Johan Maurer: More about boldness

Johan has a great post about "Quaker evangelizing in Russia": that really applies to Quakers reaching out anywhere. My favorite paragraph:
bq. I personally have a hard time with hobbyist Quakerism, especially when defined in terms of ultrafinicky prescriptions of how "we" do things, "our" special procedures and folkways, or anything else that detracts from Jesus being in the center of our community life. How can we present something so stilted and crabby and culturally specific as an answer to spiritual bondage? It is just another form of bondage!

I think a lot of Philadelphia Friends obsess on procedure and process since it provides us the safe zone supposedly separated from theology. I certainly know my share of Friends who answer every question with "that's how we do it" (this is even funnier when it's a particularly modern Quaker practice). At Quaker gatherings you're doomed if you hold some program three years in a row, since that's all it takes for it to be seen as essential.
I can be as guilty of all this as anyone. I find myself sometimes justifying actions by an appeal to their ancientness among Friends. Tradition is important to Friends and it's long been a test for discernment but we should also be willing to explain how any practice leads us closer to God. I try to catch myself now when I start explaining something solely from tradition. If nothing else it's just a bad argument: it can be refuted simply by someone declaring they're not part of the tradition. As Johan points out, this just doesn't work when evangelizing to another culture (whether that culture be Russia or our own fellow Quakers).
I think it's interesting that when we're not throwing the mantle of tradition on our arguments, unprogrammed Friends are often releasing our actions from all tradition by claiming a "continual revelation" that denies discernment subordinate to immediate impulse. It's sort of a sign of our imbalance that many of us are nervous in that gray area between tradition and continual revelation. Every Friend that really "gets" Quakerism in my experience knows that these cannot be separated.
h3. See also:
"Let's Talk About Evangelism":, Johan's recent article in _Quaker Life_ where he talks about his Woodbrooke fellowship on _Evangelism and the Friends Testimonies_. On his discussion board he's trying out a "definition of Quaker evangelism":, where he carefully differentiates it from both proselytism and outreach. Good stuff here.

  • I like your point that some Friends tend to use the argu­ment of “tra­di­tion” to invoke the need to do some­thing (or not). I have done this through­out my career with Quak­ers. I recall Johan speak­ing at an FGC Con­fer­ence about ten years ago mak­ing the very valid point that not ALL peo­ple desire or want to expe­ri­ence God in a strict­ly silent means. Could Friends, even us unpro­grammed ones, be open to lead­ings that allowed for cer­tain Meet­ings for Wor­ship with music and/or a brief mes­sage? My Meet­ing at the time tried this, and we found that peo­ple in the neigh­bor­hood, who couldn’t abide or under­stand the pur­pose of silence, start­ed to come to Meet­ing! Hmm.
    If I under­stand your point cor­rect­ly, I’m (grad­u­al­ly) real­iz­ing that it takes a lot more than just “tra­di­tion”, “con­tin­u­ing rev­e­la­tion”, “con­fir­ma­tion by Scrip­ture”, “lead­ings”, or “com­muncal dis­cern­ment”. It actu­al­ly takes ALL of them (or at least a sea­soned and well under­stood rea­son why one of these should be sub­or­di­nat­ed to the oth­er “tests” of lead­ings by God). Or at least that is what it seems to be the case to me.