meeting, and specific priorities for staff focus are determined annually by input from monthly meetings across the country.

Workshops on current topics to educate attenders and give them the opportunity to ask questions:

  • Emerging issues,
  • Understanding the budget,
  • Capital Campaign,
  • Advocacy,
  • Lobby Corps outside of Washington.

Ongoing Advocacy

Congressional offices tell FCNL staff that messages to Congress are a key part of our democratic process. Friends and other like-minded folk in California sent thousands of messages to Congress in response to alerts from FCNL, helping to encourage our lawmakers to advance the world we seek.

Advocacy Corps

Young Friend Megan Fisher from Chico Friends meetings completed a very successful term as a member of the first class of 18 Advocacy Corps organizers focused on encouraging others to lobby Congress on climate change. As part of her activities, Megan organized four other young Friends to attend FCNL’s Annual Spring Lobby Weekend in March of 2016. FCNL paid half the cost of their travel to Washington, DC with the other half covered by the Bob Vogel Youth Programs Endowment Fund of PYM.

Advocacy Teams

Several Friends in Santa Cruz Monthly Meeting helped to welcome FCNL Advocacy Team organizer Maiya Zwerling to their area to help launch an Advocacy Team – a year-long service of FCNL that provides training in deep advocacy to Friends and other like-minded folk around the country.

Submitted by Amy Southwick, 6/16/2016


Attachments to printed report:

  • Schedule for speakers and QPPI
  • “What we achieve together”
  • Legislation summary: Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act
  • FCNL Priorities and Lobbying Programs

Discipline Committee Proposed Minute – NOT APPROVED

Your Discipline Committee asks Pacific Yearly to refer to the Discipline Committee as the “Faith and Practice Revision Committee” from the point of approval of this name change through the acceptance of a revised Faith and Practice.

We will continue with our work and expect to return to Representative  Committee 2017 with a recommendation regarding the committee composition.

German Yearly Meeting Epistle, 2015

The Epistle of RSoF, German Yearly Meeting 2015

The morning was grey. But the joy of being together with Friends was great. To be connected despite distances in space and time. Is Mysticism Deed? Is Deed Mysticism? A wonderful scent of freshly cut celery drifted through the Quaker House. Does the mystical spirit smell of celery? The helpers enjoy the Deed. Our children and the helpers enjoy the soup, the rest of us the odour.

The 85th Yearly Meeting of German and Austrian Quakers took place from the 22nd to the 25th of October 2015 in the Quaker House in Bad Pyrmont. Our theme was “Spiritual Growth”. 186 Friends between the ages of 9 months and 93 years were present, including delegates and guests from Georgia, Great Britain, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Hungary an the USA.
Our community and the bonds between Quakers world-wide as the foundations of spiritual growth were stressed in many of the Epistles which reached us from other Yearly Meetings. Our Friend Esther Köhring held the Richard L. Cary Lecture with the title “Roots and Wings. The
opportunity to grow in the community of Friends”. She spoke of the joy of being able to grow within the Europe and Middle East Young Friends (EMEYF) and German Yearly Meeting; wings were her earlier experience, roots came later. “Young Friends are not your future; they are part of
our joint present.” We can only grow into the Future out of the Here and Now of each one of us, younger or older. The sense of community – amongst EMEYF as within our Yearly Meeting – forms the foundation of mutual trust: both to fly, to attempt new things, and to develop roots, to
“become radical” in the original sense of the word. To try new approaches asks for the overcoming of the continual need for a finished product, “not always hearing the song of the birds but always listening for it”, and carrying the “Krummelus pill” in our pocket (like Astrid Lindgren’s
Pippi Longstocking) as a sort of dried pea to keep disturbing us and prevent us becoming too comfortable in our settled Quaker existences. “How can we be Quakers without ceasing the process of becoming Quakers?” New attempts: open sessions of our committees, a morning bible study time unit, joint business meetings of Young Friends and the Yearly Meeting, autobiographical contributions. From inner growth to outward deed: the particular field in which Friends feel moved to act is
currently – in view of the special situation of the moment in Germany – assisting refugees. Many Friends work with ongoing initiative and commitment in this area.
Important aspects of our Business Meeting: several years of work by a Literature Group have come to a successful conclusion, and “Our Book” has been published under the title “And what can you say? Views and experiences” (ISBN 978-3-929696-52-3). German Quakers’ striving to
live in the spirit of love and truth and their various answers to the questions of their time are reflected in this volume. Then: a new translation and publication of the Journal of George Fox in German has been decided upon. We look forward to its realization.
Further: the Yearly Meeting has agreed on the text of an open letter to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and to other German and European politicians to express three concerns of German Quakers in the present refugee crisis. Firstly, we support the policy of open borders for
asylum seekers and live in the hope that we shall master the situation. Secondly, export of weapons from Germany contributes to the uprooting of refugees. Thirdly, all possible efforts must be made to aid the restoration of acceptable living conditions in the refugees’ countries of origin.
We greet Friends throughout the world in the conviction of our mutual trust and unity.
Sabine Alvermann (Clerk) Neithard Petry (Clerk)

Announcements in Plenary Sessions

Saturday Meeting for Business Plenary

  • There is a Representatives and Clerks list for Monthly Meetings at the Information Desk.  Please stop by to update your Meeting’s information.
  • Once food has been removed from the dining room, WCR staff cannot bring it back due to health codes.
  • Early Quaker Writings meets daily from 1:30-3 pm in Fireside.
  • Please close doors when leaving buildings.
  • What is a Plenary Session?  Plein+aire=in the open/full air.
  • A call to elders:  if you have eldered or will be eldering for a session at Annual Session, please come to a gathering of elders, tonight (Saturday) and tomorrow (Sunday), from 8:15 to 9:15 in the Plenary Tent.
  • September 24, 2016 marks the 50th annual Harvest Festival in support of Friends Committee on Legislation of California – originally held at Hidden Villa and now held at the Palo Alto Meetinghouse.  There are flyers at the back of the plenary tent and post them widely.
  • These announcements are now available on the website (if you are reading this, you know that!) and on the PYM Slack Channel.  Need help getting on the PYM Slack Channel?  See E.J. Harkness.

Keynote Address

Listening Session(s)

Meeting for Business Plenary II

Plenary for Discernment

Meeting for Business Plenary III

Closing Plenary

YAFs’ Families & Elders Retreat 2016 – Three days before Annual Session (Wed-Fri, June 15-17)

You are cordially and enthusiastically invited to attend the Young Adult Friends’ pre-annual-session retreat, hosted this year at Redwood Forest Friends Meeting in Santa Rosa, CA. The retreat will be held from June 15th through the 17th (Wednesday to Friday), as PYM has decided to begin annual session on Friday, June 17th this year.

Continue reading “YAFs’ Families & Elders Retreat 2016 – Three days before Annual Session (Wed-Fri, June 15-17)”

Spring Youth Service Learning Camp –March 2016– with Quaker Oaks Farm & the Wukchumni Tribe



See the Quaker Oaks Farm website’s camp page for details and registration information, including:

  • Registration Form — Please fill out and submit early — spaces are limited
  • Flyer Please post and share widely
  • Save-The-Date — Please post and share widely
  • Enrollment Packet — Will be sent once the Registration Form is received
  • Ways to Support Camp
  • YouTube Video from 2015 Camp

Continue reading “Spring Youth Service Learning Camp –March 2016– with Quaker Oaks Farm & the Wukchumni Tribe”