General Organization and Structure of Meeting for Business
Friends are organized into monthly, quarterly, and yearly meetings, which take their names from the frequency with which they ordinarily meet to consider business matters.
The foundation upon which Friends have built their organization is the monthly meeting. The monthly meeting is the body in which membership resides, to which most matters affecting the life of the religious society are referred, and from which flow many of the initiatives for action among Friends. The monthly meeting takes responsibility for its own affairs, including the determination of membership matters, the performance of marriages, the holding of property, and the management of finances.
In New England Yearly Meeting there are two kinds of preparative meetings. Some preparative meetings form the smaller components of a larger monthly meeting and as such do not expect to change their status. Other preparative meetings are newly formed meetings that will eventually become monthly meetings whenever their stability seems assured. Both kinds of preparative meetings have limited authority to conduct business, mainly related to local property and finances, and both kinds prepare business for submission to the monthly meeting with which they are associated.
Two or more monthly meetings in the same geographical area are usually united in a quarterly meeting.
Two or more quarterly meetings in a larger geographical area may unite in a yearly meeting.
Responsibility for the care and oversight of preparative meetings is carried out by monthly meetings, to which they report. Similarly, care and oversight of monthly meetings is carried out by quarterly meetings, and theirs in turn by the yearly meeting. Preparative meetings appoint representatives to attend the sessions of their monthly meetings, and monthly meetings appoint representatives to attend the sessions of their quarterly meetings and of the yearly meeting. Quarterly meetings are established or discontinued by the yearly meeting; monthly meetings by the quarterly meeting; preparative meetings by the monthly meeting.
Nearly all yearly meetings, including New England, are represented on the Friends World Committee for Consultation; and New England Yearly Meeting is associated with other yearly meetings in the Friends United Meeting and in the Friends General Conference. There is no national or international body of Friends which is superior in authority to the separate yearly meetings.