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Faith and Practice

Pacific Yearly Meeting

of the

Religious Society of Friends

a guide to quaker discipline in the experience of pacific yearly meeting of the religious society of friends.
published 2001

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Friends Process for Making Decisions

pym in context
quaker faith & spiritual practice
testimony & experience of friends
organization of the society
activities & organization of the YM
sources of quotations
index of sources
subject index

We gratefully acknowledge the generosity of Friends who have permitted us to use material for this Faith and Practice.



 The Quaker method for reaching decisions is based on religious conviction. <See Meeting for Worship for Business p. 21> Friends conduct business together in the faith that there is one Divine Spirit, which is accessible to all persons. When Friends wait upon, heed, and follow the Light of Truth within them, its spirit will lead to unity. This faith is the foundation for any corporate decision.

 Friends do not resort to a vote to settle an issue. Friends expect to find unity. This unity transcends both consensus, which retains only the views common to all present, and compromise, which affirms none of the positions presented. Unlike a decision resting upon a majority vote, one made according to a true “sense of the Meeting” can avoid overriding an unconvinced minority. It allows unforeseen insights to emerge and it enables Friends to modify previously held opinions. They may then agree on a new view of the matter under consideration. Until the Meeting can unite in a decision, the previous policy remains unchanged or no action is taken on new business, as the case may be.

 Friends begin Meetings in which decisions are to be made with a time of silent worship. In the stillness, they recall that a business or committee meeting is, in fact, a Meeting for Worship to deal with certain matters of importance.

 Friends try to seek divine guidance at all times, to be mutually forbearing, and to be concerned for the good of the Meeting as a whole, rather than to defend a personal preference. Thus, having once expressed a view, a Friend is expected to refrain from pressing it unduly, at length or repeatedly. The grace of humor can often help to relax the tensions of a Meeting so that new light comes to it. The authority and responsibility for decisions on the affairs of the Meeting reside with the members, and those present at a regular monthly Meeting for Worship for Business have the authority to make decisions for the Meeting. Until the Meeting can unite in a minute, the previous policy remains unchanged.

 Most Meetings for Business proceed without distinction between members and non-members, and this benefits the Meeting. On occasion, a decision may call for invoking this distinction. At such times, non-members should not respond to the Clerk’s call for affirmation of a proposed minute, and the Clerk may so remind the Meeting.

Friends’ way of conducting business is of central importance. It is the Quaker way of living and working together. It can create and preserve the sense of fellowship in the Meeting, and from there it can spread to other groups and decisions in which individual Friends and Meetings have a part. Thus it contributes to the way of peace in the world.

george selleck, new england yearly meeting
faith and practice, 1966