The Quaker Way of Discussing Business
Here are two write-ups regarding the spirit (not the process)
of consensus used in Quaker Meetings for Business. For Quakers,
co-intelligence comes not so much from their conversation (collective
intelligence), as from the higher Wisdom (universal intelligence,
which they call the Light of Truth) that comes to them in their
prayerful, respectful, silence-filled, Friendly conversation. (For
those unfamiliar with the Quakers, their official name is "The
Society of Friends" and their silent meetings are called
Friends Meetings.) -- Tom Atlee
Eugene Friends Newsletter, Feb 2000, p. 6.
(edited by Greg Roers firstname.lastname@example.org)
Friends' way of conducting business is of central importance to
the very existence of the Meeting. It is the Quaker way of
living and working together; it is the way that can create and preserve
a sense of fellowship in the Meeting community. The right
conduct of Business Meetings, even in matters of routine, is a vital
part of the worship experience. The process of individuals
submitting themselves to the corporate revelation of God's truth
forms the basis of Friends' approach to unity.
All members are encouraged to attend Business Meetings and be faithful
in the service of the Meeting's affairs. Appointments of officers
and committee members should be made with careful consideration
of the qualifications of those named and of the opportunities for
growth that may be afforded. Friends should not accept any
service to which they are nominated without an accompanying sense
of leading and a capacity for the task, nor should they lightly
refuse such service.
Proceed in the peaceable spirit of the light of Truth, with forbearance
and warm affection for each other. Be willing to wait upon
God as long as may be necessary for the emergence of a decision
which clearly recommends itself as the right one. Feel free
to express views, but refrain from pressing them unduly. Guard
against contentiousness, obstinacy and love of power. Admit
the possibility of being in error. In Meetings for Business,
and in all duties connected with them, seek the leadings of the
Advices and Queries for Business Meeting:
- Are our Meetings for Business held in the spirit of a Meeting
for Worship in which we seek divine guidance for our actions in
love and mutual forbearance?
- How well do our Meetings for Business lead to a corporate search
for and revelation of God's truth?
- How effectively do members of the Meeting participate in the
tempering and strengthening of the leading of individuals?
- As difficult problems arise, are we careful to meet them in
a spirit of love and humility with minds open for creative solutions?
- Do we avoid pressure of time, neither unnecessarily prolonging
nor unduly curtailing full discussion?
- Are we aware that we speak through inaction as well as action?
- Are we prepared to let go of our individual desires and let
the Holy Spirit lead us to unity?
- Do we recognize that the search for unity may require us to
accept with good grace a decision of the Meeting with which we
are not entirely in agreement?
- In what ways do we each take our share of responsibility in
the service of the Meeting?
- Are younger Friends, new members, and attenders given appropriate
responsibility in the Meeting?
Beyond Consensus - Salvaging Sense of the Meeting
by Barry Morley
(Pendle Hill, 1993) ISBN 0-87574-307
"Consensus is achieved through a process of reasoning in which
people search for a satisfactory decision. But in seeking the sense
meeting we open ourselves to being guided to perfect resolution
in Light, to
a place where we sit in unity in the collective inward Presence.
consensus we decide it; through sense of the meeting we turn it
allowing it to be decided."
"Sense of the meeting works because we turn our decision making
over to a
highter power. Consensus is the product of an intellectual process.
of the meeting is a commitment to faith"
"Consensus is an outward process in which a vote is taken without
either yea or nay. It involves listening to all concerns, and then,
a negotiation process, finding the best solution. Sense of the meeting
hears all of the concerns, then moves beyond the verbal expressions
the spirit of the concern in order to discern what is 'right' for
Canadian Sue Starr, who sent referred to this quote, adds her own
We also call this process 'coming to unity'. My experience
of the process
is closer to dialogue than debate or discussion, but goes still
We speak to the 'center' rather than to each other, with spaces
between speakers. It is the most respectful way of coming to decisions
I've ever experienced.
For another view of Quaker Worship for Business see http://www.quakerinfo.com/articlep1051.html
For a far more extensive exploration of Quaker practice and its
relationship to collective intelligence, see Leonard Joy's Collective
Intelligence and Quaker Practice
For a secular form of decision-making that arose out of the Quaker
tradition, see Consensus Process.
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