Just got Carole Dale Spencer’s Holiness: The Soul of Quakerism in the mail. There’s been some blogger buzz around it and I’m glad to check it out for myself. I can tell right off the bat that I’m probably not going to be convinced by her arguments. Flipping through the index (the place to start any book like this) I see she makes three scant references to tradition-minded “Conservative” Friends. That’s not a good sign, but she’s far from the first modern historian to quarantine this branch to the footnotes.
I’ll cut her some slack because she’s traveling an interesting route. She’s spending a lot of time talking about the Methodist and Holiness influences in Friends – John Wesley himself directly is indexed eighteen times. If you look at the people who defined modern 20th Century liberal Quakerism, folks like Rufus Jones (28 index references), you find that these influences were very strong. They still are, even if they go unacknowledged. And many of the issues Spencer is tracing are still with us and continue to be relevant even as some of us are talking up the possibilities of a new renewal/revival movement.