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Friends General Conference

Friends General Conference
Abbreviation FGC
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Type religious organization
Purpose Provide services and resources to individual Quakers, Quaker yearly meetings and monthly meetings primarily in the United States and Canada, and people interested in the Quaker way.
Headquarters Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
  • United States and Canada
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Approximately 35,000
General Secretary
Barry Crossno
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Formerly called
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Friends General Conference (FGC) is a North American Quaker association of 15 Quaker yearly and 12 monthly meetings in the United States and Canada that choose to be members.[1] FGC was founded in 1900.[2]

FGC-affiliated meetings are typically in the "unprogrammed" Quaker tradition, though there are a number of Friends churches, or meetings, with pastoral leadership who also belong. "Unprogrammed" means that such meetings take place without a designated pastor who leads the service, or a prepared order of worship. In 2013, there were approximately 35,000 members in 641 congregations in the United States affiliated with FGC.[3]

FGC's programs include traveling ministries, religious outreach, interfaith relations, book publishing and sales, religious education, and an annual conference.

The main offices for the FGC are in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Mission and Vision Statements

Friends General Conference (FGC) provides services and resources for individual Friends, meetings, and people interested in the Quaker way. FGC is an association of regional Quaker communities in the U.S. and Canada working together to nurture a vital Quaker faith.

FGC's Statement of Purpose summarizes the work in which it is currently engaged. It reads:

Friends General Conference, with divine guidance, nurtures the spiritual vitality of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) by providing programs and services for Friends, meetings, and seekers.

Major Goals

  • Nurture meetings and worship groups.
  • Provide resources and opportunities for meetings, Friends, and seekers to experience the Light, the living presence of God.
  • Help meetings guide Friends to discern the leadings of the Inward Teacher and to grow into ministry.
  • Transform our awareness so that our corporate and individual attitudes and actions fully value and encompass the blessed diversity of our human family.
  • Work to grow and sustain a vital, diverse, and loving community of Friends based on a shared search for unity in the Spirit.
  • Articulate, communicate, and exemplify Friends' practices, core experiences, and the call to live and witness to our faith.
  • Promote dialogue with others, sharing with them our corporate experience of Divine Truth and listening to and learning from their experience of the same.[4]

FGC's Vision Statement outlines the direction in which the organization is going. It reads:

We envision a vital and growing Religious Society of Friends—a faith that deepens spiritually, welcomes newcomers, builds supportive and inclusive community, and provides loving service and witness in the world.

Through Friends General Conference, we see Quakers led by the Spirit joining together in ministry to offer services that help Friends, meetings, and seekers explore, deepen, connect, serve and witness within the context of our living faith.[5]

Structure and Governance

As of February 2015, FGC is overseen by a committee of 142 Friends, 69 of whom are appointed by affiliated yearly and monthly meetings. Members of this committee, known as Central Committee, are appointed on an annual basis. Central Committee is responsible for:

  • Making final policy decisions affecting the Friends General Conference organization and program
  • Approving the annual budget
  • Making changes in the corporate by-laws

The work of the FGC is carried out by the staff members of its program committees and numerous volunteers.[4]

FGC is managed by the General Secretary (similar to an Executive Director). The General Secretary provides spiritually grounded leadership for FGC, adhering to the vision statement, mission, and objectives as determined by Central Committee.

The Gathering

A key program of FGC is the annual Gathering of Friends held at a different college campus every July. The event usually attracts 1,200 to 1,500 attenders from around the world, but most participants come from the United States and Canada. The event features 40–60 workshop and a slate of plenary speakers. Topics covered include Quaker faith and practice, arts and crafts, multigenerational programming, and opportunities for political dialogue and action. The Gathering hosts both Quaker and non-Quaker speakers focusing on messages of interest to Quakers. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. offered a Plenary presentation in 1958. More recently, the Gathering hosted Lester Brown, Shane Claiborne, and Ben Pink Dandelion.

In addition to workshops and plenary sessions, the gathering often features special events such as concerts. Renowned folk singer Pete Seeger performed a concert in 1997. Canadian singer/songwriter and playwright Evalyn Parry has also performed several times at FGC, including in 2002, 2006, and 2011.

The 2015 edition of the Gathering of Friends will include Plenary presentations by author and educator Parker Palmer and internationally recognized health expert Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, along with a concert by folk singer/songwriter Carrie Newcomer.

Other organizations

FGC has two sister organizations within Quakerism, Friends United Meeting and Evangelical Friends Church International, that serve the allied branches of Quaker faith and practice. Each of these three organizations represent different branches within Quakerism. FUM encourages Quakerism through 31 yearly meetings and international mission work,[6] while EFCI places greater emphasis on evangelical Christian beliefs.[7] Some Quaker meetings are dually affiliated with both FGC and FUM.

Historically,[8] Friends (Quakers) affiliated with FGC tend to be decidedly more socially and theologically liberal than Friends who identify with other traditions in Quakerism, though FGC welcomes Friends with diverse experiences and points of view. In many respects, they are analogous to mainline Protestants who hold strongly progressive viewpoints on matters such as biblical authority, sexual mores, and attitudes towards public policy, with forms of worship, historic gender equality, and pacifism being FGC's chief distinctives.

History of FGC

FGC's history can be traced back to a series of precursor conferences held between 1868 and 1900. These conferences included the First Day School Conference, the Friends Union for Philanthropic Labor, the Friends Religious Conference, the Friends Educational Conference and the Young Friends Associations. The precursor conferences were officially joined together as the Friends General Conference at Chautauqua, New York in August 1900.[2]

FGC as a Biennial Conference

From 1900 until 1963 FGC was held as a biennial conference, generally in a different location each conference. Between 1900 and 1922 its location changed for each Conference. FGC was not held in 1918.[2]

Biennial Conferences Between (1900–1922)

FGC was held at the following locations between 1900 and 1922.

Biennial Conferences in New Jersey (1924–1926)

The 1924 and 1926 Conferences were held in Ocean City, New Jersey. From 1928 until 1962, the Conferences were held in nearby Cape May, New Jersey.[9]

FGC as an Annual Conference and as "the Gathering"

Beginning in 1963, FGC became an annual conference and once again changed location more frequently. In the late 1970s in "order to make room for emphasis on the other important work of Friends General Conference, the annual conference began to be called the Gathering".[2] Although it most often held in the Eastern United States, the Gathering has been hosted by college campuses in Stillwater, Oklahoma (1993), Hamilton, Ontario, Canada (1995), Parkland, Washington (2006), and Greeley, Colorado (2013).

Locations Since 1963

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d "Locations of FGC Conferences and Gatherings", FGC website.
  3. ^ "2008 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches". The National Council of Churches. Retrieved 2009-12-03. 
  4. ^ a b FGC about page
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ The Conference was described as "Liberal" in secular media: "Calendar". The Independent. Jul 13, 1914. Retrieved August 5, 2012. 
  9. ^

External links