Our Christian Disciplines tweet the Debate

John S made an inter­est­ing com­ment at the end of my last post (all ) about live twit­ter­ing tonight’s Pres­i­den­tial Debate got me think­ing about a Quak­er response to the debates might be. As I’ve admit­ted I can be rather snarky and par­ti­san. So I pre­pared some inter­est­ing quotes from some old Quak­er tes­i­monies and have been sprin­kling them through­out my twit­ter commentary. 

  • 1762: Friends ought not be active in elect­ing to offices, the exe­cu­tion where­of tends to lay wast our Chris­t­ian testimony
  • <1879: Mem­bers should main­tain inof­fen­sive, cir­cum­spect emeanour towards all men, man­i­fest­ing peace­able spir­it of Christ.
  • <1879: Friends should avoid those heats & con­tro­ver­sies respect­ing the poli­cies and govt’s of the world.
  • 1874: The mere nat­ur­al wis­dom and will of man have no palce in the church of Christ.
  • 1808: The preser­va­tion of love and uni­ty is a duty in every state of reli­gious attainment.
  • 1853: It is upon the sim­plic­i­ty of the Truth as it is in Jesus that our tes­ti­mo­ny to plain­ness and mod­er­a­tion rests.
  • <1879: Friends are to avoid elect­ing brethren to civ­il govt as may sub­ject them to temp­ta­tion of vio­lat­ing testimonies.
  • 1808: Friends are not to unite in war­like mea­sures, either offen­sive or defen­sive, we are subj of Messaih’s peace­ful reign.
  • 1843: Fds must decline accep­tance of any office or sta­tion in civ­il govt w/duties incon­sis­tent w/our reli­gious principles.
  • 1843: Friends warned vs. rais­ing & cir­cu­lat­ing paper cred­it w/appearance of val­ue w/o intrin­sic reality.
  • 1843: Friends should be open-hearted and lib­er­al in rais­ing funds for relief for mem­bers in indi­gent circumstances.
  • 1843: So may we be liv­ing mem­bers of the Church mil­i­tant on earth; and inhab­i­tants of that city which hath foundations.
  • 1853: The stan­dards which the world adopts in pur­suit of trade and desire for rich­es in not safe for dis­ci­ple of Christ.
  • 1853: May no Friends involve them­selves in worldy con­cerns dis­qual­i­fy for right use of their time, tal­ents & tem­po­ral substance.

The quotes are culled from “Chris­t­ian Advices” (1879) and “Rules of Dis­ci­pline” (1843), both pub­lished by Philadel­phia Year­ly Meet­ing. I think these are Ortho­dox and Hick­site respec­tive­ly, but I’m not an expert in the inves­tiga­tive details nec­es­sary to dif­fer­en­ti­ate between year­ly meet­ing pub­li­ca­tions. If any­one knows “Chris­t­ian Advices” says it’s avail­able from the Friends Book­store at 304 Arch Street; “Rules of Dis­ci­pline” is print­ed by John Richards of 130 N. Third Street.

Youth Ministry, Yearly Meeting Style

One has to applaud the sheer hon­esty of the group of lead­ing Quak­ers who have recent­ly pro­posed turn­ing the grounds of Philadelphia’s his­toric Arch Street Meet­ing­house into a retire­ment home. It makes per­fect sense. Arch Street is the host for our annu­al ses­sions, where the aver­age age is sure­ly over 70. Why not insti­tu­tion­al­ize the year­ly meet­ing reality?

The Arch Street Meet­ing­house grounds are also a ceme­tery. In about ten years time we can raze the meet­ing­house for more head­stones and in about twen­ty years time we can have a big par­ty where we cash out the year­ly meet­ing funds and just burn them in a big bon­fire (there’s a fire sta­tion across the street), for­mal­ly lay­ing down Philadel­phia Year­ly Meet­ing. The fif­teen of us who are left can go attach our­selves to some oth­er year­ly meeting.

This year’s annu­al ses­sions con­tin­ue their tra­di­tion of self-parody: the fea­tured speak­ers are the umpteenth gray-hair pro­fes­sion­al Quak­er talk­ing about the peace tes­ti­mo­ny and a psy­chol­o­gist who appears on NPR. It’s safe to assume nei­ther will stray beyond the mildest com­mu­ni­ties of faith talk to men­tion God, gospel order or nam­ing of gifts, and that nei­ther will ask why there’s almost no one under forty involved in the year­ly meet­ing. The last time I went to a nom­i­nat­ing com­mit­tee work­shop at annu­al ses­sions, mem­bers open­ly explained to me why Friends under forty couldn’t serve on com­mit­tees. Lat­er dur­ing that ses­sion we learned the aver­age new atten­der was in their thir­ties yet the year­ly meet­ing clerk didn’t think it was appro­pri­ate than any Friend under fifty com­ment on that (about 40 old­er Friends were rec­og­nized to share their thoughts, natch).

The gen­er­a­tional freefall is com­ing to the year­ly meet­ing. Arch Street Meet­ing is smack in the mid­dle of one of the pre­mier hip young neigh­bor­hoods of Philadel­phia yet they’ve been resis­tant to doing any seri­ous out­reach or adult reli­gious ed (I could tell sto­ries: don’t get me start­ed). This week­end I learned that the oth­er down­town meet­ing, Cen­tral Philadel­phia, con­tin­ues its prac­tice – almost pol­i­cy – of not sup­port­ing emerg­ing min­istry in long-time young atten­ders (I could real­ly tell sto­ries). I wouldn’t be sur­prised if Philadel­phia has the low­est per-capita year­ly meet­ing attendance.

So why not just admit that the year­ly meet­ing is irrel­e­vant to younger Friends? Why not turn our meet­ing­hous­es into retire­ment homes?

PS: How I wish I weren’t so cyn­i­cal about the year­ly meet­ing. I don’t want to feel like it’s a state of all-out gen­er­a­tional war­fare. I’ve tried, real­ly I have. I’m even will­ing to try again. But no where have I found a space to have these dis­cus­sions, at year­ly meet­ing or any­where else. Oth­er Phi­la. YM Friends con­cerned with these issues are wel­come to email me – maybe we can fig­ure out some forum for this either inside or out­side of the offi­cial structures. 
PPS: There are a lot of won­der­ful Friends involved with the year­ly meet­ing. They have good ideas and sin­cere­ly try to make it a more wel­com­ing place. The best part of the year­ly meet­ing ses­sions I’ve attend­ed have been the unex­pect­ed con­ver­sa­tions. It’s the insti­tu­tion I am frus­trat­ed with: the sense that it’s big­ger and dumb­er than all of us.
PPPS: What if I took my own words to heart and con­sid­ered a PhYM renew­al as part of the fifty-year plan? If I just stopped com­plain­ing and just attend­ed patient­ly and faith­ful­ly year after year for those “teach­able moments” that might inch it forward?