SIX: An Exchange About Numbers; AFSC and Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting & Association (SAYMA), 2011-2012

From SAYMA’s minutes, 2011:
[SAYMA =] Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting & Association
June 9-12, 2011
[Below: SAYMA’s logo & Map of Meetings]

Warren Wilson College, Swannanoa, North Carolina
41st Annual Meeting

41-32: AFSC and Quakers

Free Polazzo serves as one of our representative to the AFSC Corporation. Free has asked AFSC for a report of the number of members of Friends currently working for AFSC and asked the yearly meeting to support his concern through a minute. Concern was raised for the purpose and intent of gathering the information. The importance of the service of non-Friends was highlighted. The active role of many Friends in the organization was emphasized.

41-32-01: We recognize that the American Friends Service Committee brings together many committed individuals who serve in a variety of volunteer and staff positions. We treasure their service. We believe that maintaining the Quaker character of the organization requires some level of active staff and volunteer presence by committed Quakers. We ask the AFSC develop a report giving the number and percentage of AFSC staff who are active members of the Religious Society of Friends, broken down by region.

AFSC Response, page 1:

Page 2 of 2

Commentary, 2018:

H. Larry Ingle: When Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting and Association approved its June 2011 minute, proposed by one of our representatives to the Corporation—an avid champion of AFSC, it should be said—I was present and united with my fellow Friends to ask, as a yearly meeting that has long supported AFSC, a simple question. We knew what we wanted and we asked for it: an accounting of the number and percentage of Friends employed by AFSC.

What Board Clerk Arlene Kelly says the Board heard when it considered its response to our minute was not limited to what she claims is AFSC’s “continuing” effort to ensure that its “Quaker character” is “at the heart of what we do.” Far from it.  This is a woeful misreading of our request. We asked for numbers and percentages because “we believe[d] that maintaining the Quaker character of the organization requires some level of active staff and volunteer presence by committed Quakers.”

Despite the fact that our yearly meeting has a sterling record of support for AFSC, we got no information, a condescending dismissal, and an implied suggestion that fulfilling our request would wreak harm in the AFSC and on its staff.  If our yearly meeting, one of the major bodies of Friends in the United States, does not merit more candor than Kelly and the Board supplied, I don’t know who does. And that doesn’t mention the insult of receiving a pamphlet on some Quaker testimonies produced by no body authorized to issue a definitive statement.  So we had to wait to learn from a history of AFSC, published in 2016, that the current percentage of Friends working for AFSC is .005. That bit of history is telling, even damning, just as these three paragraphs are.

Chuck Fager: First let me appreciate Arlene Kelly’s letter: it stands as a textbook example of what is called “derailing” (i.e., stonewalling) in the argot of anti-oppression training. Arlene Kelly presumes to tell SAYMA Friends that they didn’t really want what they specifically asked for, but instead really wanted what she was willing to give them, which was a load of condescending, insulting nothing. It took some nerve to then offer them as a substitute the banal pamphlet “introducing” AFSC’s (ersatz version of) the testimonies – as if SAYMA were a semiliterate hillbilly rabble mucking up their 15th street holy of holies, who thought Fox was a four-legged beast, Penn a cigar maker, and oatmeal the sacred meal. This dismissive missive is “smoking gun” proof of AFSC’s contempt for actual Friends, outside their carefully vetted inner circle. Nearly a decade later, the patronizing arrogance of this AFSC “response” still rankles.

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