Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > The Old Discipline > Meetings of Ministers and Elders


It is our earnest desire, that both ministers and elders may be as nursing fathers and mothers to those that are young in the ministry, and with all care and diligence advise and admonish them, and if they see occasion, reprove them in a tender and Christian spirit, according to the rules of our discipline and counsel of Friends in that respect; also exhort them frequently to read the holy scriptures, and earnestly seek the mind of the Spirit of truth, to open the mysteries thereof, that, abiding in a simple and patient submission to the will of God, and keeping down to the openings of divine love and life in themselves, they may witness a gradual growth in their gifts, and be preserved from extending their declarations further than they find the life and power of truth to bear them up. -- 1723.

And our advice to all our ministers is, that they be frequent in reading the scriptures of the old and new testaments; and if any in the course of their ministry, shall misapply, or draw unsound inferences or wrong conclusions from the text, or shall misbehave themselves in point of conduct or conversation, let them be admonished in love and tenderness by the elders or overseers where they live, and if they prove refractory and refuse to acknowledge their faults, let them be further dealt with, in the wisdom of truth, as the case may require. -- 1723.

As the occasion of our religious meetings is solemn, a care should ever be maintained to guard against any thing that would tend to disorder or confusion therein. When any think they have aught against what is publicly delivered, they should speak to the party privately and orderly; and if any shall oppose a ministering Friend in his or her preaching or exhortation, or keep on the hat or show any remarkable dislike to such when engaged in prayer, let them be speedily admonished in such manner as may be requisite, unless the person against whom the uneasiness is expressed has been disowned by a monthly meeting, or his or her public appearances disapproved by the elders. -- 1719.

This meeting agrees that each monthly meeting choose two or more Friends of each sex to sit with the ministers, and they together to compose a meeting to be denominated a preparative meeting of ministers and elders; taking care that the Friends chosen for that service, be prudent, solid Friends, and that they do carefully discharge the trust confided to them. -- 1740, 1755.

When there is occasion for the appointment of one or more elders in any meeting, the proposal of separating a committee to consider the subject, should be first made in a monthly meeting, and when there united with, a proper number of Friends should be appointed; and in this committee, the names of the persons who may be thought suitable, should be first mentioned, and, when concurred with, reported to the monthly meeting, without consulting the person or persons, or otherwise divulging it. If, upon due consideration, the nomination is approved, a minute should be made, and a copy thereof forwarded to the quarterly meeting of ministers and elders.

When any Friend has frequently appeared in our religious meetings as a minister, and the preparative meeting of ministers and elders apprehends that it is seasonable the subject should claim the attention of the monthly meeting for discipline, of which the person is a member, they are at liberty to mention the matter, therein, and if the monthly meeting after deliberate consideration, should unite in believing that a gift in the ministry has been committed to him or her, a minute expressive thereof should be forwarded to the quarterly meeting of ministers and elders, where, the case being solidly weighed, and the sense of the monthly meeting concurred with, information thereof should be sent to the preparative meeting of ministers and elders, of which the party is to be a member. And until the approbation of the quarterly meeting of ministers and elders is obtained, no such Friend is to be received as a minister, nor permitted to sit in the meetings of ministers and elders, nor travel abroad as a minister. And no such approved minister is to appoint any meeting out of the limits of the quarterly meeting to which he or she belongs, without a certificate from the monthly meeting for discipline or the concurrence thereof. -- 1806.

It is the judgment of this meeting that when any Friend appointed to the station of an elder believes him or herself called to the ministry, and shall have appeared frequently in that capacity in our public religious meetings, they should withdraw from the meetings of ministers and elders. -- 1806.

When any approved minister apprehends it to be his or her duty to travel in truth's service out of the limits of their quarterly meeting, he or she is to open their concern in the monthly meeting to which they belong, and obtain a certificate or minute (as the occasion may be) of its unity and concurrence, directed to Friends within the parts proposed to be visited: And it is advised, that when the service is accomplished, the said meeting be informed thereof, and the certificate returned without unnecessary delay. -- 1681, 1806.

Agreed that when any Friend is religiously concerned to make a general visit to the meetings of Friends or parts beyond the limits of this yearly meeting, and has obtained a certificate for that purpose from the monthly meeting of which he or she is a member, that the concern be also laid before the respective quarterly meeting for its concurrence and indorsement, to be signed, if for a man, by the clerk of the men's meeting only; but, if for a woman, by the clerks of the men's and women's meetings. -- 1812.

The ministers and elders of each monthly meeting are to meet once in three months at such time and place as the monthly meeting may direct, in the capacity of a preparative meeting of ministers and elders; when, after a time of solid retirement, the queries addressed to such meetings are to be read and considered, and distinct answers made to them in writing, which, when signed by the clerk, are to be conveyed to the ensuing quarterly meeting of ministers and elders by two or more Friends to be mentioned in the report as representatives; but if, in the course of inquiry, any deficiency has appeared, care should be taken that it be remedied. -- 1721, 1806.

And in the said quarterly meetings, the queries are also to be read with the answers which are brought from their preparative meetings, and the state of the members weightily considered, that where occasion requires it, advice and counsel may be seasonably extended; and once a year those answers comprised in a written report and signed by the clerk, are to be forwarded to the yearly meeting of ministers and elders, by four or more Friends appointed as representatives: in this meeting the queries are also to be read with the answers from the several quarters, and the state of this part of the society being collected and considered, advices adapted thereto, may, if requisite, be issued to the subordinate meetings of like kind. This meeting is to appoint a suitable number of elders to take the oversight of the meetings for worship held in Philadelphia during the time of the yearly meeting. And such ministers as propose to go in truth's service beyond sea, after obtaining a certificate of the concurrence of the monthly meeting, indorsed by the respective quarter, are to spread their concerns before the yearly meeting of ministers and elders, and produce the said certificates; and, if upon solid consideration, the same are united with, a certificate thereof signed by the clerk should be granted. -- 1753, 1806.

None of the said meetings of ministers and elders are in any wise to interfere with the business of any meeting for discipline, nor is the yearly meeting of ministers and elders to suffer its adjournments to interfere with the sittings of the yearly meeting for discipline. -- 1721, 1722.

We tenderly recommend faithful Friends, and especially ministers and elders, to watch over the flock of Christ in their respective places and stations, always approving themselves by their pious examples in conversation and conduct, to be such as faithfully and diligently walk up to the testimony of the blessed truth whereunto the Lord hath gathered us in this his gospel day. -- 1755.

And if any acknowledged member of our meetings of ministers and elders shall at any time be thought, by negligence, unfaithfulness, or otherwise, to have lost his or her service in that station, so as to become the subject of uneasiness and burthensome (yet not so as to be under the care of a meeting of discipline on that account or for misconduct) it is advised that a timely and tender care be extended to such person according to gospel order; first by the individuals concerned, and then by the preparative meeting of ministers and elders to which he or she may belong; should these labours prove unavailing, report of the case should be made by that meeting to the quarterly meeting of ministers and elders, and there a few Friends be deputed to assist the said preparative meeting in a further extension of labour with the party: If this also prove unavailing, and on report thereof to the said quarterly meeting, it appears that the said preparative meeting has fully discharged its duty to the individual, the case should then be transmitted to the monthly meeting for discipline of which the party is a member, and left under its care; and he or she ought from that time to refrain from attending any such select meetings until they shall be again recommended or appointed as at first .-- 1806.

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