A Quaker congregation in Manhattan looks at the demographic trends, the costs and legalities and wonder as a community if hosting an expensive private school is in keeping with their mission. The New York Times reports:
There are legal advantages to a split. But some church members are also pushing for the separation because they say the school is no longer really Quaker. Among other complaints, they say the school’s $32,870 tuition, selective admissions and private-school culture fly in the face of the signature Quaker credos of simplicity, openness and equality.
“There are a number of Quakers that are concerned, who believe that the school over time has become a rich kids’ school,” said Michael Schlegel, the leader of the trustees of the New York Quarterly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, the city’s chief Quaker body...
...Today only a small fraction of the 700 students at the school, which runs from kindergarten through 12th grade, are Quaker. But the school incorporates some Quaker practice into the curriculum, including a weekly silent worship in the meetinghouse and required community service....
“...The tuition is excessive,” said Eliezer Hyman, who served as chairman of (or “clerked,” in Quaker parlance) a committee that oversees the meeting’s properties. “A Quaker institution shouldn’t be charging that.
“A Friends school,” Mr. Hyman continued, “should be, by the very nature of its name, teaching explicitly and implicitly certain values.
But then there is the question of mission and outreach and the public perception that Quakerism is associated with certain civic and educational values.
Irene McHenry, the executive director of the Friends Council on Education, a national organization of schools, said Friends Seminary met the council’s criteria for being a Quaker school, which include worship; instruction or “testimonies” in Quaker values; and community service...
“Simplicity is about how we live,” Ms. McHenry said. ”It doesn’t say whether we can have indoor or outdoor plumbing in our houses.”
And with numbers of Quakers steadily declining — Quaker meetings in New York City have only about 520 members, and according to the Association of Religion Data Archives there were 1,000 in 1980 — the school is arguably the Quakers’ most prominent advertisement to the lay community.
That is one reason some Quakers oppose separation. “If Quakers don’t appreciate all that’s going on in Friends schools,” Ms. McHenry said, “they have this precious form of outreach and they’re undervaluing it.”