<< PYM home

Faith and Practice

Pacific Yearly Meeting

of the

Religious Society of Friends

a guide to quaker discipline in the experience of pacific yearly meeting of the religious society of friends.
published 2001

Search provided by

Contents page

v: procedures

< previous page

next page >


pym in context
quaker faith & spiritual practice
testimony & experience of friends
organization of the society
activities & organization of the YM
sources of quotations
index of sources
subject index

We gratefully acknowledge the generosity of Friends who have permitted us to use material for this Faith and Practice.


becoming a member

 All decisions concerning membership in the Religious Society of Friends are made in sessions of the Monthly Meeting, as Meetings seek to include in their membership all who find themselves in unity with their faith and practices. The procedure has several steps. It is seldom completed within less than three months. In some cases both the applicant and the Meeting may find it useful to take even more time for this process.

step 1: An applicant writes a letter to the Clerk of the Monthly Meeting expressing a desire to become a member. The letter need contain no more than a plain request although in some Meetings it is customary to provide some background. The Clerk promptly sends an acknowledgment on behalf of the Meeting, reads the letter at Business Meeting, and then gives it to the Oversight Committee.

step 2: The Overseers appoint a clearness committee consisting of two or three members, at least one of whom is an Overseer, to visit with the applicant. Great care should be taken to select sympathetic and discerning Friends who also have a strong understanding of the meaning and implications of membership. All visits take place in the spirit of a common worshipful seeking for God’s will and guidance. Sufficient time must be allowed to ensure mutual trust and understanding. <See Appendix 4a for topics suggested for the use of a clearness committee>. The members of the committee meet with the applicant as often and for as long as necessary for both the applicant and the committee to discern the rightness of this relationship, and the readiness of the applicant. These visits provide an opportunity (a) for the visiting Friends to become acquainted with the applicant at a deeper level, (b) for the applicant to ask questions and (c) for preparing the applicant and the Meeting for this new membership.

step 3: When the clearness committee unites with the applicant in the request for membership, it reports to the Oversight Committee with its recommendation. If the committee feels the applicant is not yet ready for membership, they may encourage a wider experience with Friends’ beliefs and practices through additional reading, visits to other Monthly, Quarterly or Yearly Meetings, attendance at workshops, or other activities. Membership itself is not as important as the spiritual growth of the prospective member. If it becomes clear that more seasoning is required, the committee should set another time to meet again with the applicant. The committee should inform the Overseers and plan a time to report again, keeping the Meeting aware of continuing work on the application. If it becomes clear to the applicant or the clearness committee or both that membership is not advisable, the application may be withdrawn and the Meeting should so be informed. Regardless of the outcome, the applicant should be treated with gentleness and respect. He or she should be welcome to continue attending and participating in the life of the Meeting, just as prior to exploring the possibility of membership.

step 4: If the Overseers have a positive recommendation, they present it to the Meeting for Business. It is not acted on at that session, but is placed on the agenda for action at the next Business Meeting. This allows members to become better acquainted with the applicant and to voice concerns about the prospective membership to the Oversight Committee in advance of the decision. When the recommendation is brought back to the Meeting for action, it is customary in some meetings for the applicant to withdraw from the room during the deliberations. A Friend, often a member of the Oversight Committee, generally accompanies the applicant.

step 5: Upon approval of the application, the Meeting minutes its acceptance of the new member, and the Recorder or another designated person promptly completes Pacific Yearly Meeting membership forms.

step 6: The Meeting should arrange to provide a warm welcome into the community. A Quaker book or periodical may be presented as a gift from the Meeting.