Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Experiencing Quaker Process

As most of you know, Beth and I have joined an interesting slice of the Christian pie known as Quakers. We have been exploring and learning about the ways in which this group carries out its spiritual life together, and we are both finding it fascinating, revolutionary, and transformational.

Since I do not want to assume that most of the people reading our blog are familiar with Quaker practice, I will briefly summarize how we carry out our business. When I say business I refer to the typical workings of any community, how do we spend our money, what should we do about this and that, etc. Another huge aspect of Quaker business is approving those individuals who feel called into various roles within the meeting.

Us Quakers are organized into larger meetings, a kind of corporate body, made up of Quaker meetings throughout various regions. We are a part of the Northwest Yearly Meeting, a group made up of evangelical Quakers throughout Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. This organization (Northwest Yearly Meeting or NWYM) requires a staff to oversee and execute its operations. The head of this staff is our superintendent.

Every year all of the meetings who are a part of the NYWM gather in Newberg, OR for our annual sessions.  I am currently here, and just this morning we went through the process of approving a new superintendant.

The process of approving a superintendant at our annual sessions involves presenting the search committee's recommendation to the hundreds of people gathered for these annual sessions. Two microphones stand in the aisles of a large auditorium and everyone is invited to comment on the person who has been nominated. EVERYONE, ANYONE can stand up to a microphone and be heard by hundreds of other people.

This is Quaker process, and a reason why I am so fascinated by it. As a group, we trust that if we listen and discern together, we will discover God's leading. We also trust that it is important for everyone, especially those who have misgivings or hesitations about a particular decision have the chance to be heard. It may take a long time, and it may actually hurt, but I see no better model in all of Christianity in which to make a decision.

I am excited about this, and wish I could introduce this way of handling our business as the Church with others!