Chapter 9 » 9.01
Our meetings for church affairs, within the compass of the Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends in Britain, exist within a variety of contexts. Britain Yearly Meeting is part of the world family of Friends; Britain Yearly Meeting sees itself corporately, and is seen by others, as part of the Christian church both globally and locally; interfaith dialogue is increasingly part of contemporary religious life. Within the spectrum of Britain Yearly Meeting there is a wide range of individual understandings of these three contexts, but all three will impinge on the life of our meetings. We need to remain aware of the wider relationships involved, and to take them into account in the conduct of our church affairs.
This chapter describes the formal relationships into which Britain Yearly Meeting has entered, their constitutional foundations and the structures which foster those relationships. It also offers advice on some of the implications for our meetings of Friends’ ecumenical involvement at different levels, and on how best to address the problems and opportunities which arise.
Friends do not share a single understanding of the nature of the church, or of our place within it; we tend to feel our way into relationships with which we are reasonably comfortable, rather than prescribe a particular arrangement of structures as correct. This places a heavy but necessary responsibility on our meetings for church affairs, at all levels, for the right conduct of their deliberations leading to decisions on their interchurch involvement.
It is hoped that the following paragraphs will help Friends, whatever our differing views of the nature of the church, towards a fuller understanding of the contexts within which our meetings exist, and will guide us in the conduct of our meetings for church affairs when challenged by relationships with other religious bodies.