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Manual of Procedure

Appendix E: Guidelines for Embracing the Ministry of Friends

Approved October 19, 2013


These guidelines offer information to Friends who may ask to have a ministry embraced by their Monthly Meeting and/or Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM). A summary of the steps to be followed appears below.

The term “embracing” is defined as “taking or receiving gladly or eagerly.” In these guidelines “embraced” and/or “embracing” mean affirmation and support provided by BYM to Friends; and, as a “minister” is defined as a “servant,” “ministry” may be defined as “service.”

The Committee on Nurture and Recognition of Ministry (CNRM) chose the term “embraced” at the March 1999 Representative Meeting, and was reaffirmed in a retreat for members of CNRM and the BYM Ministry and Counsel Committee, who met on May 20, 2000 to revise these guidelines.

“Embraced” was selected for its positive connotations. The Committees also felt the term “embraced” is less likely to be misinterpreted, as such terms as “affirmed,” “recorded,” and “recognized” that have a history of use by Friends in other contexts might be. Beyond the immediate condition of having one’s specific ministry embraced for a specific period, the term “embraced ministry” confers no special or lasting status.

In 2001, the Committee on Nurture and Recognition of Ministry was merged with the Ministry and Counsel Committee to form the Ministry and Pastoral Care Committee (M&PC). In October 2011, M&PC affirmed this understanding of embraced ministry. In 2013 these guidelines were updated.

Key role of Monthly Meetings

Friends seeking to have their ministry embraced should begin with individual discernment, by asking their Monthly Meetings for assistance in describing and understanding their ministry.

Some Monthly Meetings have undertaken to release Friends for particular ministries by providing financial and other support for that ministry. “Released” has traditionally meant, “to be released from external concerns to concentrate on the specifics of the work of the ministry.” Examples of support may include providing housing, transportation, or funds to release a Friend from the need to earn all or part of their support while undertaking a ministry.

Embraced ministry

Friends may seek to have their ministry embraced by BYM. Being so embraced means BYM, at its Annual Session or Interim Meeting:

     1) Has prayerfully studied and considered the ministry.

     2) Unites with the ministry and feels that it is led by the Spirit.

     3) Undertakes to provide care and spiritual accountability through M&PC.

     4) Undertakes to endorse travel minutes, if needed.

     5) Undertakes to facilitate awareness of the embraced ministry by making known the Yearly Meeting’s affirmation of the ministry as Spirit-guided work.

BYM’s act of embracing a particular ministry carries with it no expectation the ministry will be supported financially by BYM. However, if the ministry is embraced, it will be considered a program of BYM, under the care of a standing committee (either M&PC or its designated Sponsoring Committee).

Monthly Meetings may have their own guidelines for embracing the ministry of Friends or for releasing Friends to follow a leading. The guidelines and process expressed here specifically addresses ministries seeking to be embraced by BYM.

Nature of the ministry to be embraced

Ministries can involve gifts of speaking, teaching, discerning God’s word, or service, such as healing or peacemaking. If rightly led and ordered, these gifts have as their wellspring God’s Spirit. The test for an embraced ministry is whether a Monthly Meeting and/or BYM concur it is rightly ordered and can unite with it.

The Religious Society of Friends has been described as a “priesthood of all believers” from which the laity, not the ministers, have been eliminated. Among Friends, each and every Friend is called to exercise appropriate ministry. Friends have a long history of discerning and supporting individuals’ ministries.

These guidelines speak to a covenant made with God, and clarified through individual and corporate discernment. At the heart of the covenant is the experience of being called forth to perform God’s service, and responding to this call with faith, love, and truth. Prayerful consideration, including both individual and corporate discernment, is required to test whether an individual is rightly led.

Discerning and embracing a ministry—overview

The process of discerning, seasoning, and embracing a ministry may be considered as a sequence of distinct steps. The process includes:

     1) Individual discernment.

     2) Corporate discernment: the clearness process.

     3) The role of BYM and its committees.

     4) Sponsoring Committee.

     5) Working Support Committee.

Individual discernment

A Friend’s ministry begins with a leading. Friends are urged to study examples of leadings and how they have been tested, from the writings of Friends such as John Woolman and Lucretia Mott. A Friend must seek the still, quiet center and see what the Spirit teaches, and then assess whether and how these actions are in accord with Scripture and the testimonies of Friends.

If the sense of being led to a ministry persists, a Friend may further test the leading through corporate discernment.

Corporate discernment: the clearness process

Corporate discernment regarding a leading or ministry begins when a Friend asks for a Clearness Committee from his or her Monthly Meeting.

The Clearness Committee explores with the Friend what he or she feels called to do, probing to ascertain the spiritual roots of the leading, its depth and clarity, and whether there are considerations that might weigh against pursuing it. Clearness Committee questions might focus on:

     1) The nature of the Friend’s gift.

     2) The Friend’s understanding of what he or she is called to do.

     3) How the leading fits with Friends testimonies, values, and practices.

     4) Resources available to the Friend.

     5) Resources needed to carry out the leading.

     6) The amount of support likely to be available from the Monthly Meeting, other organizations, host communities, and/or interested individuals.

Historically, the clearness process has often taken years. It is important to take all the time necessary to discern clearly whether the Friend is ready to move forward with the proposed ministry, or whether further seasoning is needed.

If the Clearness Committee feels that the ministry merits the support of the Monthly Meeting, the Committee should bring its recommendation to a meeting for worship with concern for business and ask the Monthly Meeting to embrace the Friend’s ministry and to minute its support of it.

If the Clearness Committee and the Monthly Meeting discern that the ministry will involve the interests of BYM, or is important enough to merit consideration by BYM, the Monthly Meeting should forward this minute of support to BYM, asking the ministry be embraced by BYM.

Whether the ministry is supported within the Monthly Meeting, or embraced by BYM, the Monthly Meeting will take responsibility for receiving donations and disbursing funds needed to support the embraced ministry financially. This responsibility may be delegated to another organization, as appropriate.

If a ministry is embraced by BYM, all fundraising activity within BYM must be coordinated with BYM’s Development Committee. The Monthly Meeting should prayerfully consider whether it has the capacity to manage the administration of these financial matters.

The role of BYM and its committees

When a Monthly Meeting asks BYM to embrace the ministry of a particular Friend, BYM should take the following steps:

     1) Refer the Monthly Meeting’s request to M&PC.

     2) M&PC should ascertain how the proposed ministry expresses Quaker values, practices, or beliefs, and how it relates to the work of BYM.

     3) M&PC should determine whether the scope and nature of the ministry’s work truly justify embracing the ministry at the Yearly Meeting level.

     4) M&PC should decide whether to take responsibility for supporting the embraced ministry or to ask another BYM standing committee to do so.

     5) The appropriate BYM committee presents a minute to BYM asking it to embrace the ministry.

     6) If the minute is approved, either M&PC or another BYM committee will convene  (nominate) two committees to support the embraced ministry:

          a) a Sponsoring Committee and

          b) a Working Support Committee.

Sponsoring Committee

M&PC will normally serve as the Sponsoring Committee, given its primary responsibility for ministry. When deemed appropriate, however, another BYM committee may serve as the Sponsoring Committee. To assure accountability to BYM the Sponsoring Committee will bring a minute to Annual Session or Interim Meeting asking BYM to embrace the proposed ministry. If the minute is approved, the Sponsoring Committee will also:

     1) Ensure the ministry is carried out in good order, in accord with Friends testimonies and practices.

     2) Assure compliance with general standards of satisfactory financial management, including relevant insurance and tax matters.

     3) Verify the resources supporting the ministry are well-used and accounted for.

     4) Review and present travel minutes to BYM for endorsement.

     5) Meet with the Friend and members of the Working Support Committee often enough to maintain good communication.

     6) Receive and review periodic reports submitted by the Working Support Committee.

     7) Bring recommendations for major changes in the ministry to BYM for approval.

Working Support Committee

The Sponsoring Committee names three to six Friends to a Working Support Committee, whose purpose is to assist an embraced Friend in carrying forward their ministry. These Friends ought to have relevant experience, spiritual depth, and a leading to support the proposed ministry. Members of the Working Support Committee customarily serve three- year terms. During their term of service they will:

     1) Encourage the embraced Friend to maintain a daily spiritual practice.

     2) Help the Friend with discernment and use of his or her leading, skills, and judgment.

     3) Work to develop needed resources, including identifying possible contributors, helping with mailings and letter writing, and making personal solicitations, consistent with Friends’ testimonies and practices.

     4) Engage with other organizations, host communities, or individuals to explore their understanding and expectations about the work being undertaken, recognizing that in some cases the embraced ministry of Friends will place them within other accountability structures that will of necessity take supervisory precedence.

     5) Help the Friend in handling adversity.

     6) Serve as traveling companions to the embraced Friend whenever possible.

     7) Identify others with similar leadings.

     8) Report annually or more frequently on program progress. Reports should be forwarded to the Sponsoring committee and the Monthly Meeting.

     9) Discern when it may be appropriate to lay down the embraced ministry, or discontinue BYM’s embrace of it, and discuss with the Sponsoring Committee.

The Working Support Committee may call on the Sponsoring Committee for counsel and assistance in the face of any difficulty experienced with the program.

Steps to be taken by BYM Friends considering an “embraced ministry.”

     1) Pray for greater clarity regarding your ministry.

     2) Read and prayerfully consider the resources available to you.

     3) If your Monthly Meeting is unsure how to proceed, ask for assistance from BYM’s M&PC.

     4) Ask your Monthly Meeting to convene a Clearness Committee to help in the discernment of your ministry and its spiritual foundation.

     5) Meet with your Clearness Committee to explore your ministry and consider the resources it might require.

     6) If your Clearness Committee unites with your ministry, it should bring a recommendation to its meeting for business asking that the Monthly Meeting:

          a) Minute its support of your ministry, including in the minute a description of the work you are led to do.

          b) Appoint a support committee to help you plan and do the work.

          c) If your ministry involves travel among Friends, provide you with a travel minute describing your relationship to the meeting and the nature of your ministry.

     7) If the Monthly Meeting agrees to take these steps, explore with your support committee the organizational and financial requirements of the work you are led to do.

     8) If necessary, with the help of your support committee, reach out to individuals and organizations outside the Monthly Meeting whose help is needed to undertake the work you are led to do. Make sure they understand your ministry, as well as the testimonies and practices of Friends.

     9) With the help of your support committee assess realistically the resources needed to carry our your ministry and resources available from your meeting. Identify and access additional resources as needed.

     10) If your ministry or its impact extends well beyond the boundaries of your Monthly Meeting, your support committee may recommend to the Monthly Meeting that it ask BYM to embrace the ministry.

     11) If the Monthly Meeting agrees BYM should be asked to embrace your ministry, it will send a request to BYM and the request will be referred to BYM’s M&PC.

     12) M&PC will explore whether it would be appropriate for BYM to embrace your ministry. M&PC may ask you to provide a full explanation of your ministry, the names of other persons or groups who may participate in it, cost estimates, and a copy of any of your travel minutes.

     13) If it decides to recommend BYM embrace your ministry, M&PC Committee will decide which BYM committee will serve as a Sponsoring Committee for it.

     14) The Sponsoring Committee is responsible for recommending to BYM that your ministry be embraced by BYM.

     15) The Sponsoring Committee confers with you and your Monthly Meeting to identify Friends to serve on a Working Support Committee.

     16) Meet frequently with the Working Support Committee and provide an annual report to the Sponsoring Committee.

     17) Continue your spiritual practices and prayerful discernment.

     18) As you may feel led, be prepared to discuss with your Working Support Committee when it would be appropriate to transform or lay down the ministry.

     19) Share the fruits of your experience with your ministry with other Friends.

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