Meeting for Business, officially called Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business, is central to the practice of Friends in discerning God’s will for the Meeting.
A Meeting for Business that is well grounded in worship will feel very different from the type of secular process in which individuals are arguing in order to ensure their view prevails. Friends approach decisions in Meeting for Business in a spirit of searching and listening rather than a determination to be heard as an individual voice. In each decision, we are seeking to discern the will of God for us as a community. This causes us to listen to each other as we do in Meeting for Worship, knowing that each of us may be given some of the Light that will help us see our way forward. We further believe that as Truth emerges we will have substantial unity in recognizing it, for Truth is undivided and that of God within each person responds to its presence.
Meetings for Business are held in a spirit of worship. When needed, the Meeting should always be able to return to silent worship in order to release distractions and open more fully to Divine direction. This does not mean that Business Meetings must be overly solemn or devoid of humor. It also does not mean that every item that comes up for review is addressed in the same way. While some business that comes before the Meeting may require prayerful searching, there are also times in the Business Meeting where the task is simply to hear a report lovingly and attentively. It is well to remember that we are called to be faithful in small, routine things as well as large ones. Regardless of the perceived importance of each business item, we strive to remain open to the leadings of the Spirit and to experience its gifts of trust, humility, compassion, and courage.
When the Clerk senses that there is general unity in the Meeting on a matter that requires a decision, the Clerk states what appears to be the sense of the Meeting. The Sense of the Meeting may be defined as a collective understanding of God’s will emerging from a Meeting for Business, gathered and expressed by the Clerk for the approval of the Meeting. If the members approve, a minute expressing the Sense of the Meeting is immediately written. Especially in matters that are particularly important or complex, it is best for the Meeting to compose, and request approval of, a minute before passing to other business.
The unity which underlies Sense of the Meeting is not synonymous with consensus. Consensus is a widely used and valuable secular process characterized by a search for general agreement largely through rational discussion and compromise. The Quaker Meeting for Business depends on a religious process characterized by listening for and trusting in God. Both unity and consensus result in a course of action agreed to by all of the participants, but the Sense of the Meeting relies consciously on the Spirit.
(from Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s proposed Faith and Practice, 2013)