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What do Friends need from Quaker decision-making bodies?

Sarah Donaldson invites Quakers to get involved in a review of decision-making at Quakers in Britain.

The review asks how Quakers can best deal with important business between annual Yearly Meeting sessions. Image: Mike Pinches for Quakers in Britain.
The review asks how Quakers can best deal with important business between annual Yearly Meeting sessions. Image: Mike Pinches for Quakers in Britain.

Even by Quaker standards, our group has a very long name and the capacity to generate a lot of confusing acronyms. Our original task was simply to review Yearly Meeting (YM) and Yearly Meeting Gatherings (YMG), so we tend to go by 'Yearly Meeting Review Group', abbreviated to YMRG.

Yearly Meeting is the annual assembly of the Quaker church in Britain – when Quakers gather in worship to connect, explore current concerns and conduct business. Yearly Meeting Gathering is much the same as Yearly Meeting, but it's a longer residential event that takes place every three years. Meeting for Sufferings is the national representative body of Quakers in Britain and takes decisions on church affairs between Yearly Meetings.

What have we done so far?

We've reviewed the purposes of YM and YMG and reported on these to Meeting for Sufferings. We found that:

  • both YM and YMG are meeting their purposes as set out in chapter 6 of Quaker faith & practice. The purposes of both are fundamentally the same, although the emphases and the ways in which they are met at the two events are somewhat different.
  • the key purposes are gathering, worshipping, discerning and learning together.
  • Quakers have different views on whether the balance of agenda items and other activities at YM and YMG is appropriate to meet their purposes; this seems to reflect the fact that Quakers want different things from attendance at YM and YMG.
  • work is going on in different places to try to simplify our current structures and practices. It's very likely that both YM and YMG can be simplified, but to do this well might need us to state clearly what Quakers need from those meetings. Efforts to simplify YM and/or YMG need to be coordinated with other simplification work.
  • the question of how well YM and YMG relate to and hold to account the other national bodies of Britain Yearly Meeting (Meeting for Sufferings, BYM Trustees, and various other committees) would be best addressed via a review of Meeting for Sufferings, not YM.

Following a request from YMG in 2021, Meeting for Sufferings agreed that such a review should go ahead and took the logical step of expanding the role of our group to take this on as phase two of our work.

What are we doing now?

We are reviewing how British Quakers can best make decisions and deal with important business between annual Yearly Meeting sessions. We want to know what British Quakers need and what would be fit for purpose in our religious society in the 21st century.

We are asking:

  • How should important Quaker business be dealt with between Yearly Meetings?
  • Who should be involved in that business?
  • How could Quakers across the Yearly Meeting best feel connected to that business?

How can you get involved?

We want you to answer our questions! We've created a consultation document, Review of Meeting for Sufferings (PDF), which gives some background information about the structures we have now. It asks:

What do Quakers across all of our worshipping communities need of a meeting for worship for business that deals with matters as required between sessions of Yearly Meeting?

We've included some more detailed questions in case that helps to focus your thinking and discussions, but we're interested in any responses that deal with the fundamental issues.

It would be amazing if everyone reading this could either send in some answers or start a conversation in their own meeting. We want to hear the rich diversity of guidance you receive through your discernment so that YMRG can have the best chance of discerning the right way forward.

Email us on reviewgroup@quaker.org.uk.

Read the review document (PDF)