Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > The Old Discipline > Discipline and Meetings for Discipline
The connection and subordination of our meetings for discipline are thus: Preparative meetings are accountable to the monthly; monthly to the quarterly; and the quarterly to the yearly meeting. So that if the yearly meeting be at any time dissatisfied with the proceedings of any inferior meeting; or a quarterly meeting with the proceedings of either of its monthly meetings; or a monthly meeting with the proceedings of either of its preparative meetings: Such meeting or meetings ought with readiness and meekness to render an account thereof when required.
It is agreed that no quarterly meeting be set up or laid down, without the consent of the yearly meeting; no monthly meeting without the consent of the quarterly meeting; nor any preparative or other meeting for business or worship till application to the monthly meeting is first made; and, when there approved, the consent of the quarterly meeting be also obtained.
Also, that no meeting for worship intended to consist of Friends belonging to two or more monthly meetings shall be set up, until the proposal be offered to and approved by both those monthly meetings, and the consent of their respective quarterly meeting or meetings be obtained: when the meeting proposed, is opened, it should be attended by a few solid Friends, deputed by each of the said monthly meetings. And, if at any time, it is thought expedient, that a preparative meeting should be held at the same place, the consent of the said monthly and quarterly meetings should be, in like manner, applied for and obtained; and the said preparative meeting should be annexed to either one or the other of those monthly meetings, as may be most likely to conduce to the benefit of the individuals who compose it, and the advantage of society.
It is directed, that a book be provided by every monthly and quarterly meeting, and fair minutes be kept therein, of all matters which shall come before and be determined by them. Monthly meetings, particularly, are advised to attend to and finish all such business with care and dispatch, that it may, at no time, suffer by improper delay. And, if any case under consideration proves too weighty or difficult for them to determine, they should apply to their respective quarterly meetings for assistance; or, if the circumstances are such as to require it, refer it thereto by minute.
It is the sense of this meeting, as a general rule in all cases, that where any monthly or quarterly meeting has occasion for, and requests copies of any of the papers, minutes, or records of another monthly or quarterly meeting, the same may accordingly be granted.
Where any differences happen among Friends, and the same be entered in any monthly or quarterly meeting-book, it is agreed, that if the parties, or either of them, think that copies of such entries may be useful and necessary for them, and request the same, such monthly and quarterly meetings shall have a discretional power to give or refuse such copies, according to the circumstances and motives attending.
It is agreed, that a suitable number of men and women be appointed in each monthly meeting, to attend the service of the quarterly meeting, with such reports in writing, signed by their clerks, as may be given them in charge: also, that at least four of each sex be appointed in each quarterly meeting, to attend the yearly meeting.
And it is earnestly advised and desired, that all Friends who submit to these, or any other services of society, may be punctual in their attendance thereon; or, if prevented by sickness, or any other unavoidable occurrence, that they be careful to send information thereof; also, that those who are under appointments to meetings, do not withdraw therefrom before the conclusion, without obtaining the meetings' consent.
And when proposals of marriage are made, if any near relations of the parties (who are not in membership) are permitted to be present, they should withdraw before the meeting proceeds to any other business.
It is advised that if a member under dealing removes into the compass of another monthly meeting; or, if previous to or after such removal the conduct of him or her has been such as to require their being dealt with -- and their residence be at so great a distance as to render it inconvenient for the monthly meeting to which they belong, it should request that into which they are removed, to treat with them according to our rules, and to report the effect of its care; when, if it is satisfactory, the party should be recommended by certificate; or if otherwise, and a testimony of denial is issued, a copy thereof should be sent to the monthly meeting within the limits of which he or she resides, and that meeting is to appoint two or more Friends to inform them thereof, and of their right of appeal.
After a charge against a member for disorderly conduct is entered on the minutes of a monthly meeting, he or she should not be permitted to sit in any of our meetings for discipline, till the case is issued, and the monthly meeting satisfied.
It is advised, that where any transgress the rules of our discipline, they may, without partiality, be admonished and sought in the spirit of love and divine charity, so that it may be seen by all that the restoring spirit of meekness and christian love abounds, before church censure takes place, and that a gospel spirit is the spring and motive to all our performances, as well in discipline as in worship.
It is earnestly recommended, that in conducting the affairs of the church, Friends endeavour to manage them in the peaceable spirit and wisdom of Jesus, with decency, forbearance and love to each other.
It appearing by the minutes of the meeting for sufferings, that on inspection of some of the accounts of sufferings sent up by the quarterly meetings, considerable difficulty has been occasioned by those accounts, not expressing with sufficient clearness, what the sufferings mentioned were for; it is now desired that the monthly and quarterly meetings may in future leave out of their reports any instances which do not appear to be clearly consistent with the sense of this yearly meeting; and that they continue to collect and send up their accounts of sufferings annually as heretofore directed.
As to the rights of children, whose parents have been married contrary to the rules of our discipline; it is agreed, that where either of those parents remain out of membership, their children should not be esteemed members, till application for their admission is made, either by themselves, or by their parent, parents, or guardians on their behalf, and the monthly meeting applied to, on a solid consideration of the case, is easy to admit them, or any of them. The rights of children, born of parents who have been married according to our rules and disowned after their birth, are not intended to be affected by this rule: neither the rights of such minor children as are not of an age to judge for themselves, whose parents have both condemned their outgoing in marriage, while either of the said parents retains his or her right of membership.
If any member of our religious society, shall apply to those called jugglers or fortune-tellers, or those who by colour of any art or skill whatsoever, pretend to a knowledge of future events, hidden transactions, or where things lost or stolen may be found; or if any of our members shall use, or pretend to such art or skill, it is advised that they be speedily dealt with, and if they do not manifest a due sense of their evil conduct, that they be testified against.
A committee should be annually appointed in each of our quarterly and monthly meetings, for the nomination of clerks; which may afford opportunity for their being seasonably changed, and more of our qualified members exercised in those services.
As the use and design of preparative meetings is in general to digest and prepare business as occasion may require, which may be proper to be laid before the monthly meeting, Friends ought to be careful therein, not to occasion unnecessary delays, or undertake to decide on any business which claims attention and care in monthly meetings. And when cases are agreed to be carried forward, they should be entered in writing, and some suitable Friend or Friends named to produce them to the monthly meetings; and proper notes thereof should be carefully preserved by clerks of preparative meetings, as to said meetings may appear useful and right. But no preparative meeting shall take cognizance of proposals of marriage, this being exclusively the business of monthly meetings.