For 2017, Central Committee's primary task was to listen deeply and consider these questions:
- What is the essential, urgent, and inspiring work that our affiliated Yearly and Monthly meetings want Friends General Conference to do for the good of our faith, our faith community, and the world in which we live?
- What overarching work and goals will allow us to make the greatest positive impact, attract needed talent, funding and enthusiasm, and let go of things that keep us from doing the greatest good that we can do now?
The format of this year's Central Committee sessions was entirely new - with a focus on small group sharing, a panel discussion, concise committee reports, an introductory video for newcomers to Central Committee - all designed to enhance opportunities for the exchange of ideas among Monthly and Yearly meetings, both large and small. The energy released was exciting and, for many, exhausting. The significant changes in format, the unrelenting focus on FGC’s future direction, the anxiety of a budget that has improved over the past few years and is still not yet unsustainable, all funneled into intense discussions and worship until, finally, the body arrived at unity around direction for the way forward.
A panel of three yearly meeting presiding clerks and three yearly meeting general secretaries shared reflections about the important role FGC plays among affiliated bodies. Here’s what arose: the impact of the FGC Gathering, the educational and spiritual growth opportunities afforded by FGC’s programming and services, the importance of learning from Friends across geography, the usefulness of the Quaker Cloud, the tangible anti-racist focus, and the longing to be spiritual communities in which we are all enriched by racial and other differences.
We heard Canadian Friends have some different needs from U.S. Friends – differences based in culture and history. We learned Canadian Friends often need to ‘translate’ our ‘Americanisms.' We were called to become a stronger bi-national organizational by noticing and honoring national differences.
Throughout Central Committee, Friends often rose to affirm the powerful impact FGC has had on individual Friends and on Quaker communities. Goodwill for FGC mingled with concerns about possible future programming restrictions due to budget constraints. This tension between our hopes and dreams and FGC’s constrained fiscal/people resources was palpable, disquieting, and energizing.
We learned about social media outreach experiments that have proven successful.
We acknowledged regrets and pain over the laying down of loved programs and the dismissal of loved staff.
Young Adult Friends spoke with passion about the power of FGC’s ministry in their lives, and their desire to have their unborn children and grandchildren also benefit from transformational experiences through FGC. They urged Central Committee to bring more focus to FGC’s work, and they insisted that Central Committee must commit to moving forward within the confines of a sustainable budget.
A Way Forward
During Central Committee, clarity emerged on our future strategic priorities. They are:
- Continuation of the FGC Gathering and fellowship opportunities that ground and transform lives
- Ministry on Racism - This program is doing important work (including the Institutional Assessment on Race) and we expect to build upon that work as FGC respond to the recommendations coming out of the Assessment.
- Clearinghouse/Yearly Meeting Connector - FGC should step more fully into being the vehicle through which yearly and monthly meetings learn from each other, which includes cross-yearly-meeting fellowship and sharing.
- Religious education (an umbrella for Spiritual Deepening, Welcoming Friends, Outreach, Faith & Play) - We heard quite a bit about the importance of religious education, excitement about the Spiritual Deepening eRetreats, and a hope that the Spiritual Deepening eRetreat platform might be a tool to connect Friends across yearly meetings in a multitude of ways for sharing and learning around a variety of topics.
Central Committee Friends charged that FGC make programmatic decisions and pursue fundraising opportunities in order to continue our financial progress in 2018 and 2019, in order to achieve a sustainable budget for the 2020 Fiscal Year. We are grateful to the many Friends who support FGC’s work financially and to the many Friends who donate their time and expertise to serve Friends. Together, we are doing good work through many programs, while transforming FGC into an organization with a clearer focus.
Since several priorities named by Central Committee are broad, the Committee for Discernment, Planning and Priorities (CDPP) and Executive Committee will use Central Committee’s directives to develop a specific plan for the next 18 months, and a vision for FGC that will span the next several years.