Another View of AFSC Restructuring


Friend Chuck Fager has written several vitriolic pieces recently, largely, and in my view, unfairly, critical of the resistance to a proposed Service Committee restructuring plan. His criticisms seem to center around a belief that AFSC has purposely excluded Quakers from its Staff and Programs and become an essentially secular non-Quaker organization.

In the 1990s, I spent several years as a volunteer with the Service Committee in its then Great Lakes Region, headed by Michael McConnell, who, though not a Quaker, was a respected minister and religious leader in the community and was deeply committed to the non-violent, justice oriented Quaker vision of the world. Similarly, the Program Staff in the Region, a mix of Quakers and non-Quakers, worked tirelessly toward the goals of peace and justice.

In my experience with the Great Lakes Regional Office, all openings for Staff positions were posted widely in Quaker meetings. The lack of qualified Quaker applicants dictated who got the jobs, not some litmus test dividing Quakers from non-Quakers. Moreover, I have known supposed “Quakers” whose grasp of the testimonies was weak to non-existent compared to some of the non-Quaker AFSC staff members. The lack of Quakers in the organization is not the fault of some sinister secularizing impulse within the organization. In fact, the Board that governs the Service Committee consists almost entirely of members of Quaker meetings.

I am sad that Friend Fager has chosen to vilify both AFSC as an organization and its Program Staff. I question what purpose he is really trying to achieve. It is true that during the time I was with the Service Committee restructuring was always controversial. It is extremely difficult for a social justice organization based on non-hierarchical Quaker principles to exercise top-down authority – the nature of such an institution is a set piece for conflict. To my mind, this doesn’t mean those conflicts shouldn’t be resolved using Quaker discernment - a process Friends cherish and practice in their meetings and their lives, assuming they are trying to uphold the Testimonies. It just takes longer and requires more care, as Friend Fager should know.

from Theo Mace, South Seattle Friends Meeting (5/14/2022)