Missional Churches and Half-Hearted Welcomes

Over on my main “Non​vi​o​lence​.org blog”:http://www.nonviolence.org/articles/000436.php I link to Punkmonkey’s great post, “refus­ing to get political”:http://ginkworld.blogspot.com/2004/09/refusing-to-get-political.html, where he talks about why Chris­t­ian paci­fism is more than sim­ply anti-war activism. Oh how I wish more Quak­ers knew this! I like Punkmonkey’s blog a lot. He’s also recent­ly writ­ten about what it would mean to be a “mis­sion­al com­mu­ni­ty of faith”:http://ginkworld.blogspot.com/2004/07/missional-community-of-faith.html:
bq. a mis­sion­al com­mu­ni­ty of faith is a liv­ing breath­ing trans­par­ent com­mu­ni­ty of faith will­ing to get messy while reach out to, and bring­ing in, those out­side the cur­rent com­mu­ni­ty
Amen broth­er. The whole post is great. I love his cri­tique of check-writing church­es (per­fect­ly applic­a­ble to most peace and social con­cerns com­mit­tees I’ve seen). He also hits some­thing I see a lot: Meet­ings that are “wel­com­ing and exclud­ing” in their cliquish­ness: “small groups of peo­ple who seem friend­ly, and wel­com­ing but in actu­al­i­ty are not wel­com­ing.” Punkmonkey’s not Quak­er but Bebbeblog’s Joe Gua­da is and I start­ed read­ing his posts next. There I found a real­ly inter­est­ing coun­ter­point: “Can I be a (fill in the blank here) & be a Quak­er, too?”:http://beppeblog.blogspot.com/2004/09/file-under-Quakerism-religion-can-i-be.html. Joe’s post also talks about iden­ti­ty, prax­is and super­fi­cial half-welcoming. He quotes a friend who’s not joined Quak­ers:
bq. Yes, I know that every­one has the Inner Light. Yes, I remem­ber how uncom­fort­able it is to be look­ing for a group and to feel left out (though it’s not as uncom­fort­able as feel­ing like you’re part of the group, get­ting deeply involved and then find­ing out that you’re a bad fit because peo­ple weren’t telling you up front that you didn’t fit).
Lots of great read­ing in all this!

  • Liz Oppen­heimer

    These posts and links come at a good time, Mar­tin. The oth­er day (First Day) was Meet­ing for Wor­ship for Busi­ness (MfWfB). One item before us was whether to endorse a “peace minute” that had been approved by the Year­ly Meet­ing a few months ear­li­er.
    Sev­er­al of us spoke to the con­cern that such min­utes do not speak to the pos­si­bil­i­ty of trans­for­ma­tion, do not chal­lenge us to be more obe­di­ent to the Spir­it, but rather seem to put into words a shared val­ue (“war bad, peace good”) — *with­out* call­ing us to put our val­ues into action, with­out call­ing us to lis­ten for God’s guid­ance as to how to – or whether to! – wit­ness in the world.
    Such peace min­utes, while they might alle­vi­ate our grief, anger, and despair in the moment, do not relieve us of our respon­si­bil­i­ty to bring our light into the world, as we are Divine­ly led.
    In his Pen­dle Hill pam­phlet “Mem­bers One of Anoth­er” (#371, which I fin­ished last week), Thomas Gates has helped me under­stand the trap that some meet­ings fall into around con­sid­er­ing min­utes in urgent times. Gates speaks of 4 ele­ments of mem­ber­ship, includ­ing “meet­ing as a place of shared val­ues” and “meet­ing as a place of trans­for­ma­tion.” (Meet­ing as a place of accep­tance and Meet­ing as a place of obe­di­ence are the two oth­er ele­ments.) He writes:
    *Mature meet­ings rec­og­nize that some of their mem­bers …require more than a sense of belong­ing and shared val­ues, and that the community’s respon­si­bil­i­ty has now moved beyond hos­pi­tal­i­ty and accep­tance… A meet­ing will fos­ter trans­for­ma­tion to the extent that it lifts up the expec­ta­tion that indi­vid­u­als… [and] the meet­ing itself [are] being chal­lenged to make room for the Spir­it, to be will­ing to change…* (pp. 24 – 25)
    You also ref­er­ence a post by Joe Gua­da, about the pop­u­lar ques­tion, “Can I be a (fill-in-the-blank) and be a Quak­er too?”
    I have come to some new think­ing about this ques­tion. I am believ­ing that con­vinced Friends – and per­haps Friends born into Quak­er fam­i­lies as well – go through a process of form­ing and claim­ing an iden­ti­ty as a Quak­er. Part of that spir­i­tu­al mat­u­ra­tion process may include being a “hyphen­at­ed Quak­er” for a peri­od of time.
    Admit­ted­ly, this was part of my own process. I was a Jew­ish hyphen Quak­er, but clear­ly not a Quak­er hyphen Jew. Now I accept that I am Quak­er. Or, if a hyphen is nec­es­sary, a Quak­er hyphen Quak­er. [Have I seen this lan­guage else­where on this blog? I can’t recall…]
    What I mean by this is that when I strug­gle with some­thing, I turn to my Quak­er com­mu­ni­ty for sup­port; I look to Quak­er tra­di­tions for guid­ance; I lean on the Spir­it and lis­ten deeply over time for how I am to pro­ceed. It is clear to me that my life is informed by my Quak­erism, not by my Judaism.
    But this was not always the case. I had to be ready to release my iden­ti­ty as a Jew [though the Jew­ish faith con­sid­ers me a Jew because of my matri­lin­eage]. I had to be ready to com­mit to Quak­erism at a deep lev­el, just as William Penn had to be ready to release his for­mer iden­ti­ty as defined by his wear­ing a sword and deep­en his com­mit­ment to Quak­erism.
    There’s anoth­er point I want to add here, some­thing I’ve come across either in my online read­ing or else­where: there is a dif­fer­ence between the hyphen­at­ed Quak­er whose Quak­erism is informed by oth­er tra­di­tions and the hyphen­at­ed Quak­er who wish­es that Quak­erism would con­form to those oth­er tra­di­tions.
    Hav­ing said all this, I rec­og­nize that not all of us are ready to let go of the hyphen in our iden­ti­ty at the same moment in our spir­i­tu­al mat­u­ra­tion as Friends. For those of us who have, though, we can be a steady pres­ence to Friends who *are* strug­gling in that in-between place. We can accept them where they are in the moment, while para­dox­i­cal­ly call­ing them to yield to the Spir­it as they are led. Not an easy line to walk, but lit­tle about Quak­erism is.
    Thanks for read­ing me.
    Bless­ings,
    Liz

  • I appre­ci­ate your thoughts on these issues, Liz. I had not con­sid­ered that there might be dif­fer­ences between “hyphenated-Friends”, as you clev­er­ly put it. There are those who do so to demon­strate that they find sup­port for their Quak­erism in oth­er faiths; and there are those who do so in hopes that Quak­erism will change to be more like them.
    I’ve had my time as a hyphen-Quaker, too!
    My con­cern tends to be at the insti­tu­tion­al lev­el. There are resources out there, I guess, that encour­age Friends to not only see Meet­ings as places of accep­tance and shared val­ues, but as places of trans­for­ma­tion and obe­di­ence (your ref­er­ence to the pam­phlet by Thomas Gates is a good exam­ple). How­ev­er, I just don’t believe that this is ade­quate­ly empha­sized or even known at the Month­ly or Year­ly Meet­ing lev­els. At least this is the impres­sion that I have.
    How can Friends as a com­mu­ni­ty empha­size these lat­ter parts of a mature Meet­ing (as well as of a mature indi­vid­ual Friend or YM)? There seems to be the ten­den­cy to down­play or deny these aspects of Quak­erism so as to avoid appear­ing coer­cive or judge­men­tal. This tends to be my biggest gripe these days. 🙂

  • Liz Oppen­heimer

    Joe, thanks for your hon­esty about one of your “biggest gripes” being the seem­ing inabil­i­ty for Meet­ings to help Friends grow into some of these deep­er lev­els of com­mit­ment.
    It seems to me that one person’s gripe is anoth­er person’s spir­i­tu­al con­cern. I have been doing some won­der­ful read­ing that helps me feel less alone in my con­cern, and in fact gives me hope that I can speak to this issue – and be faith­ful to the Spir­it in doing so.
    I am also helped by con­nect­ing with mem­bers and atten­ders who are inter­est­ed in what I have to say. And, I must add, it is by read­ing blogs like yours and Martin’s that I feel inspired to bring my voice for­ward as well, God will­ing – not through any­thing as refined as a blog, but through per­son­al rela­tion­ships with­in and beyond my meet­ing, and by offer­ing work­shops and pre­sen­ta­tions, as I feel led.
    Healthy elder­ship and mod­el­ing can inspire all of us to explore Quak­erism more ful­ly, as well as reclaim our Quak­er tra­di­tions. The more I see pre­sid­ing clerks and com­mit­tee clerks lift up the expec­ta­tion that we _will_ seek God’s guid­ance in our dis­cern­ment, and that we _will_ test our lead­ings through a cor­po­rate process, the more I see us col­lec­tive­ly and indi­vid­u­al­ly tem­per our human urg­ings and dis­ci­pline our­selves to wait upon the Lord.
    Besides, this is how I _myself_ have become more com­mit­ted to my Quak­erism, because oth­er Friends have chal­lenged me to do so because they let their life speak, and because they share their spir­i­tu­al strug­gles with me in their yearn­ing to be faith­ful.
    Bless­ings,
    Liz

  • Albion Gup­py

    Dear Friend Liz,
    I’ve read sev­er­al post­ings of yours here at ‘Quak­er Ranter’, and I want­ed to say that your post­ings here some­times have the same ‘feel’ as the writ­ings of Ear­ly Friends.
    I’m try­ing to under­stand the posi­tion (and the spir­i­tu­al life style) of the Ear­ly Friends.
    Thanks for your writ­ings.
    In the Light of Christ, Albion

  • Albion Gup­py

    Dear Friends,
    I’m won­der­ing if any of you here have read the Nickall’s edi­tion of ‘George Fox’s Jour­nal’.
    If so, did it “speak to thy con­di­tion?”
    I’m very inter­est­ed in becom­ing more tied to those Friends who iden­ti­fy them­selves as “Con­ser­v­a­tive” (I might even say, Con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­t­ian – Friends).
    We live in North­ern Iowa, and so that might be pos­si­ble here.
    Only in the Bar­nesville, Ohio area, and some parts of North Car­oli­na, is it pos­si­ble to find many oth­er “Con­ser­v­a­tive Friends”.
    I would sug­gest that one take a look at an old arti­cle by Chuck Fager about Ohio Con­ser­v­a­tive Friends;
    afriend​lylet​ter​.com/​afl 101.html
    or, sim­ply type in a google search for; “Ohio Con­ser­v­a­tive Friends arti­cle by Chuch Fager”.
    Is there any­one else here search­ing Fox’s, and oth­er Ear­ly Friends writ­ings, for guid­ance?
    I’m also very inter­est­ed in learn­ing about “The Inner Light Light of Christ”, and Ear­ly Quak­er under­stand­ings of the Bible.
    Is there any­one else here that is inter­est­ed in these ideas and under­stand­ings?
    I would be more than hap­py to dis­cuss them with any­one who is sin­cere­ly seek­ing for an under­stand­ing of Ear­ly Friends Wor­ship.
    You can con­tact me at; quicksand53@msn.com if you too are search­ing.
    May the Inner Light of Christ show thee the Way,
    Albion
    May 04, 2006
    P.S. I also post­ed this post over at Kwak­er­saurs Blog too. I hope that no one minds that I post it here too.

  • Albion Gup­py

    Liz Opp said;
    “It seems to me that one person’s gripe is anoth­er person’s spir­i­tu­al con­cern. I have been doing some won­der­ful read­ing that helps me feel less alone in my con­cern, and in fact gives me hope that I can speak to this issue — and be faith­ful to the Spir­it in doing so.”
    Dear Friend Liz,
    I think that peo­ple (even Friends) get scared some­times of a person’s spir­i­tu­al back­ground.
    I’ve looked all over for REAL spir­i­tu­al­i­ty.
    Native Amer­i­can spir­i­tu­al­i­ty, Celtic (Druidic) spir­i­tu­al­i­ty, and I’ve stud­ied the Tao Te Ching and Dao­ism pret­ty through­ly, SOME peo­ple can accept these spir­i­tu­al wan­der­ings with out being afraid, but sad­ly, most can­not.
    That I land­ed back in the Light that we find with­in Quak­erism, is in many ways, a true mir­a­cle!
    But if I try to tell alot of peo­ple about this(anyone with­in Pro­grammed Friends I’d say), they’d think that I’m sim­ply “demo­nized”, from my look­ing into these oth­er non-Christian, forms of spir­i­tu­al­i­ty.
    I’d say, that every­thing that I’ve been through, brought me to this moment, and to this place, that I now myself, spir­i­tu­al­i­ty.

  • Albion Gup­py

    What I mean’t to say (from May 5th 05:18 Blog)
    “I’d say, that every­thing that I’ve been through, brought me to this moment, and to this place, that I now find myself, in spir­i­tu­al­ly.”
    From Albion

  • Albion Gup­py

    The REAL rea­son for the’Advices and Queries’.
    I found this jew­el in Lewis Benson’s book­let ‘What did George Fox teach about Christ?’ (New Foun­da­tion pub­li­ca­tions no.1);
    Lewis Ben­son feels that ‘the Advices and Queries’ that Friends pub­lished have to large extent (espe­cial­ly here in Amer­i­ca) been per­vert­ed.
    Ben­son claims that most Friends now say that the rea­son for the Advices and Queries is for self-examination.
    That is, they were to be read in one’s pri­vate devo­tions, and put to one­self.
    But the real rea­son for the Advices and Queries in the days of Ear­ly Friends, and right down to own time (as Ben­son remem­bered) was for the CHURCH to exam­ine itself.
    That is, the the Queries read: Are Friends doing this, are Friends doing that?
    The Meet­ings had to answer these Queries and send the answers up to Quar­ter­ly Meet­ings, and then on to Year­ly Meet­ing.
    Essen­tial­ly ask­ing if Friends are learn­ing togeth­er, obey­ing togeth­er, and suf­fer­ing togeth­er.
    And if Friends were NOT, they had to DO some­thing about it.
    Ben­son felt that in mod­ern times, that the Advices and Queries were no longer used by Friends in this man­ner, and hence forth, they con­tributed lit­tle to the moral life of the Friends Com­mu­ni­ty.
    I’m very inter­est­ed in the Advices and Queries. And in learn­ing more about them.
    The copy of the Advices and Queries that we have came from Ohio Year­ly Meet­ing.
    And I’m also won­der­ing if any­one is read­ing my blogs here.
    We are rather iso­lat­ed here in North­ern Iowa from oth­er Con­ser­v­a­tive Friends, and I long to hear from oth­er Friends.
    I also won­der if any­one here has read John William Graham’s old book (pub­lished in 1920, I believe); ‘The Faith of a Quak­er’?
    I would like to pur­chase this book, but I’d love to read a reader’s review first.
    Thanks, In Christ’s Light, Albion

  • Hi Albion,
    Your rush of com­ments has come at a time when I’ve been try­ing to keep my head above water with work-related con­cerns. I’m glad you’ve found my blog and hope it will help con­nect you with like-minded Friends. I know Iowa’s a big­ger state that most of us East Coast­ers think but at least you share a state with a won­der­ful­ly open Con­ser­v­a­tive Quak­er com­mu­ni­ty. Quak­erism isn’t just think­ing the faith but liv­ing it and I hope you can man­age some road trips to vis­it Iowa YM(Cons) events this sum­mer!
    I was very struck when I first real­ized the queries were once meant to actu­al­ly be answered, in writ­ing, by the month­ly meet­ing itself. As you write, it’s quite a dif­fer­ence from the per­son­al reflec­tions they’ve become. I have to run off to anoth­er bit of work but I’m think­ing of you and hop­ing the inter­net does facil­i­tate some faith con­nec­tions.
    Your Friend, Mar­tin

  • Albion

    A cou­ple of cor­rec­tions;
    “Lewis Ben­son feels that ‘the Advices and Queries’ that Friends pub­lished have to large extent (espe­cial­ly here in Amer­i­ca) been per­vert­ed.”
    I should have said; “have been per­vert­ed in the way in which they are cur­rent­ly used.”
    And;
    But the real rea­son for the Advices and Queries in the days of Ear­ly Friends, and right down to OUR own time (as Ben­son remem­bered) was for the CHURCH to exam­ine itself.
    Thanks, Albion

  • Hi Albion,
    I don’t have time to pour through ref­er­ence texts but I’m pret­ty sure the ear­ly Friends didn’t have queries. They were a lat­er inno­va­tion (sec­ond or third gen­er­a­tion), a step in the cod­i­fi­ca­tion of Quak­er insti­tu­tions that also includ­ed the con­cept of mem­ber­ship and the ear­li­est edi­tions of “Faith and Prac­tice.” I say this to point out that cor­po­rate answer­ing of queries is not nec­es­sar­i­ly an essen­tial com­po­nent of Quak­er prac­tice. “Per­vert­ed” is an awful­ly strong word. We are called to be obe­di­ent to the Liv­ing Spir­it, not to the forms. The age of an ancient Quak­er prac­tice should not the pri­ma­ry judge of its right­ness.
    That said, it cer­tain­ly was a tech­nique that helped define and bind the Quak­er com­mu­ni­ty for many gen­er­a­tions. It is cer­tain­ly worth ask­ing whether its aban­don­ment by the major­i­ty of world Friends was done too hasti­ly. Have we found oth­er techiques that ade­quate­ly serve a sim­i­lar func­tion or is there a gap? Might our cur­rent meet­ings be served by rein­tro­duc­ing some form of cor­po­rate answer­ing back into our annu­al busi­ness?
    Answer­ing of queries is still prac­ticed here and there; I’d love to hear some feed­back from Friends who have direct expe­ri­ence of it.

  • Albion Gup­py

    Dear Friend Mar­tin,
    Yes, I agree that “per­vert­ed” is an awful­ly strong word. It was Lewis Benson’s word though, not mine.
    I also agree with you that we are called to be obe­di­ent to the Liv­ing Spir­it, and NOT the forms.
    Though I think that Lewis Ben­son would have agreed with you too.
    I find his writ­ings to be full of his Quest as a Friend for the Liv­ing Pres­ence of the Light of Christ With­in.
    His (Lewis Ben­son) writ­ings remind me of Isaac Penington’s writ­ings alot, anoth­er Friend who was also look­ing for the Liv­ing Spir­it, and not the forms.
    I thank you for your kind wel­come to me here also.
    There are alot of very tal­ent­ed Friends who write here and I always look for­ward to see­ing what’s being dis­cussed next.
    And yes, we are going to get out and take some road trips to vis­it oth­er Friends Meet­ings here in Iowa, and Min­neso­ta this Sum­mer.
    I would like to quote Isaac Pen­ing­ton here in a rather long quote, from his book ‘The Light With­in and Select­ed Writ­ings’, which has no copy right that I see, would it be ok to quote sev­er­al para­graphs from said book?
    Thanks for your help.
    In the Light of Christ, Albion