Reading Quaker faith & practice Ch. 15

Never having myself served on Meeting for Sufferings, I’ll simply refer readers to Rhiannon Grant’s excellent post on Chapter 7. I have served as a Quaker trustee, though, in my previous area meeting, and while I was astonished to be asked by our nominations committee to consider serving, I found my understanding of what the role involves, and of my own calling as a Quaker strangely enlarged.

Christine Davis writes, at the beginning of Chapter 15:

Over the last 40 years I have wrestled with what it is to be a person of faith, and what that does to my day-to-day life. I have found myself living in the public sphere as a known Quaker, and have had to come to terms with the expectations that this lays on me. I have developed a passion for good governance – in Quaker terms, Gospel Order – and see this as something of which we, you and I in the Religious Society of Friends in Britain, are stewards as surely as we are stewards of the Earth…

Stewardship involves prayer, and it involves thought, and it involves applying what emerges from the two. As individuals our particular talents may lead us to greater emphasis on one of those elements, but they can never be wholly divided within any of us, and as a community we need to be faithful to all three: prayer, thought and application.

15.01, Christine A M Davis, 2008

I mentioned to one of our number, a wise and experienced lifelong Friend, how surprised I had been, as a person of prayer with little financial or administrative experience, to find myself so serving, and her explanation opened my eyes to right ordering as nothing else. She said that it was precisely my spiritual calling that had come before nominations; that it was – it was an area meeting with several large local meetings – relatively easy to find Friends with extensive committee experience, professional backgrounds, and so forth, who would be willing to serve as trustees. What was more difficult was to find ones who were prepared seriously to engage with the spiritual dimensions of stewardship and good governance.

Yearly Meeting 2005 made this remarkable statement (15.03):

The law may assume that authority for determining action passes to the trustees and the meeting may choose to do this. However, under Gospel Order, the ultimate authority will still lie with the gathered meeting.

Our Quaker structures, from subcommittees of fabric committees to Yearly Meeting, and firmly including Quaker trustees, are pieces of apparatus for conducting the to love of God to the quotidian needs of those we love and are called to serve. The need for discernment, waiting, listening in openness to the Spirit is greater, not less, the more practical the outworkings.

2 thoughts on “Reading Quaker faith & practice Ch. 15

  1. T. Roger S. Wilson

    The ‘remarkable statement’ of YM2005 is only remarkable in a non-Quaker context, surely? If AM trustees don’t accept that the gathered Meeting is the final authority, then we are on the road to abandoning our tradition of collective unity in decision-making. Arguably, we owe the continued existence of Quakerism to this tradition. Friends believe that each of us must discern our own Light: the potential for anarchy and disagreement could be very high – to say the least – if we had not learned to respect the wisdom of a gathered, worshipping business Meeting under the discipline of unity. Better no decision than a decision that is not tender to all. The Charity Commission may believe that trustees are in control of our Area Meetings, but this is of the world: for Friends the gathered, worshipping Meeting which all may attend has to be the ultimate decision-making entity.

    Reply
    1. Mike Farley Post author

      This is precisely why I called the statement remarkable in the context of what “[t]he law may assume”… the juxtaposition of YM’s perspective and that of the Charity Commissioners. “Better no decision than a decision that is not tender to all” – yes, indeed.

      Reply

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