Growing Together in the Light

A place for Friends and others to explore Quakerism. A place where, in the Light that comes from God, we may all grow and where we may hope to find a unity that underlies our diversity of language.

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Location: Arlington, Massachusetts, United States

Raised a Friend, I am currently a member of Fresh Pond Meeting in Cambridge, Mass. I am also active in Salem Quarterly Meeting and in New England Yearly Meeting.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Navigating Rapids

Rich, the Brooklyn Quaker, commented on my earlier post, Some Housekeeping and a Proposition. In doing so he included the following quote from Chuck Fager.

"When I hear or read of questions about such things as "normative Quakerism," or "authentic Quakerism" or "traditional Quakerism," it usually means one of two things: either a person or group feels very much confused and at sea, and is honestly looking for some certainty to cling to, some rock to stand on; or it often means that some person or group is looking for a club, with which either to beat other people into submission or to drive them away as interlopers and heretics."

I certainly do not intend my writings to be a club. And while I may be confused, I do not feel that way. If anything, people are more likely to comment that I am too sure of myself. The goal that I have in mind is to come to an honest and usable understanding of Quaker belief that will allow Friends to be more effective in outreach. How can we expect people to become Friends if we cannot tell them what Quakerism is?

But the quote did send me to Google to see if I could find the context and here is a link to the entire article The Core Quaker Theology: Is There Such a Thing?

One thing that he discusses is God Wrestling. I hope that we can all wrestle with God and Quakerism. I present this material for your wrestling pleasure. In fact, I suspect that this is the spirit behind Barclay. One of the fascinating things about Robert Barclay is that while he was a prolific writer for a period of 10 years, he pretty much stopped writing after the Apology. It may be that he was too taken up with the affairs of his estate and being a proprietor for the East Jersey colony but I think that there may have been more to it. Before he wrote the Apology he wrote a Quaker catechism, and a work on church government called The Anarchy of the Ranters. My suspicion is that he was an orderly and systematic thinker and his writings were his way of wrestling with Quakerism and coming to understand it. And once he had done that, he went on to other things. This is entirely speculative on my part but it makes sense for me.

Anyway, I recommend the article.

Then Rich went on to say:

I think what you are trying to do on this blog is very important as a way of responding to questions from the lost, confused, or simply seeking (i.e. most of us). But I think that's hard to do without raising a suspicion in some that you are threatening to shame or exclude someone. I wish you the best in navigating those rapids.

First I want to say that I appreciate the aplomb that Rich seems to be navigating the same rapids on his blog, The Brooklyn Quaker .

My initial inclination was to go on about some of the issues around exclusivity and inclusion that came up for me but as I sat with these issues longer I realized that might not be the best way through the rapids. As I said in my last post, the whole point and basis of Quakerism is the direct experience of God. There is nothing exclusive about this. God wants each of us to know God. Everyone has the capacity to experience God. No one is excluded from the love of God. We are commanded to love as God loves us. Jesus excluded no one. Jesus's ministry was to those who had been excluded. Part of the story of the early Christian church was the continual reaching out to those who had been excluded.

Michael Sheeran in his book Beyond Majority Rule talks about the fundamental distinction he found among Friends had nothing to do with whether they were Christian or Universalist but whether or not they experienced a gathered meeting or not. Perhaps we need to add to this the question, "What has been our experience of God?" We may use different and even conflicting words to describe these experiences but one who has experienced God can hear echoes of that experience in the words of others even if they are based on a different theological framework. One of the best things we can do to build unity is to simply share our experiences of God. From that we can go on to how those experiences shape the way we express ourselves. Out of that we can understand each other better and perhaps come to some common language. One of my aims in this blog is to include the voices of some earlier Friends in that conversation.



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