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Quaker Decision-making

Quaker decision-making is grounded in the belief that when several people come together to labor in the Spirit they can discern a truth that exceeds the reach of any one individual. In making decisions Friends do not simply vote to determine the majority view, but rather they seek unity about the wisest course of action. Over time Friends have developed ways to conduct meetings that nurture and support this corporate discernment process.

To be effective, Quaker process requires that everyone come ready to participate fully by sharing their experiences and knowledge, by listening respectfully to the experiences and knowledge brought by others, and by remaining open to new insights and ideas. This powerful combination of grounded experience and spiritual openness, rationality and faith, allows a deeper truth to emerge. When everyone present is able to recognize the same truth, the meeting has reached unity. The clerk’s job is to sense emerging truth and labor with those present to put that truth into words.

At AFSC, the Board and Executive Committees make decisions in a worshipful spirit using Quaker process. Many other AFSC committees and staff meetings also use elements of Quaker process and expect that participants will:

  • enter the process with an open mind and avoid holding unshakably to a predetermined position;
  • commit to looking for creative solutions, not just a least common denominator or compromise; and
  • engage in the process, ready to speak their minds and to listen for wisdom, truth, or the most compelling proposal, which may come from anyone present.

In a Friends meeting, Quaker process is used in the Meeting for Business as well as by various committees. However, many day-to-day decisions are made by individuals carrying out the responsibilities of their positions—for example, the treasurer or the clerk of the committee charged with maintaining the meeting house.

Similarly, at AFSC many decisions are made by staff members exercising the duties that they were hired to fulfill. Such day-to-day decisions are made within boundaries established by organizational policies. In all decision-making, AFSC encourages transparency, consultation with those most affected and a willingness to learn and adjust based on experience.

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