by the Subcommittee on Ministry & Leadings of Pacific Yearly Meeting’s Committee on Ministry & Oversight

Our sense that we are under the weight of a leading may grow gradually out of work that we have agreed to do (or that is thrust unexpectedly upon us) rather than arising through our own careful rumination and forethought. We may protest that we are not the right person for the task—that others are obviously more qualified—and that we have in any case not agreed to the responsibility that we are being asked to shoulder. (The Judeo-Christian prototype for a leading was Moses’ encounter with the burning bush: Moses pleaded to be excused from God’s charge to him, and only reluctantly agreed to accept it.) As we do the work we are asked to do, however, recognition dawns that we are exactly where we need to be, doing just what we need to be doing. Though a significant calling typically brings challenges and headaches, over time it becomes a true labor of love.

In Quaker settings, such a happy discovery may occur through accepting a request from a nominating committee to undertake a responsibility at monthly, quarterly or yearly meeting. Whereas most who agree to such a request readily lay down their assigned tasks when their term ends, a few discover that the work they have been asked to do calls forth more and more of their purpose, commitment and devotion, taking on a life of its own. For such persons, a nomination has become a leading.

Such cases naturally raise questions about the proper term of service in the nominated role. Most Quaker job descriptions specify a time limit for a job (typically, no more than one additional term), to distribute tasks more equitably and to invite fresh energies and perspectives. These reasonable expectations require careful review, however, in cases where those who have accepted a nomination feel that they have found a true leading in doing the work requested. Several questions may arise:

  1. Is the “leading” indeed genuine—or has the person simply become attached to the position for one reason or another?
  2. Might it be feasible to keep the person in the position for an additional term, beyond the specified term limit?
  3. Might the person’s work be “reclassified” and thus supported in a new way?
  4. If the original nomination slot provided financial support, how might financial support be provided for the reclassified position?

These questions may arise when a nominating committee is performing its usual tasks. Unless answers seem readily available within the parameters of its usual practice, however, the nominating committee should not be expected to bear the burden of answering them. In such a case, the question(s) should be referred to another body for further seasoning and discernment. Within Pacific Yearly Meeting, this body is the PYM Committee on Ministry and Oversight. When the PYM Nominating Committee and/or the Friend in the nominated position sense that the Friend may have found a true leading, both the clerk of Nominating Committee and the Friend should write letters—preferably brief, and to the point—to the clerk of Ministry and Oversight, responding to the four questions in the previous paragraph.

Upon receiving these letters, the clerk of PYM Ministry and Oversight may bring the matter to the entire Committee on Ministry and Oversight for seasoning and discernment, or alternatively, may refer it to the Subcommittee on Ministry and Leadings, with a request for its recommendation. Each such case will be unique, and should be resolved on its own merits. Options may include:

  • Creation of a Clearness Committee to meet with the Friend, to discern the appropriate form of the Friend’s ministry. (See ##5-7 above for general guidelines.)
  • Creation of a Spiritual Accountability Group to oversee the Friend’s ministry. (See ## 10-14 above.)
  • Creation of a Support Committee for the Friend (See ##15-16 above.)
  • A recommendation regarding the position to which the Friend was originally nominated: Has way opened for another person to be nominated for the position?
  • A recommendation regarding funding of the Friend’s work, if applicable (see #18 above).

The Pacific YM Committee on Ministry & Oversight bears the primary responsibility for receiving and seasoning any recommendations. M&O may resolve the matter on its own authority, or (when the recommendation entails the creation of a new position and/or allocation of funds) consult with Pacific YM Finance Committee and then bring a recommendation to Representative Committee, or to Meeting for Business at the annual gathering of Pacific YM.

From the pamphlet Faithfulness in Action: Supporting Leadings in Pacific Yearly Meeting.