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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.


decision-making practice

 Friends Meetings ordinarily take care of their business at their regularly scheduled monthly Meeting for Business. However, the Clerk may call for a special session to deal with an urgent matter. Adequate notice of a Called Meeting should be given, particularly if the topic is controversial.

 Committee clerks and members should inform the Clerk ahead of time when they have business to come before the Meeting. As items are dealt with, the Clerk makes sure that all present have opportunity to express their views. Friends address the Clerk, not one another. Friends who stand to speak find that their ministry is more faithful, concise, and better heard. Each vocal contribution should be something that adds to the material already given.

 The Meeting’s work of discernment is a corporate search. The Clerk does not direct the communication toward certain predetermined goals, but keeps dialogue open, promoting free and full exploration of the matter under consideration, while fostering a sense of the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Clerk is responsible for discerning and stating the sense of the Meeting and presenting a minute when unity has been reached.Members of the Meeting may sometimes assist the Clerk in this. If a member believes that the Clerk has incorrectly discerned the sense of the Meeting, it is appropriate to speak up. Similarly, someone may propose that unity actually has been reached and suggest that a minute should be recorded.

 When the wording appears satisfactory, the Clerk asks Friends if they approve the minute. If Friends approve the minute without objection, it is recorded as an action of the Meeting. If, after careful consideration, minor editorial changes appear to be needed, the Clerk should have authority to make them. Those changes should be noted at the next Business Meeting, when the minutes of the previous session are read. If the business before the Meeting is difficult, anyone may request a pause for silent worship. This can often lead to finding a way forward. Sometimes a member with doubts about a minute favored by most of those present will voice his or her reservations but release the Meeting to move forward.† This will be recorded in the minutes as “one Friend standing aside.” In rare cases a member may ask to be recorded as standing aside; however this practice is best limited to occasions when that member’s professional or legal status might be jeopardized by implied consent to a minute.

 Another way of avoiding a deadlock is for the Clerk or another member to suggest that a matter be held over for consideration at a later time. It may be helpful for the Clerk to ask a small committee, including Friends of diverse leadings, to revise the proposal in the light of the concerns and objections, and report to the next Meeting. If the matter is urgent, the committee may retire from a given session to return to it with a revised proposal.

† When a Friend’s reservation persists, the Clerk has an obligation to discern whether it is appropriate to move forward to seek approval of a minute. See“ In Times of Difficulty,” <page 87>.