We Are the World: The Work of the Friends World Committee for Consultation
Nancy Wallace, Lake Forest Friends Meeting & ILYM representative to FWCC
“Friends World Committee for Consultation.” What a strange name. Is it really a “committee”? What is meant by “consultation”? Well, at least we know what the term “Friends” means, or do we? What do Friends in other parts of the world believe? How do they worship? I will cover that more later in this article. For now, it is suffice to say that Quaker practices vary widely throughout the world, and that understanding and celebrating differences and similarities among Friends is what FWCC is all about.
FWCC was established in 1937 at a World Conference of Quakers held in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. One of the motivators for that gathering was a letter from German Friends a few years earlier that asked this question: “Does Quakerism consist only of yearly meetings, which independent of one another manage their own affairs in their own districts, or is it a great Society of Friends, reaching away over all boundaries and nations?” That letter, plus other concerns arising from the threats of the approaching world war, led Friends to gather at Swarthmore from far and wide, which in turn led to a vision of a more unified face for the worldwide Religious Society of Friends. Now, nearly 80 years later, FWCC brings together Quakers from around the world.
The FWCC mission statement reads as follows: “Answering God’s call to universal love, FWCC brings Friends of varying traditions and cultural experiences together in worship, communications, and consultation, to express our common heritage and our Quaker message to the world.” There is that world “consultation” again. So what is a consultation?
One took place this past January in Pisac, Peru, and it was quite an event. More than 300 Friends from 37 countries, 77 yearly meetings, 8 independent monthly meetings (that is, meetings that are not close enough to a yearly meeting where membership makes sense for them), and two worship groups met to “consult.” Almost a third of those Friends were under the age of 35, and about the same percentage were native Spanish speakers. ILYM's three current representatives, Nancy Duncan, David Shiner, and Nancy Wallace, attended the consultation. Unfortunately, none of us were young or fluent in Spanish. ILYM will need to work on that.
As for “consultation,” those present divided into four groups to “consult” on the following issues:
• Developing Future Quaker Leaders
• Living Ministry Communities
• Changes to the FWCC Constitution
• Sustaining Life on Earth
The last of those consulting groups further discerned a leading which developed from the Kabarak Call for Peace and Ecojustice, codified by Friends who gathered in Kabarak, Kenya during the FWCC World Gathering in 2012. The consultation in Pisac built on that worthy base with a new minute, Living Sustainably and Sustaining Life on Earth, which can be viewed online. The minute includes practical actions individuals, monthly meetings, and yearly meetings can take towards sustainability.
Beyond providing opportunities for Friends of all stripes to meet, FWCC has a presence in the wider world. FWCC became as a legal entity as a result of a gathering in England after World War II which, by the way, is why the central FWCC office is located in London. Legal status allows FWCC to hold the highest level consultative status at the United Nations. It also means FWCC is able to represent Friends at the World Council of Churches and other significant world bodies.
The main work of FWCC, though, is to bring Friends together from the different traditions. If we cannot work with our fellow Quakers, how are we to work with others? Granted, its not always easy. The worldwide body of Friends includes many people whose worship looks very different from what we in ILYM think of as Quaker worship. It also includes a wonderful diversity of languages, classes, and races which would seem odd to ILYM Friends.
For myself, I feel that coming together with all the branches of Quakers brings together the power of the early Friends. Each branch of the Society of Friends has taken some part of the tradition and expanded on it to the exclusion of the other parts. When we come back together, as we do at FWCC gatherings, it gives us some sense of what early Friends must have experienced.
FWCC continues to look for ways to celebrate our faith tradition. Those include the annual World Quaker Day, on Sunday, October 2. This years theme is “Inspired by faith, witnessing together in the world.” Mark your calendar and begin thinking of how your local meeting will celebrate this day! On the website worldquaker day.org, you can post any pictures or activities from your local meeting that you would like to share with Friends from all over the world.
Following is an excerpt from the FWCC Plenary Minute, Living Sustainably and Sustainin Life on Earth:
This FWCC Plenary Meeting also asks all yearly meetings to:
1. Initiate at least two concrete actions on sustainability within the next 12 months. These may build on existing projects of individuals or monthly meetings or they may be new initiatives. We ask that they encourage Young Friends to play key roles. We ask that meetings minute the progress and results, so as to share them with FWCC and Quaker meetings.
2. Support individuals and groups in their meetings who feel called to take action on sustainability.
3. Support the work done by Quaker organisations such as the Quaker United Nations Office and the Quaker Council for European Affairs to ensure that international agreements and their implementation support sustainability.
View the entire minute online at: http://fwcc.world/fwcc-news/living-sustainably-and-sustaining-life-on-earth-the-minute-from-the-plenary