New England Yearly Meeting (Wilburite) Discipline, 1930
We hold that Eldership as well as the Ministry is a gift bestowed by the great Head of the Church. The qualifications for Eldership are varied and difficult to define. Spiritual discernment, good judgement, insight into character, an understanding of the spiritual needs of the meeting and the individual, a gracious tact, a desire for the spiritual growth of the Church, especially of the young, an outreaching interest in the spiritual welfare of those who might come within the circle of influence of our meetings; such are among the characteristics of rightly qualified Elders.
Especially should they seek prayerfully for spiritual discernment concerning the ministry and should try to foster its fullest development and growth. They should be ready to hearten Ministers at times of discouragement and burden for the Church, to accompany and uphold them, and when need arises, caution and retrain them in a spirit of loving helpfulness. They should watch over those inexperienced in ministry, encourage the right unfolding of their gifts, and strive to discover and foster gifts in the ministry not yet developed.
A variety of spiritual gifts, prophecy, teaching, exhortation, prayer, are a help in the life of the meeting, and it should be the part of a true Elder to discern and foster such gifts as will meet the needs of the varied membership, old and young, learned and unlearned. If the Elders feel that certain members of the meeting may be withholding required service, they should urge upon them a consideration of their responsibility in the use of gifts.
With a large capacity for friendship, Elders should be such men and women as would draw to them those who need spiritual advice, comfort, and understanding. Above all, they should be men and women of prayer, who seek for the guidance of the Spirit in the difficult service He asks of them, and they should be ready to follow His bidding, be the service large or small.
Each Monthly Meeting should choose two or more Elders to sit with the Minister and they together constitute a Preparative Meeting of Ministers and Elders. As one of the services of elders is to develop a ministry where there is none, each Monthly Meeting should appoint Elders even though no recorded Minister belongs to that meeting.
From Ohio YM Discipline, section on Elders
An Elder who loses fitness for his office should promptly have such care by the Preparative and Quarterly Meetings for Ministry and Oversight as may be needed, before the matter be referred by minute to the Monthly Meeting.
In reflective silence as a group, take 20 to 30 minutes to read the above passage and individually jot down answers to the following questions. Then, out of the silence, share your answers. If time allows when all answers have been shared, you may move into reflective discussion.
Questions for Consideration
- In what ways does this passage seem true to my experience, personally and in my meeting?
- What new understanding do I gain in reading this passage at this time?
- What problems and implications are there in this passage for my life and for the life of our meeting?
Adapted from Friendly Faith & Practice Study Guide, by Joanne & Larry Spears, Friends General Conference, 1997. Free online .pdf or $3 from QuakerBooks