COPY OF LETTER ABOUT ADAPTING TO CHARITABLE STATUS

All Quaker Monthly Meetings, starting with the wealthiest of which Bristol and Frenchay MM is one, are required by new legislation to register as charitable trusts. This involves inter alia accepting Governing Documents and appointing Trustees.

To the Clerk, Bristol & Frenchay Monthly Meeting

I will be prevented from attending the April MM, for which I apologise. This is due to a meeting of the Trustees of AVP, Britain, of which I am Company Secretary.

I wish to repeat here why I am not in favour of our current Charitable Status proposals. I hope to do so more clearly than in the past.

I believe the current proposals, and rejection of alternatives, are based on two misconceptions.

1. That all Monthly Meetings must adopt the model Governing Documents essentially unchanged. In addition to considering this could not be the case, since the Charity Commission are processing each MM as a separate Trust, last week I happened to attend a meeting for worship in Hampstead MM and saw their proposed Governing Document. It has many changes, together with comments saying the changes have been accepted by Quaker Stewardship Committee.

2. That it is necessary that Trustees are actively engaged in the administration of their Trust in order that they may adequately monitor its operations. I am sure this is not the case. For instance a Trustee of the Environmental Law Association (whose role is to give legal advice) agreed with me and said my model was theirs. Moreover two weeks ago I met a Trustee of Staffordshire MM who also told me their model was the same as I have been advocating.

One of the reasons I am unhappy with our present proposals is that I fear it will give our General Committee far too much influence, not least because it will be unclear which of their initiatives is due to their trusteeship authority and which is not. I also favour tradition in the form of our 350 year old Gospel Order whereby all members have a right to full participation in decision making. .

The model I propose has only two features.

1. That all our current structures and procedures be retained. Should Friends wish to change any of them this can be done by the traditional methods after we have dealt with registration with the Charity Commission. I consider it quite wrong that changes not required by our new charitable status are made as if they were.

2. That a small body of Friends be appointed as trustees, with these duties:

a. to familiarise themselves with the duties of trustees as specified by the Charity Commission. Some of these Trustees might be on General Committee;

b. to ensure that between them they are aware of the activities of all parts of the Monthly Meeting, especially those concerning property and finance;

c. to report annually to the Charity Commission.

d. They may also make recommendations to the Monthly Meeting.

e. They may have some additional duties such as signing bank mandates.

It is not true to say that under this model Trustees would have inadequate authority to exercise their responsibilities. If dis-satisied with any aspect of MM activities they could first remonstrate with MM in session, next inform all members. Their most extreme though still reasonable sanction would be their right to make an unfavourable report to the Charity Commission.

Finally I would point out that the tight schedule under which we are working is self-imposed.

In Peace,

Stephen Petter

 

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