Conduct of Meeting for Business
Searching for the Truth in a spirit of worship and waiting for a sense of the meeting to grow among all members are characteristics of the way Friends conduct their business. The meeting for business is not a body whose members engage in debate; rather business is raised and decisions are made in the same expectant waiting upon the Spirit as in the meeting for worship. In searching together for the will of God in matters before the meeting, Friends are seeking the Truth so that all may join in its affirmation. It is the responsibility of all members to participate in this search.
A clerk is chosen by the meeting to preside and determine the sense of the meeting as the decision of the meeting. Other clerks, such as reading and recording clerks, may also be named.
The right conduct of business meetings, even in routine matters, is important to the spiritual life of all. Care must be taken that the enduring value of a spiritual community is not sacrificed to the immediate goal of action. In its discussions the meeting should be especially tender to sincere expressions of difference from a generally favored course of action, recognizing that individual insights may bring to the meeting the will of God. Similarly, a member dissenting from a generally favored proposal should recognize the validity of corporate leadings and be sensitive that God's will is often revealed to a seeking group. In difficult situations, a period of quiet helps the meeting to achieve unity and acceptance; the decision may be to drop the matter, to proceed, to delay decision, or, very often, to accept a newly conceived and satisfactory solution.
After due consideration has been given to all points of view, it is the duty of the clerk of the meeting to weigh carefully the various expressions and to state what he or she believes to be the will of the meeting, not alone according to numbers but also according to recognized experience and spiritual insight of the members. The silence of some is often of greater significance than the speech of others. The continuing search for unity is the responsibility of all members, but it is the clerk, often assisted by the recording clerk, who must discern the meeting's united spirit and state it in a form the meeting can affirm. It will be much harder for the clerks to do this if they try at the same time to be participants in the discussion.
Once a sense of the meeting has been achieved, it should be promptly recorded as a minute and read back to the meeting for its approval. Any member may offer a substitute for the clerk's minute, and the meeting may approve, modify, or reject it, in exactly the same manner as if the minute were submitted by the clerk. Friends have not completed their action until they have approved the minute, and no body of Friends will be better prepared to give or withhold its approval than the one that has just achieved unity of purpose. The reading back of the minute to those who have just made it, moreover, stands as an affirmation of their collective action and united spirit.
The business of the meeting is recorded in the minute books that comprise the permanent records of the meeting. All matters of substance brought before the meeting for its consideration and decision should be included in these minute books, including reports on membership and the state of the Society, financial statements, and memorials.