Posted on 10 August 2020
A way of making decisions, The Quaker Business Method (QBM) doesn’t rely on voting.
Instead, the QBM is used by Quaker Business Meetings to seek unity through the spirit of those present. It is designed to find a way forward for those present (or represented) in the meeting.
The clerk of the meeting will often begin with a reading from Quaker Faith & Practice and then have a short period of silence. The clerk reads the minutes from the last meeting and begins the agenda for the current meeting.
After each agenda item is read out any Friend is allowed to speak on the matter concerned, if they so wish. Rather than a show of hands, there is a ‘sense’ of the Meeting’s spirit about how to proceed. More often than not unity is achieved through listening, discussion, discernment, and discussion – all parts of the QBM.
However, sometimes unity can’t be agreed easily. This can happen when the item on the agenda is controversial or there is an opposing viewpoint. At such times, all those present accept that all arguments have been fairly heard and further discernment is required.
It might require several meetings, but unity will be eventually reached even if not everyone necessarily agrees with the decision. After a decision has been agreed upon by the meeting it will be recorded by the clerk.
“(The) process can take a long time, of course. Who knows when we will all be enlightened so that we can all agree what needs to be done? It might prove to be difficult and even trying if everyone has to get on board, including the stubborn ones and the dull ones.”
The Quaker Meeting for Business will then end with any other business and another brief period of silence.
The QBM may appear slightly curious to a world where the majority vote rules. However, the advantage of the QBM is that the opinion of every Friend is recognised and every voice has equal weight. The disadvantage is sometimes decisions take too long to make or end up in circles that ultimately go nowhere.
The QBM definitely requires patience!
What is undeniable though, is that the QBM creates an insightful space for calm and clear thinking that makes decisions fair and friendly.