Human beings possess a diversity of gifts. Friends acknowledge the guidance of God received through any member, even while recognizing particular members' special gifts for leadership.
Though Friends do not ordain ministers, they seek to identify and to encourage in individual members the gift to minister or to counsel or to coordinate or to advance a discussion in the spirit of God. Thus leadership in the meeting is widely shared, and the full body profits from that which each member can contribute.
For any religious movement to be effective, it must have able leadership. We know that our growth and outreach are dependent upon leaders with vision and understanding who can give capable guidance to our Quaker organizations and to our local Meetings. What we desire is not an authoritarian hierarchy, hut rather a multitude of proficient and dedicated workers, with sufficient guidance to give efficient co-ordination and direction to our activities. Organization is not an end in itself, but merely a necessary means for the effective promotion of our Lord's work.
Seth B. Hinshaw: Developing Quaker leadership, 1964, pp. 5-6.
Some Are Particularly Called
We do believe and affirm that some are more particularly called to do the work of the ministry, and therefore are fitted of he Lord for that purpose; whose work is more constantly and particularly to instruct, exhort, admonish, oversee, and watch 'over their brethren; and that there is something more incumbent upon them in that respect than upon every common believer.
Robert Barclay: Apology, prop. 10, sect. 10, 1908 Phila. ed., p. 310.
All Wait on the Lord Together
While we gladly acknowledge the gift of pastors to the church, we feel the necessity of the greatest care and watchfulness, lest a misapprehension of the place and duties of a pastor defeat the very purpose for which a pastoral gift was bestowed. No meeting can be held to the glory and in the power of God where His message, even through one of the weakest or most unattractive of his instruments, is suppressed.
Minutes of Yearly Meeting of Friends for New England, 1900, p. 50.
Men and Women Equal in Service
From the beginning Friends have stood for equality of opportunity and of responsibility in the service of the Church as between men and women. One of the functions of the Church is to set concerned and qualified persons free for religious service; "to liberate them" is the phrase actually used among Friends. All that this involves in training, oversight, organization and finance is applied equally in the case of women with that of men; nor is any woman excluded as such from any function held to be proper to the Church. Historical study might show indeed that women had a very special part to play in prophecy; and the preaching office is open to them in more than one Church. It is a matter, however, of some concern to Friends that in fact equality is not fully achieved even in our own Society. Quaker women have not set themselves entirely free of the shyness of the sex long kept in the background and deprived even of education. While desiring to treat with respect the traditional convictions of other Churches in this subject, Friends feel that they have a testimony to offer in the interests not so much of women themselves as of the proper functioning of the Church.
Percy W. Bartlett: Quakers and the Christian church, 1941, pp. 36-7 Faith and Order Commission, London Y. M.
The True Pastoral Leader
The true pastoral leader, as Friends in our strongest periods have shown, is not a person of exalted status and certainly not the "head" of the meeting. He is always at work, encouraging this one, teaching that one, walking with another. He may speak on public occasions, but often his leadership is not obvious at all. He will not do anything if he can get another to do it, not because he is lazy, but because the doing will develop the other person, and it is the development of others that is always his goal. He will speak if he needs to do so, but he knows that speaking is only one of many tasks which spiritual nourishment requires. He may teach more than he preaches, and he will not be afraid to be silent or to sit within the congregation rather than face it, if he believes this will facilitate the general sense of responsibility.
D. Elton Trueblood: "The paradox of the Quaker ministry," in Quaker religious thought, 1962, vol. 4, no. 2, pp. 12-13.
The Good Pastor
The good pastor conducts himself in the worship service so that everyone present feels a sense of responsibility, and a sense of freedom. Vocal participation is encouraged. The atmosphere of reverent worship is cultivated and everyone is encouraged to be faithful to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. The "program" itself, if there be one, is sufficiently flexible to allow for any immediate Divine leading. Sometimes it may happen that the pastor does not speak at all, or speaks very differently than he had planned. The operation of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of dedicated people is not hampered by a pastor who is himself under the guidance of the same Spirit.
The pastor in a Friends' meeting must follow the difficult and exacting way of worshipping with the people rather than merely preaching to them.
Five Years Meeting: Friends worship in a pastoral meeting, 1960. Study booklet no. 1, p. 17
All Are Co-Workers
The membership of a Friends Meeting, or of the Society of Friends, is made up of persons with varying gifts or abilities. Each gift or each type of ability may be a form of ministry, and hence of leadership, and each member is a part of "the body" or the whole. Each member in the exercise of such a gift or gifts of ministry is a nurturing, functioning part of the body.
Some members have gifts of teaching and counselling, or of 'organization and administration, or of vocal ministry or public speaking, or other similar gifts which identify them as leaders. Members with other gifts are not simply passive followers, but all are co-workers in the care and nurture of the body and its members. And all are co-workers in witness to our faith and in the service of love and justice among people and nations.
"Friends as leaders: The vision, instrument and methods," report on workshop at Pendle Hill, 1979, pp. 13-14.
Resources of the Membership
The average Friends Meeting in these days has resources in its membership for a thorough program of adult religious education. I his does not mean that it has experts in these various fields; it means that its membership usually includes persons who can, in their spare time and as an avocation, make themselves authorities in some field pertaining to the religious life of the Meeting. We know this because in any Meeting there are a number of persons who have done just that in following their hobbies. If they could he challenged with the possibility of becoming a Meeting resource in this or that aspect of religious knowledge and skill there are no limits to the possibilities of religious education in and through the Meeting.
Alexander C. Purdy: An adequate leadership for Friends meetings (Ward lecture), 1950, pp. 15-16. Guilford College.
The corporate guidance and testing of the clearness of individual leading are crucial functions of the local Meeting. The special value of this system of support and accountability is the opportunity it provides for individuals to grow spiritually and to acquire skill in articulating an inner vision, in facilitating the vision of others, and in translating vision into corporate work and witness.
"Friends as leaders: The vision, instrument and methods," report on workshop at Pendle Hill, 1979, p. 11.
Friends believe that true leadership consists first and foremost in being led. This conception involves a curious but profound paradox. True leaders are not in any important sense initiators; rather, they are chiefly responders to the Divine Will. This means that the chief determinant of authentic leadership is not human talent but availability to the Divine. The only authentic leadership is divine followership. The converse of this is that when leadership ceases to be Spirit-led, it ceases to be authentic.
Ibid., p. 9.