“Whose text is this anyway?” – corporate ownership

Throughout the life of the War and Social Order Committee, the group struggled with the sense that some, or most, Friends did not see its concerns as important, were not prepared to act on them, or did not see them as an essential part of Quakerism. As soon as the Foundations had been accepted, and were therefore technically in corporate ownership, tensions emerged over what the Yearly Meeting – corporately or individually – had committed itself to. Some local Meetings were unsure what to do with the Foundations.

  • The Committee at its meeting in 1919 wondered how to bring the Yearly Meeting to the point where it was “enthusiastic” about the Foundations – “rather than merely uneasy”.
  • There were War and Social Order Committee correspondents in local Meetings, who were asked to read the Foundations annually in Meeting for Worship; it seems that very few did so.
  • In 1921 they were worried “lest the Eight Points [i.e. the Foundations] become Eight Platitudes” because Yearly Meeting had accepted them “without any full appreciation of their implication”.
  • In 1927 they said in their report: “We are deeply concerned to recall Yearly Meeting to the spiritual vision which led it in 1918 to adopt the Eight Foundations of a True Social Order”. We urge Friends to consider the individual responsibility which rests upon them because they have accepted these principles.
  • There have been several later Yearly Meeting statements and documents quite similar to the Foundations in content – including the “Social Testimony” of 1945, and materials from the “Rediscovering our Social Testimony” process in the 1990s. Debate about which positions are most fundamental to Quaker thought continue.