CHAPTER IV QUAKER ORGANIZATION
Quakerism: a view from the back benches continued
Copyright 1966 The Back Benches
A Side Long Glance
Are the units of organization in the Religious Society of Friends productive? Are the efficient? Can the unites “at work” produce maximum gain? If there are limitations, what are they?
There have been changes in structure over the centuries, or changes in emphases and role, surely… each change answering new needs. In terms of today’s needs, are there appropriate criticisms of our Society’s organisms and suitable alternatives available for consideration?
If the technical organization exists to serve the spiritual purposes of the Society, perhaps we have moved quite unintentionally into a situation where we are serving the institutions of the Society, possibly beyond their capacity to be useful.
To review our current organizational posture, we see that the Monthly Meeting is the local unit, the congregation. The Monthly Meeting, or in some cases the Preparative Meeting, embodying procedures for worship and action, is the unit to which the individual Friend relates. The local Meeting tends to be the most sensitive instrument, for basic confrontation of individuals occurs here. One “lives” with the local Meeting. Understanding, accommodation and growth therefore can occur most substantially in a local Meeting.
Beyond the local Meeting are the Quarterly Meeting and the Yearly Meeting. (There are other variations throughout the United States, I.e., regional associations). These conduct some common endeavors when needed and provide limited opportunities for sharing, consultation and fellowship.
Beyond the Yearly Meeting level, Friends meet at the consultative level. Friends World Committee are examples: what occurs is not by authority but by common consent. With responsibility for husbandry of Quaker values and certain prescribed activities, these unites tend to function not as advanced leadership but as the least common denominator of administration.
Internal critics of Quakerism are torn between the poles of authoritative action and decisiveness and the equally important virtues of decentralization. Can a life be found for Quakerism which will permit action yet leave the Society free of higher-than-thou authorities?
No doubt, some of the suggestions which follow may seem to duplicate those in the chapter on Community. They are really the same concern looked at from a different angle.
(to be continued)