Friday, March 6, 2009

Drawing on Quaker practices and testimonies within secular organizations

"If the Society of Friends [Quakers] have anything to say, it lies in this region primarily: Life is meant to be lived from a Center, a divine Center."
-- Thomas Kelly

For a presentation last week, I made a list of suggestions for including Quaker practices and testimonies within secular organizations. Please forgive the Quaker jargon (here's a glossary that talks about testimonies and "sense of the meeting.")

Drawing on Quaker practices and testimonies within secular organizations:

Simplicity Testimony:
  • Say “yes” and “no” to what you are able to do in the organization from a clear center, not taking on more or less than you are called to.
  • Notice who is most on the margins of the organization, listen to their stories and perspectives, and incorporate those perspectives in decision-making.
  • Describe the organizational culture and climate as you experience it. Ask others how they experience it.

  • Hold the organization and the people in it in the Light.

  • Build trusting relationships and a caring community, which makes collective discernment more possible.
  • Withdraw your support and cooperation from harmful patterns in the organization. *See some discussion about this one in the comments.

More suggestions for incorporating Quaker principles of discernment, peace, and community within secular organizations.

How would you add to, change, or expand on the suggestions?


Jeanne said...

The suggestion under Integrity seems passive aggressive unless you do so publicly or do something about the problem.

Or perhaps I'm not understanding the suggestion entirely.

Jeanne said...

And to integrity, I would suggest adding systems of accountability to whatever you're responsible for (and whoever you're responsible for) as well as making your work and actions as transparent as possible.

Unknown said...

I'm inspired also to think about simplicity of message, simplicity in what you ask of constituents. Sometimes I feel like I'm selling one mroe good things that people can do...almost like one more product people can consume and I don't quite feel free of our hectic consumeristic culture as I do so.

Michael Bischoff said...

Jeanne: Good point about how withdrawing support for harmful patterns can be passive aggressive, if not done openly and directly. I think that most of the points on the list could use tweaking. And passive aggressiveness is one of the directions that I can err. What I had in mind was a range of ways of withdrawing support for unhealthy patterns. On one end, if harmful gossiping is common in an organization, I think that quietly not participating in it can be appropriate. On the other end, I think the methods of confrontational nonviolent action can sometimes apply within organizations, like workers or students going on strike. I think often about how Vaclav Havel, from the Czech Republic, talked about "living in truth." I think this applies to both big confrontational times and small actions.

I think the two other principles you added to "integrity" help balance out the one I originally had there.

Michael Bischoff said...

Emily: Your comment reminds me of another part of the Thomas Kelly essay that I quoted in the post:

"When we say Yes or No to calls for service on the basis of heady decisions, we have to give reasons, to ourselves and to others. But when we say Yes or No to calls, on the basis of inner guidance... we have no reason to give, except one -- the will of God as we discern it. Then we have begun to live in guidance. And I find He never guides us into an intolerable scramble of panting feverishness. The Cosmic Patience becomes, in part, our patience, for after all God is at work in the world. It is not we alone who are at work in the world, frantically finishing a work to be offered to God."

I like how your comment looks at this from the standpoint of those of us making requests for people to join good causes.

P.S. I'm not crazy about the un-inclusive language in the quote.

Anonymous said...

Here is a good summary of Quaker discernment and business practices, written for an ecumenical audience:

An introduction to Quaker business practice, by Eden Grace

Anonymous said...

I just found this list of "Values for Healthy Leadership among Friends" by Colin Saxton: I think it adds to the topic of this blog post very nicely.