Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Process of Seasoning a Minute/Statement Relating to Justice and/or Peace

Once upon a time, when I first came to California in 1989, minutes relating to peace and justice were supposedly quite common at Pacific Yearly Meeting, like orange groves in Orange County.  To some Friends,  these minutes seemed more like political statements rather than Spirit-led concerns. They seemed facile and half-baked, and intended mainly to make us feel we had “done something” when all we had done is simply make a feel-good statement.

This approach to presenting minutes changed in the new millennium. For a minute to be considered at the Yearly Meeting annual session, it first had to be approved by monthly meeting. It then had to go to Quarterly for its consideration and approval. Only after being “seasoned” in this way was a minute presented to the Yearly Meeting.
The term “to season” is Quakerese meaning “taking the time to seek the Light rather than moving into a matter hastily”—A Western Quaker Reader, p. 305.
As a result of such seasoning, no more than one or two minutes per year come up for consideration by the Yearly Meeting, and sometimes none at all.
This seasoning process meant that a minute that came to Yearly Meeting had essentially been prayerfully considered and approved by half of the Friends in YM. The process took time and care.
The purpose of approving a minute at YM was three-fold:

1)      to draw upon the collective wisdom and spiritual power of the YM to insure that the minute truly reflects the Truth (as we understand it).

2)       to lend the authority of the YM to that of the local or quarterly meeting, thereby increasing the effectiveness of the minute. (Elected officials pay more attention when a statement comes from a large representative body than from a local one or an individual.)

3)      to insure that the minute circulate as widely as possible among “Friends everywhere” as well as among elected officials, thereby witnessing to our faith commitment.

Let me share a brief story about how the minute on drones arose and was seasoned. For many years I have been active with Interfaith Communities Uniting for Justice and Peace, a group that meets every Friday morning to work on various issues. One morning in the fall of 2012 Medea Benjamin came to our meeting and shared her story about how she became involved with the anti-drone issue.
Her passion and commitment touched me deeply. I later learned that a Quaker had been part of the delegation that went to Pakistan with Medea Benjamin.  Reading articles about drones in Friends Journal and Western Friend convinced me that this concern was one that many Friends were taking to heart.
Reading Benjamin’s book on drone warfare, I learned that two of the main manufacturers of drones are located here in Southern California. This mean that California Friends should probably take the lead on this issue since our state produces and profits from them.
The more I learned about drones, the more clear it became that these weapons could make “cheap and easy” and thereby more palatable to Americans.  This is a dangerous new direction in warfare with profound moral as well as political implications.  
I brought up this concern with the Peace Committee of Orange Grove Meeting and we came to unity about bringing it to business meeting. Orange Grove Friends approved a minute and sent it to Quarterly for approval.
By this time, I was becoming aware that FCNL and AFSC had both taking on the anti-drone concern. It seemed as if this is an issue was becoming increasingly important to Friends and therefore our support for this minute would be helpful.
I hope this explanation helps Friends better understand the seasoning process for minutes that are presented at Yearly Meeting.  

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