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.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Hope and Future – FUM Part 5

The theme of this year's FUM Triennial was Hope and Future taken from Jeremiah 29:11 β€œFor I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” A number of speakers used this to talk hopefully about what good things God has in store for us. They talked about the good work that we are being called to do. John Punshon put this passage into a larger context. This prophesy was made before the Babylonian captivity. Yes God had plans and would provide a hope and a future, but in the mean time there would be 70 years of exile and captivity. Most speakers ignored this part of the prophesy, the part of the difficulty, the pain, the exile and the self-examination that would happen before the hope and the future would be realized. Likewise FUM mostly ignored the difficulties before it. They avoided all of the difficult issues. They did not even ask for a time of prayer to hold these issues up to God, because we do not know how to resolve them. They focused so much on the hope and the future that they ignored the 70 years of exile. I cannot help but think that it was the time in exile that made the hope and future possible. The Israelites that returned from Babylon were not the same as their parents and grandparents were when they were carried away. The speakers ignored the work that FUM needs to do to be able to have a hope and a future. God may have plans but we need to stop squabbling among ourselves and clear our ears so that we can hear those plans. We also have to be willing to face the difficult work before us that will prepare us for our hope and future.

On Sunday I attended the closing worship of North Carolina Yearly Meeting-Conservative. I had a chance to have a nice visit with Liz Opp before the meeting. The meeting was centered and joyful. During their sessions they had wrestled with issues of how we can live in harmony with the earth and be its stewards. During the worship it was clear that people had wrestled with issues and were not the same people that they had been when they arrived. I did not have this feeling at the FUM triennial and I mourn the lost opportunity.

This is not to say that the Triennial was a failure. I think the emphasis on missions was an attempt to focus on work that Friends are more likely to unite in. The question of the role of FUM is still very much up in the air. Is it a denominational body? Is it a voluntary association of Friends from the Orthodox tradition? Is it a missions board? There were opportunities to meet and talk with people from across the spectrum. I was enriched by this and I know that others were as well. Certainly there was a temptation to take meals with Friends I already knew. I was aware of clumps of New England Friends or Baltimore Friends eating together. I suspect the same was true for Iowa Friends or Indiana Friends but I don't know them well enough to have identified them.

It is perhaps unfair to compare a Triennial session of an international body with a Yearly Meeting. In a yearly Meeting it is much easier to grapple with issues. There are already established relationships and connections so that there is a higher level of trust from the beginning. Trust is required to undertake any difficult spiritual work together. Secondly a yearly meeting has a certain amount of business that it must accomplish. FUM has organized itself so that there is very little business that needs to come before the body. Mostly it hears reports on what has happened during the past 3 years and what is being planned for the next 3. In fact the one piece of business that needs to get done is the appointment of the new clerks for the next triennium and that was not completed. Traditionally the Nominating Committee does its work during the Triennial Sessions. This year they were not able to find someone to accept the position in such a short time. So Gary Farlow, the current assistant clerk will serve until the October General Board meeting at which time the General Board will receive the recommendations from the nominating committee. We also approved a change in procedure so that Yearly Meetings will be asked to name their representatives to the Nominating Committee a year before the Triennial sessions so that they have an opportunity to meet and start the search and discernment process well before the Triennial starts. This seems like a healthy change in process.

This concludes my reports on the FUM Triennial. Next week I will be attending the annual sessions of New England Yearly Meeting. I don't expect to blog from the sessions but I plan to make some sort of report when I return. I have also been accepted into the Way of Ministry program of the School of the Spirit. My first residential session starts on August 27. I will be doing a lot of reading and writing for that program. Some of that experience is likely to show up here as well. Even with Barclay done, I don't expect to be running short of things to write about soon.

Blessings to all

Will T.

5 Comments:

Blogger naomipaz said...

Dear Friends,

In researching Friends' YM Epistles addressed to Friends Everywhere, as I try to do every Tuesday*, I stumbled upon an epistle from Jamaica YM dated 2005 on Britain YM's website in their collection of
2007 Epistles (collections of epistles can be less than orderly for lots of reasons but if I find an
epistle in a 2007 collection I treat it as 2007 material).

This led me to research Evangelical Friends Church - Eastern Region to see if there might be more current information floating around. I found their website and of especial interest is their 'Links' page. On it, we, NYYM Friends, do not exist:

http://www.efcer.org/39

I will also be very interested in finding out if we can get a copy of their current Faith and Practice, and if we can get some current Faith and Practice volumes from either individual FUM YM's or from some
centralized resource, depending on their practice.

I think that will yield far more guidance to Friends in NYYM than setting ourselves up to interpret inflammatory speeches or even epistles. Let's just
see what we, as a whole body of Friends, are
teaching ourselves.

Already apparent to me is the fact that we do not affiliate with certain Friends, namely Evangelicals, nor do they acknowledge our existence.

* I have been sending epistles from Yearly Meetings all over the world to a slowly growing 'epistles list' which had started out as Flushing Friends. I send those (if there are more than one) of one YM each week. I try to keep to the sections of FWCC, but sometimes I find one that had not surfaced in my previous searches and so I will circulate it 'out of order.'

Please feel free to forward this to any Friend or committee working to research facts to enable NYYM Friends to make seasoned discernment on matters of our affiliations.

Naomi

July 29, 2008 8:35 AM  
Blogger naomipaz said...

Dear Friends,

First, thanks to one Friend for getting me to be more precise.

I made the following error:

Since there was no link on the FWCC Section of the Americas page there was nothing to link to. Googling Jamaica Yearly Meeting I came across this:

http://www.pym.org/pm/more.php?id=3119_0_45_0_M

From Philadelphia Yearly Meeting's website. Clearly what happened was that Google found all three words though not all together. A misconstroogle?

My fFriend pointed out quite correctly that Jamaica YM is not an EFI Yearly Meeting but my concern is not completely withdrawn. The problems we have with some, and perhaps not Jamaica YM, Yearly Meetings in Africa as well as elsewhere do stem to
some degree from the fact that these meetings were started by Evangelical Missions of Friends.

If we have been supporting schools, churches and meetinghouses, I would like to know more about what they are teaching the young Friends in schools and all Friends in Adult Religious Education, all of which we did support to some degree through our own YM contributions to FUM, and might find ourselves doing again.

I do know about living with painful contradictions. More & more I find myself in agreement with Simone Weil who found truth residing precisely in contradiction. But advocating for anybody's death.... I don't even think thoughts like that.

While many Friends say many things which can be categorized as Friends who have gone too far in what they say, reading a Yearly Meeting's Faith and Practice will give us their "Authorized Version" and then I can live with digressions from those as I must in a number of directions right here in our Quarter, and even in my Meeting.

My fFriend asked what it is I am trying to discern. I think first and foremost it is: What do I say about Quakers when I give a tour of the Meeting House, and what am I lying about when I refrain from
saying something? This should be of great importance to anyone involved in "advancement," an activity I approach with some trepidation,
always asking myself first, what are we advancing? Are we unduly motivated by our dwindling numbers?

Naomi

July 30, 2008 4:39 AM  
Blogger Will T said...

Naomi,
Certainly during your tours you can say that Quakers run the theological gamut from Evangelical to liberal, universalist and non-Theist. You can say that most of the Friends in the world live in western Kenya. You can describe your meeting and your yearly meeting but explain that it is part of a much larger whole - as is true of every meeting across the world.

I also encourage you, when you think about Kenyan Friends to remember this: regardless of what you think about their theology, when their neighbors homes were being burned, they took their neighbors in. When people had fled for fear of their lives and were living in makeshift camps, they brought food and blankets to them. While the violence was still going on they undertook to lead Alternatives to Violence workshops. When displaced people were returning to the communities that they had fled, Friends held meetings to help the receiving communities to accept them back. Until December Kenyan Friends were inclined to say, "We don't need the peace testimony because we live in a peaceful country." But when their country erupted in violence they lived the peace testimony in very real ways during a very difficult situation.

Blessings,

Will T

July 30, 2008 10:17 PM  
Blogger naomipaz said...

Will,

Belatedly I learned which Will T you are, and let me say first how much I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy reading your pamphlet, 'The Prophetic Stream.'

I guess the problem with writing to people I do not know, and who don't know me, even with the best intentions and some confidence in my writing skills, and reading and rereading a comment before posting, misunderstanding may follow.

I have said many of the things you suggest on tours of the Meeting House without a problem. For me, one's theology is a vocabulary of faith, one that I can comfortably translate to my own, otherwise I could never have gotten past George Fox's journal when exploring Quakerism.

I have worshipped with Friends in a Programmed Meeting and in one case at a Quaker Church. I have no problem with any of that. Whatever theology and customary practices, whatever liturgy and perhaps even outward sacramental practice an individual Friend or Meeting may adopt, if it leads them to the essential spirit-led life which is the intention of worship as I understand it, then that Friend is my coreligionist, someone I can worship with. The God that I worship doesn't care if you get his/her/their name wrong, doesn't even care if you think they/she/he doesn't exist, doesn't care which prayers you do or don't say out loud or in your heart, nor where you say them nor in what language or what time of day.

My concern is when a published speech and an epistle give such patently unloving and incendiary expression to feelings that exist and have existed in that part of the world for a long time and are not retracted by those making the speech or writing the epistle, at a time when there was serious violence right outside the door of the gathering. Both of these from Uganda Yearly Meeting, not a Kenyan one. [Part of my initial confusion stems from the fact that I heard about all of this all at once without understanding fully that it was an international Quaker gathering taking place in Kenya.] On other occasions I have heard stories similar to the ones you relate about Kenyan Friends and there is a Meeting within my Quarter comprised in large part by Kenyan and Jamaican Friends.

I don't want to dwell unduly on this but if I give a glowing representation of Quakers as being committed to peaceful resolution of differences, whether they adopt a peace testimony or not, am I lying? It's nice to know that management at FUM rejected the remarks but until this pastor who was the clerk of the yearly meeting and who continues to preach, for all I know, retracts his statements to his congregation and until that yearly meeting retracts the content of their recent epistle, so offensive that British Friends are still upset that it was posted on British Yearly Meeting's website, then I do have to wonder just who my coreligionists are.

Closer to home, young Friends from my yearly meeting were seriously told by FUM young Friends at YouthQuake that they would burn in hell if they didn't adopt certain beliefs or behaviors, not with any hostility but with a genuine concern for their eternal disposition.

All of which does not mean that I reject either the pastor or his congregation as my brothers and sisters in God. It does mean that I may prefer to sit across the ecumenical table with them than across the Quaker table, and for all I know, they may feel the same about me.

I think that a good place to begin is by reading the various faith and practice books of discipline of the Yearly Meetings to find out just exactly what Friends are teaching one another.

I have also been corresponding privately with a few Friends on this issue, one of whom responded very informatively. If I can get his permission I will forward his remarks.

Another Friend pointed out a fascinating article in the June, 2008 issue of Harper's magazine entitled, 'TURNING AWAY FROM JESUS: Gay Rights and the War for the
Episcopal Church,' by Garret Keizer, which acknowledges parallels with all branches of
Christianity having global membership and draws some fascinating parallels between this conflict and some of the more curious aspects of the American political system.

I am going to have to stop writing on this subject for a little while, though if I get my Friend's permission to pass along his remarks, I will do so promptly, just to make sure
I am secure in what I am writing.

Thank you for responding so quickly and thoughtfully.

In Peace and Friendship,
Naomi.

August 03, 2008 6:43 AM  
Blogger Will T said...

Naomipaz,
I want to clear up one misunderstanding. I am not William P Taber, more commonly known as Bill Taber, who wrote a number of Pendle Hill Pamphlets including The Prophetic Stream.. Bill Taber and I were distantly related and we met on a couple of occaissions. He passed on a number of years ago. This is a common mistake so do not be worried about it.

As for your concerns about violence, incendiary language and division among Friends, I think that we need to proceed carefully, following closely to the promptings of God. We need to proceed in a spirit of love, even when we do not see that love returned. This is a difficult thing to do which is why we need to rely on God.

Will T

August 09, 2008 4:24 PM  

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