The Meaning of Disagreements

My first FWCC event was a dinner somewhere near Boston during the 1987 50th Anniversary Campaign. I don’t recall what prompted me to leave my young family and drive more than an hour to attend, as I knew very little about FWCC. The after-dinner speaker was Jennifer Kinghorn, a Johannesburg lawyer who advocated for children jailed by the apartheid government and who served as clerk of Central and Southern Africa Yearly Meeting. She said that the Quaker business process was the only decision-making process she knew that is grounded in disagreement. That is, we rely upon open and articulated disagreements to bring us closer to the truth.

I have thought about that many times since, sitting in—or at the clerk’s table of—contentious business meetings. Jennifer’s message had special resonance coming from a part of the world that was then torn apart by conflict. Our understanding of the Quaker spiritual path can be so much richer when we hear it refracted through the experience of Friends in different contexts and cultures.

—Elizabeth Cazden
Concord, (N.H.) Meeting