Quaker Business Method and Organisation

Practically all churches, whether completely congregational such as Baptists in which each local church is organisationally independent, or globally federated such as the Roman Catholic church, hierarchically ultimately answerable to the Pope, as well as doing the business of worshipping God also have to attend to what might be considered to be more mundane matters. These might be decisions about management of premises and buildings, including what colour carpets and curtains they have, or decisions about how funds are spent, invested, or donated to charitable causes, or decisions about sending representatives to other meetings, conferences, or organisations.

Quakers are no different from everybody else in this regard.

We do, however, have what we like to think is our own unique way of doing things! Like most churches, we have a system of membership – by which people express that they have a commitment to the Religious Society of Friends which goes further than enjoying coming to meeting of a Sunday morning, that they want to share in the responsibility of running the organisation of Quakers which enables meeting for worship to happen. By coming into membership an individual is making themselves available to the organisation to offer service to it, either by being willing to take on certain specific roles within a meeting such as Elder, Overseer, Clerk, Treasurer or whatever, or by being willing to serve on one of the myriad committees local, regional, national, or even international which are set up to oversee the running of the organisation, to set policy or offer advice on general matters such as finance, outreach (the word we prefer to use instead of ‘evangelism’), interchurch and interfaith relations, or to do specific tasks such as organising gatherings and conferences or setting the agenda for the main annual national business meeting.

Quakers are organised into different groupings – there’s the national body of Quakers in Britain at one end of the scale, and there are the local meetings at the other, with various groupings of local meetings on an area, county, or regional basis in between. All of these groupings, and the various committees referred to above, conduct their meetings for church affairs in broadly the same manner, following the Quaker Business Method.

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