New England Yearly Meeting

A community of Quakers and Quaker meetings across New England.

NEYM minutes concerning racism

New England Yearly Meeting 1947-present

Questions to consider as you read these Minutes:

  • How has this work been actualized in our corporate life in Spirit?

  • What concrete things, besides writing minutes, have happened as a result of these many, many leadings?

  • What's been achieved and what's next; where do we go from here?

  • How can RSEJ better address these issues?

Will you be part of this clearly discerned spiritual work? 


News and Joy from 2016 Annual Sessions
Aug 13, 2016  - Fritz Weiss, presiding clerk; and Noah Baker Merrill, Yearly Meeting secretary


We committed to action in the areas of work for racial justice, responding to the climate crisis and support for LGBT people in Uganda.

...    • Racial Justice: Recognizing the urgency of work for racial justice and the ways in which white supremacy affects and is present in our Quaker faith communities, in the coming months the Yearly Meeting will explore concrete steps New England Friends can take to help us more fully realize God’s vision of the Beloved Community. To begin and inform this work going forward, we asked the Permanent Board of NEYM to explore an external audit of our cultural competency. We see that the work of change and recovery from the spiritual disease of systemic racism needs to happen in each of our hearts, within our organizational structures, and in each of our local meetings. Expect to hear more soon about opportunities for your meeting to engage in this work, and please share ways you are already learning, healing and acting for racial justice.  
Supporting this work more widely, we further committed to raise funds in support of the efforts of Friends General Conference—a North American association of Yearly Meetings in which we hold membership—to also undergo a cultural competency audit.


1947 *6/20 p. 33, Minute #37; Minute Type 2; Topic: Reflection/Wrestling; Racial integration and Quaker schools

Concern was expressed that the Yearly Meeting schools include children of all races in their school family; that members of the Meeting visit the schools and encourage young Friends to attend them; that Friends in evaluating education in Quaker Schools judge when it is most useful to the child in relation to his home and meeting.

1959 “Minute #76”; Minute Type 1; Action/Thought Topic: Racial prejudice

Rather than attempting to report on the multifold activities of the American Friends Service Committee, Louisa Alger pointed out the self rejection involved in race prejudice. Friends are called to renewed dedication to the ministry of reconciliation between peoples of different culture, national origin, race, or religion.

1967, August 22–27, Minute #55; Minute type 1 and 2; Topic: Race relations

James Toothaker brought a statement from the worship-workshop on race relations. It was approved that this statement be recorded in the minutes.


Our worship-workshop on race relations was full of a sense of the urgency of confronting the present crisis. Out of our worship and work together, we experienced an opening to share with Friends our findings.

As we considered the part our lives have played in creating the urban crisis, Friends recognized the need for more sensitivity, more effort, and new habits of mind and living—even by those who have felt themselves personally friendly to the aspirations of our black brothers.

We call on all individuals and meetings to examine their consciences and practices for the subtle signs of discrimination and prejudice, for blindness in overlooking the degrading aspects of our present social patterns, and for weakness in failing to act on the leadings of the spirit. Further, we would urge each Monthly Meeting to feel the necessity to become involved in an action program relating to the racial problem, thus experimentally showing what love can do.

1968 August 20–25, Minute #49; Minute type 1 and 4; Topic: Friends education; peace, race relations

We make two suggestions to Friends Council [on Education], the first concerning the use of the Clark Fund and the second more general.

1. A portion of the donation should be used to increase the work that Friends schools are now doing in instruction concerning the religious and social testimonies of Friends. We speak in particular of the testimonies on race relations and peace.

Such increased emphasis could come through enrichment of the regular academic programs of the schools, and through lecture series and workshops.

August 20–25, Minute #53 Minute type 1; Topic: Social justice: racism, poverty


In this year of intensified racial crisis and prevailing poverty this Yearly Meeting feels it must take some action to put itself on record that we are aware of these crucial developments. Perhaps individuals and groups represented in this Yearly Meeting are related to these crises but this corporate body should express itself in these concerns.

We urge and recommend that our Meetings make a concerted effort along the following lines:

1. to make sure that these concerns get included in all our serious study materials;

2. that as individuals and Meetings we contribute money to support the various programs and missions that speak to these needs;

3. that we understand how far, indeed, we are all involved in white racism;

4. that we become participants in the movements for personal confrontation in those efforts designed to reorder our social and economic priorities, and to eliminate injustice and magnify love.

1969 (309th Session) Clerk: Ruth F. Osborne

June 23–28—Minute #12; Minute type 1 and 2; Topic: Friends and racism

Erna Ballantine, Chairman of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, brought some observations on Friends and racism. Friends think of themselves as persons of good will, but too often that good will comes across as patronizing; Friends too often talk of the good works they have done in the past instead of planning what they are going to do in the future in response to rapid change. The struggle for power to achieve freedom, justice, and love goes on in the black community today. The systematic destruction of the dignity of black people did not end with slavery but continues. A new interest in black history and in African history has developed as an expression of black dignity and self-respect. Black unity, black power deserve the support of Friends. The equation of blackness and negative meanings—“blackball,” etc.—must be eliminated. Service is always done with people, not for or to people. Friends must be sensitive to this. Concerned Friends must be prepared to take the risks of change in their own communities as well as in the black community.

Friends believe in education. They need themselves to be educated to the true history of black people if the walls between white and black people are to be chipped away.

The need for courage is great if we are to challenge the status quo, for the status quo is always tempted to crush rather than to encourage creative innovation. Friends should support laws against discrimination with the same creative fervor with which they work for peace.

Are Friends really committed to eliminate racism? Erna Ballantine believes that the evidence so far shows they are not but that the commitment is still sought.

1970, June 26–July 1—Minute #60 Minute type 1 and 4; Topics: Social justice, prejudice and poverty

Gordon Browne presented the revised version of the proposals of the Workshop on Friends’ Responsibilities for Blacks, Indians, and Poor, renamed the Workshop on Friends Responsibilities for Victims of Prejudice and Poverty. Further revisions were suggested. With these revisions, the proposals were approved.


Stimulated by a special sub-committee of the Executive Council and by our own concern, in three workshop sessions, three plenary sessions of the Yearly Meeting, a special session after adjournment of the day’s business session, and frequent informal discussion during the week of Yearly Meeting, we have sought to understand our responsibilities to victims of prejudice and poverty. Samuel Levering, in the keynote address of the Yearly Meeting, reminded us that a total ministry was required of us—that we must meet both material needs and spiritual needs. We are clear that the radical love relationship among men which Canby Jones spoke of in the Bible Half Hours requires us to strip away our own hypocrisies, self-delusions, and prejudices if we are to soar in obedience to the winds of God. Such love will require that we reorder the priorities of our lives. It will require us to order our lives so as not to give offense. And we are clear that one element of loving one’s brother is to help him to find the opportunities and resources to be his best self as he, not we, envision that best self. In response to these insights, the Workshop on the Responsibilities of Friends for Victims of Prejudice and Poverty asks the Yearly Meeting to take the following actions:

1. to instruct the Yearly Meeting Peace and Social Concerns Committee, in cooperation with such other committees or agencies as it deems suitable, to develop and carry out programs in the local meetings of New England Yearly Meeting on the subject of racism and other manifestations of the lack of love;

2. to instruct the Executive Council to continue a special sub-committee, giving it two tasks:

a. to seek practicable projects for implementing our concern for fulfilling our responsibilities to victims of prejudice and poverty;

b. to raise and administer funds in support of such projects, except Minute 74 funds;

3. to express our firm intention to raise and to expend $100,000 over the next five years to be

used in ways that will constructively relieve the hurt of prejudice and poverty. These funds may be used for Minute 74 and for support of fair housing programs, equal employment opportunity programs or such other programs as promote the intent of fulfilling our responsibility toward the victims of prejudice and poverty;

1972, July 29–August 5—Minute #31 Minute type: 1 and 4; Topic: Race Relations/Friends for Human Justice

Racism does exist within Quaker ranks, we were told by Dwight Wilson, reporting for Friends for Human Justice. It exists because of ignorance, and that is why the organization would like to send a representative to travel among Friends in Meetings throughout the country, helping to make them aware of the problem. It was approved that the Yearly Meeting continue to appoint a representative to this organization.

1972, July 29–August 5—Minute #47 Minute type: 1, 2 Topic: Racism

A Minute of concern about racism in the Society of Friends was brought to the Meeting by Howard Reed. Discussion revealed to Friends that the Minute could stimulate a process of self-examination. Unity was reached on the following statement:

In recognition of the conscious and unconscious racism present in the Society of Friends as in society at large, we urge Friends and Meetings to explore fresh ways of revitalizing our witness to that of God in every man. We encourage all Friends to examine their lives in relation to the terrible burden of racism and to seek every opening to the light and truth which alone can liberate us.

1974, July 27–August 2, Minute # 14; Minute type 2; Topic: Race Relations, Friends for Human Justice

Erma Wilson from Wilmington Yearly Meeting explained the current status of the organization of Friends for Human Justice, an outgrowth of concerns raised at the National Conference of Friends on Race Relations meeting in Washington in 1970. Although almost moribund for a time because of the preoccupation of its leadership with other matters, Friends for Human Justice claims a core of dedicated persons who wish to carry forward the founding concern—to address the problem of white racism, particularly as it exists within the Society of Friends. They propose a program which will consist of workshops, an informational brochure, pulpit supplies, bibliographical materials, and a periodic newssheet. They would like two representatives from each Yearly Meeting to serve on a Board of Directors. Mildred Roberts, presently the New England Yearly Meeting representative to Friends for Human Justice, confirmed the quiescent state of the organization over the past year.

The Yearly Meeting asked Erma Wilson to carry the interest of New England Friends for Human Justice back to FHJ. Mildred Roberts will continue as the Yearly Meeting representative to FHJ and will keep the Yearly Meeting informed of opportunities which may develop to relate to their work.

The following minute from the Peace and Social Concerns Committee, meeting at Yearly Meeting, July 29, was approved.

While questioning the viability of the agency, Friends for Human Justice, no one questions the need for Friends to examine their own conscious, or unconscious, attitudes of prejudice and racism. Peace and Social Concerns Committee would hope to encourage local meetings to act upon this by various means.

1976, August 16–22, Minute #73; Minute type 4; Topics: Friends for Human Justice; Racism

In harmony with our ongoing concern over racism, we approve the appointment of a representative to the meetings of the Friends for Human Justice. This representative will have the usual opportunity to draw on our travel fund.

1984, August 18–22, Minute #12; Topic: Racism

Greg Williams introduced our keynote speaker, Alison Oldham.

In approaching the Yearly Meeting’s theme, Alison Oldham reminded us of Jesus’ admonition to God, we must first be reconciled with our brother. Once admitted, the consciousness of the divisions in our society intrudes itself upon us at every turn. Friends must recognize that in the split between the comfortable and the dispossessed, we fall for the most part into the first group. Our goodly record of concerns for equality and justice do not cancel out the fact that in North America we are largely a white, affluent group; very few of us have real knowledge of, or contact with, the dispossessed. Further, we shield ourselves from the pain of clear perception. How can we live in the Kingdom, enabling the shalom of God among us, until we acknowledge and confront our part in the oppression of our neighbors? Only when we allow ourselves to empathize with the oppressed, beyond the defensiveness, the practicalities, and the despair which often characterize our response to our fellow’s pain, can we begin to feel our way into a more just way of living. We must learn to see, and to accept, the facts of life around us. We must recognize that in subtle ways we have chosen to be the group we are, and understand what this means. The integrity and vitality of our spiritual message depends on our ability to see where cultural or historical accident or presupposition cause harm to others, and preclude our reconciliation with them. Though much oppression and our unconscious racism is not our fault, it is our responsibility. In all of this, out charge must be to go forward honestly, knowing our own weakness but confident that “there is a river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God.”

1990, August 12, Minute #17 p. 7; Minute type 2; Topic: Racism

Andrew Grannell, in addition to his work as Field Secretary, has worked on the Rhode Island Call to End Racism and spoke of his commitment to call those of European background to end their pervasive racism. The Civil War, fought to end slavery, has been over for more than 100 years and yet we are still bound by discrimination against Americans of African descent. To end racism is a moral and demographic imperative. “The concern will be carried over to see what action might open up for the Yearly Meeting.”

1992, August 9, Minute #12 p. 15; Minute type 2; Topic: Race/Class

(following State of Society report) “The issues of economic inequality, racial injustice, and class oppression were noted as being absent from the State of Society report, which reflects the content of the reports received from monthly meetings.”

1994—August 6–11, Committee Report: Committee on Prejudice and Poverty, Minute Type 1: Action/Thought and 2: Reflection/Wrestling

Our committee is united in feeling that the fact of multiple Americas, defined by race and class and wealth, needs to be brought forcefully and in an inviting manner to Friends, to increase awareness and to foster action.

2003 Minute on Racism

Adopted by New England Yearly Meeting of Friends in annual sessions, 2003

New England Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends affirms its commitment to becoming an open, affirming, anti-racist Religious Society. Our understanding of racism is that it is a system that accords advantage or disadvantage based on racial identity. Racism is fundamentally inconsistent with the divine guidance that has led our Religious Society to testimonies such as Equality, Peace and Community. We seek divine assistance and the help of other friends of Truth to examine our individual and corporate complicity in racism. We aspire to a more perfect union with the Author of all, who shows no partiality in the diversity of creation.

Those of us who have grown up with a white identity in America have a particular challenge in that we have been conditioned not to notice the system of racism and white privilege. Our well-intentioned attempts at colorblindness can have the unfortunate result of blinding us to the system of racism in which we unwittingly participate. Let us remember Jesus’ admonition to remove the log from our own eye before seeking to remove a speck from our brother’s or sister’s eye. We all pray for clarity of vision so that in the words of George Fox, we may “be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone; whereby in them you may be a blessing, and make the witness of God in them to bless you.”


The Doctrine of Discovery was used to justify Christians “right” to dominate, exploit and claim the lands of non-Christians that they “discovered.”  In the days of European exploration and colonization, governments relied on the Doctrine of Discovery, which has its roots in racism, to commit great harm against Native peoples. This doctrine has justified policies of deception, forced removal, sterilization, enslavement, and genocide. The doctrine has not disappeared or been revoked. It has force of law globally and serves as a framework of oppression fully intact in US federal Indian law today.  In 2012 the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) focused on encouraging global repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery.

We as New England Yearly Meeting repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery. We are beginning a journey to consider the moral and spiritual implications of how we benefit from and have been harmed by the doctrine as individuals and meetings.  The workings of this doctrine are invisible to most of us.  Our first work is to remove the logs from our eyes so that we may see.  We need to learn more, find ways to seek forgiveness, and to ask how the Spirit might lead us.  We have heard powerful testimonies of how these issues have affected our lives.  We encourage consultation with Indigenous Peoples to restore the health of ourselves and our planet. We recognize that this is our work to do. On this path, respectfully traveled in love, our goal is true healing so the Light of God can be answered in everyone. Our intention is to walk toward being in right relationship with the whole human family and the planet.

New England Yearly Meeting of Friends

901 Pleasant Street, Worcester, MA 01602

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