A Sad Yearly Meeting Report: SAYMA Is Not Safe


Recently I received an invitation to propose a workshop for SAYMA 2020 this June.

[NOTE: SAYMA is the Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting & Association; it has member meetings in North & South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, West Virginia & Kentucky.]

I have many fond memories of lively workshops and rich Quaker fellowship at SAYMA, going back over fifteen years.

And I have just the topic for a workshop: a new book, Passing the Torch, which combines the stories of eleven Friends of a certain age, an appealing and diverse sketch of the elder generation.

But I won’t be sending SAYMA a proposal this year, I’m sorry to say. And I’m even more sorry to say why:

I won’t be proposing a workshop for SAYMA 2020, because SAYMA is not safe.

I believe you know why I was forced to reach this sad judgment:

It’s because over the past three years, SAYMA’s annual sessions have been invaded and repeatedly disrupted by an Intruder who has done great harm to the yearly meeting and its reputation. Keynote speakers have been derailed; members and visitors have been subjected to frequent, loud expletive-laced rants; campus security has even been called; all to no avail.

[“The Intruder” is my name for Sharon Smith, based on a long, well-documented pattern of intrusive, disruptive behavior. Smith is not a member of any SAYMA meeting; indeed she is not a member of any formal Friends Meeting. She claims to be a “birthright Friend,” but is habitually vague about which meeting. The last Meeting she had any overt connection with, Sandwich Meeting on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, found her so disruptive over several years that in 2007 it reluctantly issued a minute of disownment against her.]

Her intrusions at SAYMA have been under the guise of a self-styled “anti-racism ministry,” and she brands any objection or disagreement with any aspect of it as  “white racism” or worse terms.  But that “ministry,” over several years and in numerous Quaker settings, has left a trail of disruption, division and demoralization that few avowed enemies of Quakers since the anti-abolitionist mobs could match.

And last summer, the disruption at SAYMA sank to a new low. For one thing, it torpedoed an approved SAYMA workshop. The Intruder pronounced herself the Overseer and Ruler over SAYMA’s program, then entered and disrupted a workshop that was underway, because the leader had not asked the Intruder’s permission.

That charge was technically correct. The workshop leader had not sought the Intruder’s permission; because the Intruder in fact had no such authority. Instead, the workshop proposal had been submitted to the SAYMA planning committee, which weighed it as it did others, and then accepted it. That is, the leader and the Committee had followed SAYMA’s good order.

This good order meant nothing to the Intruder. (In fact, she later bragged about her achievement in wreaking havoc in the workshop in an open internet posting.) The workshop was thoroughly derailed, and the leader was reduced to tears.

Two Friends spoke up in protest during later open sessions, urgently objecting to the Intruder’s behavior. But the pleas for redress for the workshop demolition went unanswered and unheeded. SAYMA is not safe.

Nor is its bank account. Thus emboldened, the Intruder pushed through a demand that she be made Clerk of the Racial Justice Committee, and that she personally be paid on its behalf more than $10,000 from SAYMA’s funds, with zero accountability.

I have heard several Friends who were present speak of the deep unease they felt about both the procedure and the content of these actions. But all were then either intimidated or cowed into silence, and left with continuing regret afterward.

It pains me to say this, but SAYMA from 2018 through 2019 in this and other incidents, has showed itself progressively unable, or unwilling, to protect its own good order, its approved workshops, its program, speakers, attenders, officers and budget from flagrant abuse.

The uneasiness of the Friends who were silent last summer has been fully vindicated in the months since. After being paid several thousands of SAYMA’s dollars, much of which was admittedly used for the Intruder’s personal expenses, the fruit of the new committee’s labor has thus far been 1) a steady barrage of obscenity-laden email tirades including demands for more money, and 2) a handful of links to various race-related articles, videos, and fee-charging workshops.

Setting aside the tirades, the Intruder’s concrete work product, namely the link emails, have cost SAYMA something like $600 apiece over nine months. Most recently the committee announced a daylong workshop for May at Berea KY Meeting; SAYMA participants, besides the $10,000, are to pay $50 each. It also urged SAYMA Friends to join a video seminar for $95 each. Someone clearly hopes to profit off the committee connection.

Some might consider this $10,000-plus for spasmodic clipping and forwarding a steep price tag for markedly sparse  output. Yet the Intruder is now loudly insisting that $10,000 more be allotted her annually in the coming two years, again with no accountability, along with the presumption that such payments will thereafter be made permanent. Again, any doubts or questions are loudly derided as more proofs of white racism.

SAYMA will have a spring representative session on March 14th, to consider, among other items, its next budget. The omens for it are not promising: I have seen recent emails from the Intruder, threatening SAYMA’s Presiding Clerk, Assistant Clerk, Finance Clerk, and Clerk of Ministry & Nurture, unless her demands for continuing payments are met.

Quite frankly, this whole affair has the look of an old-fashioned protection racket: “You pay me, or I’ll make your lives hell.” The Intruder has certainly been making good on that threat. SAYMA is not safe.  She’s turned liberal Quaker guilt and habitual conflict avoidance there into a substantial payday, and may well do it again.

If so, the cost will be more than the number on a budget sheet. I am advised that, as a result of these disheartening spectacles, attendance at SAYMA in these years has declined measurably, with  indications that in current conditions the decline is likely to continue. Furthermore, there are reports that more than one SAYMA monthly Meeting has quietly resolved to withhold contributions to the yearly meeting under these circumstances.

To be sure, the Intruder has a circle of supporters.  In mid-January she was already warning them of a “racist conspiracy” by one SAYMA Meeting. Had they joined the Klan en masse? No, merely  expressed doubts about future funds.

Such conversation-stopper epithets may not work this time. But one other effect of this simmering dissension is that SAYMA may be drifting toward another bitter distinction, of being the first liberal yearly meeting since the 1850s to suffer an outright schism.

A liberal split?  Wait — isn’t that what happens to pastoral and evangelical groups??

Well, usually. But I am not exaggerating what has been bubbling below SAYMA’s surface. It could happen informally, by accelerating the attrition of recent years. But it could happen more formally. Given a few more of the Intruder’s obscene diatribes, threats or workshop-like debacles, it would be lamentable but no surprise to see one or more SAYMA meetings heading for the door. (One lesson from recent evangelical splits is that, if a meeting owns its own meetinghouse, institutionally a split is relatively painless. Psychologically and spiritually are another matter, though.)

My pondering of this, and the invitation to propose a 2020 SAYMA workshop, were all made more disheartening by poignant memories: twice in the decade past, I brought a granddaughter with me to SAYMA, hoping she would have an uplifting young Quaker community experience there.

Both of them did — in fact, each had a terrific time, for which they and I are still very grateful.

My granddaughter, center, at SAYMA, 2011, with Friends.

Today I have seven grand- and great-grandchildren, more than half of them multiracial. In the “good old days,” I would eagerly look again to SAYMA as a time for them to have a superior Quaker community experience, plus a chance to learn something constructive about the ongoing work of racial justice.

But let me speak plainly here: I would not bring any of them within 50 miles of a yearly meeting in which the Intruder has so distorted and undermined Quaker processes and values. SAYMA now is not safe for them.

The Intruder’s brand of “ministry” has repeatedly produced the opposite of its stated goals. It has sown open rancor and division, and reaped destruction and alienation. That “ministry” is a model only for what not to do, and has made SAYMA unsafe and unsuitable for the nurture of a rising Quaker generation.

It would also be hazardous for an adult workshop, such as I have presented in years past. I have told the Intruder plainly of my views of her so-called “ministry.” Also, some of the writers in my book have said and written things she does not like. And she has more than once been allowed to pervert SAYMA into a stage on which to act out her resentments and vendettas.

I’m not afraid of her profane harangues. But what business do I have subjecting other visiting adults to such an unwelcome hazard? Why does SAYMA permit –- and pay for it?

It has been tragic to see, even from a distance, the disarray into which the Intruder has pushed SAYMA. It’s even sadder because there is no real need for it to continue. A few other groups have dealt with the Intruder firmly, to re-establish and preserve their good order.

SAYMA could do this if enough of its weighty members recovered some Quaker grit and resolve.  We value those virtues so highly in our stories of classic Quakers, women and men alike. SAYMA needs some now.

I wish SAYMA Friends the best as they gather to do their yearly meeting’s spring business. They can handle this challenge, if they’re ready. After all, they’re not being asked to make SAYMA perfect.

We just want them to make it, once again, Safe.

49 thoughts on “A Sad Yearly Meeting Report: SAYMA Is Not Safe”

  1. This sounds completely ghastly and is something our family and meeting has experienced. Quaker process can manage this but there will be serious bad feeling. I am still glad that we don’t have inquisition but that idea does call sometimes. Sadly you can’t fix this without conflict. I could and should write a book about what happened in a wonderful group that my family was involved with in the 60’s that fell to a “leader”, when everybody left —appalled—- he ended up with the money and property. The usual child abuse and cray-cray? Of course. Still have nightmares about it all. Sometimes some curmudgeon has to stand up and just call bullshit, and I hope that your post here will help make that happen.Love Ben Schultz

  2. When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail, and nothing productive gets done. Racism toward African Americans is certainly of great concern to Friends but it has tended to obscure all other concerns, sucking the air out of the room. One such eclipsed concern is institutionalized sexism and brutality toward women, who constitute nearly 52 percent of all
    people on the globe! The segment of affected people of concern to intruder constitutes maybe 25 percent of the U S population. I’m not saying our attention in ministry has to always be proportional to numbers, but only that an equal playing field should be offered to all leadings. Which I have always assumed was Quaker tradition and practice, honoring that of God in everyone.

    1. I can’t even with this response. Did you listen to what you wrote? Racial lssues are intersectional and help those 52% women. Also the damage done by racism far outweighs the size of the 25% of the African-American population. If you add in all non-white, which is what is addressed in the matter of racial justice, you get 62.8% of the population of the US. So clearly we aren’t focusing enough time on it. If meetings cannot multi-task on issues then there are larger issues at work. It’s not the fault of people who are trying to unpack racism.

  3. This is heartbreaking because what you have described corrupts the very spirit of Good Order, sowing dissension amongst Friends who may not have a good understanding of this conflict.

    This reminds me of a couple of similar instances.

    The first time when I was 9 or 10 (around 1950) and my mother was on M&O for Rosemere Friends Church (then Oregon Yearly Meeting). There was a person who was VERY disruptive first in business meeting and then in worship that grew so serious M&O finally got a Restraining Order to keep her from coming onto the church grounds. For a while, she actually parked across the street and excoriated people coming and going from Meeting!

    The second was around 1988 (IIRC). I was part of the Friends presence at the Nevada Test Site, with Mennonites and Brethren, for a Civil Disobedience (and Spiritual Obedience) demonstration against underground nuclear bomb testing.

    We had crossed the line and were arrested and bound with zip ties to another person (I wish I could remember the elderly Friend’s name that I was bound to – he was arrested at the first demo at the site many years earlier). As we waited in our pen area for eventual disposition, another older Friend started to speak and was most eloquent. But as he spoke, his message became more and more graphic with more and more horrific descriptions of his vision of the cross. It became quite disturbing.

    The elder Friend I was bound to explained that he was a member of Claremont Monthly Meeting (IIRC) and was mentally ill, but still an active member of the meeting who gave similar messages every week during worship. He was still loved and cared for by the meeting, who had decided to tolerate it, despite his regularly not taking his medications and severely disrupting worship. I can only imagine how hard it must have been for that meeting.

    So there are two examples of different ways a disruptive person was handled by two different meetings. In the first, the person was an attender. In the second, the person was a long-standing member.

    It strikes me that if The Intruder is NOT a member of any SAYMA affiliated meeting, she should be told that she is not allowed to attend and that a restraining order would be appropriate if she does. If she IS a member of an established meeting or worship group, regardless of SAYMA affiliation, that body should be consulted and a decision on a course of action should be made as determined by Good Order.

    I am very saddened to hear this and I hope it can be resolved and all of our meetings healed.

  4. Hi Chuck,

    I’m assuming that you identify as a White male, but please correct me if I’m not right in that assumption.

    It’s essential to understand the difference between being not safe and being uncomfortable. As a White male in this setting (predominately white organization within a predominately community within a society that values whiteness), within this setting you perfectly safe although you may be feeling deeply uncomfortable. And I’m not sure what you mean by SAYMA–as an organization–not being safe either? Safe for whom? For white people?

    Also, after reading your post, I’m unclear of how how name-calling (“the Intruder” and “Overseer and Ruler”) is contributing anything to the piece, other than contributing to a culture of blame? I am much more interested in what you’re feeling or what is your personal process.–which you wrote little of. From what I gather, you’re upset about someone being disruptive to a lot people in SAYMA, about this person’s use of money, and about this person’s work habits, and about you and others being accused of being racist. Is that right?

    Given the specific concerns you have about this person, I believe it’s essential for you–if you’re fighting for civil rights–to display awareness about how those concerns happen to be right in line with racist stereotypes about Black people. I urge you, as a fellow White male, to please display that awareness and confront it within yourself.

    1. Matt, my important “identity” here is that of an experienced journalist, who has done extensive reporting on frauds flimflams and con games. I have gathered material on this person and her predatory behaviors for years. The use of religion, liberal guilt-tripping and the perversion of values like civil rights idealism are also, sadly, very familiar as well, in general, and in this case.

      1. And yet, what you have presented here is nothing but one-sided hearsay and name-calling. Where is the evidence that anyone is “unsafe” at SAYMA? I read Sharon’s report which you so kindly linked and nothing in it suggests that SAYMA is unsafe for you or anyone else.

        As Friend Matt has observed, you appear to be offended and uncomfortable, not in danger of physical harm. Is your discomfort less than that of a black woman who has repeatedly had the police called in to intervene in heated arguments? Are we so protective of our Quaker veneer of civility that we are willing to quite literally put a black woman’s life in the hands of law enforcement when she makes us uncomfortable? Because we know how well that works out.

        1. Balls, he is protecting his granddaughter from a nut. If this person is a flim/flam artist as the evidence provided seems to justify they should be called out. Is it racist to stand up for a fool based on their color which seems to be the M.O. here. Look in the goodamn mirror. It is incredibly sleazy to avoid the truth exposed. Maybe Chuck can put up more about this person and her history.

      2. Chuck, first of all, your identity as a White male absolutely is important and I consider it a major red flag that you would even suggest otherwise–as if your views should be considered objective, unbiased, and not limited by a racialized world view. Here is a study published last year by Pew Research Center that indicates why that is a red flag: https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/psdt_03-25-19_race_update-01/

        Secondly, you’re so adamantly defending your position about this specific person that you’re missing how much racism is evident in your position. It is possible to not approve of how someone is doing their job and at the same time convey that disapproval in a way that does not use racial stereotyping and that preempts the influence of your own biases (we all have them). You are doing neither of those, instead displaying your obvious blind spots and internalized racial prejudices.

  5. Just what we need. Another old white man weighing in. This rant is full of misrepresentation and outright lies. Are we experiencing conflict at SAYMA? Absolutely. But contrary to your biased and unfactual account here, from my first-hand observation, I can attest that much of the conflict has been caused by white Friends who are defensive and fragile in the extreme at the mere suggestion that we might have work to do in understanding our own complicity in racism. I am extremely proud that SAYMA funds are being used to support the work of the brand new Paul Cuffee Abolitionist Center in Sumpter SC.

    There are concerted efforts to malign the character of the entire membership of the Uplifting Racial Justice committee, not only its clerk. As Sharon Star Smith always says, racism is about controlling the narrative, the resources and the process and here you are, upholding that problematic dynamic. Again and again I have seen white Friends at SAYMA cherry-pick what aspects of Quaker process they will keep or cast to the wind, so long as they can preserve their comfortable little bubble. I am sick of my Yearly Meeting being run like a private member’s social club.

    This situation is not simple. I do not accept your characterization of Sharon as an Intruder. I welcome this time of conflict as an opportunity for self-growth and for collective spiritual expansion.

    1. Just what We “need”: a comment that uses three forms of bigotry in its first sentence. Not much more need be said.

      1. No Chuck, you’re absolutely wrong. I understand that you’re a well-intentioned White male, but you’re causing a tremendous amount of harm and are very much a part of the problem right now. Shannon Roberts Smith made some excellent and insightful points for you to reflect, and I suggest that you do.

        I understand that this may be confusing for you and that you may be feeling defensive or like you’re being treated unfairly. If you’d like to work through this, I would be happy to support you in that either through email or phone.

        I am a member of SAYMA.

        1. Matt, my intentions are to tell some unpalatable truths about the Intruder and her “ministry.” If the post is inhibiting her ability to raid SAYMA’s treasury for her misconceived & counterproductive efforts, then that is a sign of success.

          1. Where is the evidence of financial malfeasance, other than a paternalistic need of white Friends to have final say over how SAYMA URJ chooses to spend its money (in spite of the fact that we agreed that they would have sole control over that budget 2 years ago.) I mean evidence, not your gut feeling that the money is not being spent how you would choose to, and therefore we must be being swindled by a black woman.

      2. Where are you getting your information? I’ve attended SAYMA the last three years and significant portion of what you “report” is inaccurate.

  6. As a member of SAYMA, I feel this post is inflammatory and unhelpful. It is not at all representative of the truth of the situation. What is going on in SAYMA has everything to do with white Quakers refusing to acknowledge racism within themselves and instead performing a large amount of mental gymnastics to justify what is nothing more than white fragility. Your slant on the situation is very revealing.

  7. Chuck, your rant here is the sad thing to me. It is anything but a friendly letter. I, like Shannon, am pleased to be a part of SAYMA as we choose to invest in becoming an anti-racist culture. I believe you owe Sharon Star Smith an apology for all the misrepresentations you have posted here–nearly every point, from what I can see–is stated with limited and biased information. As such, it does not promote truth or justice. If this post represents a Quakerly perspective or Quaker process in any way, shape, or form, then there is a side of Quakerism that I am unaware of.

    I’m looking for an apology for Sharon and SAYMA-URJ.

    1. Pat, you’re almost right in one respect: I apologize to Friends for not speaking up earlier about Sharon Smith’s pathological attitudes and chronically destructive behavior. And if I knew how, I’d apologize for not knowing better how to help those who buy into and enable her delusions and their negative effects to overcome these follies.

      1. I am curious why you see yourself as responsible for how others interact with Sharon. Quaker values would, to me, say that each of us has a divine light that should be honored. I am comfortable following my own inner light and don’t need your protection. In fact, I see it as more evidence of the patriarchal thinking that permeates white supremacy. I hope, instead of just defending yourself, you can take a minute to reflect more deeply about your role in the world. I also hope you will stop this diatribe against Sharon. I find it offensive and hurtful at the very least.

  8. We are all locked in our own construct systems. Until we deeply connect with that of the Light in others.

    I remember a day in the aughts while a member of the Fort Myers MM. A member who frequently gave indecipherable (to me) messages at Meeting rose to speak. I took the occasion to connect with her message as much as I could. I couldn’t tell you even then exactly what it meant. I can tell you that it was incredibly moving, and that experienced in the context of an MM that was having 2 to 3 covered meetings per month at the time. I was humbled.

    Quakerism gave up on the primacy of inspiration in 1666, when a Letter to the Brethren was sent out insisting that Good Order take primacy over Inspiration. Being comfortable, safe, middle class, was more important than inspiration then, as it is now. That is the root cause of the disruption in SAYMA.

    The solution is spiritual, which won’t be found in books, but rather in seeking the Light in each other.

  9. Shannon, Pat and Holley. So glad that you jumped in here right away and didn’t let Chuck’s statements go unquestioned. Chuck, when one is used to the privilege one has had all one’s life and have to then consider making way for equity, it feels like it’s unfair. It takes a minute to readjust one’s vision to start to get the chafe out of the way. I’m speaking as someone who has experienced this and will likely continue to experience it. What I would do when I felt “butt-hurt” (a term young working people have taught me), was to really work at putting myself in the other party’s shoes and try to imagine their feelings and even more importantly, their daily reality and existence for decades. After doing this I most often than not experience a softening towards the person, feel my own sense of shame for selfishness and outrage for what they have endured and am then able to move forward with the perspective of equity in my mind that I had lacked before and a drive and commitment to continue to remove the chafe from my vision and to become an affective ally for truth and justice. That’s it for now.

    1. Adrienne, you may not know this, but I spent much of two years as a reporter covering and helping expose church-related financial frauds and swindles. A major example of this work is here: https://wp.me/P5FGIu-O ). In the course of this extensive reporting I became quite familiar with some of the many forms of deflection, denial and disguise used by con artists running scams big and small. Unfortunately, religion and race are two of the very common forms of this, and the signs in this case are plain to see if one has open eyes and alert awareness. Another, earlier case in a civil rights context that I documented is recounted in my book, ‘Selma 1965,” which is available here: https://tinyurl.com/yddwglzg . I wish you could inform yourself better about this.

      1. 1) Please read my response to Carol.
        2) Investigate our individual and institutional racism in earnest.

  10. Dear Sharon,

    I have followed your numerous treatises, posts, letters, and written works for years. I have observed your acts at conferences for myself. Let me be honest with you. I do not know how to successfully address you. Your reputation proceeds you, and it is tough medicine.

    Now let me tell you a little about me. I identify as a white ally/ancestor. I learned about white supremacy formally nearly 15 years ago and have read numerous books and pamphlets on the topic, including yours. So as much as any white person can ever say with any certainty, I feel I have a good grasp of your passion towards anti-racism, anti-oppression, and white supremacy. You and I do not disagree about as much as you may even acknowledge.

    What worries me deeply (and please listen deeply to this, without judgement) is that you can be sometimes disruptive, hard-headed, and unwilling to listen to anyone’s perspective and opinion but your own. You are very good at identifying people who you say have wronged you. The Religious Society of Friends, evidenced by this comment thread, wants to wrap its arms around you in a Spirit of Christian love (I say “Christian” because I identify that way.) However, we have never penetrated your defensive veneer and the chip on your shoulder.

    I think if you were to look around you, you would find many F/friends willing to entertain your viewpoints and ally themselves with your causes. I am not here to insult, belittle, or criticize you In this comment. But I will say that it does literally break my heart to see what I have, and read what I have.

    Hear these words from Scripture. “37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”-Matthew 23:37

    Please, Sharon, hear me as a child of God, begging you to work with your Monthly Meeting, Your Yearly Meeting, URJ, and what ever form your interactions with other Friends may take. I love you as Jesus loves you. Please hear my prayers on your behalf.

    1. umm … according to the link you provided it looks like Multicultural Education is where she has the most academic training. Were you trying to suggest something else Charles Schade?

  11. Hello Chuck —
    I don’t know where you picked up the idea that Sharon “pushed through a demand . . . that she personally be paid on [the Uplifting Racial Justice Committee’s] behalf more than $10,000 from SAYMA’s funds.” I have never heard any demand from Sharon that she personally be paid $10,000, and as SAYMA treasurer I can tell you it hasn’t happened. Last summer, the URJ committee approved a payment of $1,000 to assist Sharon in moving to the Abolitionist Center in Sumter, SC, where she is now based. Grants of about $10,000 in total have been made to support the Abolitionist Center, but to suggest that Sharon personally has received $10,000 is simply incorrect.

    I continue to hope that SAYMA can be the Yearly Meeting where Sharon finds a Quaker home that will welcome her genuine gifts. I share your concern about how visitors and newcomers might experience the level of conflict that we are now in the midst of. But I hope that mature, experienced Quakers can make visible the love that we hold for all of us, even the most outspoken among us. I hope that newcomers, including people of color, will experience the reality of listening together, and to each other, even when it is hard. I have learned a great deal from Sharon — and the resources to which she has directed me — and I hope we can continue to learn from her and the Spirit which opens our hearts.

    Carol Lamm, Berea, KY

    1. Thank you, Carol! And I might add that we should have been concerned dozen well before Sharon ever joined us in SAYMA with how our white supremacist behavior has offended, hurt and turned off persons of color who have come to visit and indeed, Friends who have worshipped and fellowshipped amongst us. Our problem was here well before Sharon arrived to help us expose it. We should be grateful for her dedication to this mission even though she is constantly subjected to our hurtfulness. I repeat: we’ve had this problem that is OUR problem well before Sharon ever came to us.

    2. Hi Carol,

      Thanks for your comments,

      Among the emails from Sharon since last summer that I have seen there is at least one addressed to you that includes repeated demands to “Pay me!” (I.e., her.). Further, the arrangement between her and her (housemates? Colleagues?) at the so-called Abolitionist Center has been described more than once as a conjoined/commingled financial setup with little detail (indeed, in all the Posts and literature I have seen neither the “Center” nor Smith seem to have a specific address; though presumably you know where to send checks, but does anyone else know where it is?)

      And her repeated insistence that she as Clerk will retain total control of spending the URJ allotment with no accountability to SAYMA for how it is used is undeniable. In this context it adds up to it being a slush fund for her in all but name. I note that the URJ request she is now circulating contains no more detail for the next two years.

      Carol, in my active journalistic years, I did much reporting on church-related fraud and con games, And I learned that church money disbursed into others’ hands without accountability or standard financial controls raises red flags and opens the door wide to exploitation & frauds. This is not a matter of race; the frauds I reported on overwhelmingly involved white crooks stealing from white victims.

      I operated under close financial supervision for 11 years at Quaker House, while raising funds to quadruple its budget. I saw there the value of these standard safeguards for protecting the QH reputation and mine. QH marked its 50th anniversary last year, and did so with an unblemished record of probity to show its supporters.

      I regret to say that SAYMA does not appear as if it is anywhere near that condition at this point. And from what I hear, this erosion of confidence will soon be costing SAYMA donor income, if it is not doing so already.

      Chuck Fager

  12. Deb, I am very aware that non whites encompass many more people than African Americans. And certainly world wide most women are not white. I personally advocate for Native Americans and Asian Americans at our Meeting, and my grandson is part Chinese, part Spanish, and part Indigenous Latin American. What I am saying is that the focus of our Yearly Meeting gatherings has been on African American experience of racism, and the same is true in our Meeting. There is no air in the room at the SAYMA gathering for any concern except for the narrow band of racism that deals with African American justice.

    Moreover when I have pleaded for attention and support to the ERA–which women of color need even more than white women–it is treated like an issue of no concern. I have yet to hear any mention out of SAYMA re the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. And yes, racists managed to use and even coopt the women’s vote movement, but there were many women of color, largely ignored no doubt in your history books,as well as white women, who also worked for women to be enfranchised. They did the math. When voting against racism it would certainly help to double the number of voters who wanted to vote that way, wouldn’t it? Actually getting to cast the votes after the 19th Amendment was adopted was of course problematic and continues to be.

    BTW I am 73 and have been working on equal rights for ALL women since I first was able to vote at age 21. I know a lot of history about how the vote for women and the vote for African Americans and the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement intersect. I was “there”for much of it.

    The Patriarchy laughs (all the way to the bank in many cases)
    when we allow it to divide woman from woman according to class, skin color, religion, language, nationality, most of the rules for which have been conceived and enforced with varying degrees of brutality not for a few centuries but for millenia. Enough is enough. Women and the men who love us have quit taking second place. It has been shown over and over, when the mother’s well being increases the whole family–including the men–benefit.

    I don’t want to to take anybody’s hammer away. i just want to add a saw, a shovel, a hoe, and few other tools so we can actually get something done by treating the root cause of all the injustices–including racism.

    1. Do the other non-African American people of color bring these issues forward and are ignored too? If so, then you have a point but also they need to be the ones that bring this point forward. If they aren’t bringing up issues like the ERA or the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, then maybe this is not an issue to them. Marginalized people have the right to determine what is relevant and important to them. White people have to remember that we need to ADD our voices to the voices of marginalized people, not speak over them or speak for them. They need to speak first and if they are ignored or marginalized, then we step in and advocate.

      It also sounds like you want a women’s issues committee and perhaps you should pursue that route as well instead of blaming one group for taking up all the space. Certainly if you had several other people who are interested, then no one will stop you from forming your own committee and working to dismantle the patriarchy the same way that JUR is doing, right? If you are the only one then maybe you need to accept that these aren’t issues for the people in SAYMA and you could find other places outside of SAYMA to work on these causes like the League of Women Voters or NOW.

  13. Thanks Chuck for your comments. I was personally verbally attacked by the woman you wrote about. I tried as nicely yet as directly as I could in writing, to tell her how unkind were her comments about the AA members of a Meeting in Phila in which my husband’s AA family had been active members for decades. I reminded her that they and their ancestors had been actively working for civil rights long before she was born and that her comments were hurtful to the family. Her reply?

    “Well, aren’t you a smug bitch!”

    My husband was appalled by her rudeness. I am also aware of her abusive behavior at another Meeting where I have dear friends who were deeply disturbed by her hostility. I understand the value of well-meaning confrontation when encountering intransigent behavior of privileged people. But throwing hateful accusations and spewing toxic language does not advance the cause of ending racism or racial injustice. It should be called out.

    1. Did the AA members of that meeting ask you to call her out? Are they calling her out themselves? If not, why do you feel that you can speak for them or why aren’t you encouraging them to speak for themselves? That’s the main issue here. Inappropriate responses aside, you don’t have any right to speak to someone else’s experiences, especially if they haven’t asked you to. And even if they have, you should be encouraging them to speak for themselves and assuring them that they will have the support that they need to be heard.

      1. Deb, I asked her to consider the hurt she had caused. It was a personal written communication. I have every right to speak for our family. I question the significance of your input on this particular event or the dynamics of our family, since you are outside it. And I’m not willing to put “inappropriate responses aside.” They are the issue.

  14. Deb, You don’t listen! I have already said I have for over 50 years been active in the wider world on women’s issues and i am a member of LWV and NOW. I also work through FCNL on our local action team and through the national office on Native American concerns, especially violence against indigenous women. My BFF fellow activist is a Cherokee.

    I am on our Meeting’s Social Concerns Committee and our role is supposed to be to draw forth, nurture and support EVERYONE’s leadings, whether it arises in one individual or a hundred . “The head cannot say to the foot, ‘I have no need of you'”. It is not appropriate to tell me to take my leadings outside of the Meeting if I am the only one concerned, and by the way I am not the only one concerned. But it is heavy going, without any oxygen in the room half the time!
    You have also missed the point that the Patriarchy is the root of racism and all the other forms of oppression, and to work on racism without working on dismantling its root is futile. I have had support and encouragement from several African American Friends in my Meeting.

    It is mainly the attitude of SAYMA that my comments adddress here. And the root of that attitude is in white Friends trying to prove (to themselves mainly) that they are not racist, and trying to do that by making racism the only concern worth anyone’s time and attention and getting black Friends, and one in particular, to vet them by saying so. It is a futile and pointless exercise!

    Balance and tenderness toward one another is in great need of being restored.

  15. If you have to use the “but I have POC” friends argument, you probably need to be a little more introspective about how you are coming across and what your ultimate goals are. Just saying.

    1. Again, Deb, you are not listening. I have laid out exactly what my goals are. And take your own advice about being introspective about how you are coming across. You are most certainly missing the mark with me.

      You have managed to drive a wedge between u and the Patriarchy is laughing at you!

      1. Julia, you are saying that (1) sexism is more relevant to SAYMA than racism, (2) it’s focusing on racism that divides women, (3) sexism is the “root” of racism, (4) I know Black people who support me, and (5) by the way, let’s not focus on anti-Black racism as much. Essentially, you are minimizing racism; you are (ironically) dividing racism into ethnic categories as if each form of racism is fundamentally different from the other; you are distracting the conversation to pull race off the table; you are using abstractly liberal arguments to argue against the strong presence of racism (similar to “All Lives Matter” or “I believe in equal opportunity therefore I’m against affirmative action”); you are confusing proximity to POCs with being anti-racist; you are tokenizing your relationships with those POCs; and you’re evidencing the belief that POCs cannot hold internalized racist beliefs.

        Here is a 3-minute video that addresses a lot of this:

  16. A brave post Mr Fager. One could have predicted some of these reactions, scripted them even.

    The meeting where I’m an attender is peaceable, hosting men, women, bourgeois, workers, young, old. I’ve visited other meetings in the Quarter and this seems to be the norm.

  17. I am a Friend and African American woman living in Atlanta. I joined the URJ committee in 2017 after Sharon recruited me to join. I left in 2018 because I did not like the way people were being treated in the group or the way business was being conducted. I wrote an email to another African American committee member about my concerns, and it so happens that Friend had already decided to leave the committee. I don’t think my letter went much further.

    I don’t like seeing concerns about the disruption Sharon has caused addressed here (though, Chuck, I recognize this is your blog and you are free to write what you have, as are all the commenters). I also don’t like her being referred to as “the Intruder” – I think it’s dehumanizing. I thought Quakers didn’t believe in using titles. 🙂 And I don’t think this is in line with the testimony of equality; certainly we all deserve to be called by our names.

    But even more, I don’t like the fact that somehow SAYMA has allowed this disruption to continue for years, despite many Friends voicing or writing about their concerns. I understand, Chuck, your writing about this here on your blog if you felt that it was not being addressed in meeting, because that is in fact true: for years, Friends in SAYMA have not been able to bring themselves to address this issue within the meeting.

    The damage done is long term if not permanent, and it is only beginning to be recognized and acknowledged.

    I’ve read the recent Celo minute and I agree with their recommendations for a way forward.

    That said, what is alarming and very serious to me about the Celo minute is that Friends are considering defunding a committee on racial justice at a time in this country when white supremacy is rising, and when racism is being codified in new ways into our government’s policies.

    Please reflect on that and the message it sends.

    I am hopeful that I will have an opportunity to share my concerns formally.

  18. Matt, you are deliberately misstating and distorting what I said, and putting words in my mouth, attributing to me views i do not hold. The only true statement in your rant is that sexism is the root of racism. Because Patriarchy is the root of all forms of oppression. When women challenge the assumptions of Patriarchy that divide the oppressed from one another we are shamed, intimidated, lectured on what we “really feel”, “really mean” or ought to feel/think and then having been reduced to silence are ignored because we are once more invisible (where we ” belong”).

    The Patriarchy plays divide-and- conquer and calls it “intersectionality”. The Spirit in fact calls us to unity, What affects me affects you and what affects you affects me. “In Christ there is no male or female, no slave or free, but all are one in Christ Jesus”; and “what you have done to the least of these, ye have done to me”; ” the head cannot say to the foot, I have no need of you.”

    There is no hierarchy of woundedness, It is not the case that sexism is more important than racism or racism is more important than sexism. You are the one who has injected that idea.

    Racism is one of many symptoms of an underlying disease. The symptoms are painful, debilitating and often fatal and must be dealt with!It is a communicable disease and must not be allowed to spread. Yes, we must take it seriously. Yes, we must abate the symptoms. But the patient never recovers if the underlying disease is not treated. It is particularly foolish when an infection is diagnosed not to take the antibiotic and just keep on popping painkillers. Patriarchy is the underlying disease and it harms men as well as women. Of every color, class, nationality, religion. Don’t stop treating racism, a symptom, but do root out the cause of the symptom.

  19. I wish you all well. More than anything, I wish for all persons to be happy and free, but happiness and freedom do not consist merely in having what we desire. Sometimes, the very things we do not desire are the key to happiness and freedom. I would not use accusatory language or calling out by name of individuals in this forum, but I think we all would do well to seek release from “the bondage of self,” as an anonymous author identified it.
    If you wish to respond to anything I have written here, please do so by personal email (aek03030731(at)gmail(dot)com) as I will not be following this thread.

  20. Chuck, since you are leaning heavily on your chops as a journalist, I’m looking for evidence you did due diligence as an investigative reporter, or for that matter as a Quaker. I see no sign whatsoever that you spent any time laboring with love with Sharon Smith. This is one of the most basic practices we Quakers have for understanding and resolving conflict.

    Matt 18 advises (please pardon sexist language): 15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. ” You seem to have skipped the first two steps.

    Dehumanizing and othering your sister Quaker with the term “Intruder” is particularly rich since you’re not a member of SAYMA. Yet that hasn’t stopped you holding forth for pages. Please reread the opening paragraphs of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Letter from Birmingham Jail. Dr. King responds to those who call him an outside agitator, “I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. ” Nuff said.

    Since you’re very concerned to expose church-related financial frauds and swindles, please be sure to research Christian Slavery. A book by that title was published by Katharine Gerbner, and reviewed in Friends Journal. Christian Slavery reveals how the religious programs of early Quakers, Anglicans, and Moravians all became entangled with colonial slavery. The mess we find ourselves in today is in part a legacy of the church’s wholesale theft of Indigenous and African people, lands, culture and property. What if SAYMA could recognize its contributions to URJ as a tiny measure of reparations?

    As Director of Training at the organization whose $95 anti-racism webinars you referenced, I assure you not one penny of our income was received by Sharon Smith or URJ. We would greatly appreciate it if you refrained from publishing such libel.

    1. Hi Robin, You bet I “lean heavily” on my “chops,” and in the followup blog post (up now, at: https://wp.me/p5FGIu-45q ) they’re heavily in evidence; though I doubt you’ll like it much better even so. And for the record, I have spoken to SS numerous times online, laboring with her on various points of untruth & inaccuracy in her online statements, and being plain about my conclusion, based on many “chops,” that her misnamed “ministry” is a destructive delusion, and pleading with her to seek professional assistance for recovery. As for the question of reparations, it is a real one, which deserves careful and deliberate exploration. As this New York Times article (https://tinyurl.com/yyfpgwhf) suggests, there are “No Easy Answers on Reparations.” Except one: the farce of URJ funding is a ripoff and a shakedown, pure and simple.

  21. I am reminded of Samuel Bownas’ A Description of the Qualifications of a Gospel Minister. Among other things he urges a minister who feels a calling to first establish a base for economic survival independent of ministry, even to the extent of paying for ones own expenses while traveling in the ministry.

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