On Thursday I went to the first meeting of a working group which will be reviewing the Terms of Reference for the Central Nominations Committee of Quakers in Britain – i.e., the people who find the people who do the things which need doing. This is obviously an important job and a complex one. We’re reviewing the terms of reference, and more broadly thinking about how nominations work, in the hopes of making it run as smoothly and effectively as possible.
It was a good, productive meeting – focussed on what needs doing and how we’re going to do it, as such meetings often are. (Sidenote: anyone with experience convening/clerking meetings by skype, I’d be interested to hear from you.)
I came away thinking about the theological underpinnings of our nominations process and about the literature, or lack of literature, about it. There’s what it says in QF&P, of course. There’s Roy Stephenson’s book, Freeing the Spirit. There’s a little leaflet to hand out with a basic explanation. There’s information about how to give Central Nominations Committee your information. Last year, I wrote a blog post about Nominations and so did Gil. And digging around in Friends House library, I found an article from the Friends Quarterly from 1974.
Much of it – I haven’t read Roy’s book yet – is focussed on the process, rather than the theology. Trying to think about what the theological principles involved are, I’ve come up with three I think are present (but I might have missed a lot, or got these wrong – do let me know what you think!).
- ‘That of God in everyone’. This is a much (over?) quoted Quaker phrase, but does shape our approach to nominations and service. It establishes that everyone is valuable, and everyone has something to contribute to the community. Many of those things won’t be appointed roles, but some will, and we begin from the position that everyone has something to offer and something to gain from participating.
- Equality. Related to the previous one, but bringing in two further aspects: the avoidance of hierarchy – the reason we limit terms of service, for example – and the avoidance of stereotyping, seeking as best we can to see what an individual really has to offer and not what we expect ‘someone like that’ to be able to do.
- The creation of the Kingdom of God/Divine Commonwealth/gospel order. In choosing how to structure our nominations and appointments process, we might have things to learn from the world but we also sometimes reject the world’s ways: we are trying to do it the way God wants it done. This might mean that it doesn’t look ‘fair’ from some perspectives – recall the workers in the vineyard.
What theological principles do you think are at work in our nominations processes?