British Quakers have announced today (3 August) that their most senior member of staff will be standing down from her post in September. Gillian Ashmore has served for three years as Recording Clerk – or chief executive - of Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM), the organisation of Quakers in England, Scotland and Wales.
The trustees of BYM said that they “regret to announce that they have felt it right to accept the resignation of Gillian Ashmore”. They added, “She feels it is time to step down and that a new person with different skills is needed now to take the work of change forward into the next challenging phase”.
Ashmore has served as Recording Clerk during eventful times for British Quakers. Last year, they resolved to carry out same-sex marriages on the same basis as mixed-sex marriages.
This year, Ashmore and her staff worked successfully with other groups to achieve a change in the law that will allow religious elements in civil partnerships. She has also overseen the involvement of Quaker staff in projects supportive of nuclear non-proliferation and campaigns against the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system.
But Quakers, known more formally as the Religious Society of Friends, have also struggled with financial difficulties. This year, the figures for regular attendance at Quaker Meetings went up for the first time since 1993 – to about 23,000 – but formal membership continues to decline. Last month, BYM was criticised by the World Development Movement (WDM) for holding shares in BP.
BYM trustees said today that they “recognise and admire the considerable achievements” of Gillian Ashmore during her time as Recording Clerk.
They added, “We are working with the Assistant Recording Clerk, Michael Hutchinson, and the senior management team to minimise loss of momentum and ensure continuity in the work and the process of change. We are also engaged in beginning to draw up the process of recruitment of a successor.”
The trustees asked British Friends to support all those involved and uphold them in prayer.
Ashmore is the second senior Quaker official to step down in a matter of days. Gillian Palmer, BYM's General Secretary of Finance and Human Resources, has also resigned from her position.