COMMITTEE FOR CLEARNESS ON MEMBERSHIP AND MARRIAGE
[Approved by PMM in 10th Month, 2011.]
[Amended by PMM in 1st Month, 2017.]
The committee consists of six members, each with a three-year term, staggered so that two new persons join each year and two leave. The committee meets usually meets once a month. Its responsibility is to facilitate the clearness process preceding membership or marriage.
1. Receive requests for membership in the meeting, including transfers and sojourning membership (these will be given to the committee after being read at a meeting for business). Appoint a clearness committee to meet with the applicant. Make recommendations to monthly meeting, and when membership is approved, appoint a welcoming committee.
2. Give letters requesting membership, and letters from other meetings transferring membership, to the Recorder after use.
3. Receive requests for marriage under the care of the meeting. Appoint a clearness committee to meet several times with the couple, as detailed in the marriage guidelines.
4. Make recommendations to monthly meeting concerning clearness of taking the marriage under the care of the meeting.
5. Inquire concerning the arrangements necessary to put on the wedding.
6. Submit a budget estimate to treasurer three months before the end of the fiscal year.
7. Present committee annual report to meeting for business in fifth month.
It is important to align oneself with the Religious Society of Friends when one's commitment becomes clear. One may contact a member of the Committee for Clearness on Membership and Marriage at any time. Members of the Religious Society of Friends participate as fully as possible in the life of our meeting. Attenders participate along with them, and little distinction occurs because of status differences.
Although most people who participate over the years eventually join the Society, some longtime attenders do not. This is a personal decision and Friends do not necessarily inquire into the reasons, which may include a spousal relationship or membership in another religious organization. In addition, some longtime attenders request to become sojourning members, which means they participate with Pima Meeting but retain membership status in another Friends meeting.
In Pima Meeting, some offices are normally held by members or sojourning members. These positions include: clerk, treasurer, assistant treasurer, ministry and oversight committee, nominating committee, and committee for clearness on membership and marriage. Exceptions are sometimes made. Clerks of committees are normally members of Pima Meeting, though not always. Decisions at meeting for business are made by all those present, but if lack of unity derives solely from attenders, the meeting will attempt to attain clearness without them. This difficult situation has seldom occurred in Pima Meeting, and attenders are welcome to contribute to the Meeting for Business.
Requests for membership come from a variety of persons, including (1) a person who has never been a member of the Religious Society of Friends; (2) a person who is a member in good standing of another meeting within the Religious Society of Friends and wishes to transfer membership to Pima Meeting; (3) a person who was a member of another meeting within the Religious Society of Friends but whose membership has lapsed; (4) a person who is a member of another religious group. Also, a member of Pima Meeting may request termination of membership. Each of these requests is handled somewhat differently by the Committee for Clearness on Membership and Marriage.
While some Meetings in IMYM have a "junior membership" designation for children of the meeting (given at the written or oral request of the child's parents), Pima Meeting does not have such a designation. We invite each of our children to apply for full membership as he or she is ready. There is no established age for this.
All children in the Meeting are under the care of the Meeting. Members of the Membership and Marriage committee will reach out to youth in our meeting between the ages of 14 and 17, both through individual conversations and through participation in youth group education on two First Days each year, to discuss the process of becoming a member in our Meeting.
Children listed as Junior Members as of January 2017 will keep this designation. When they are teenagers in the Meeting, members of M&M will reach out about membership. Should these children not pursue full membership by age 21, their Junior Membership status will be removed.
In our minutes of 10th month, 1996, it was recorded:
Our Faith and Practice is a very good guide for clearness if fully understood and faithfully practiced. The nurturing spirit of the clearness process calls for open speaking and careful listening by both applicant and committee members. We believe we must take ample time to hear from the applicant about his/her spiritual journey. We must hear the applicant's concerns and any confusion re. Friends, their beliefs and their process. We have a responsibility to instruct about our history, our world-wide associations, our positions and our culture. We should guide the interviewee to a reality about what actually happens in Quaker meetings. We should spend some time in discussing with the person what he/she has read and the response to the reading.
The members of the Committee for Clearness on Membership and Marriage (CCMM) welcome inquiries about membership and other matters concerning the Society of Friends. We encourage informal conversations with one or more of us as one step toward applying for membership and at any other stage along the way. The process of application for membership and for the clearness procedure is as follows:
1. The applicant addresses a letter to the Meeting, care of the clerk, stating the reason for a religious attraction to the Religious Society of Friends and requesting membership in Pima Meeting. The applicant will be encouraged to become familiar with our Faith and Practice (Intermountain Yearly Meeting, 2009) when he or she first expresses interest in membership. Pertinent material is on pages 77 – 90.
2. The clerk reads the letter to the meeting for business and then refers it to CCMM for the clearness process.
3. CCMM selects a subcommittee, usually of three persons, to act as a clearness committee. One person is a CCMM member who acts as clerk. Normally, two to three meetings with the applicant will be necessary to cover the process as outlined in Faith and Practice, with time taken as needed for full understanding. Questions for discussion might include: “What can we do to help you come closer to God? How can we help further your spiritual journey?" Many other topics are outlined on pages 89 – 90 of Faith and Practice and will be useful guidelines.
4. It is recommended that the subcommittee first meet alone to review the clearness process. The subcommittee should confer with the applicant in a setting conducive to uninterrupted spiritual intimacy. The applicant should be encouraged toward some committee participation or other service to the meeting. The meeting directory lists our current committees; non-members may be co-clerks of some committees. Friends' financial responsibilities should be discussed. Applicants should be encouraged to attend meeting for worship regularly, as well as meeting for worship for business. Friends' customs observed, and the Quaker process which the customs signified, may be discussed with the subcommittee. Applicants should also be encouraged to attend meetings of the wider Quaker community such as Arizona Half-yearly Meeting, Intermountain Yearly Meeting, and other Friends' meetings.
5. Particular attention will be given to the applicant's request for release from any other denominational attachment.
6. The subcommittee's report to CCMM is reviewed and perhaps revised, and then reported to meeting for business. A recommendation for membership will be seasoned by the Meeting for a month.
7. When an applicant is brought into membership, CCMM will form a welcoming committee who will seek to bring the new member into association with others, thus widening fellowship in the meeting. When a child is being welcomed in an associate or junior membership, CCMM will give special attention to including young people. The welcoming committee will report back to CCMM which will notify the meeting for business.
8. The original letter of application and a copy of the report of the subcommittee will be given to the meeting recorder.
1. Friends who are members of other Monthly Meetings and who move to the neighborhood of Pima Monthly Meeting are encouraged to apply to their Monthly Meetings for a certificate or letter of transfer to Pima Monthly Meeting to be sent to the Clerk of Pima Monthly Meeting. They also need to inform the Clerk of Pima Monthly Meeting in writing that they have applied for transfer.
2. The Clerk of Pima Monthly Meeting should promptly acknowledge receipt of the certificate or letter and present it to the Meeting for Business, which in turn refers it to the Committee on Clearness for Membership and Marriage.
3. The Committee on Clearness for Membership and Marriage will select a visiting committee, usually composed of about three people. When a family requesting transfer includes a child or children, the Committee on Clearness for Membership and Marriage, in consultation with the Education Committee (or First Day School Committee), will seek to include a child from Pima Monthly Meeting in addition to the others on the visiting committee. The clerk of the visiting committee will try to arrange a visit without undue delay.
4. If no obstruction appears, the visiting committee, through the Committee on Clearness for Membership and Marriage, will recommend that Pima Monthly Meeting accept the certificate or letter and record the membership, and once this has taken place the Clerk of Pima Monthly Meeting will inform the issuing Meeting accordingly. (The transferring Friend continues to belong to the issuing Monthly Meeting until this is done.) If the visiting committee sees an obstruction, it shall discuss this with the applicant and with the Committee on Clearness for Membership and Marriage. If the Committee on Clearness for Membership and Marriage recommends not accepting the transfer and the Meeting for Business approves that recommendation, then the Clerk of Pima Monthly Meeting will return the certificate to the Clerk of the Meeting that issued it.
5. When the transfer of membership has been completed, the new member of Pima Monthly Meeting should be welcomed in accordance with the welcoming process described in Part 7, above. The letter from the individual to Pima Monthly Meeting, along with the certificate of transfer, goes to the Recorder.
1. Friends who wish to participate fully in Pima Monthly Meeting and who wish to retain their membership in their present Meeting, may request that their Monthly Meeting send a minute of sojourn to Pima Monthly Meeting.
2. The Clerk of Pima Monthly Meeting, upon receiving such a minute of sojourn, should acknowledge it promptly and present it to Meeting for Business, then refer it to the Committee on Clearness for Membership and Marriage.
3. The Committee on Clearness for Membership and Marriage will select a visiting committee, usually composed of about three people. When a family requesting sojourn includes a child or children, the Committee on Clearness for Membership and Marriage, in consultation with the Education Committee (or First Day School Committee), will seek to include a child from Pima Monthly Meeting in addition to the others on the visiting committee. The clerk of the visiting committee will try to arrange a visit without undue delay.
4. If no obstruction appears, the visiting committee, through the Committee on Clearness for Membership and Marriage, will recommend that Pima Monthly Meeting accept the minute of sojourn and record the sojourning membership, and once this has taken place the Clerk of Pima Monthly Meeting will inform the issuing Meeting accordingly. If the visiting committee sees an obstruction, it shall discuss this with the applicant and with the Committee on Clearness for Membership and Marriage. If the Committee on Clearness for Membership and Marriage recommends not accepting the minute of sojourn and the Meeting for Business approves that recommendation, then the Clerk of Pima Monthly Meeting will return the minute of sojourn to the Clerk of the Meeting that issued it.
5. A sojourning member is encouraged to ask for transfer of membership to Pima Monthly Meeting.
6. It is appropriate for individuals and families who have been granted sojourning status to be welcomed into fellowship at a gathering organized by a welcoming committee of the Committee on Clearness for Membership and Marriage, similar to what has been described in II.7 above.
GUIDELINES FOR THE CLEARNESS PROCESS FOR MARRIAGES TO BE TAKEN UNDER THE CARE OF PIMA MONTHLY MEETING
“For the right joining in marriage is the work of the Lord only, and not the priests or magistrates; for it is God’s ordinance and not man’s; and therefore Friends cannot consent that they should join them together; for we marry none; it is the Lord’s work, and we are but witnesses.” — George Fox, Epistle 264, 1669
Marriage, to Friends, has always been considered a response to the leading of the Spirit and a covenant between the couple and God. In responding to that leading, each of the couple becomes a help to the other in living in obedience to God’s will.
To be sure that a couple is following a right leading, Friends require consultation with a committee on clearness. In the process of discernment one test of the validity of such a leading is the passage in the Bible occurring in Galatians 5:22-23: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
Pima Monthly Meeting will consider all requests to take a marriage or other spiritual relationship of lifelong commitment under its care when at least one member of the two is a member of the Meeting or a longstanding and well-known attender.
We recognize that it is the Spirit that unites a couple. The role of Friends present at the meeting for worship at which the union is solemnized is to witness and celebrate that union. We recognize this meeting and the certificate signed during the meeting as the only necessary public expression of the union. The event shall be recorded in Meeting records. The Meeting, through the clearness committee, will assist the couple with civil recording requirements when requested. For all couples, advice will be available regarding legal arrangements for care of each other, of family, and of property.
When a marriage takes place under the care of Pima Meeting and the couple has obtained a marriage license from the State of Arizona (in addition to the traditional Quaker marriage certificate), a person from Pima Meeting in attendance at the wedding is designated to sign it as the person who “solemnized” the marriage. Usually, this would be the Clerk of the Meeting but could be anyone so designated by Pima Meeting or one of its committees. The license must then be returned to the county clerk’s office for recording.
For marriages after the manner of Friends but not under the care of Pima Meeting, there is no presumption that a person from the Meeting will sign a State marriage license. However, if one or both people of the couple are members or frequent attenders or otherwise have close ties to the Meeting, careful consideration will be given to the particular circumstances in deciding how best to “solemnize” the marriage to meet the legal requirements.
We understand that both opposite-gender and same-gender couples may prefer words other than “marriage” to describe their unions. In that case some other term which reflects the couple’s lifelong commitment shall be discussed with the clearness committee and can be adopted provided it has the approval of the Committee on Clearness for Membership and Marriage.
The responsibility of the Meeting is also to continue to provide loving, sensitive spiritual care and support for each union taken under its care.
II. SPECIFIC PROCEDURES FOR A COUPLE DESIRING CLEARNESS
1. Any couple can apply, one member of which is a member or longtime attender of Pima Monthly Meeting. When one member of the couple is a member of another monthly meeting, that meeting shall be asked to undertake the clearness process for their member, or to allow Pima Meeting to conduct the clearness process for the couple.
2. We encourage applications earlier in the couple’s deliberations than after the firm decision to marry is made and a date set. And we encourage couples to take seriously the deliberations and recommendations of the clearness committee.
3. The couple addresses a letter to the meeting, in care of the clerk of business meeting, requesting that their relationship be taken under the care of Pima Monthly Meeting.
4. The clerk reads the letter to the meeting for business and then refers it to the Committee on Clearness for Membership and Marriage (CCMM) for the clearness process.
5. CCMM selects 3-5 persons to act as a clearness committee for the couple.
6. Makeup of the Committee: CCMM discusses and approves the clearness committee with the following in mind: Friends could be members or sojourning members of Pima Monthly Meeting who would be asked both to serve on the couple’s clearness committee and to continue as mentors for the couple during the years following the wedding. Such Friends should be chosen for wisdom and experience and sensitivity to spiritual discernment, as well as for the ability to provide ongoing nurture to the couple in the ups and downs of life together.
(A) One person on the clearness committee is a member of CCMM who acts as clerk.
(B) At least one is an experienced Friend from outside the committee.
(C) Both men and women should be on the committee.
(D) Both married and unmarried Friends may be on the committee.
(E) Suggestions are solicited from the couple for Friend(s) to serve on the clearness committee and to undertake an ongoing support of the marriage.
(F) Approval of the makeup of the committee, including any exceptions, rests with CCMM.
7. CLEARNESS PROCESS.
(A) The meetings of the couple with their committee are a great deal more than merely social gatherings. The couple should be able to count on help in thinking through the spiritual nature of their commitment, and their responsibilities to each other and to society.
(B) Normally, at least three meetings with the couple, including one in which committee members meet with each member of the couple individually, will be necessary to cover the relevant issues. Usually this clearness process will take several months.
(C) The clearness committee and the couple should prepare themselves for the clearness process by reading Quaker literature on marriage as well as on the process of clearness. For example, Marriage in the Light by Elizabeth Watson; Spiritual Discernment: The Context and Goal of Clearness Committees by Patricia Loring (Pendle Hill Pamphlet #305); Faith and Practice of Intermountain Yearly Meeting and other yearly meetings (e.g., Philadelphia, New England, Pacific, Friends in Britain).
(D) The committee first meets alone to review the clearness process. The committee then confers with the couple in a setting which encourages worship and quiet discussion.
NOTE: Faith and Practice of Intermountain Yearly Meeting (pages 99 – 101) offers a list of topics suggested for discussion in the clearness process. We recommend the following subjects be considered, also.
(E) Concerning money: The committee and the couple should carefully discuss questions of careers, sharing of financial responsibilities, and providing for the ongoing security of a family, especially through periods of adversity.
(F) Concerning children: Any plans regarding children should be discussed, including whether the couple wishes to have children, as well as sharing of responsibilities for their care and support in normal times and in periods of adversity. Special attention must be given to the happiness of and responsibilities to children one or both members of the couple asking for clearness may already have. The committee may speak to such children and listen to their views and concerns about the changes the union will make in their lives.
(G) Concerning other family members: Respect should be shown to parents, siblings, and other family members of the couple, especially if they are not themselves Friends or familiar with the manner of Friends’ weddings.
(H) Concerning values of the couple: It is as important to understand one another’s values, and where these are the same and where they differ, as it is to get clear about one’s own. Supportive listening may be the most important way the clearness committee can be of help in this.
(I) Concerning problems which may arise in the marriage: In order to be supportive, the committee needs to be fully aware of problems that may have surfaced in a relationship. We do not want our approval to be merely pro forma. Therefore we urge couples to trust us with a full report of any problems, including such issues as addictions, physical or mental illness, violence (even hints or symptoms of it), financial worries, child custody disputes, delinquency, problems with children, stepchildren, immigration, religious differences, sexual concerns, etc. Information shared will be held in strictest confidence, but we cannot be true Friends if sharing is censored. Community resources are available.
(J) The couple must understand, as must the members of the committee, that clearness is not automatic. The clearness committee may decide that a couple has problems they need to work out before final consideration can be given to reporting clearness to CCMM and making recommendation to Pima Monthly Meeting. Taking a spiritual relationship under the care of a monthly meeting is not a step to be taken lightly. In some cases, tact may require the committee to ask the couple to withdraw or postpone their application, when the committee cannot find clearness in approving the couple’s request. In no circumstances should the clearness process be hurried or short-circuited.
(K) The traditional Quaker wedding and the values it expresses need to be discussed. It is quite possible that the couple may never have been present at a Quaker wedding.
(L) Upon request of the couple, a friend to the marriage may be chosen by the couple and the committee. The friend or friends will provide an ongoing relationship of helpfulness for the couple.
8. When the committee and the couple reach clearness, the committee reports this to CCMM, which in turn reports to Pima Monthly Meeting with revisions to the report as determined by CCMM. Usually, the Monthly Meeting will season the recommendation for a month.
9. When Pima Monthly Meeting has approved the report of CCMM, that committee names an arrangements committee for the wedding. (See pages 102-105 of the IMYM Faith and Practice for duties.)
10. The couple’s original letter of application is sent to the Pima Monthly Meeting Recorder, along with a copy of the signed certificate following the ceremony.
MARRIAGE AFTER THE MANNER OF FRIENDS (BUT NOT UNDER THE CARE OF THE MEETING)
Sometimes a couple wishing to celebrate a marriage or other committed relationship may request assistance from the Meeting in holding a worshipful ceremony after the manner of Friends. In such instances, especially when the individuals are neither members of the Religious Society of Friends nor regular attenders, the Meeting might offer a clearness committee and/or an arrangements committee, but the relationship would not be considered to be under the care of the Meeting.
This webpage last updated 24 January 2015.