G. The Yearly Meeting
MEMBERSHIP. The yearly meeting comprises the entire membership of constituent monthly meetings, all of whom share in its deliberations. Members of other yearly meetings are welcome to attend yearly meeting sessions.
FUNCTION. The yearly meeting exists principally to worship together. It is a meeting for the transaction of business and can engage in any activity or foster any work that the membership considers appropriate, including provision of funds and supervision for such common projects. Through pooling efforts and resources, the yearly meeting can consider wider and more varied concerns.
Among its numerous functions, the yearly meeting issues to the monthly meetings queries, advices, and reports of its proceedings, and it maintains contact with other yearly meetings and Friends’ organizations. It alone has authority to establish or change the Book of Discipline, or to issue statements of faith.
The yearly meeting should inspire and support its constituent meetings, broaden their awareness of other Friends’ concerns, and help them develop their own concerns. Much of the work is carried forward by yearly meeting committees. The yearly meeting receives reports from them and from its constituent meetings. It reviews the State of the Meeting reports and considers communications addressed to it. It provides for the due consideration of epistles and of minutes of Friends from other yearly meetings.
It provides for participation in the work and financial support of Friends’ groups including the Friends General Conference, Friends United Meeting, and the Friends World Committee for Consultation.
ORGANIZATION. The yearly meeting follows the general principles of organization and uses the same general business procedures as do monthly meetings, but it is more elaborate in structure due to the multiplicity and variety of functions that it performs. The New York Yearly Meeting is incorporated under Section 15 of the New York State Religious Corporation Law for the purpose of holding title to and administering property of the meeting and deeds of trust committed to its care. As such, any business meeting of the yearly meeting constitutes a meeting of the corporation, and all members of the yearly meeting are likewise members of the corporation.
The yearly meeting appoints a clerk to preside at its sessions and carry out associated administrative functions. It also appoints an assistant clerk and such recording and reading clerks as may be needed to assist the clerk in the conduct of the meetings. It appoints a treasurer, assistant treasurer, and such administrative secretaries as it may decide to engage for designated functions.
The activities of the yearly meeting are carried on by four specialized sections—the Ministry Coordinating Committee, General Services, Nurture, and Witness—having the following functions:
- to develop and coordinate services and programs, implementing them directly or through committees, task groups, staff, or volunteers;
- to explore new ways of service and respond to concerns of individual Friends and monthly and regional meetings;
- to recommend for yearly meeting action any major change of activity within their general areas of responsibility;
- to help plan the programs of yearly meeting sessions.
The Ministry Coordinating Committee exercises general care of the ministry and spiritual life of the yearly meeting and receives and considers concerns of members or meetings regarding their spiritual needs.
The Section on Nurture is responsible for the advancement of the principles of Friends and for educational functions and personal services to members of the yearly meeting. Some of its interests have become the responsibilities of separate corporate entities, such as Powell House, the Oakwood Friends School, and the Yearly Meeting Friends Home (The McCutchen).
The Section on Witness makes visible both the traditional testimonies and the newer concerns of Friends in ways that extend beyond the Religious Society of Friends. Its work attempts to express beliefs in action.
The Section on General Services provides the main administrative, financial, and reporting services of the yearly meeting, including the operation of the yearly meeting office.
(More detailed information on the sections is to be found in the current edition of the yearly meeting Handbook.)
Each section has a coordinating committee, composed of representatives chosen by its constituent committees and groups, as well as members-at-large appointed by the yearly meeting.
The Ministry Coordinating Committee includes, in addition, a representative appointed by each quarterly or regional meeting (two from Farmington-Scipio) for a three-year term, according to established rotation.
The coordinating committees are enabling bodies. They consider the activities within their respective sections in relationship to each other, assist in their coordination, and help allocate the resources of people, time, and money. They prepare the section budgets, are responsible for their overall administration, and participate in preparation of the total yearly meeting budget.
The yearly meeting may establish or lay down committees according to the need for the conduct of particular functions of the meeting. Regular standing committees include, among others, Advancement, Financial Services, and Sessions. The yearly meeting also appoints representatives to various Friends’ groups such as the American Friends Service Committee, Friends United Meeting, Friends General Conference, and the Friends World Committee for Consultation, and the governing boards of various other institutions or agencies.
When the yearly meeting establishes a committee, it must also determine and approve a statement of its purpose and functions and provide adequate funding. All appointments are to be made for a specified term. Interim appointments to fill vacancies may be made at spring or fall sessions. A current record of all committees and their membership is published annually in the Yearbook of the yearly meeting.
Four committees of the General Services Section fulfill specific administrative functions:
SESSIONS COMMITTEE. The Sessions Committee is responsible for selecting and arranging a suitable place for summer, fall, and spring sessions of the yearly meeting, and for the preparation of schedules and programs. It advises committees on presentation of reports at these sessions and serves as an advisory committee to the clerks during the sessions. It is responsible for publicity, hospitality, and financial arrangements for these meetings. The composition of the Sessions Committee appears in the yearly meeting Handbook.
FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE. The Financial Services Committee holds responsibility for preparation of yearly meeting budgets and for collection of funds for the support of the yearly meeting and its offices and committees. It may establish procedures for raising funds from the constituent meetings or the general membership.
This committee advises the treasurer as needed. It receives financial reports from all yearly meeting committees, establishes rules to examine committee accounts, and serves in an advisory capacity in financial matters to the yearly meeting and to the various committees, as requested. The committee may assign such functions as appropriate to subcommittees that it appoints from its own membership.
Budget requests by the yearly meeting sections are made to the Financial Services Committee at such times as this committee may request. Should they need other funds in unforeseen circumstances to supplement their budget appropriations, coordinating committees may make requests to any of the yearly meeting sessions, which may authorize withdrawals from any available reserve funds in the hands of the yearly meeting treasurer. No yearly meeting committee may undertake direct fund-raising unless a session of the yearly meeting authorizes this by a general rule or by specific minute.
AUDIT COMMITTEE. The Audit Committee arranges an annual audit of the financial accounts of the yearly meeting and its committees.
PERSONNEL COMMITTEE. The Personnel Committee supervises the yearly meeting staff, whom the yearly meeting has appointed upon the committee’s recommendation. It proposes the budget for total staff compensation, fixes salaries of individual staff members, and may authorize short-term employment.
YEARLY MEETING NOMINATING COMMITTEE. The Nominating Committee recommends the names of Friends for all yearly meeting appointments. They prepare most nominations for action at the yearly meeting’s summer sessions. They make nominations to fill vacancies at the first opportunity to any yearly meeting session.
Nominations in general originate in the Nominating Committee, but this committee may receive suggestions from presiding officers of existing committees or other Friends. Such suggestions are advisory but not binding upon the Nominating Committee.
Normally, nominations are confined to members of the New York Yearly Meeting, but committees may request inclusions of Friends from other yearly meetings. Under special circumstances, which must be considered and approved at a yearly meeting session, the nominating committee may propose names of non-Friends. Committees may consult others, either Friends or non-Friends, without their becoming members of the committee.
Committee members who have served six consecutive years or two terms, whichever is the longer, ordinarily should not be renamed without an intervening period of one year.
Committee members or other appointees who ask for release from service before the completion of their terms do so by letter to the clerk of the yearly meeting and the clerk of the Nominating Committee.
Members of the yearly meeting Nominating Committee are appointed by the quarterly or equivalent meetings on the basis of one member for each 200 members of their respective areas or additional fraction thereof, with at least one member from each such area. These meetings should designate an alternate to serve on the Nominating Committee whenever notified that a regular member cannot attend.
Appointments to the Nominating Committee should be made in the spring months of the year for three-year rotational terms, with new terms becoming effective at the close of the next succeeding yearly meeting sessions. The yearly meeting office assigns and coordinates schedules for these appointments so that about one-third of the terms will expire each year.