edward burrough, 1662
britain yearly meeting,
quaker faith & practice, 1995, §2.87
There is little
record of how Friends’ unique practice for conducting
business evolved, but there can be no doubt that it is derived
directly from Friends’ faith. It is guided by three core beliefs:
there is that of God in everyone, that each can experience that of
God within, and that divine guidance will lead to the realization
a single shared truth.
these beliefs it readily follows that a Friends Meeting for Business
is a Meeting for Worship in which business is conducted by
seeking God’s will in the decisions that are to be made.
worship with which the Meeting for Business both opens and closes
connects individuals to the Spirit. It prompts them to be sensitive
and grounded in the Love that binds the Meeting.
may call for silence in the course of a meeting: when resolution
of a matter is proving difficult, when there is a need
to reflect on what has been said, or to return the Meeting to
quiet reverence. A call for silence is always a call to worship,
on the guidance of the Spirit, to listen with a loving and open heart.
As in other Meetings for Worship, Friends may feel moved to speak
out of the silence on the matter in hand.
strive to observe a discipline of plain speaking, expressing themselves
simply and directly. This discipline extends to not
interrupting or interjecting remarks. The occasional “That
speaks my mind” shows support for a viewpoint. Friends
order and ensure full participation by waiting to be recognized by
the Clerk and usually standing to speak, addressing all comments
the Clerk and not to one another.
Friends study and discuss issues in advance, they should not come
to Meeting for Business with minds made up.
Seeking to be reverent to that of God in themselves and others,
Friends should offer their personal perspectives and avoid taking
fixed or adversarial positions.
pay careful attention to all expressions, searching for the truth
behind the words, aware that it may come from unexpected
places. However, the voice of an experienced Friend is often
especially valuable, providing wisdom that the Meeting needs.
at the very heart of Friends’ faith and practice.
listening to the Divine in ourselves and in each other, Friends are
better prepared to find God’s will. Friends should not listen
most convincing argument, but for the greater understanding to
which each contributes and to which each may assent.A sense of the
Meeting evolves from the interplay of all contributions and the
skilled guidance of the Clerk. When unity is realized, the outcome
deeply satisfying. It produces a sense of the rightness of the decision
and a loving connection between members.
do not vote or act on the will of the majority. In Quaker experience,
it is possible for all to unite in a decision, even when
some have reservations. A united Meeting is not necessarily of one
mind but it is all of one heart.
requires active participation: where there is division over an issue,
it is especially important for everybody to be heard.When
Friends withhold expressions of dissent in the interest of avoiding
controversy, the unity that results is spurious. The collective
wisdom of the Meeting can be realized only to the extent that all
participate in seeking it.
Friends come to an issue with conflicting views, they are challenged
to pool their knowledge and experience, and to experience
the joy of discovering a new understanding that encompasses
all of these elements in a far better form than previously imagined.
This process requires love, courage, trust, and an ability to truly
listen and change.
coming to unity, Friends draw upon feelings and contemplative insight,
not simply upon rational thought. Honest
emotions are essential to discernment, but they should not be
abused to sway the Meeting’s decision. Time is also essential
seasoning” important decisions. Sometimes decisions must
deferred for reflection and to allow residual unease to surface.
made in unity are not victories or defeats when Friends
remain faithful, preserving the loving unity and higher purpose
of the Meeting. Business conducted as a corporate endeavor in a
Meeting for Worship enables Friends to move forward with confidence
and joy. (See Friends Process for Making
Decisions, p. 83).
section looks at the mystical roots of Quaker business process.
Detailed treatment of procedure is to be found in
Part V, Friends Process
for Making Decisions.