Central Committee October 2015 Update

From Barry Crossno, General Secretary

FGC’s Central Committee, our governance group, meet October 22-25, 2015 at Pearlstone Center outside of Reisterstown, Maryland. More than one hundred forty Friends from our affiliated yearly and monthly meetings gathered to consider Spirit’s guidance as regards our joint work and how to move forward.

We were blessed with unity to move forward with many programs, to regretfully lay down others, and to grow a stronger identity for FGC as a collaborative of its affiliated yearly and member meetings.

Developing recommendations for Programmatic Changes for FY16

FGC had anticipated embarking on a major fund-raising campaign in the coming year. This campaign was meant to strengthen existing programs and fund new efforts. A feasibility study for such a campaign was conducted over the spring and early summer. In August we learned that the feasibility study showed that the time was not right to undertake such a campaign. This meant that Friends who gathered at Central  Committee would need to make difficult decisions regarding which programs and projects would be continued as part of our core work and which would need to be laid down if we were to live within our means. Executive Committee, Finance Committee, Personnel Committee, Committee for Discernment, Planning and Priorities, and the administrative team all worked diligently and prayerfully to present recommendations for discernment and decision-making at Central Committee. 

We hope this message will be helpful in knowing the decisions that were reached at Central Committee.

Program Recommendations Approved With More Changes Coming in FY17

The reality of our financial situation, and the desire to live within our means without drawing more than is prudent from our reserves, meant carefully considered program reductions were needed in order to bring our budget more in line with our financial capacity. Central Committee approved a FY16 budget and program recommendations that largely met this goal. 

This encompassed many difficult decisions, but there was unity as well as gratitude shared for the hard work of the many Friends who brought these recommendations forward on such short notice.  The unity reached means that the New Meetings Project will no longer be accepting new worship groups for mentoring.  QuakerQuest will be laid down, as will the Traveling Ministries program.  Beyond this, FGC’s self-publishing imprint QuakerBridge Media will be discontinued (QuakerPress will continue) and Couple Enrichment will largely become independent. QuakerBooks is expected to require no more than $50,000 in ministerial subsidy for FY16.  Stewardship Services will be evaluated for effectiveness during this coming year. The Spiritual Deepening Program will continue to move forward, though at a level less ambitious than anticipated had we moved forward with  a campaign.

These changes are significant. As you can imagine, there was a mixture of grief and concern, but also much hope expressed by many members present at Central Committee.

FGC: A Collaborative

There was also widespread unity that FGC should be enthusiastically experimenting with how FGC can better function as a vibrant collaborative of our affiliated member organizations working together to serve the Religious Society of Friends.  While the process is still to be more fully developed, we expect to soon enter into continent-wide conversations about how to inspire Friends to greater faithfulness, how the power of Quaker faith and practice can be more present in our meetings, and how meetings can succeed in warmly welcoming newcomers into an inclusive community of faithfulness and witness. An evaluation of FGC’s governance and volunteer structures will also be a vital part of this process.

FGC Programs Going Forward

As you can see, intense changes are unfolding at FGC.  Please keep in mind — and remind others — that in the midst of these changes we are continuing to provide many important and vital services to Friends.  The quality of programming and work remains solid!  We continue to offer a wide array of services and programs available such as:

A Celebration

Though Friends were saddened by Associate Secretary of Ministries Deborah Fisch’s resumption of disability leave, we were happy to have her join us for a portion of Central Committee as a prayerful presence. Friends enjoyed having time to visit with Deborah. On Friday evening, Deborah’s seventeen years of service to FGC were celebrated with vocal ministry, the presentation to her of a minute of appreciation, and a time of conversation and refreshments.

Moving Forward with Strength and Faith

We are grateful to Friends from across the United States and Canada (and, indeed, the world) for their on-going involvement and support. 

There is much to do this coming year. While we feel challenged, we are also hopeful about what is ahead.  As a number of other Quaker organizations have found, the opportunity to self-evaluate and reorganize often leads to powerful new directions and a stronger institution.  We look forward to working with you over the coming months to implement the many necessary changes and develop our future together.

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