What canst thou say
The business session was fine but I was brought up short by the first paragraph in the draft introduction: “When Friends ask that crucial question 'What canst thou say?' our answer takes its place in a living, changing tradition.” On my first quick and somewhat distracted reading (because I did not read the advance documents in advance like I was asked to) it seemed to me that “What canst thou say?” was being used as Quakerese for “What is your opinion?” On rereading the entire section again it is not clear that is is being used quite in that sense. Whether reading it correctly or not, it pushed a button I hadn't known I had until then. Using “What cans't thou say?” as an invitation for an opinion or a justification for offering one seems to be fairly common among Friends. It seems to imply that all our opinions are important and that each of us should be ready to express them at any time. Unfortunately, that was not what George Fox was asking about when he asked the question. In fact, such a usage is opposite to the original meaning.
The quotation is from Margaret Fell's description of the first time she heard George Fox preach and her conversion. In somewhat larger context the quote is: “You will say, 'Christ saith this, and the apostles say this;' but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of the Light, and hast thou walked in the Light, and what thou speakest, is it inwardly from God?"
This is a far cry from asking or justifying an opinion. It is not implying that everyone's opinion is of equal value. It is asking us to consider where our words come from. Rather than being a justification for our ordinary opinions, it is a challenge to discipline ourselves to become obedient to God, to walk in the Light that God shows us, and then, when we know God's voice, did we get what we say from God or from somewhere else.
Update: Since writing this I have found a similar take on these thoughts by Simon St. Laurent at Light and Silence.