Tuesday, October 09, 2012

More Grist for the Mill

Comment originally posted here, hyperlinks added.
Kirby Urner October 2, 2012 at 10:39 pm #
Another approach to doctrinal openness is to actively involve compatible attenders in the life of the meeting where, in some cases, these attenders clearly and openly are not considering membership in the Religious Society.

Yet their ways are compatible, they celebrate Quaker testimonies and contributions in the world, and their skills are considerable. If such a person practices among Friends year after year, in our meeting they might eventually be nominated to Oversight.

Indeed, I don’t think our operating manual (Faith and Practice) specifically forbids the clerk from being a non-member.  Follow-up: I stand corrected, the nominating guidelines do specify this position is member-only, meaning a member of our meeting in particular (some meetings allow for "affiliate membership" and have permitted affiliate members to serve as clerk).

By state requirement, we need an identifiable membership and should be able to point to our officers. Nonprofit structures, churches included, have no “clerk” in any case, so maybe the Assistant Clerk is “executive director” for the state’s records, while the Clerk is a non-member, perhaps a visiting rabbi of great compassion and repute.

The Meeting recognizes what a golden opportunity this could be and after a little seasoning, Business Meeting gives us the green light. Let this rabbi be clerk for a couple years, why not? We know and trust this person. Doctrine is not an issue.

This may sound far fetched, but lets remember how the AFSC is considered a “Quaker organization” and yet depends a great deal on non members. Meetings may be the same way.

Some of our longest term most dedicated participants are not seeking membership. They don’t feel it’s a requirement to be among Friends at the deepest levels. That’s probably in part owing to our not reserving any corner of the life of the Meeting to members in particular (other than the process of becoming a member).

Think of rides at a carnival. You may become a member of the carnival (get a card in the mail), but the rides stay open to all. You may become a member of an art museum. That doesn’t mean you should close off some rooms and make them “members only”. That somewhat defeats the purpose of an art museum, which about sharing art with the world, more than stroking member egos.

Likewise, a Quaker Meeting is not about denying a seeking public an opportunity to experience Quaker community — including its committees, other events. Members have no special secrets. We’re not Masons or Mormons or Illuminati (even if there’s some overlap, among attenders especially).

I’m not saying just anyone should be able to walk in off the street and jump on any committee. Nominating has a real job to do, and getting the right balance of attenders and members on every committee is a kind of alchemy. Some attenders are especially good at it.