Spiritual nurture of the Meeting
The Quaker business method has been cultivated for over 300 years. It is a gift and a discipline for us when we make decisions, regardless of how large our Meeting is. The circumstances of the Meeting will determine how formal the practice is, but expression of truth, peace, equality, simplicity and community are necessary components of all Quaker decision making.
Meetings for Business
Not in the way of the world, as a worldly assembly of men, by not contests, by seeking to outspeak and overreach one another in discourse...not deciding affairs by the greater (majority) vote...but in the wisdom, love and fellowship of God, in gravity, patience, in unity and concord submitting to one another in lowness of heart and in the holy spirit of truth and righteousness, all things (are) to be carried on. Edward Burrough (Britain YM, Quaker Faith & Practice, 2.87)
The meeting for business after the manner of Friends is also a time of worship in which the community seeks God's guidance together. It is Friends' experience that when votes are taken and the will of the majority overcomes the minority, an injustice is often done. Perhaps the minority was not listened to sufficiently for the wisdom of their advice to be recognised. Thus, we make our corporate decisions seeking unity in the Will of God. Some Friends refer to these meetings as "meeting for worship with attention to business" as a reminder to Friends of the worship setting. It is the clerk's responsibility to listen to all contributions and to record a minute of decision which all can own; thus they listen for areas of unity rather than stressing the areas of conflict. If conflict and tempers flare, a good clerk knows when to ask for a period of silent worship in which Friends can seek God's guidance and reflect charitably on what has been said. Some Friends work more comfortably if the clerking and recording functions are shared between two people.
This process is a special and unique contribution Friends can make to the wider society and is used in many "worldly" decision-making situations. Besides carrying out the usual practical decisions, the business meeting can provide a worshipful setting for listening to one another and seeking the Light of God's guidance on potential problems and concerns. These can include outreach, proposed service projects, possible responses to difficulties in the region, etc. All members and those attenders who wish should be encouraged to participate. Each person present should help the process by listening well, upholding the clerk and seeking the way forward with which all can unite.