Being a Quaker College

September 25, 2010

It matters to Earlham that we are a Quaker College.  But what does that mean?  Since the 19th century, we’ve been affiliated with two Quaker Yearly Meetings in Indiana, Indiana Yearly Meeting in the eastern half of the state, and Western Yearly Meeting in the western half.  Each has appointed six of our 24 Trustees, so that has assured that half of the members of our Board of Trustees is Quaker.

This summer, Earlham and the two Yearly Meetings approved a significant governance change.  No longer will Indiana Yearly Meeting appoint six Trustees: IYM wanted no longer to “be responsible” for Earlham, even in part, but rather to put its focus on “supporting Christian ministry” at Earlham.  (Western Yearly Meeting will continue in the original governance relationship.)

At the same time, Indiana Yearly Meeting and Earlham approved a new Covenant, not a legal document and not a governance document, but instead a set of commitments and promises we make to one another about how we can serve one another:  how a Yearly Meeting can support a Quaker college, and how a Quaker college can serve a Yearly Meeting.  The text of the Covenant is below.  Note that the focus is very much on the substance, the daily life, of what it means to be a Quaker institution of higher education.

Earlham Covenant with Quaker Yearly Meetings

Earlham College was founded in 1847 by Indiana Quakers.  The College and later the School of Religion (founded in 1960) grew up under the nurture and stewardship of Indiana and Western Yearly Meetings.   Both Yearly Meetings have provided Earlham with extraordinary leadership, especially on its Board of Trustees.  We respect this history and are deeply grateful for it.

In the second half of the 20th century, Earlham grew beyond its Indiana roots, seeking students and faculty from across the United States and from dozens of other countries.  Earlham continues to understand itself as a Quaker institution of higher education, and now looks to serve not only Quakers in Indiana but also Quakers across the United States and beyond.

Earlham aspires to be in a covenant relationship with Quaker Yearly Meetings, providing to those Yearly Meetings what an institution of higher education can provide to worship communities, and drawing from these Yearly Meetings, in turn, what worship communities can provide to an institution of higher education.

Covenant with Indiana Yearly Meeting July 30, 2010

A.  What Earlham promises

1.  To maintain a Board more than half of whose members are Quakers, and to especially seek Quaker Board members from those Yearly Meetings that seek a covenant relationship with Earlham.

2.  To prepare pastors and other leaders for the Religious Society of Friends through the Earlham School of Religion.

3.  To serve the Religious Society of Friends through education:

By actively seeking enrollment of Friends at the college and the seminary, and providing financial aid to Quaker families with demonstrated need,

By educating young people in the liberal arts and sciences/grounded in the Religious Society of Friends, and

By providing courses and seminars in the history, beliefs and practices of Friends.

4.  To maintain an active worship life on the campus including worship organized in the manner of Friends and supportive ministry to Friends in the college community.

5.  To make active efforts to hire Faculty who are members of the Religious Society of Friends.

6.  To provide lectures, workshops and other events that provide enrichment and professional growth for Friends.

7.  To support research and scholarship by and about Friends
8.  To maintain an archive of Friends materials that serves the needs of Friends meetings, churches and organizations throughout the United States and that works cooperatively with other Friends archives.

9.  In operations, to be an exemplar of Friends testimonies, for example with regard to governance practices, socially responsible investing and purchasing, environmentally responsible operations, etc.

10.  To provide collegial strength and support for other Friends institutions

B.  What Indiana Yearly Meeting promises

1.    To support a Christian ministry presence at the college and the seminary compatible with the core values of Indiana Yearly Meeting

2.    To provide volunteer support through identification and encouragement of individuals to serve on the governing board and various advisory boards.

3.    To faithfully honor the desires of those who have left bequests to Indiana Yearly Meeting for the financial support of Earlham College and/or Earlham School of Religion.

4.    To serve as a channel through which individuals and member meetings wishing to financially support Earlham College and or ESR may do so.

5.    To maintain intentional dialogue with ESR with the goal of identifying mutual concerns and areas of cooperation.

Earlham and Indiana Yearly Meeting are encouraged to review and renew this covenant from time to keep it a fresh and useful statement of mutual commitment.


About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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