Corporate Malfeasance extends to the Yearly Meeting Newsletter
I've asked NYYM to come clean with its membership numbers. Until they do this publicly, I will go on what my experience and evidence I've gathered has shown - that indeed NYYM membership continues to decline - steeply.
What happens when Quaker membership has declined past a critical point? The Interim General Secretary of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, with extensive experience in science and in business, has warned of the same lately.
What might be more pertinent to this essay - What happens where membership decline affects how committees loose their integrity - in other words, loose the independence and objectivity of a committee's individual members ? There is nothing disparaging of character in my pointing out that Quaker membership decline undermines every aspect of Friends Society - including a committee's integrity and its ability to fairly and rigorously oversee paid employees.
The membeship decline affects these committees like this - the same old same olds, who are paid employees of other related 'Quaker' organizations form the only ones left who will serve on committees to oversee each other. We fill the rest of committee with retired Friends with the inability or lack of desire to do hard work (yes, Friends, governing ourselves is hard work), tend to let important details slide, in hopes, and in belief, that the paid individuals they oversee, will do the right thing. When any new people, who are potentially independent-minded, see what is really going on with the insular control of a dying organization - they leave too.
So - without objective oversight - What happens when those we hire don't do the right things?
The former editor of NYYM Spark was witnessed in January 2004 changing the NYYM database back - to be 'true' in the mailing list check column in my database record - to allow me to receive the future printed editions. I had received the printed editions of Spark before September 2003, but not September 2003. A visit to the NYYM office in January 2004 was to try and determine what happened, with a member of the Personnel Committee there moderating the clearness. He's a paid employee of another 'Quaker' organization in the building.
I brought up in that clearness meeting in January 2004, that I noticed that I didn't receive the printed copy of Spark, September 2003, which featured a story that I wrote and submitted, but was not consulted on in making changes to the content and tone of my feature story. However, I had gone in to the office 5 blocks from where I live, to pick up a copy. I then noticed my story had lost something - my voice along with several lines of content.
Forgiveness of this person who did this aside - How much does this behavior tend to continue when there is no critical oversight of these paid employees? When does the point occur - when the overseers are overseeing each other? How independent can these overseers be - on say the NYYM Personnel Committee, in this case?
I cited Philadelphia Yearly Meeting's editorial policy below to contrast with NYYM's which is now changed after I pressed for over two years to have it made reasonable. I pressed the Communications Committee, which never met and some individuals made comments below. This committee used to be called the Publications Committee (very telling also in that the word 'Communications' tends to lend itself to an unspoken understanding of all members that they should agree that centralization and control of communication in and about NYYM is simply the natural progression of a declining hierarchical organization) - and I complained loudly and widely so as to shame the Communications Committee to meet, for starters, and finally to require the NYYM Spark Editor's consultation of the author on editorial changes to feature stories.
In being a pain in the rear, which I understand I was, I helped a dying organization revitalize and improve. I think the editorial quality of Spark will improve, now that (good) writers now know their writing won't be changed without their consent, and may decide to offer contributions to Spark in the future.
I still wonder if NYYM should be split up and laid down, because, in fact it has gone past the critical membership point of decline. But, thanks to criticism, Spark now has a fighting chance to be more than just the house organ for the NYYM elite, as it has been for decades.
The NYYM elite are the ones who are potentially left in the lurch - 'running' NYYM for the rest of the few that remain. The rest of the membership, the non-elite, have become few, and complacent as to what happens in paid positions. The membership is complacent because the main reason-to-be is the summer vacation at Lake George, and that the employee salaries are mostly paid with trust funds of wealthier urban meetings. Some of the urban meetings are growing - but not as fast as the total of meetings is declining - further consolidating the power and influence within New York Yearly Meeting in trust fund laden urban areas.
Didn't the Religious Society of Friends get started at a point in history when the urban wealthy had a tight control over the priests, and of the message the priests gave the public? The wealth of our forebears might not be such a 'gift' NYYM and some of its Monthly Meetings have been given.