Saturday, February 10, 2007

Farewell Letter 1/4/2007

Dear Friend,

I’ve left New York Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends and moved in the direction of what I feel is my spiritual journey. I’ve joined Baltimore Yearly Meeting and a local Monthly Meeting where I was raised to which I feel close, after being censored and shunned regarding my persistent witness to blatant malfeasance of governance in my former Society.

Granted, my Quaker family were never members of New York Yearly Meeting (NYYM) before I arrived, however I still feel a duty to inform Friends of the malfeasance living cancerously in NYYM. Here are succinct statements for the benefit and longevity of organic Quakerism - written to my f/Friends everywhere to consider.

1. NYYM, formed in the mid 1950's, has begun its end as a forced religious governmental construct. Three obvious death knells have been:

  • The institution of an organizational hierarchy - the ‘Coordinating Committees’ in 1976 and its resultant insular in-crowd control of power by the same old same-olds.
  • The divestiture of its ‘diamond in the rough’ more or less by the current insular elite - Friends World College in 1991
  • Concurrent with severely declining membership, the institution of permanent paid positions instead of the continued insistence on sojourning paid positions. Pension benefits are now given employees. This was evidently approved by the Personnel Committee (also insiders) - out of view of the constituency. As membership declines, money sent to NYYM from local Monthly Meetings will come more and more from dead Friends’ bequests, hastening the end of Friends’ direct connection to the Faith.

2. NYYM elite and paid personnel have mismanaged time, talent and money behind a wall of non-transparency. The NYYM Operating Budget is approximately 1.5x New England and Baltimore YM budgets, while both have more employees than NYYM, and Baltimore and New England are growing steadily in members over a long period of time. NYYM has misrepresented finances and membership numbers in the most recent two years to make themselves look better. Friends sometimes criticize profit-making business for such breakdown in ethics, but Friends who are not accountable to their constituency, as some are in NYYM, can do it themselves. The NYYM Ministers (Recorded Ministers) and those who covet these titles support malfeasance in that their titles are protected by the unquestioned continuance of NYYM as a governmental body.

3. NYYM Annual Sessions occur at the same exclusive destination far from just about everyone at Lake George in the Adirondacks each year – which is out of reach in time (7 days) and money for most Friends. This ‘vacation’ for the elite and others is the ultimate reason-to-be for the forced governmental construct of NYYM.

4. NYYM draws excessive resources of time, talent and money ‘up’ into the hierarchy out of local Monthly Meetings – instead of allowing the resources to flow ‘out’ laterally for growth in the organic manner of Friends. This removal of resources from Monthly Meetings - the basic units of Friends Society, simply helps to destroy Quakerism in our region.

Although the NYYM elite and paid staff talk of membership growth, they act in ways to hinder growth, through the centralization of authority and resources. The geographic expanse of NYYM is simply too large - it wastes time, talent and money that could be spent in local and regional concerns.

5. NYYM has recently published membership numbers which have been manipulated or misrepresented most probably by paid employees to show growth in NYYM in the last two years (2005 and 2006). These two years of ‘growth’ occurred co-incidentally after 35 straight years of decline, and after this decline was published widely by a Friend in November 2004. The official NYYM membership decreased from 6,800 members in 1970 to 3,500 in 2004. Although membership growth occurs at the Monthly Meeting level, it can decrease due to malfeasance and other concerns at both the Yearly or Monthly levels. A Friend has traveled to Monthly Meetings and seen evidence of this ‘official’ membership misrepresentation in 2005 and 2006.

6. If Monthly Meetings of NYYM come to unity they are certainly within their right to choose another Yearly Meeting in which to affiliate. Monthly Meetings can also decide to form new Yearly Meetings which may make up smaller, more natural, governable bodies.

7. If other Wider Bodies and Yearly Meetings come to unity (obviously with NYYM members removing themselves from the decision process), they are within their rights to de-certify New York Yearly Meeting as a recognized Friends body.

If Friends want more detail, I’ll consider supplying evidence in support of these statements, which might involve asking NYYM to make itself transparent with published time and task specific job descriptions, publishing of the Financial Management Guidelines, and the publishing of more itemized operating budget lines.

In essence, the complacence and malfeasance evident in NYYM trouble me, even for those I love whom I’ve left. There are timeless truths and timeless expressions of these truths. Fraud and the complacence that allows it - are not two of these expressions. In essence, my NYYM Friends: if Friends want to begin to change the world – look closer to home.

In Friendship,