Archive for July, 2008

Quaker Processes Seminar

July 28, 2008

The following are the notes from the Quaker Processes Seminar I helped facilitate on 25-27 July 2008, at the Quaker Settlement, Whanganui

What is the Quaker Process?

“An attempt to work out Friends’ testimony that there is no division between worship and the rest of life. Contributions come from the deep place of ministry.”

“Responsibility of all, waiting and listening, trying to get the sense of the Meeting/will of God/…”

“Like Meeting for Worship, but with a focus on the business, as directed by God / in the light”

“A gathered Meeting, attending to business in the presence of the Spirit”

“Is based in the centredness of worship, and accords respect and understanding to each contribution in the same way as with spoken ministry”

How do we know when the process is going well?

Peaceful feeling
things flow
trust the process
no rumblings
people feel heard & understood
relaxing of shoulders
benign body language, smiling and nodding of heads
depth of worship
sense of rightness
not for us to judge
Friends will be in friendship
the clerk has been able to get a sense of the Meeting
Whanaungatanga (making of a family)

How do we know afterwards that it has gone well?

the concern continues to evolve
it was a decision no one had in mind when they came to the Meeting
minutes are a joy to read
sometimes we don’t know for years
lack of feedback to clerk
the piece of business doesn’t keep returning

What is the difference between consensus and Quaker business process?

Consensus MFW for Business
Agreement – minority gave way
best decision everyone is prepared to live with
building into decision as many needs as can be accommodated
less alienation (than voting)
often not well done
based on individual views
surprise decision
Unity in spirit
common ground of testimonies
ability to stand aside from minute
but all responsible for forwarding minute
surprise decision
search for way Meeting is being led
more willingness to wait – for “way to open”
Alignment/agreement to proceed
power of individual to stop
agreement of those present
rational level of awareness
if not in unity – status quo remains
potential of transforming power
deeper level sought after
Interminable discussion
the people with room for compromise
majority has weight
active processes to build consensus
usually involves consultation
Hopefully more crisp
terminable without consensus
corporate with divine
something beyond ourselves
the spirit with no room for compromise or bargain
majority should not have weight – not what it’s about
formal consent – if it had really mattered you would have stopped it
All agree
same understanding
unlike Parliament
most people will speak more than once
generally involves much debate and chit chat
decision come to based on people’s opinion
doesn’t necessarily mean everyone is happy with decision (can be same for MFW for Business)
People can stand aside – don’t agree but won’t stand in the way
factor light/god extra in the room
comes out of the silence
generally people only speak once
not debate and chit chat between members (generally)
decision that are come to are grounded in Quaker principles
can stop talking and ask for silence to refocus on the spirit
if disagreement – leave issue and come back to later

Role of the individual in MFW for Business

No side chatting
holding others to account
don’t sit on something
leave ego in the carpark
look for widest relevant context
heart and mind prepared
done homework
keep a sense of worship
develop a ‘nose’ for manipulation
offer my experience and information, but no ego
represent absent Friends’ points of view
be proactive
listen carefully
self disciple
uphold Clerk while they’re writing a minute
Awareness of others
prepared to change my mind
asking for silence when appropriate/needed
avoid bombast
Speak once, and sparingly
If God prods, speak
Put your point don’t heavy/push/persuade/preempt
holding vigilance

Dealing with conflict and disunity

What is conflict in a Meeting? What is disunity in a Meeting?
Different strong views forcibly expressed
when no listening or understanding of the views
opportunity to grow in unity
absence of love
not talking
doesn’t feel like illusion
cheap unity
statement of facts that have no basis
that of god in others not recognised
Disagreement (passionate) disharmony
derogeratory opinions
reactive outbursts
refusal to accept outcomes
inappropriate repetitive behaviour
can be creative
Not in alignment
Can be less overt than elsewhere – low level muttering
clumps of people talking together and making allies
people stay away, stop coming
defensiveness, loss of trust
outbursts of anger, frustration
business not done well
Division of opinion, particularly about decision post or pending
can start as disunity and grow to conflict
longer lasting that ‘not yet in unity’ – where processes not building unity
Affects the state of the meeting
You just know
divergent views that their holders can’t adapt/resolve
can be visible or underlying and ongoing eg different views on right ministry
can be a means of growth
can go along with respect
Can be concealed
can grow from unresolved conflict, lack of skill in using rather than abusing
imbalance eg a group with needs not met, personalities unbalanced
a group driving a particular agenda eg property related
power imbalance
people don’t respect one another
people aren’t open to change

Methods for dealing with conflict/disunity

Speaking plainly
prepared confrontation
publicly reminding ourselves of our methods, role of clerk, self discipline
phone calls (lots)
understanding the person/group and issue
naming the conflict
calling on Elders (and on Elders from other Meetings)
providing information
giving time
creative listening
a Listening Meeting
asking for silence
worship sharing
role reversal
not talking
informal social time
getting together
Clearness Meeting
raising an issue in a meeting not open to all / in a smaller forum

Creative Listening

give space to others
speak from yourself
use early, when we being to perceive a problem
can be a way of life
to deal with or express as specific issues
to give space for feelings
to allow people really to look at and think about a problem
for sharing experience
to allow the uncovering of something important/of concern to a person which isn’t always obvious ie to help someone through an issue


mediator trusted by both sides, go between
clear mediation process, agreed by both parties
allowing conflict to happen
might be used when:
clear issue
specific topic
later when other methods have been used
not involve whole meeting
smaller groups

Worship sharing

Based in worship
space to speak given and respected
no criticism or comments
given time and attention
safety to speak
akin to ministry
MFW but themed
Can have great depth
adaptable to size of group
maintenance tool
part of a clearness meeting
when wish to go below the surface
spiritual nurture support group
useful tool to make sure all are heard
wonderful way of honest sharing and deep listening, a uniting effect
to heal disunity

Clearness Meeting

Deep listening
small and nonthreatening
supportive, guidance
MFW but with a smaller group
not too pressuring
can bring/choose trusted friends to attend
assists the individual
non judgmental
Soundboard off the group
similar to mediation (more spiritual perhaps)
uses time out / silence
can be a threshing meeting
resolution, unlike creative listening
kind of like spiritual nurture support group, listing supporting, helping, the way forward
can be hard to do if without help
sometimes doesn’t work, not used properly

for marriage concerns
provide individuals clearness and strength
discerning a way forward
canadian YFs often use for personal problems
can be used for membership concerns
used to mend unhappiness
retirement concerns
perhaps should use more, useful for Meetings
urgent crises, clarifications


Web Sites: – A community of blogs and social media about Friends – an online gathering place for powerful and transformative audio-media from all branches of the Quaker tradition – Aotearoa NZ Young Friends blog – free Internet based phone and audio conferencing software


“When Friends attend to business”, Thomas Brown

“Practicing Discernment Together” by Lon Fendall, Jan Wood, Bruce Bishop (Barclay Press)

“Beyond Consensus – salvaging sense of the Meeting”, Barry Morley

“Gospel Order – a Quaker understanding of faithful church community”, Sandra Cronk

“Spiritual Discernment – the context and goal of clearness committees”, Patricia Loring

“Beyond Majority rule – voteless decisions in the Religious Society of Friends”, Michael J. Sheeran


What went well
Length of each session
good handouts
interaction in little groups
well prepared facilitators
variety of facilitators and different activities
good to go around in different groups (except for the scribes)
presence and participation of YFs
depth of experience
the way that the experience was drawn out
great group of people
photos of whiteboard
What could be improved
weather was cold
white board pens – need more
a lot of sitting
making sure ideas are captured

Ideas for next time
role play – more of them
seminar on conflict resolution or mediation
info shared
more specific details
do it again north/south