Meeting the Spirit
- 1. Basic Quaker beliefs
- 2. Quaker meetings
- 3. Quaker testimonies
- 4. Quaker structures
- 5. World family of Friends
- 6. Life and development of small worship groups
- 7. Bibliography
5. World Family of Friends
Friends World Committee for Consultation
FWCC was set up in 1937 at the World Conference of Friends in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, “to act in a consultative capacity to promote better understanding among Friends the world over, particularly by the encouragement of joint conferences and intervisitation, the collection and circulation of information about Quaker literature and other activities directed towards that end.”
About 60 Yearly Meetings, with total membership of over 300,000 Friends, are now affiliated to FWCC. Representatives of these affiliated Yearly Meetings and groups meet every three years at Triennials. These meetings aim to provide links between Friends as they seek to perceive God’s will more clearly, so that they may make their corporate witness more effectively. An Interim Committee meets annually to continue FWCC’s decision making process and guide the work of staff between Triennials.
The World Office in London serves as a centre of worldwide communication. It helps organise Triennials and other gatherings and maintains contact with the four FWCC Sections and the Quaker United Nations Offices in New York and Geneva. Isolated Friends and worship groups throughout the world are linked to the family of Friends through the International Membership programme. Through travel, correspondence and publications, the office helps Friends to gain a better understanding of the worldwide character of the Religious Society of Friends and its vocation in the world.
In 1938, at the second World Consultative Committee meeting held in Vallekilde, Denmark, the European Section of FWCC was recognised. The name was changed to Europe & Middle East Section (EMES) in 1992. EMES consists of and serves the Yearly Meetings and groups of Friends within Europe and the Middle East. The Section normally meets once a year for an Annual Meeting. The officers of the Section are: Clerk, Treasurer and Executive Secretary. The Executive Secretary is appointed on the basis of a written contract and receives a remuneration. All other officers are voluntary. The Executive Committee consists of the Clerk, Treasurer, Executive Secretary and two other members. Urgent decisions may be taken between Annual Meetings by the Executive Committee. Several committees and groups have been set up for organising the Quaker Youth Pilgrimage and Peace and Service Consultations (bringing together representatives of peace committees and service bodies from various yearly meetings and groups).
Also in 1938, the Section of the Americas was recognised. It now serves some 40 Yearly Meetings and groups in the western hemisphere and seeks to bring Friends from different traditions together in unity. It also sponsors programmes such as Right Sharing of World Resources programme, Quaker Youth Pilgrimage and International Quaker Aid. The Wider Quaker Fellowship (under the care of the Section) circulates a range of carefully selected Quaker literature (in English and Spanish) to ‘friends of Friends’. This service is appreciated by many isolated Friends around the world.
The Africa Section was established in 1961. It maintains links with Friends in West and Central Africa (Ghana, Nigeria, Burundi, Rwanda and Zaire), East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania) and Southern Africa (South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia). The first representative meeting of the Section was held in 1975. The first secretary was appointed in 1976. The Section newsletter makes a valuable contribution to communication within such a wide area. The Section is involved in several peace and service projects in the region.
The Asia-West Pacific Section started in 1985. Its first meeting was held during FWCC’s Triennial in 1988 in Tokyo. The Section seeks to serve the small and dispersed Yearly Meetings in India, Japan, Taiwan, New Zealand and Australia, as well as small groups in Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and elsewhere. The main organ of communication is the newsletter, which is edited by the volunteer Executive Secretary. In addition, the Section encourages intervisitation and regional gatherings.
International Membership Committee
Most Friends join the Religious Society of Friends after worshipping at a meeting near their home. If there is no such meeting they can become members through the FWCC International Membership programme. This programme was started in 1919 by British Friends, but the responsibility was taken on by FWCC in 1979. FWCC was seen as the natural organisation to have this worldwide responsibility. There are at present about 100 Friends whose membership is held in this way.
The International Membership Committee seeks to nurture and support isolated Friends, worship groups and several recognised meetings. The Committee acts as a kind of Monthly Meeting with regard to membership and pastoral care for these Friends. Each application for membership is considered by the Committee as carefully as are applications to any other Monthly Meeting. Visiting Friends are appointed to meet with the applicant and discuss the meaning of membership. The visitors make a written report to the Committee which gives the application its prayerful consideration.
Other international Friends’ organisations
A number of organisations, such as Friends General Conference, Friends United Meeting and Evangelical Friends International, associate (mostly North American) yearly meetings from programmed and unprogrammed Quaker traditions. Europe & Middle East Young Friends aims to provide spiritual support and a base for communication between Young Friends. Several Quaker study centres, such as Woodbrooke in Great Britain, and Pendle Hill College in the USA, provide learning communities in which individuals and groups can study, explore new ideas and seek spiritual growth. Addresses can be found below.