B. General Organizational Structure
Friends’ organization follows the historic pattern of monthly, quarterly, and yearly meetings, these terms being related to the frequency with which various groups meet to consider business matters. In practice these terms have also acquired parallel geographic significance as local, regional, and general meetings, respectively, representing progressively widespread assemblages of the membership. Over the years Friends have used a variety of other descriptive names of meetings to identify different functional subdivisions or combinations of the membership and different times of meetings for business. Succeeding sections describe these.
The fundamental working unit in matters of business is the local group, known usually as the monthly meeting. This meeting has primary responsibility for meetings for worship and for relations among individual members, such as receiving applications and recording membership, approving and overseeing marriages, and providing pastoral care. An executive meeting is in all respects the equivalent of a monthly meeting, except for the frequency of its business meetings.
A monthly meeting sometimes comprises two or more congregations holding separate meetings for worship and organized as preparative meetings. These have limited authority to conduct business mainly related to local property and finances, and to the preparation of business for submission to the monthly meeting.
Two or more monthly meetings in the same area usually form a quarterly meeting in order to worship and counsel together and conduct business of common interest and concern. Equivalent meetings in scope and responsibility are half-yearly meetings and regional meetings.
Two or more quarterly or equivalent meetings in a still larger area may unite in a general meeting usually known as the yearly meeting. In this country, such meetings commonly serve an entire state or a multi-state area. The New York Yearly Meeting, for example, includes meetings in New York State, northern New Jersey, and western Connecticut.
The New York Yearly Meeting is affiliated with certain other yearly meetings in this and other countries through the Friends General Conference, Friends United Meeting, and the Friends World Committee for Consultation. It sends representatives to the American Friends Service Committee, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, and other agencies.