What do Quakers need to make decisions about? Matters of governance, campaigns and actions they will get involved in - and more.
How do Quakers make decisions? A little differently. Quakers extend their worship into listening for the guidance of the Spirit. Each person in a business meeting has a glimpse of that guidance. So it’s important to listen carefully to each person who wants to contribute. Some silence surrounds each spoken contribution.
Decisions are made without voting. The clerk of the meeting, after listening, proposes a minute that summarises the sense of the meeting. Anyone may suggest a change to the minute. If the minute is agreed it becomes the completed minute of that topic - confirmed by those present.
Often, the decision is a lot different from the direction at the start. Because everyone could contribute to the minute there is usually a high level of commitment to the action that’s been agreed.
If we cannot agree we may defer the matter to a later meeting to discuss it and perhaps come up with fresh insights. Or we may ask a small committee to come back with a recommendation.
If there is not agreement the clerk will minute that there is not agreement. The decision does not go forward into action.
When this process works well, there is a strong sense that the Spirit has guided the meeting. It is uniquely Quaker and yet the method can be used in other organisations. It may be slow - sometimes the process calls for a lot of patience. Sometimes it is remarkably quick. It takes individual discipline and commitment.