Big Staff Cuts at Philadelphia YM — With Update

NOTE: This post is updated below.

The Great Quaker Turnover just got a MAJOR jolt, In Billy Penn’s fair city:
Great Quaker Turnover

I’m still working to confirm the specifics, but usually reliable reports say that several staff cuts were announced at Philadelphia Yearly Meeting yesterday (March 29, 2011).

PYM has by far the largest staff of any American Quaker yearly Meeting. Ten years ago it amounted to 50-plus full-time slots.

PYM Logo

There has been some down-sizing since, but the current cuts are the biggest block.

There’s been no announcement about this on the PYM website. But here’s some of what’s affected, according to my current information:

Chopping Block-cash

— The Burlington NJ Conference center is slated to be closed. The historic building was renovated at a cost of millions, and re-opened in 1995 with much fanfare, with special hopes it would be a center for Younger Friends.

– The PYM Library will no longer have a staff librarian, but will depend on volunteers.

– The Young Adult Friends Coordinator’s slot is being eliminated.

– The position of Associate General Secretary for Advancement & Communications is being eliminated.

– PYM’s five regional coordinators will have work hours reduced.

The total cuts reportedly affect eight present staff and thirteen positions. There may be at least one new position created, a volunteer coordinator.

I’m pursuing confirmation of the specifics with PYM officials. In the meantime, the reports are substantiated enough to be surfaced here.

UPDATE: 8:30 PM March 30, 2011

I just received the email below from Arthur Larrabee, general Secretary of PYM:




I am upset that the information you have was given to you prematurely, without my knowledge or permission. It comes from a confidential document, prepared by me, and shared with staff yesterday at a staff meeting. The document was plainly labeled “Confidential.” I ask you to take it down from your blog until it is public.

The reason for my upset is that this information has not yet been made available to members of Interim Meeting and, in my view, it is information they should have in their possession before it is presented or discussed publicly.

The information you have is part of a proposed budget which is very much just that, “proposed.” It has not been finalized or decided. It will first be considered by Interim Meeting at its next regular meeting, April 9. Interim Meeting will consider the question, “Is the budget ready to be sent to the monthly meetings for their consideration?” If so, it will be sent out. If not, it will be “worked with” before it is sent out. The budget will not be considered for approval until annual sessions at the end of July. We’re in a delicate situation where staff need to be told what’s in the proposed budget (or not) so that it can be talked about openly at Interim Meeting, and in the monthly meetings, even though there is a possibility that it will be amended or changed in the process, and even though a final decision will not be made until the end of July. Our open and extended time for consideration of it makes it hard on those directly affected by it.

So, given the above, I am not prepared to talk about the proposed budget, to affirm or deny it, until it has been presented to Interim Meeting

Quakerism: Simple Faith, Radical Witness

The first thing to note here is that there are no corrections or clarifications of the specific items mentioned in the post. This suggests they are accurate.

The next point Friend Larrabee might consider is that if the “confidential information” he discussed in Philadelphia yesterday made it as far as eastern North Carolina before nightfall, his hope of sequestering it within a prescribed procedural circle may be excessively optimistic. If I learned about it, isn’t it a fair assumption that many more folks in Philadelphia are talking about it? (I think so.)

Finally, there is a difference of interest and outlook here. Larrabee is properly concerned with the right order for PYM’s business processes. The interest here is in disseminating information. The premise of “A Friendly Letter” since 1981 has been that the more information more people have sooner, the better questions can be asked, and the deeper and more informed discernment can be. This is a standard journalistic presumption. (It may also be worth noting that a similar outlook was involved in this blog’s breaking the news of major decisions at FGC, and FCNL, and AFSC over the past several months.)

Full DiscosureThus the information posted above will stay here, unless it is shown to be either faulty or is superseded by fuller and more current data.

What is the option? A suggested answer is below; it seems like good order to me.

4 thoughts on “Big Staff Cuts at Philadelphia YM — With Update”

  1. To me, this is an example of the worst kind of journalism, which takes no responsibility for any consequences of publication, and only seeks to get at “truth” obsessively, as though truth is always and absolutely the correct course when dealing with human beings and human affairs.

    Not only was this news knowingly published prematurely, but a personal letter pointing out the deleterious effects of publication in detail was itself published.

    I would like to respond in some effective way, but find myself speechless in the face of such irresponsibility.

    1. The post referred to was published ten years ago, in March 2011, and the trend it disclosed of major staff & program reductions at Philadelphia YM has long since been confirmed by events. Assuming this comment is current, and not somehow delayed for a decade, there isn’t much to be added here. But I will point out that in the interim, there has been (& still is in May 2021) plenty more staff & budget turmoil in various Quaker groups, many of which are far from Philadelphia, and this blog has reported on as much of it as was practical, which is by no means all.

      1. I apologize for not noticing the date of publication, and for somehow discovering this posting so long afterwards. However, I must stick by my criticism, based on the content, and only hope that you have changed your journalistic methodology in the years since.

        1. In ten years, some memories are fuzzy, but I stand by the reporting, and the journalism.

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