Letters - 26 April 2024

From YM, trustees and Sufferings to Quaker identity

YM, trustees and Sufferings

Marisa Johnson (5 April) is helpfully right to draw our attention to the role of Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM) trustees as laid out in 8.17 of the current fifth edition of Quaker faith & practice. This is not substantially different from the wording on 8.03 of the fourth edition. Both explain the confusion between the roles of the trustees and Meeting for Sufferings. It is legally useful to state clearly that the trustees are responsible for the Society’s compliance with our own governance and the requirements of charity law, and for the management of our finances and property.

However, by laying it onto the trustees to approve operational plans and budgets, a way is opened for them to become closely involved in work which hitherto has been clearly within the remits of standing committees, including Meeting for Sufferings.

In the subsequent confusion, Sufferings has been searching for a new role after evolving as the Yearly Meeting (YM) representative executive over the past 360 years, while leaving unanswered questions around the trustees’ interpretation of their remit and role which have been raised over the eighteen years of their existence. Had the review group’s remit included the role of BYM trustees along with that of Sufferings, the proposal that the latter should be laid down to become part of a continuing YM may not have emerged.

How best the Society should discern our way forward in face of challenging changes rightly engaged all the consultations leading to this conclusion. However, ‘discernment’ is not uniform, and takes different forms in response to the context: the vision discerned by gathered YMs is not instantly transferable to its implementation, which needs to be discerned in turn by a body specifically constituted to represent Friends across the YM. Merging these two bodies is likely to restrict discernment, not enhance it, while leaving BYM trustees with an unclear role that could restrict the discernment of standing committees which worked to Meeting for Sufferings before the instalment of the present trusteeship.

The full implications of the proposal to lay down Meeting for Sufferings have not been laid open to Friends and Meetings, and there is no time to consider these, report back and reflect before YM gathers in July with this proposal on its agenda.

Anthony Wilson


In ‘Economy Drive’ (5 April) Paul Hodgkin explains how capitalism is destroying our world, and how its language and concepts have been taken from religion. Capitalism is more than an economic system; it’s become a way of thinking, living and being. And it’s opposed to Quaker testimony.

It’s opposed to equality and social justice, since the wealth it offers to some is enabled by the poverty of others, perpetuated by the vulnerability of the poor and dispossessed to ongoing exploitation. It’s opposed to peace, since force and violence are needed to maintain its injustices. It’s opposed to simplicity, since we rely on complex supply chains and financial mechanisms to meet our needs, so are disconnected from the land and people involved. It’s opposed to community, since it sets us up in competition with each other. It’s opposed to caring for the Earth, which is plundered and polluted, in pursuit of profit. And it’s opposed to integrity, for in ignoring the truth about capitalism, we participate in a lie.

The individual strands of Quaker testimony demand that we oppose capitalism, for in doing so we act for simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality and stewardship of the Earth.

The ongoing destruction caused by capitalism means that things must and will change. We need to understand ourselves and the world differently, in ways that aren’t framed by the egotistic individualism that’s integral to our capitalistic culture. Then we can start to live our testimony and embrace change.

Wendy Pattinson

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