Newtown Quakers to Discuss Decision Making Without Taking Votes

The Newtown Quakers will hear a presentation on the Quaker process of making group decisions without taking votes at the Newtown Quaker Meeting adult class at 9:45 a.m. on First Day (Sunday), February 27, 2022 meeting in person or on Zoom.

For 370 years Quakers have conducted their meetings for business without taking a vote but depending instead on a “sense of the meeting” as the basis for making decisions.

The Quaker process of decision-making depends on respect for each individual present, respect for each opinion, setting aside preconceptions, a willingness to listen to all points of view, and a willingness to change one’s opinion – in Quaker terms “to be open to ‘continuing revelation’ and new truth.”

Some observers have marveled that an organization, any organization, could survive that long without depending on majority rule, a hierarchy, or authoritarian decision-making.  Others have wondered if the Quaker process might be relevant or useful in the wider community with today’s climate of polarization.

Quaker business meetings are based on worship, seeking to be guided by the Spirit, responding to a leading, not rule of majority for making decisions. Nor do they require unanimous agreement. Those attending the meeting speak their concerns and the meeting comes to an agreement when the presiding clerk ascertains “a sense of the meeting.” Individuals put aside their opinions at this point and agree, through corporate worship, that the meeting has found the Spirit-led decision. 

What if there are strong opposing views and it becomes difficult to see what exactly is Spirit-led, when those present cannot see a way to “a sense of the meeting?” “Letting go” is a phrase Quakers often use to encourage surrendering to the Spirit rather than being stuck in ego – a process which may have relevance in the wider world of strong disagreements.  “Stand aside” is also a process by which Quakers who still have concerns state their willingness to let the “sense of the meeting” move ahead to a decision.

During this adult class session, those attending will break into small groups and discuss the questions presented to the group. This will provide a time for exploration for how each person can deepen their grounding in worship, listen with respect, and be more ready to yield to the Spirit in reaching a “sense of the meeting.” 

This session is part of a series of programs presented by the Worship and Ministry Committee to explore deepening Quaker worship and deepening discernment in decision making in Quaker business meetings.

Newtown Friends Meeting, co-founded by the Quaker artist and minister, Edward Hicks, in 1815, holds services every First Day (Sunday) with classes for children and adults at 9:45 a.m. and Meeting for Worship at 11:00 a.m. on Zoom or in person at the Meetinghouse, 219 Court Street. Currently, people attending in person are asked to be vaccinated and wear masks. 

Comments are closed.