This Handbook is intended as a useful tool for Friends seeking to understand the structure and functioning of the New York Yearly Meeting organization. It does not change or supersede the authority of Faith and Practice, the book of discipline of the Yearly Meeting.
A New York Yearly Meeting Handbook was first prepared in response to a minute approved by the 1965 sessions of Yearly Meeting. Revisions have been made periodically to reflect changes in the life of the Yearly Meeting. It is the intention of Liaison Committee and staff to keep the Handbook as current and available as possible, with input from committees and individual Friends. The version on the Yearly Meeting Web site, nyym.org, is considered the current version.
The Handbook spells out the present practice of New York Yearly Meeting with respect to the following areas:
- The officers and staff of the Yearly Meeting and their duties, method of appointment, and terms of office;
- The organization of Yearly Meeting concerns, functions, and committees into sections; the section coordinating committees and their place and functions in the operation of the Yearly Meeting;
- A description of each committee, board, or related body, including its specific functions, its size and method of appointment, and, in many cases, some historical background;
- The principles of financing the operations of the Yearly Meeting;
- Information about the funds and bequests held by the Yearly Meeting, particularly with respect to their history and method of administration;
- A statement on the nature of the corporate search in regard to conducting business after the manner of Friends, decisions of the Yearly Meeting, and advices to committees and persons appointed for service to the Yearly Meeting.
Revisions to the Handbook
With the approval of its coordinating committee, a committee may revise its Handbook section. General Services is responsible for Part 2 of the Handbook, with suggestions of the other committees. The Yearly Meeting in business session must approve changes in “Purpose and Objectives,” “Functions and Activities,” and other major revisions as per Faith and Practice. Approved changes are forwarded to the Yearly Meeting office by or at the direction of the presiding clerk, and incorporated in the online version, including approval dates, by staff.
- In this Handbook, the term “regional meeting” is used to mean quarterly, half-yearly, preparative, and regional meetings; the term “monthly meeting” is used to mean monthly and executive meetings.
- Yearly Meeting business is conducted during Summer Sessions and during Spring and Fall sessions (the latter formerly known as “Representative Meeting”). “Yearly Meeting” can mean business worship sessions at any of these gatherings.
THE CORPORATE SEARCH
A meeting for business within the Religious Society of Friends is conducted as a meeting for worship with attention to the Life of the Meeting. The primary objective is a search for truth. We believe Friends should be sensitive to their knowledge of the feelings of those who may be absent but they must also be sensitive to the Light as it develops in the meeting, and it should be this Light that guides the final decision. Friends should proceed in a constant search for truth without unduly pressing any preconceived point of view. It is a common experience that the united efforts of a group proceeding in this way can, and often do, “discover truth which will satisfy everyone more fully than did any position previously held.”
Suggested references for study include:
- New York Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice (2001)—General Business Procedure
- L. Hugh Doncaster, Pendle Hill Pamphlet #181—pp. 15–16
- Howard Brinton, Friends for 300 Years—chapter 6, pp. 99–117
- A. Neave Brayshaw, The Quakers—chapter 11, pp. 167–73
- Michael J. Sheeran, Beyond Majority Rule
- Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, "When Friends Attend to Business,” Thomas S. Brown