Quakerism: a view from the back benches
Copyright 1966 The Back Benches
The role of committees in a Meeting may vary, but normally committees should be appointed carefully, and given full freedom to act and to decide matters within their commission. The business session should not be burdened with trivia (such as the color of meeting house drapes or carpet). Committees should dispose of such details so the business session may consider concerns and basic policy. Conversely the Meeting must trust the judgment of its committee on such details. If the business sessions merely re-hashes committee deliberations, committees might well be scrapped. We feel that most property matters, other than the philosophy of use or major new commitments, fall into the area of committee competence and should not be presented to the Meeting.
The way a committee reports often foreshadows the discussion to follow. A clear, concise presentation of pertinent facts and issues with a detailed technically precise proposal for action will elicit, normally, rational comment to its point. A fuzzy statement of issues or facts without a procedurally sound suggestion for action will provoke, usually, wide-ranging, vague and impertinent discussion.
If committees are widely representative of points of view in the Meeting, their reports are more likely to be accepted because such reports will of necessity express more generally the opinion of the meeting. Isolation of special interest groups of a Meeting in a committee may well use, over the long run, more of the Meeting’s time and be more divisive than if a broadly based committee were first appointed.
(to be continued)