The Presence in the MidstQuakerInfo.com
Google
 
Web quakerinfo.com
Your online source for information about the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

Home
Articles
Forum
Friends Christian Renewal
Feedback
Finding Quakers
Quaker Books & Video
Quaker Art Prints
What's New
Publishing at QuakerInfo.com
Latest Newsletter
About Us
Bio
Calendar of Yearly Meetings
Privacy Policy
Facebook logo QuakerInfo.com
on Facebook

PicoSearch


Search Bill Samuel's
Web Sites




Except for a few reprinted old documents, articles on this site are copyrighted by the author, and may not be reprinted without permission. You are, however, free to link to any article or page on this site without prior permission although it's nice to know who's linking to us.

Bill Samuel, August 4, 2002
Bill Samuel
Webservant
QuakerInfo.com

How Friends (Quakers)
Conduct Church Business

by Bill Samuel
Originally published September 1, 2000 at Suite101.com
Friends are not to meet [in meetings for business] like a company of people about town or parish business ... but to wait upon the Lord. (George Fox, Letters)

Friends (Quakers) do many things in a different manner than most do. One of these things is how Friends conduct their church business. In a study on this subject, Beyond Majority Rule (Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, 1983), Michael J. Sheeran, S.J. states Friends "...may be the only modern Western community in which decision making achieves the group-centered decisions of traditional societies."

Democracy or Theocracy?

Some people, even some Friends, look at the open and participatory aspects of a Friends meeting for business, and conclude it is designed to be democratic. In fact, its intention is not to find what the most people want to do, but to find the will of God for the body that is meeting. Friends decision making is fundamentally theocratic rather than democratic.

Friends decision making is a matter of spiritual discernment. It is based on a belief that God's will can be perceived by human beings. Furthermore, it assumes that God speaks consistently to all and therefore that all who genuinely seek the will of God can find unity in what it is.

Doing Business in Worship

A Friends gathering to conduct business is first and foremost a meeting for worship. Friends gather in silence, waiting upon the Lord, open to whatever God may bring them in ministry and in business.

While it may be difficult, it is key to the proper conduct of business that Friends remain in a spirit of worship when they move out of the silence to consider agenda items. It is essential that the focus remains on what God wills, not what are the personal desires of those gathered. When someone speaks, they need to do so without ownership of what is spoken, allowing what is spoken to be used in whatever way helps the discernment process. In keeping with this principle, it is customary that minutes of a meeting do not state who offered a point of view. There should be no rush to speak immediately after another, and more extended periods of silent waiting can be very powerful when a meeting seems divided.

Unity

Friends do not vote in their business gatherings. Rather, they seek unity - unity with the will of God for the meeting. Friends understand that the majority of a body may be leaning one way while a minority, perhaps even only one person, may be who has discerned God's will. Friends do not rush business, allowing time for all to grasp what God would have the meeting do. When it seems there is a "sense of the meeting" on an item, the clerk (the presiding officer) formulates that sense in words. If the body gathered concurs that the clerk has correctly formulated the matter, it is recorded in the minutes.

One difficult point to grasp is that unity is not identical with unanimity. While no one's sense of God's leading is to be ignored, it is the unity of the body as a whole with the will of God that is critical. Sometimes a person may not be clear on the course of action but feel the meeting is ready to act, and "stand aside" on the issue. An even more difficult situation is one in which the meeting as a whole is clearly united, but someone stands outside that unity without standing aside. To move forward in such a situation must be done with great trepidation, since it involves a conclusion that the person is not being open to the Spirit on the issue, but there are times when it is done.

A Precious Gift

A Friends meeting for business truly held in the spirit can be a truly awesome experience as one can witness God at work within a body of people. It is not a form, but a precious gift of God to be treasured. When Friends follow the outward appearance of this method of conducting business without truly being in the Spirit which is to lead it, the gift is not respected. The conduct of business can then become divisive and enervating. In practice, Friends vary widely on how successful they are in living up to the promise of their method of conducting church business.

Links

I have not found much on the Web about Friends conduct of church business, but these items are available:
© by Bill Samuel. Do not reprint in whole or in part without prior permission of the author, except for limited quoting in accordance with "fair use" principles. You are welcome to link to this page.
Enter email address
to join newsletter
mailing list

Ask Questions
Discuss Quakerism
Visit Our Forum

Big Selection
of Quaker Books

Quaker and general books,
videos and other products.







Recommended Books: see all items
A Living Faith: An Historical and Comparative Study of Quaker Beliefs
Cover imageWilmer Cooper, founding Dean of Earlham School of Religion, provides an historical look at the beliefs of Friends (Quakers). Includes study questions.
Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home
Cover imageRichard J. Foster. Describes 21 types of Christian prayer. Harper San Francisco, 1992. 288 pages.
Journal of George Fox
Cover imageThe auto- biography of the founder of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).
Celebration of Discipline
Cover image20th Anniversary Edition of Richard J. Foster's million- selling work on Christian spiritual disciplines.
Imagination & Spirit: A Contemporary Quaker Reader
Cover imageA selection of excerpts from 15 contemporary Quaker authors who reached the mainstream market. See review.

Recommended Art Print: see all prints


The Peaceable Kingdom
by Edward Hicks
29 in. x 23 in.

List of Articles . About Us . QuakerInfo.com Home . Quaker Books . Quaker Art Prints

QuakerInfo.com Newsletter

We publish an infrequent email newsletter that gives updates on the site plus news of Quakers. Your email address will be held in strict confidence. Subscribe by putting your email address in the box below and clicking on Subscribe. You will need to respond to a confirmation email. If you control spam by having an approved list of addresses from which you receive email, be sure to put webservant@quakerinfo.com on your approved list. NOTE: If you get a “subscription submittal failure” in response to a subscription attempt, the usual reason is that you are already subscribed.

Document last modified on Wednesday, 30-Oct-2013 20:40:15 EDT