QUAKER INSTITUTE FOR THE FUTURE

Charter

Background

In June 2003, 29 Quakers from U.S. and Canada, belonging to 19 Monthly Meetings and 11 Yearly Meetings, many actively involved with Quaker organizations (including American Friends Service Committee, Canadian Friends Service Committee, Friends Association for Higher Education, Quaker Earthcare Witness, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Friends General Conference and Friends World Committee for Consultation), gathered at Pendle Hill to explore a concern we all shared about issues of peace, justice, equality and restoring earth’s ecological integrity. In the course of that meeting, we became convinced of the need for deeper study and discernment of the trajectory of human history, and of the future of humanity on Earth as a basis for our corporate witness. Accordingly, we determined to create an Institute for that purpose.

Context

The depth and breadth of our concerns are expressed in the following questions posed in a letter our Pendle Hill gathering sent to Friends everywhere:

In the light of Friends Testimonies, what is God calling us to do about the continuing and increasing marginalization of so much of the world’s population, the extinction of species and other environmental degradation? How do we integrate our human communities within the natural world so as to provide for the physical and spiritual needs of future generations? What changes in the institutions of economy and governance are needed to promote effective stewardship of the natural environment and caring for people and communities? What is it in nature and human knowledge that we have the right to own? How best can we promote the values expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Earth Charter? How can we promote understanding and awareness of the consequences of increasing global interconnectedness and the urgency of addressing the dangers and opportunities that these present?

As we earn, spend and invest money, as individuals and as meeting communities, how can we live in the “virtue of that life and power” that leads us to treat all humans and the Earth as manifestation of the Divine? Are we aware of the true cost of our consumption? Do we take into account our concerns for social justice as we earn, spend and invest money? What information, tools, and skills do we need to equip ourselves to work effectively for public policies that restore Earth’s resilience, increase social equity, and strengthen community? How, as we labor with these concerns, can we engage with others in ways that help us discern God’s will for us at this critical stage of Earth’s history?

Concerns

Thus, we are troubled, in particular, by the following concerns:

- The emergence of complex global economic interdependence and its demands on governance
systems and citizen responsibilities;
- Economic behavior that increasingly degrades the integrity of the biotic environment;
- The development of technologies that hold us responsible for the future of humanity and the Earth;
- Conflict arising from the pressures of change and increasing inequity and concentration of power;
- The increasing separation of people into geographic regions of poverty and wealth and into social
domains of affluence and deprivation;
- The prevailing philosophy and aggressive promotion of individualism as the principal means for achievement of the common good.

Quaker concern for peace and social order is currently expressed largely through individual witness addressing many of these concerns. However, it lacks a strategic sense of, or attention to, their collective significance.

Need

There is a need for creative discernment and corporate witness on the understanding of where global social and economic relations are heading and where attention and action is needed to help create mutually enhancing people-to-people and human-earth relationships. In today’s complex world we cannot, as individuals, know the full significance of our personal decisions. We rely upon sources dedicated to interpreting the fuller meaning of our actions by setting them within the context of a larger narrative of historical change. We sense a need among Friends to nurture a spiritually sensitive interpretation of the larger change narrative that gives deeper significance to specific acts of Quaker witness.

Contribution

Quakers have experience that could make a significant contribution to the conduct of governance, to decision making for the common good, and to the promotion of values necessary to the health of society. But for this contribution to be truly effective it must be underpinned by a coherent and systematic understanding of what is happening in the world and an analysis for strategic intervention. The Institute is intended to contribute a distinctive values-based analysis and add a public Quaker voice to this work.

The significance of this contribution is in its creation of an alternative narrative of change. The prevailing presentations of the global change narrative often direct and justify public policy in ways that are biased toward privileged special interests instead of truly serving the common good. By undertaking the challenge of the common good and its narrative of change, the Institute will contribute to the larger movement for justice, peace, and the integrity of Creation. Toward this end, our inquiry will be designed to explore the development of a spirit-led epistemology using established Quaker practice for seeking clearness and truth as we collectively experience it.

Audience Served

The initial audience for the Institute’s findings and queries will be the Quaker community. We also expect to share our findings with colleagues in other organizations, the media, and the general public. Ultimately we hope they will speak to, and have impact on, the articulation, formulation, and implementation of public policy, as well as on Friends’ continuing witness, both individual and corporate.

Activities

The principal activity will be to develop and present an overall picture of the human trajectory within the ecology of Earth. Its perspective will be that of examining evolving relationships and conditions between people and Earth. It will aim to understand the dynamic of change and the forces acting for development and regression of relationship values. It will examine institutions of governance, finance, and economy as domains of relationship and the need for, and possibilities of, progressive change. Informed by the values expressed in Quaker Testimonies, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and The Earth Charter, it will aim to observe violations and envision conciliations of strategic significance. It will evoke constructive patterns of Quaker witness for needed social change.

It will work to develop a synthesis of other’s research and analysis rather than undertaking primary research, though it will aim to support the development of research agendas that identify research needs not being addressed elsewhere. It will have a publishing program to prepare presentations in a variety of media. It will aim to have significant presence in the Quaker community. It will also, in due course, aim for a high profile public voice. It will organize workshops and conferences for the development and dissemination of findings, questions, study guides, and research agendas.

Concept

The Institute will have a board of directors initially composed of nine persons drawn from the initiators and attenders at the Pendle Hill June 2003 Gathering on Economics and Ecology. This group will use Quaker good order to make appropriate decisions about selection of officers and executive committee, incorporation, tax status, by-laws and questions of finance and personnel. It will be supported by an advisory council nominated by the board. An oversight relationship with a yearly meeting will be established.

When fully developed, the Institute will have at its heart a geographically located community of researchers, staff, and sojourners. It will practice good order as understood in Quaker experience. It will interact with a network of research associates and circles of friendship and inquiry, all contributing by design to the Institute’s program.

Hospitality will be offered to visiting scholars, professionals and practitioners for retreat, reflection, and contribution to the work of the Institute. The Institute will be housed in a facility with offices, meeting rooms, a library, residential rooms, and dining facility. Capacity will be developed for dissemination of the findings of the Institute in a variety of media. Funding will be through grants for core establishment and recurring costs, and, additionally and separately, for specific activities.

Relation to Quaker and Other Bodies

An immediate link to other Quaker bodies would be through an advisory council of knowledgeable Friends comprising, for example representatives from Friends Committee on National Legislation (USA) Quaker International Affairs Programme (Canada), American Friends Service Committee, Canadian Friends Service Committee, Quaker United Nations Office, Friends Association for Higher Education, Quaker Earthcare Witness, Friends General Conference, Friends United Meeting, Friends World Committee on Consultation, Right Sharing of World Resources, and other related groups. (Ownership of the institute’s activities might be strengthened should these bodies participate and contribute regularly, however little, to the Institute.) Links would also be sought to other faith, scientific, educational and activist communities. We see the Institute learning from and serving these communities. In order to be challenged and grow, we aim to be in dialogue with many other perspectives.

Developmental Strategy

Step l: (a) With development support, initiate a strategic inquiry through regional workshops, a national conference, and the circulation of working papers; (b) Refine and articulate a strategic work plan; (c) Develop a directory of resources and a network of Quaker and other relevant researchers and bodies with shared concerns; (d) Seek and secure core funding for recruitment of initial staff and basic facilities; (e) Seek supplemental funding for specific continuing activities. (Ideally, coordinate a consortium of funding sources providing a diversified portfolio sufficient to provide a five-year planning horizon.

Step 2: Follow through with the acquisition of basic facilities and staffing of personnel positions. Organize periodic workshops and conferences; publish bulletins, study guides, positions papers, pamphlets and monographs. Maintain a website.

Resource Requirements

The development of a residential community on the one hand and of a networking community on the other should proceed in parallel. They should, however, be separately funded and the specific resource requirements be detailed for each.

In the first phase, office, meeting and housing facilities could be temporary. Facilities should provide office space for at least five people plus meeting room/library space. It is highly desirable that the location be readily accessible to domestic and international travelers. The intention should be to eventually acquire accommodations for a larger regular staff, research assistants, and visitors, and for the workshop and seminar activities envisaged.

Preliminary capital and recurrent budgets will be prepared for both residential and network activities. Provision will be made for workshops, publications, staff travel, internships, and for stipends for invited visitors.

In Summary

The Institute seeks to define the moral foundations of a just economic order through reconciliation of economy and ecology at both global and local scales. Activities will contribute significantly to the articulation of a Quaker perspective on issues of worldwide concern. The Institute will observe regressive practices and envision the manner of their transformation. The discernment gained through proposed activities will help orient Quaker practice and Quaker witness in both the material and spiritual domains. Through time, and with an accumulation of work, the Institute will help articulate a larger narrative of historical change that will provide meaning to individual acts of Quaker witness, and inspiration to those who seek to live more clearly in the Light.

July 2003 – August 2004

Addendum

Quaker Institute for the Future held its first Board Meeting in August 2004, approving its Charter and by-laws for incorporation in the State of California as a nonprofit, scientific and educational organization. The Charter is reprinted here in slightly modified form.

Founding Board of Trustees

Leonard Joy (President), Strawberry Creek Monthly Meeting (CA), Pacific Yearly Meeting

Keith Helmuth (Secretary), Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting (PA)( (sojourning), Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, New Brunswick Monthly Meeting (NB), Canadian Yearly Meeting

Tom Head (Treasurer), Bridge City Friends Meeting (OR), Northern Pacific Yearly Meeting

Sarah Waring, Barton-Glover Monthly Meeting (VT), New England Yearly Meeting

Peter G. Brown, Montreal Monthly Meeting (PQ), Canadian Yearly Meeting

Anne Mitchell, Toronto Monthly Meeting (ON), Canadian Yearly Meeting

Phil Emmi, Salt Lake City Monthly Meeting (UT), Intermountain Yearly Meeting

Gray Cox, Acadia Monthly Meeting (ME), New England Yearly Meeting