AFSC & The Hammer: Duncan Fired

It appears AFSC’s “LT” (Leadership Team) is serious.

In the post below, copied from the Western Friend page, Lucy Duncan states she was fired on Monday January 3.

The dismissal was not a surprise (Duncan herself had predicted it). But it was revealing nonetheless, answering questions raised by Duncan’s “Perilous Crossroads” letter:

Would the LT respond decisively to the insurgents’ call for their overthrow and the crushing of their restructuring plan?  Could they?

Or would there be more endless palaver, “listening sessions,” “Seasoning” meetings, consultants doing consultations and interviews & focus groups, amid the ceaseless search for “transformation”?

Personally I expect lots more palaver about the plan’s  rollout. But the LT has shown it can & will bring the hammer down on rebellion. The AFSC bosses acted like, pardon my language, bosses.

What a concept.

Could this be what the latest jargon calls ”an inflection point” for the organization? At least from the outside, the reaction was by the book: tight-lipped, immediate suspension, a pause to accommodate the holiday schedule disruptions, then the first day back, out. No public acknowledgement; let Duncan make the announcement, and get on with business. This looks like more than an “incident.” Is it also an example?

Duncan said other sympathizers were either already quitting AFSC or would leave if their appeal/putsch was foiled. Now we’ll see how many make good on the threat.  Could it be that some other dissident staff are spending time this week updating their resumes and pondering how ready they are to face the Omicron spike without AFSC health insurance?

For that matter, the LT doubtless has a sheaf of blank pink slips within reach. And The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that new Covid cases in the U. S. had topped 500,000 for that one day. I don’t know about you, but that was a sobering number for me.

Duncan and other co-authors are slated to talk about all this at a Zoom session January 6 (one would think this date an inauspicious one for touting uprisings). Details at the Western Friend.

Lucy Duncan Update

14 thoughts on “AFSC & The Hammer: Duncan Fired”

  1. AFSC ugh.
    Welcome to the new corportate thinking concept.
    Well, maybe not, but it’s hard to believe when the explanations are not honestly put out there. It sounds a lot like mighty corporate profit making plan is taking over and protectiong the “suits” is the new direction. I’d love to hear some honest explanations but feeling a bit lacking in trust.
    This IS still a Quaker organization, isn’t it?
    J Kand Lippincott
    Moorestown Monthly Meeting, NJ

    1. One of the things that makes understanding of the situation difficult is the complete lack of transparency when it comes to donors – specifically, the big ones. Are they part of this process (or not)? Do they care? Are they advocates for one view or another? Who are they, and what kind of power do they actually wield?

      Both LT and Duncan’s group refer to them, but with complete opacity

      1. I agree, mostly because there are very few Quakers in the organization. What percentage of the current staff are Quaker? Twenty years ago it was less than 10%. I am guessing that the percentage has not increased. What percentage of members of program committees are Quaker? I am guessing less than 50% (at most). No Quakers, no Quaker organization.

        1. Hi Nora, according to the officially sponsored “A Centennial History of the American Friends Service Committee,” by Gregory A. Barnes, a note in Chapter 19 states: “It is also true that the number of Quaker meeting members on staff is small: in 2016 it sat at less than half a percent: 16 of 302.” My math says that number would be 5 per cent.
          I interviewed Hector Cortez by phone after reading the Duncan letter, and asked what the percentage was in 2021. He had no number, but when I then cited the Barnes quote to him, he knew of it and did not challenge it. About program committees, I have no concrete data.
          One other thing: I’m not pretending. I undertake to call a spade a spade in this earlier blog post on what AFSC’s “homeopathic” Quakerism has become in fact

          1. Hi, Chuck. What you write sounds about right. I am finding it impossible to recognize an organization as Quaker when only one of 20 workers in the organization is Quaker. And now we have a flood of verbiage from so many members of staff about the leadership team not following Quaker process – this seems to border on absurdity.

            No disrespect meant. AFSC made a choice decades ago to hire from within the constituency it serves rather than within the Quaker community. I applied for several jobs with them and was turned down every time in favor of someone who was not a Quaker. I just wish we would stop pretending it’s a Quaker organization rather than what it is, a vaguely faith-based service organization with Quaker roots. Like the city of Philadelphia . . .

  2. Before I comment on the current conflict AFSC is having with some Friends, I want to let you know that I have had extensive experience with AFSC. I want to speak from my personal experience as a volunteer of AFSC here in the Southeast Region as well as a member of the AFSC Corporation.

    It started in the late 1980’s and ended in the early 2000’s. I met wonderful Friends from all over the USA as well as wonderful AFSC staff. As a child of parents who were Holocaust Survivors and World War 2, I was thankful to the AFSC for the work it had done to rescue many Jewish (and other) people from the Nazi death machine. After I joined the Atlanta Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends in 1982, it was not long before I found my way to the Atlanta office of the AFSC’s Southeastern regional office.

    I have served, as you know Chuck, on the AFSC Southeastern Regional Office in many potions both as a Representative from my Yearly Meeting (SAYMA) and as an “at large” member and even as a staff member. Some of the “jobs” I had were:
    Executive Committee Administrative Finance (Clerk)
    Executive Committee Personnel Committee (Clerk)
    Middle East Program Committee Member
    Peace Education Committee Member (Clerk) (While we had it.)
    Regional Diversity Committee Member.
    Search Committees for the Executive Director’s job,
    I also served as the staff accountant for 1/2 year. One learns alot when paying the bills. I also learned that very, very little money was being donated to the AFSC SE Region by the Yearly Meetings and Monthly Meetings within its region.

    I also have served several 3 year terms as one of the Yearly Meeting Representatives to the AFSC Corporation. My background in business and accounting and auditing helped me to understand that the “Corporation” I was part of was a pretend “Stockholders Meeting”. We were asked to “Approve” bylaws changes that the AFSC Board wanted to make as the Bylaws required us to do that. We also “approved” nominations to the AFSC Board of Directors. We were, in effect, “a rubber stamp” who were given lists of names of people we (mostly) had never met. It turned out that the Corporation Members were not even “Stockholders” as the AFSC Board was actually only accountable only to its doners and to the IRS as well as the attorneys hired to make sure AFSC didn’t lose its “tax-exempt” status.

    All decisions were made by the members of the “Board of AFSC”. The really important members were those who made it to the “Executive Committee of the Board” of AFSC.

    I lived through 3 “long range vision” processes that cost a bunch of money and which had not a drop of power to decide anything. There were lots of lists made that ended up going nowhere. At least the AFSC could claim it had followed “Quaker Process”.

    Early on during my tenure as a SAYMA Representative to the AFSC Corporation, I suggested that AFSC disband the “Corporation” as our meetings seemed like a waste of money and staff time. I hope they finally do so.

    That AFSC used the Membership of the Corporation (all Quakers from Yearly Meetings around the USA) as a way to back up its claim to be a “Quaker” Organization. That bubble was burst as Quaker staff were replaced by some very wonderful people who were not part of the Religious Society of Friends. Last I looked (and as Chuck has written somewhere) less than 5% of the staff were actually members of the Religious Society of Friends.

    Yes, the “non-Friends” were/are wonderful people. When I asked why there were so few Quakers on staff I was told that those of other faiths who were hired by AFSC were “more Quaker than many Quakers”. Besides, AFSC was serving oppressed communities and even AFSC could not claim that American Quakers were oppressed.

    As you know from your own Yearly Meetings’ Faith and Practice Guides, Integrity is one of the core Testimonies of Friends. It is foundational to everything we do. I was aghast when, at one meeting in Philadelphia, I was given an AFSC publication that defined their own “Testimonies”. Chutzpah is what my ancestors would call that.

    The AFSC’s own website says: “The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) was founded in 1917 during World War I to give young conscientious objectors ways to serve without joining the military or taking lives. They drove ambulances, ministered to the wounded, and stayed on in Europe after the armistice to rebuild war-ravaged communities.”

    “Since then, AFSC has often been on the forefront of social change movements, carrying out work that many considered experimental and sometimes taking unpopular stands on controversial issues. . . ”

    So AFSC itself still recognizes that it was formed to help Quaker men to avoid being drafted to fight in wars during World War One! It seems to me that AFSC could have claimed victory and laid itself down once the U.S. Draft Board ruled that “active membership in and acceptance of the beliefs of one of the peace churches was required to be considered a conscientious objectors (CO) would not be drafted and hence could not be conscripted for military service.”

    The problem, as I see it, is that it did not lay itself down. Some thought more needed to be done so that war might be avoided and so individual Quakers decided to address the causes of war by using the status and structure of the AFSC.

    The problem as I see it is that over time, the AFSC which had started out being run and staffed mostly by Quaker volunteersm became a Not for Profit Organization staffed and run mostly by paid staff from many different backgrounds.

    Perhaps the problem we are facing today is that the American Friends Service Committee has the word “Friends” as part of its name. Maybe we should call it: “The American Service Committee”. Then everyone would know who the AFSC really is and act accordingly.

    1. Hi Free. I met you in the visioning process years ago in Ga. I always admired the volunteers and those who donate from the sweat of their brow to assist others. Good to see you. As a young staff member I and others, were invited to participate and give ideas of where we saw the organization going and where resources could best be applied. That opportunity was always appreciated because I had the chance to meet and greet staff, corporation and board members. It was an enriched experience allowing me to hear from concerned stakeholders. I carry that love and respect in my work. I hope all is well with you and yours. You made a lasting impression that I honor and respect. I am not Quaker yet I can align with the values and work in concert toward those ends. Peace and love to you and all who love humanity in our diverse forms and perspectives.

  3. How do Quakers experience the next Schism among friends? 2022? What is new ? How?

    What is ‘testing’ the Faith and Practice of Friends as a Society because of the conditions from AFSC now?

    What are roles of dominant class, knowing class, and management class present? Were BIPOC/Quakers harmed?
    This is more meaningful and important than any of us can KNOW. Godspeed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.