Decision Making in a Friends Meeting
Decision making in the manner of Friends is a spiritual process, centered in the belief that God is present, available to the meeting through each of its members. Our monthly business meeting is called the Meeting for Business With Attention to Spirit because it is conducted in an atmosphere of worship with openness to the leading of the Spirit. As explained in the Faith and Practice of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (1997):
“Friends’ decision-making is rooted in the spiritual oneness of a religious community. We reject majority rule for the higher goal of reaching decisions in unity, through distinctive attitudes developed by Friends over the centuries. Our process is democratic in the sense that everyone is encouraged to participate. However, it also goes beyond democracy in that it does not rely solely on human will or ability. Participants are expected to put aside personal desires and allow themselves to be led by a Guide beyond the self.”
Practices are designed to sustain a worshipful atmosphere. We are encouraged to pause between speakers to re-center ourselves, to listen and speak in the Light, to engage together in a search for the will of God or a Spirit-led wisdom. The process requires members to be open, sensitive, and tender toward one another, to look beyond our individual needs and preferences, to step back from the ego-driven need to be right or “get my own way.” By listening respectfully to the insights and concerns of other Friends, we can begin to see the larger picture or view the issue in a new light. In the process, new and surprising perspectives and solutions sometimes emerge.
Again from the Faith and Practice of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting: “The goal of Friends’ decision making is a Spirit-led sense of the meeting – a crystallization of the search for clarity on the topic under consideration. Even in the face of strong difference of opinion, that goal is achievable when there is spiritual unity.
“Sense of the meeting is not synonymous with consensus. Consensus is a widely used and valuable secular process characterized by a search for general agreement largely through rational discussion and compromise. Sense of the meeting is a religious process characterized by listening for and trusting God. Both result in a course of action agreed to by all of the participants, but the sense of the meeting relies consciously on the Spirit. Although reasoned argument and lively debate may often play a role in Friends’ decision making, they are useful only to the extent that they are the expression of spiritual leadings.”
When Friends disagree, finding the sense of the meeting can be difficult. In a Program Hour, DeAnne Butterfield offered thoughtful guidance summarized in “Finding the Sense of the Meeting” (1/15/17).
Boulder Meeting welcomes and needs the Light of all its members and active attenders, even those who have not yet applied for membership. Please join us on the second Sunday of each month at Meeting for Business With Attention to Spirit!