September 16, 2006

20 minutes, 60 Mennonites

A week or so ago, the pastor of a local Mennonite church asked if I would provide a short presentation to the congregation on how Quakers conduct business. Specifically, I've been asked "to speak to the questions of history, uniqueness, and benefits" of that practice.

And to do so in about twenty minutes.

I thought I'd survey the Quakersphere to get a sense if I'm even on the right track:

Given twenty minutes, what one, two, or three pieces of the Quaker decision-making process would you talk about?
Who knows--maybe we'll hit on a sense of the cyber-meeting in response!


P.S. You should see the handout I'm putting together...


Anonymous said...

1. Conviction that the Holy Spirit cares, and will reveal the preferred decision.
2. Equal access to all information among participants, so that all may participate equally in discernment.
3. Basis of decision is agreement that the proposal is in unity with the will of God, not that all or most agree to it.
4. Taking the time to find unity now, before the group commits to the decision, actually increases the efficiency of carrying out the decision, as there is no one opposed following the Quaker process.
5. Shared understanding that some folks have an extra helping of discernment regarding certain types of decisions (i.e., are "weighty" in some areas and not in others).
6. The process itself is part of building community, of coming to know one another in that which is eternal, of establishing the reign of God here on earth.


Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...

If you have not done so already, you might want to take a look at Bill Samuel's article on the subject, and also at the items he cites as references.

Alice M. said...

*That MfW with a concern for business are first and foremost Meetings for Worship. The way I experience it, it's when we are well grounded in worship of God together that it becomes possible to work on the business, hopefully God-led.

*The presiding clerk is the servant of the meeting and doesn't speak from a personal viewpoint on matters of business, unless consciously 'standing aside from the table'. It's servant leadership.

*Two phases for each agenda item:

1)Consideration: the item is introduced, and laid before the meeting. The meeting relaxes into worship together and waiting for ministry to arise.

2)Composing the minute: after some consideration has occurred, the clerk offerrs a minute to sum up what has occurred in the consideration process. Contributions after the clerk offers the first draft of a minute are usually only about whether the minute is an accurate record. The minutes are agreed in wording entirely within the meeting at the time.

Hth, sorry got to rush off now.

Paul L said...

Here's Freedom Friends' summary from its Faith & Practice. I think it's pretty good. I can't do beter myself, I mean.

The public meeting in which the church does its business. In Quaker practice, business meeting is considered to be an extension of worship. In both 'meeting for worship' and 'meeting for worship through business' the focus is on listening together to God. Friends do not run business by Roberts Rules of Order or other political models - Friends do not decide church issues by voting. The Quaker method is called 'getting the sense of the meeting'. An issues is raised, discussed, prayed over, and time is spent in silence listening. It is the job of the 'presiding clerk' to listen to the gathered worshippers and see if they are of one mind. When the clerk senses a direction, she/he articulates it, and then it is either affirmed by the meeting or issues are raised that continue the discussion. Friends understand that people come into meeting with different backgrounds and personality quirks and preconceived notions. Friends try and lay these at the door, or to at least hold them lightly. All come in knowing that they will leave in harmony. Issues that cannot be decided are 'seasoned' - given time, often until the next meeting for Friends to think and pray. Politicking, lobbying, filibustering and other political behaviors are considered to be outside of Gospel Order.

Liz Opp said...

Thanks for all these nuggets and resources, everyone. Some of what you lift up aligns with my own thinking.

I'll be creating a short resource list to distribute to those who attend the session, and I am realizing that I will need to include some online resources as well, such what Marshall and Paul identify here.