Category Archives: Epistle

FAHE 2022 Conference Epistle

June 15, 2022

At the close of our 42nd Annual Conference, held online with the generous support of Earlham College and Earlham School of Religion, Friends Association for Higher Education sends our greetings and warm best wishes to Friends throughout the world.

Focused on our theme, “Quakers and Racial Justice,” we were inspired by our plenary speaker, Dr. Amanda Kemp, as well as  many workshops and presentations.  These ranged from close analysis of “Hamilton the Musical and the 1619 Project,”  to “Reflections on Incorporating Diverse and Anti-Colonial Material in Natural Science Classrooms,” to exploring ways of “Dismantling Raci(al/st) Ideology,” and to promoting “Town and Gown” community conversations about race. Our worship and other opportunities for interaction enhanced our understanding of the Friends Equality Testimony and encouraged us to support our fellow faculty, staff and student activists striving for beloved community.

In her moving, multi-media plenary, Amanda Kemp shared with us the deep personal stresses accompanying her racial justice activism. After police killed Michael Brown in 2014, the cumulative impact of ever-increasing numbers of sacrificed Black lives, along with the wearing responsibilities of participating in visible protests and the daily interpreting of events for Whites often thoughtlessly invading her personal space, opened Amanda to the pressing need for self-compassion.  Since 2020, she has found relief from relentless discourse “where there is no liberation” by accepting the unconditional love around her, in particular through her communion with trees. By listening to the trees, surrounding us everywhere, we can “feed the core” of our being, experience corresponding joy, and nourish the outward expression of our well-being; a practice well-understood and practiced by indigenous peoples throughout the world.

Friends’ paper presentations and workshops provided scholarly explorations and personal reflections on racial issues and dynamics ranging from Quaker slaveholding, to daunting modern urban segregation, to the need to challenge inequalities on our Quaker campuses.  While expanding the awareness and knowledge of the sessions’ participants , the impact on the presenters of their own work was apparent.  It’s clear that our thoughtful scholarship changes our lives, often leading to meaningful activism.

This year’s Presidents’ Panel, hosted by Earlham President Anne Houtman, featured a new twist,  including three Quaker women presidents from non-quaker Colleges, along with Malone University’s incoming president, Greg Miller. They were Sarah Bolton from the College of Wooster (soon moving to Whitman College), Sarah Manglesdorf from the University of Rochester and Marlene Tromp from Boise State University.  The challenges of leadership, guided by Quaker values, during these financially and politically challenging times, were thoughtfully explored.  

Finally, during our annual business meeting we accepted the invitation from Haverford College’s President Wendy Raymond, pandemic allowing, to gather in person in June 2023. Please join us in the continuation of this good work.

As we depart from our gathering, we stand ready to share with Friends and our colleagues in higher education a renewed sense that we must all further commit to seeking racial justice within and outside of our colleges. To this end, the vitality of our Quaker colleges and study centers remains a central concern of FAHE.

With deep appreciation for our FAHE community,

Stephen Potthoff and Donn Weinholtz, Co-Clerks

Friends Association for Higher Education

Epistle – June 15, 2022

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FAHE 2021 Conference Epistle

To Friends and colleagues everywhere:

After a one-year hiatus resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, Friends Association for Higher Education held its 41st conference June 7-11, 2021 over Zoom on “Peacemaking in the Liberal Arts.” We have been invigorated by plenary sessions with George Lakey (author of How We Win: A Guide to Nonviolent Direct Action Campaigning and Facilitating Group Learning: Strategies for Success with Diverse Learners) and Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge (whose leadership has included terms as Deputy Minister of Defense and of Health for South Africa), 23 workshops, worship and other opportunities for community and emboldened with better understanding of the foundations and history of the Friends Peace Testimony and renewed commitment to supporting our student activists as campaigners for the loving community we seek.

It is natural, Lakey explained, to fear and be repelled by the rising polarization around us. Polarization is an inevitable consequence of the extreme economic inequality and racial injustice of our society. Just as a forge makes metal malleable, so polarization provides the heat that drives societal transformation — for good (as with the Nordic countries in the early 20th century) or ill (Nazi Germany and fascist Italy in the same era). Since today’s polarization is inevitable, we must prepare to engage with it.

Lakey’s plenary and other sessions — by providing us with a better understanding of historical peacemaking that emerges from close study of Quaker origins in the 17th century, case studies of Friends service committees in the 19th and 20th centuries, the 1960s Civil Rights campaign, and the dismantling of Apartheid in South Africa — gave us reasons for optimism.

Oppression and injustice cry out for forceful action and offend a loving God. But, the slave master’s tools cannot break the master’s chains. Successful transformation depends on vision (prophetic witness), inspired strategy and the health of the change community. It may well be that the key gift to us from early Friends is less the reality of our unmediated access to continuing revelation than the acknowledgement of the inner struggle to be faithful to the seed of God within.

Madlala-Routledge reminded us that the “search for Peace is always a collective effort. It starts with truth-telling, incorporates justice tinged with Mercy…and a lot of meeting with other fully-as-flawed human beings.” She gave us a careful accounting of the successes and continuing challenges of South Africa’s experience with Truth and Reconciliation.

We learned in this and other sessions that true dialogue requires the voice, attention to and acknowledgement of the other. Carefully tended dialogue transforms conflict, leading to reconciliation and forgiveness. There was even the suggestion that dialogue paradigms might be the key to ensuring that machine-based artificial-intelligence technologies serve humane needs rather than stunting what it means to be human.

When those administering or benefiting from oppression decline dialogue, we are called to other forms of nonviolent activism. George Lakey and others charged us as educators to support students in their growth as activists and politically engaged citizens. We learned that there is a place for many skills and roles in social movements: helpers, organizers, advocates and rebels. We learned of the ethical foundations and resulting efficacy of protest, noncooperation and nonviolent intervention in confronting injustice. We shared experiences and plans for specific programs on our campuses to promote global understanding, explore activist identities and promote Quaker leadership.

This year’s conference hosted a Campus Executives Panel with the highest participation yet of any of our conferences with six colleges represented. The discussion addressed stresses and challenges in a time of pandemic, with a valuable sharing of perspectives and experiences by all participating. We talked about the challenges of using Quaker decision-making processes on campuses where most of the community members are not from the Religious Society of Friends. Other topics included finding a balance of collaboration opened up by Zoom while people also experience Zoom fatigue; exploring the possibility of deeper relationships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities as well as with Native Americans; recruiting Quaker faculty to the Quaker campuses as well as recruiting Quaker students; the challenge of maintaining integrity and continuity of tradition while dealing with marketplace forces; and perspectives on philanthropy. Because we met virtually, the campus executives were not able to share the traditional conversation with each other over a meal, but we hope that is remedied when we can meet again in-person.

In leaving our conference, we stand ready to share with Friends and our colleagues in higher education a renewed sense of what Quaker education can contribute to transformational peacemaking. For that reason, the vitality of our Quaker colleges and study centers remains a central concern of FAHE.

During FAHE’s annual meeting for business we accepted the invitation of Earlham College and Earlham School of Religion to gather in person in June 2022. Come join us in the continuation of this good work.

With hope for our future work together,

Stephen Potthoff and Donn Weinholtz, Co-Clerks
Friends Association for Higher Education

Epistle committee draft adopted June 11, 2021

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Epistle 2020

We had our annual membership meeting on August 1, 2020, and here is our epistle:

Dear Friends,

On this fortieth anniversary of the founding of the Friends Association for Higher Education, we send our greetings, our gratitude and our well-wishes to all of you who have continued to support our organization in the midst of profound upheaval and transition in our global society caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Despite having to postpone this year’s conference at Earlham College to 2021, FAHE remains a strong and vital organization dedicated to serving the needs of our individual members and institutions. FAHE is a precious and unique organization whose participants have experienced the mutually transformative potential of Friends education and seek to find ever-new ways, in the words of FAHE co-founder T. Canby Jones, to speak to and honor the Inward Teacher in every student who comes our way.

We wish to express our deepest gratitude to Kimberly Haas, our coordinator in Philadelphia, whose administrative skill, invaluable expertise, creativity and hard work have assured the continued flourishing and growth of FAHE over the past eight years. Sadly, FAHE’s Executive Committee, in their role as financial stewards of the organization, reached the very difficult decision this past spring to eliminate Kimberly’s position, and Kimberly’s last day was June 30 of this year. Though many of us have expressed, in word and gift, our gratitude to Kimberly and our sadness at her parting, we also have realized that one crucial way we can honor her contributions to FAHE is by making sure we continue to support the programs and publications that Kimberly initiated and maintained over the past eight years.

Toward this end, Laura Rediehs has kindly offered to take over the vital work of maintaining and updating FAHE’s website, including publication and dissemination of FAHE’s newsletter. Laura has also invited FAHE Executive Committee members to participate in a visioning process facilitated by Gray Cox, a process that promises to help us all define where we hope to go as an organization in the coming years. David Harvey, in his role as FAHE’s present Treasurer, has taken on greater oversight of FAHE’s finances, including the collection of dues and donations. Paul Anderson continues to serve as general editor of FAHE’s Quakers in the Disciplines series, working together with Lonnie Valentine as editor of the upcoming seventh volume on Quakers and peacemaking. Special thanks go to Donn Weinholtz’s son Phil, whose company publishes the Quakers in the Disciplines volumes free of charge. Paul Moke and Gary Farlow will continue as co-editors of Quaker Higher Education, for which they are always seeking contributions. The prodigious energy and organizational acumen David Ross has offered us as co-clerk of the Membership and Advancement Committee in these last several months of transition have been indispensable. Walter Sullivan, working together as part of a logistics team with David Ross, has not only arranged for archival storage at Haverford College of FAHE’s paper records and documents from Kimberly’s office at Friends Center, but also has created and facilitated, along with David Ross, FAHE’s new Quaker Leadings in Higher Education monthly video series.

Through the dedication and hard work of these individuals and others, FAHE will continue to be able to offer a wonderful variety of fine programming and publications, and we look forward to next summer, when we can once again come together in person at Earlham College for our annual meeting. Though we are grateful to be able to see one another virtually, there is no substitute for meeting face to face. In the absence of our gathering this year, we were not able to collect dues as we normally would, and FAHE would certainly appreciate it if any who are able could renew their memberships for the coming year, and consider an additional donation if so moved. We also, of course, enthusiastically welcome any contribution of time, energy, or creativity folks might have to offer, including especially spreading the word about FAHE and inviting new members into our Friendly fold.

In these times of uncertainty and dynamic change, we hope you all are safe, healthy, and well.

In Peace and Deepest Gratitude,

Stephen Potthoff and Donn Weinholtz
FAHE Co-Clerks

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Epistle: FAHE Annual Conference, Pendle Hill and Swarthmore College, June 13-15, 2019

To Friends Everywhere:
FAHE gathered for its 40th conference at Pendle Hill and Swarthmore College to explore our theme for this year, “Truth and Inspiration.” In the many stories we heard, speakers spoke of the necessity of courage and risk taking being needed to speak truth to power. In a world of contingent truth, fake news and outright deception seeking truth is not enough. Acting on truth to transform our world is required. We heard many stories of Friends having the courage to act on truth.
The opening plenary address “Looking Inward with Courage: Quaker Organizations Parading Peace & Justice” was presented on Thursday evening, June 13, 2019, at Pendle Hill by Joyce Aljouny, Executive Secretary of the American Friends Service Committee, headquartered in Philadelphia, PA. She began by noting that we advocate for Peace & Justice in our literature, we highlight them in our courses, and center on them in our service work and programming. Then she challenged us with the questions about how courageous should we be when demonstrating peace and justice practices, policies and principles within our Quaker organizations. These questions can be applied not only in our service organizations but also throughout the Quaker world in our faith communities as well as our schools and colleges. As a Palestinian-American she had many moving stories to share from family life, a career as an educator, and most recently in her work with the AFSC. Truth telling and risk taking require courage, openness to taking bold risks. But not taking action has risks, too, and so we need to support each other in creating environments that allow us to be in the sometimes uncomfortable role of truth telling in our communities. Truth requires courage.
The leadership panel of Quaker leaders explored the challenges of institutions to be truthful and courageous. Colleges are concerned about how they are perceived by others, sustainability, continuity, and stasis. These make following the truth difficult and the leaders spoke of the challenges they face in following the truth in the decisions and actions they take.
Friday night’s plenary address “I Must Always Walk in the Light” was presented by Maurice Eldridge at Swarthmore College. Eldridge, former Vice President at Swarthmore College, shared of his life experiences and career, beginning with his early childhood, and ending with projects he continues to be involved with. He spoke of his white neighbor telling him as a young child that “his dark skin was beautiful, and not to let anyone tell him differently.” He shared the importance of education in his family’s life, that “education was a gateway to a successful life.” He also learned the power of vulnerability, and being available and accessible to his students, that he could be a better educator by being true to being a model for them. While he was first exposed to the Religious Society of Friends in high school, and is an alum of Swarthmore College, it was after the death of his first wife that he sought worship with Friends, and found a supportive spiritual space (and also met his current wife). He spoke of the power of being silent together. Through his stories, it was clear that being true to himself, being a model for others, and uplifting various kinds of education, are at the center of his being. We are grateful for his vulnerability in sharing his incredible story
In our third plenary Frances Blase, Provost at Haverford College shared Haverford’s struggle with Academic Freedom and its discernment whether to accept or decline grants from the U.S. Department of Defense. In academia, freedom is necessary for finding truth. It is highly protected in colleges and universities. Haverford has had to grapple with their limits to academic freedom, when that freedom might conflict with a core value of a Quaker institution such as its stance of not supporting the military.
Our final plenary was brought forward by Jon Watts, who told the origin of QuakerSpeak, a Friends Journal project, and a Quaker YouTube channel. Watts weaved examples from the past five years into his story. He answered questions around theological diversity through showing videos, and we are excited to see what the next five years might bring forward.
In 24 presentations during concurrent sessions we learned from each other as we explored truth and inspiration in different contexts. Topics explored seeking truth and inspiration in a wide range of areas of concern to Friends and spoke to complexity of our theme of truth and inspiration.
We expressed deep gratitude for John Kershner and Paul Anderson’s service on FAHE Executive Committee. Appreciation for the Program Committee, and our hosts (Pendle Hill and Swarthmore College) making the conference a great one was expressed.
We were challenged to bring acting in truth through our living testimony home to our institutions. We look forward to meeting for our next conference at Earlham College and Earlham School of Religion in June 2020.
Yours in Friendship
Friends Association for Higher Education
June 15th, 2019

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2018 Epistle

The Friends Association for Higher Education (FAHE) met at Wilmington College (Wilmington, Ohio) from June 14-17, 2018 on the theme “Keeping Faithful in a Time of Rapid Change.”

Nelson Bingham, recently retired provost of Earlham College, used the goals of community and diversity to caution us against using “class” in its various manifestations to isolate persons. He implored us to value the identity and dignity of each individual to generate respect.

Hannah Lutz (Bridges of Hope), Allen Willoughby (Sugar Tree Ministries), and Thomas Vaughn (Tender Mercies) described being faithful to the homeless in communities in southwestern Ohio. They encouraged participation by colleges and their students in this service.

A panel of Quaker-college presidents challenged us to seek vitality through distinctiveness, transformative experiences, and authentic language. They encouraged us to help in socializing new faculty to Quaker practice. They also reminded us how privileged we are to participate in higher education in spite of current challenges.

Laura Rediehs offered ways to keep the candle of education lit by showing how the nurturing of the beloved community can overcome the idolatry of economic concern, technology dependence, and procedural confinement. To accomplish this, we must be both custodians and critics of culture. We should address whether our teaching and professional practice is governed by the idol of “meeting standards;” whether mocking disciplines is a defense of these idols; and whether the pursuit of academic debate becomes simply a form of conflict. We should accentuate the power of the positive for liberation from idolatry in order to live an illuminated life in a supportive community. In this way the candle of education cannot really be extinguished.

Members’ contributions explored the theme “Faithfulness in a Time of Rapid Change,” calling us to honor Friends traditions, love and care for creation, clarify our mission while under fire, and promote life sustaining use of technologies.

We look forward to meeting in search of truth again at Swarthmore College and Pendle Hill in June, 2019.

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2017 Epistle

Epistle: FAHE Annual Conference, Guilford College, June 15-18, 2017

To Friends Everywhere:

We, faculty, students, administrators and others, with a loving concern for post-secondary education and its intersection with Quakerism, convened at Guilford College in North Carolina. Our theme for this year, “Global Education, Global Quakerism,” emerged throughout a program designed to help us discuss the global diversity of Quakerism, the changing educational landscape in the world, and how members of the Religious Society of Friends might engage these topics.

We gathered the first evening to hear from Diya Abdo, Associate Professor of English at Guilford and founder of the program Every Campus a Refuge.  Hearing about the flood of refugees across Europe and the call from Pope Francis that every parish support one refugee family, Diya wondered what colleges could do. Drawing on campus resources of housing, teachers, and volunteers she shaped her idea and since the fall of 2015, Guilford College has served 27 refugees. Her program inspired seven other campuses across the country to join in this work. Diya challenged us to imagine what might be possible at our home institutions.

Listening the next morning to Guilford President Jane Fernandes’ welcoming address, we heard her say that though she did not know the specifics regarding the future of the college, she could sense that change is coming.  In spite of what she does not know, she feels a sense of calling to be here, with these people, doing this work. The Quaker commitment to listening into and out of the silence takes us to a deeper place and builds stronger relationships. We were warmed by her honesty and inspired by her steady faith.

This year marked the 50th anniversary of the first World Gathering of Quakers at Guilford College and we celebrated this historic event. The prospect of hosting this event in 1967 leveraged the integration of the college five years earlier, in 1962. As we acknowledged this important history with appreciation, we also noted the status of our organization as remaining predominantly white. Friends named our intention to attract and be relevant to a wider multiplicity of voices.

We were inspired by the message from David Niyonzima, former Superintendent and General Secretary of Burundi Yearly Meeting. After escaping genocidal violence himself in an attack that took the lives of 8 of his 11 students, he dedicated his life to the work of trauma healing, to leadership development through education, and transformation through the practice of Quaker faith.

We listened to each other in both unprogrammed and semi-programmed worship. One message by an undergraduate student from Rwanda was read aloud to us. Its powerful themes of forgiveness and reconciliation were resonant on personal and generational levels.

We were offered two dozen sessions, ranging from Physics to Leadership to Quaker Theology and History. We learned of Quaker study centers’ use of technology to reach people around the world. Other presentations lifted up the writing and publications of several scholars. A featured book was our book series’ volume four “Quakers, Business, and Industry,” edited by Stephen Angell and Ben Pink Dandelion. We noticed that change, adaptation, and transformation were words that arose in many sessions.

The annual meeting for business included approving a surplus-generating budget. In spite of financial challenges we feel confident that the membership has the resources and will to meet future needs. To ensure a strong future for FAHE, we are committed to strategic exploration toward our own growth and strengthening.

We expressed deep gratitude for several friends who have faithfully served FAHE and minutes of appreciation were read for them. Special thanks were noted for Kimberly Haas, dedicated staff person, and for Donn Weinholtz who served with great faith as clerk for two years and on the executive committee for eight.

We look forward to future fellowship and exchange of ideas. Wilmington College in Ohio has gracefully invited us to gather there next year and we look forward to another Spirit-filled opportunity to evolve together, inwardly and outwardly, toward Beloved Community. We do not know what change the future will bring, but we know that we have gifts to share and courageous work to do.  We invite you to join us.

Yours in Learning and Light,
Friends Association for Higher Education
June 17th, 2017

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2016 Epistle


Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre, Birmingham, UK
June 19, 2016

To Friends Everywhere:

After an eight year absence, the Friends Association for Higher Education again gathered at the beautiful Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre in Birmingham, England.  Eager to explore the conference theme, Educating for Action, Friends from the United States, the U.K., Canada and Kenya were quickly called into action themselves, as torrential rains flooded Woodbrooke’s cellar, creating the opportunity for a bucket brigade team building event lasting well into the first evening. What a memorable start!

The program was rich in insights and variety. During  the initial plenary, Gerald Hewitson reflected on the deep origins of Quaker action, urging us to heed our traditions so we may “…walk a clear path through this busy, fractious , contemporary world.” The following day, Jan Sellars explored The Labyrinth as a path for learning and for peace. Her session included instruction on drawing labyrinths as well as hands-on opportunities to explore finger labyrinths. That evening Esther Mombo described the influence of Friends and education on the evolution of women’s status in Kenya.  As a member of the Board of Friends Theological College she expressed her hope that FAHE might soon hold its conference at FTC.  Paul Rogers analyzed the causes and impacts of the “Irregular War” involving “Isis, elites and revolts from the margins,” focusing particularly on our flawed world economic system that is producing ever greater inequality fuelling Islamic extremism.  Margaret Benefiel presented the final plenary reflecting on the role of spirituality in leadership, based on her experiences leading the “Soul of Leadership” programs offered sometimes in Boston, and sometimes at Woodbrooke.

Between plenaries, in concurrent sessions, we learned much from each other.  Multiple case studies illustrating “Educating for Action” were presented, including reflections on the Quaker Leadership Scholars program at Guilford College, faculty development in conflict resolution for Rwandan teachers,  and using Bible-based materials for  promoting social action.  Distinctive instructional methodologies, such as interdisciplinary teaching, the flipped classroom, creating learning environments, and making and breaking bread, were explored.  Various approaches to peace education were examined in detail, as were individual orientations to teaching and learning, as these are affected by gender orientation and spiritual autobiography.

One session focused on the process involved in developing the latest volume in our Quakers in the Disciplines  book series,  Quakers in Literature.  As a prelude to the next volume, a second theme of the conference, “Technologies of Change: Quakers, business and industry,” received particular attention.  Biographical snapshots of several leading nineteenth and twentieth century Quakers prominent in the development of commerce in the U.K. and the U.S. were presented.  Additionally, the Quaker orientation to accumulating personal debt was explored.

In the midst of all of this intellectual and spiritual bounty, within our Meeting for Business, Friends confronted FAHE’s real and serious financial challenges.  To remain vital, indeed to continue to exist at all, we must substantially increase our membership and funding.  It is our intention to reach out to younger Quaker scholars, and others who might join and strengthen us.  This will include efforts to attract the few remaining colleges and universities with Quaker traditions that are not currently FAHE members, as well as establishing affiliations with many Quaker academic and religious organizations to promote new synergies.

The stories provided by the members of our Presidents’ Panel reinforced the fact that all of our institutions are facing financial difficulties. However, they also revealed the power of Quaker institutions to overcome serious challenges when committed to Spirit-led discernment within loving communities.

We are profoundly grateful to the director of Woodbrooke, Sandra Berry, our main liaison at Woodbrooke, Ben Pink Dandelion, and to all the Woodbrooke staff who welcomed us warmly and who cared for our every need.  We have been deeply blessed to share time with such caring and attentive hosts in such a beautiful and inviting atmosphere.

We are already anticipating our June 2017 conference, at Guilford College.

In love and peace,

The Friends Association for Higher Education

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2015 Epistle

Epistle, June 18-21, 2015

Epistle Committee: Trish Eckert (New Association of Friends), Mike Moyer (Iowa YM/FUM), and Walter Hjelt Sullivan (Philadelphia Yearly Meeting)

To Friends Everywhere.

The Friends Association for Higher Education gathered for its annual conference from June 18-21, 2015, on the campus of George Fox University, in Newburg, OR, neatly snuggled amongst the vineyards and fields of the Willamette Valley. The planning committee, led by Paul Anderson, arranged a variety of stimulating field trips to local sites and points of historical interest for those who arrived Thursday afternoon.

We were grateful to greet the 62 Friends who attended the conference from across the United States, Canada, and England.  We were overjoyed to welcome and re-welcome Friends working at Quaker K-12 institutions who had encountered our joint gathering with Friends Council on Education at Haverford College last year.

We felt particularly blessed by our gathering in light of concerns by some of our membership over recent controversial issues regarding gender diversity on the campus of George Fox University.  FAHE Executive Committee clerk Jeff Dudiak played an important role in encouraging us to stay in loving relationship and open and loving dialogue.

The conference theme “Truth and Transformation” spoke to our condition repeatedly throughout the conference.

The first evening Quaker author Haven Kimmel reminded us of the transformative power of our particular lived experience and the lure of God.  George Fox Professor, Bill Jolliff spoke to us about practicing our craft with rigor.  Like the poet, we may only reach a small audience, but none the less, they are worth the very best that we have to give.

The second night we met Lou Hoover, America’s first modern First Lady, through the theatrical talents of local actor, Jane Fellows and her one woman show First Lady Lou. Wife of Newburg’s own Quaker President of the United States Herbert Hoover, Lou told us stories from her life and encouraged us again and again to have the courage to do the right thing despite public sanction and popular criticism.

During the days we gathered in small workshops.  We shared our experiences of nurturing young people into adulthood in Quaker settings. We explored the words of early Quakers, learning from past tradition, adding the truth of our present understanding, and living into a faithful future. Friends shared their current scholarship, advances in pedagogy, and new practices for meaningful evaluations. We discussed the relevance and importance of figs and pigs, breathing in mindfulness, and tasting truth.

One workshop in particular addressed strategies so that each of our institutions could better understand the needs and provide support for transgender students.  It was a tender, listening, and learning session, opening up new and unfamiliar issues for many from across the diverse theological spectrum represented at the conference.

On the second morning, Jon Kershner spoke intimately of the life and thought of his friend John Woolman, the reluctant 18th century Quaker prophet who showed a singular willingness to return faithfully again and again to the motion of love in his work for the abolition of enslavement and his prophetic witness against the British imperial economy in the American colonies.

We proudly announced the publication of the second volume of our book series Quakers and the Disciplines: Befriending Truth.  We look forward to the third volume next year which will focus on Quakers and literature.

During the Saturday afternoon President’s Panel Discussion we heard from Robin Baker, President of George Fox University/host, Jane Fernandes President of Guilford College, Royce Frazier, President of Barclay College, and Donald Tucker, Provost of Malone University. They spoke to the challenges facing our Quaker institutions of Higher Education, including: finances, enrollment, innovation, and renewal.

Saturday evening, the plenary session opened with worship in song, led by Bill Jolliff and his banjo:

But we make God’s love too narrow
By false limits of our own:
And we magnify God’s strictness
With a zeal God will not own.

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in God’s justice,
Which is more than liberty.

Released Friend Margery Post Abbott spoke to the question “How do Quakers today articulate foundations of Quaker ministry and develop communities that nurture prophetic ministry among Friends?”

As we leave the conference we ask ourselves, How do we seek a way to be in relationship when our understandings of Truth seem at times to be in contradiction with each other?  We know that our shared commitment to teaching is a touchstone for all of us. We are grateful for the work of FAHE and the bridge it provides in stimulating open dialogue, connecting Friends across the spectrum of Quakerism, and supporting our endeavor to educate and nurture our students.

We are challenged to bring our prophetic truths home to our institutions and into our everyday lives and look forward to gathering together again in June 2016 at the Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre in Birmingham England.  Join us.

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Epistle, Friends Association for Higher Education and Friends Council on Education Joint Conference, June 12-15, 2014

Epistle Committee: Rebecca Mays (Philadelphia YM), Barbara Heather (Canadian YM), Jim Hood (North Carolina YM Conservative)

Greetings to all!

The Friends Association for Higher Education gathered for its annual conference in joint sessions with the Friends Council on Education on the extraordinarily beautiful campus of Haverford College from June 12 to June 15, 2014.  Walking the lawns of Haverford with the sounds of catbirds and sparrows ringing in our ears, we were startled by the lush green of late spring and blessed by the warmth of being in this special place of learning.  FAHE minutes its appreciation to Dan Weiss and Haverford College for hosting us with such love and tender attention to our needs; to Walter Sullivan and Kaye Edwards for their leadership in organizing our program; and to Geoff Labe, Director of Summer Programs, and his team of easily identified Haverford-tee-shirted students who unobtrusively and effectively met our every need.

Welcomed by Haverford’s president, Daniel Weiss, Thursday evening we were nurtured during our first plenary session by the music and deeply spiritual message of Tribe 1, a diverse group of performers whose songs give us hope and the inspiration to “see through illusion”towards the truth that guides us into right relationship.  The following morning, Sarah Willie-LeBreton challenged us to embrace the contradictions of working toward justice, reminding us through personal story interwoven with social theory to engage our skills and knowledge of collective practice and decision-making in order to “nurture a radical patience,”“continue to upend what puts people down,”and “open the circle [and] clarify the conversation”as we endeavor to “jar oppression from its structural scaffolding.”

In smaller, joint sessions, the topics of which ranged from honors programs to study abroad opportunities to economics to communal discernment, presenters blessed those gathered with a plenitude of questions and insights into how we might reorder attitudes and actions to embody spiritually-grounded, justice-oriented relationships.  We probed the work of 17th-century Quaker Elizabeth Bathurst, whose “bold and courageous”theology, written only in her third decade of life, continues to provide much to challenge and inspire Friends.  We engaged in a rich discussion about the problems that attend to our culture’s obsession with economic concerns, focussing on how our idolatry of money consistently diverts our decision-making attention from ethical consideration.

During the Friday evening plenary session, Kimberly Wright Cassidy, president of Bryn Mawr College; Robin Baker, president of George Fox University; Darryl J. Ford, head of school at William Penn Charter; Nancy O. Starmer, head of school at George School; and Irene McHenry, executive director of Friends Council on Education, discussed the multiple ways in which the Quaker history of Friends’institutions continues to inform their educational practices, and they considered mechanisms by which Quaker schools and colleges might further the educational vision of their founders. We were called to continue to question the use of form for form’s sake and to see excellent education for all as today’s most pressing civil rights issue.

Additional presentations explored the vitality of recovering a sense of place, the shifting meanings of “plain”and “simple,”the dangers of committing violence through the “scholarship of personal attack,”the problems that ensue when Quakers have not been able to live up to the full measure of our principles, and the possibilities of a Christ-centered truth-seeking, which, conversely, is a being sought.

In the final plenary, Micheal Birkel, Shan Cretin, and Diane Randall “consider[ed] the connections of things,”most particularly an imagined response by John Woolman to the working paper recently produced by the American Friends Service Committee and the Friends Committee on National Legislation entitled “Shared Security,”a bold vision of a fifty-year plan for more effective and longer-lasting international security.  Woolman’s mystic and activist spirit pervaded their reflections on how to move beyond the concept of the nation state and international engagement through the production of war.

The sunlight over Sharpless Hall before our Saturday evening plenary, backlighting the trees and buildings with a sharp clarity, spoke for the clarifying intellectual and spiritual inquiries of this year’s FAHE sessions.  We explored right relationships in many arenas.  Several sessions named the tensions of individual rights and corporate authority in our Quaker efforts to create communities of justice.  We named avenues of justice that create agency and restore right relationships where broken.  Sessions on interfaith relations identified components of the Quaker foundational ethic for how to treat those who do not practice our testimonies or espouse our tenets of faith.  We challenged economic systems that support the elite on the backs of the poor; we faced our technological advances with gratitude for the doors that are opening for connection and with healthy skepticism for the threat to wholeness as a human community.  We identified the drivers of conflict to find how to use that energy instead for transformation.  In our meetings for worship, gentle biblical vision and deep quiet inspired us for the long road still to travel.  Saturday evening’s “Epilogue”included ministry that commemorated and celebrated—with affection and humor—the life of T. Canby Jones, one of the principal founders of FAHE.

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