Northern Yearly Meeting Lights Up

- Posted by Publications Committee in Resources | 3 min read
By Shelley Tanenbaum, QEW General Secretary

Northern Yearly Meeting (Minnesota, Wisconsin, and a bit more) meets on a lake in central Wisconsin to deepen worship, conduct business, and nurture connections among Friends in the upper Great Lakes region. This year, they boldly chose the challenging theme: Climate Change: Turning Awareness into Action. Northern Friends asked themselves the following questions and workshops and interest groups were offered to explore answers:

  • Confronting climate change needs both personal and systemic change. How do we turn intention into action in the face of barriers that make change difficult?
  • How do we find the power to make changes beyond what we can do as individuals, and how do we change our collective hearts so we are compelled to do what needs to be done to change the system?
  • Many Friends see the importance of climate change and the need to take action, with differing ideas about the urgency and what needs to be done. How do we get beyond the edges of the issue and really confront core changes that affect basic aspects of our lives?

I greatly appreciated the opportunity to offer a workshop called “From Earthcare Despair to Earthcare Repair” (contact me at shelley@quakerearthcare.org if your yearly meeting would like me to visit and offer an interest group or workshop). In the workshop, we explored climate change as a moral issue and how we are called as people of faith to witness on this issue; the barriers many of us feel as a result of the enormity of the problem and our sense of despair; and how to move past that despair through our spiritual connection to the natural world. We reviewed the many exciting and transformative changes in technology and social and political actions, and explored how we Friends can best work on social change.

During Northern Yearly Meeting’s business sessions, an ad-hoc committee formed last year to review investments proposed divesting from companies in the business of extracting fossil fuels. The committee recommended removing funds that they currently have invested in Friends Fiduciary’s Balanced Fund and reinvesting in Friends Fiduciary’s Green Fund, a mutual fund that screens for fossil fuels (both funds screen for tobacco, armaments, and coal). The ad-hoc committee also recommended that their remaining investments in Pax World Fund be shifted to Pax’s World Global Environmental Fund, in order to screen out fossil fuels.

Northern Friends were very enthusiastic about divesting. Many expressed interest in reinvesting in sustainable agriculture and clean energy, and some expressed interest in leaving the stock market entirely and using their money in other ways. The yearly meeting came to unity to enthusiastically accept the committee’s recommendation, to encourage other meetings to divest from fossil fuels, and to continue evaluating the best use of their money.

Having worked on divestment in my home meeting, my yearly meeting and my alma mater, I was heartened to see such enthusiasm and a clear understanding of the issues during these sessions. If your meeting is considering divesting from fossil fuels, QEW has a wealth of resources: check out the section of our website called Fossil Free Friends (www.quakerearthcare.org/article/fossil-free-friends). We have posted background information, sample minutes, and a list of meetings that have divested. Let us know if your meeting has approved a minute to divest and we will add you to the list!

In other news from Northern Friends, they enthusiastically endorsed a Quaker statement on climate change during Meeting for Business. QEW, Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO), and Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) issued this statement first in September 2014 prior to the UN summit on climate change, and in a revised form in January 2015. I wrote the first draft of this statement (which was subsequently much improved by other editors), and I was deeply moved to hear a paragraph-by-paragraph reading of the statement by Northern Friends as they considered approval.

The statement is an important way to raise our collective Quaker voice in the lead up to the Paris climate change negotiations that will take place at the end of this year. Please take a look at the statement (www.quakerearthcare.org/article/shared-quaker-statement-facing-challenge-climate-change) and consider bringing it to your monthly and yearly meetings. Northern Friends expressed urgency for all of us to work together on this critical issue.