In humility and acknowledging that the need to set up categories among seekers and to distinguish members from nonmembers is at least partly due to our affiliation with larger bureaucracies, human - not divine - institutions, we affirm the potential significance of membership for those who request and claim it. Aware of the many forms that membership can take for individual believers and the many meanings it can have for them, we nevertheless propose that young persons and adults wishing membership request it through the traditional application process, i.e., a letter to the clerk of the Meeting or the clerk of Oversight Committee requesting that a clearness committee for membership be set up. The Meeting likewise acknowledges membership for a child if it is requested by one or both parent who are members. As with traditional request for membership, a clearness committee is set up: in this case, the committee assists the parent or parents ( and perhaps the child, depending on her or his age) in discerning her or his relationship with the Meeting and discerning the best ways to support her or his spiritual growth within it. Such a view of membership emphasizes the Meeting's growing understanding of membership as dynamic.
Finally, with divine assistance, we pledge to continue learning from one another about the blessings, challenges, and responsibilities that membership brings even as we seek to deepen the ties of community between us all, regardless of our formal affiliation with the Meeting.
'Friends agree to adopt Chapter 9 ' Marriage and Committed Relationships' from the NPYM Faith and Practice, with one change. That change is to the second paragraph on page 91….The adopted version reads: Early Friends perceived that no mortal being could join two others together in marriage: only they could marry each other through a public declaration of their commitment. Friends marry each other without benefit of clergy or magistrate. Marriage occurs with divine assistance.'
The Friends Meeting of Austin adopted Chapter 11 of the 1993 edition of the NPYM Faith and Practice with the following understanding: that we adopt only those sections which apply directly to the responsibilities of our monthly meeting and that do not conflict with existing Quarterly and /or Yearly procedures. It should be noted that the entire chapter is of value, but that only those sections dealing with the creation of worship groups and preparatory meetings are available to our monthly meeting. The right to recognize a monthly meeting is reserved for quarterly and Yearly Meetings.
When there are serious differences of opinion, and some remain strongly convinced of the validity of their point of view, it is frequently possible to find unity by resource to a period of silent worship and prayer. The effect of this quiet waiting is often powerful and a way may appear for the solution of the problem. Such a way transcends compromise; it is the discovery together of unity in the Light that leads to the right course of action.
If the issue is one that is not of great importance to the Meeting, it may be postponed to a later date or the matter may be referred to a committee. Such a committee includes Friends of diverse views and is charged with revising the proposal in light of the objections and with bringing recommendations to a later meeting. If the matter is urgent, the committee may withdraw to return before the meeting closes or may be given the power to act.
On weightier issues, Friends must return to the silence, laboring to discern that of God in the varying statements and positions, and to transcend the polarization that can develop. As a result of this continuing discernment, some Friends may realize that their differences with the Meeting are theirs alone, and should not be binding on the Meeting. Such individual discernments may result in the decision of those Friends to 'stand aside'. This means that the Friends who are standing aside agree that the Meeting should proceed with the action contemplated, even though they may have personal reservations. The Meeting may include reference to those standing aside in the minute recording the action.
This is most likely to happen when a committee of the Meeting has been charged with work on the issue at hand, and has devoted careful and concentrated attention to it. In that case, individual Friends should resist the temptation to redo the work of the committee, and consider very carefully any inclination to oppose the committee's recommendations. At the same time, the committee must avoid being so attached to its recommendations that it forgets that new insights can develop as the meeting considers the matter.
This process of discernment may take several business meetings and much community effort. It is vitally important that Friends resist the temptation to become partisans for a point of view, and that all keep listening for the continuing revelation of God. It may be that the frustration of apparent impasse is required before Friends are able to leave their particular points of view behind and truly wait for the gathering of the community in God to lead to unity.
Occasionally, after a period of discernment, a few Friends may continue to feel they cannot unite with the rest of the Meeting in an action. In such a situation, Friends may well question whether the objections should be considered binding on the Meeting. On the other hand, a Meeting may too readily agree to an action on plausible but superficial grounds, so it is well to ponder objections voiced by a few Friends, or even a single Friend, which may reach to the heart of the matter at hand. If the Meeting, after prolonged laboring, is convinced that it is following Divine guidance, it may set aside the objections and proceed. It may include reference to the objections in the minute recording the action. The growth of Truth among the members in the course of time will confirm the action or lead the Meeting to a sounder decision.
It is the responsibility of all in the Meeting who are united in a course of action to ensure that the concerns of Friends who are not united with the Meeting in that action are truly heard. While heartfelt listening does not necessarily mean agreement, it is important that Friends work as a community to try to heal any rifts or alienation that may develop in the course of considering a difficult decision.