Bring people to Christ / Leave them there

It’s one of those quotes we fre­quent­ly hear: that George Fox said a minister’s job was “to bring peo­ple to Christ, and to leave them there.” But when I go to Google, I only find sec­ond­hand ref­er­ences, sand­wiched in quote marks but nev­er sourced. It turns up most fre­quent­ly in the works of British Friend William Pol­lard, who used it as kind of a catch phrase in his talks on “An Old Fash­ioned Quak­erism” from 1889. Sus­pi­cious­ly miss­ing is any search result from the jour­nal or epistles of Fox him­self. It’s pos­si­ble Pol­lard has para­phrased some­thing from Fox into a speech-friendly short­hand that Google miss­es, but it’s also pos­si­ble it’s one of those passed-down Fox myths like Penn’s sword.

London Yearly Meeting, 1865.
Lon­don Year­ly Meet­ing, 1865.

So in mod­ern fash­ion, I posed the ques­tion to the Face­book hive mind. After great dis­cus­sions, I’m going to call this a half-truth. On the Face­book thread, Allis­tair Lomax shared a Fox epistle that con­vinces me the founder of Friends would have agreed with the basic con­cept:

I’m guess­ing it is para­phrase of a por­tion of Fox’s from epistle 308, 1674. Fox wrote “You know the man­ner of my life, the best part of thir­ty years since I went forth and for­sook all things. I sought not myself. I sought you and his glo­ry that sent me. When I turned you to him that is able to save you, I left you to him.”

Mark Wutka shared quo­ta­tions from Stephen Grel­let and William Williams which have con­vince me that it describes the “two step dance” of con­vince­ment for ear­ly Friends:

From Stephen Grel­let: “I have endeav­oured to lead this peo­ple to the Lord and to his Spir­it, and there is is safe to leave them.” And this from William Williams: “To per­suade peo­ple to seek the Lord, and to be faith­ful to his word, the inspo­ken words of the heart, is what we ought to do; and then leave them to be direct­ed by the inward feel­ings of the mind;”

The two-step image comes from Ange­la York Crane’s com­ment:

So it’s a two step dance. First, that who we are and how we live and speak turns oth­ers to the Lord, and sec­ond, that we trust enough to leave them there.

But: as a pithy catch phrase direct­ly attrib­ut­ed to Fox it’s anoth­er myth. It per­haps bor­rowed some images from a mid-19th cen­tu­ry talk by Charles Spur­geon on George Fox, but came togeth­er in the 1870s as a cen­tral catch phrase of British reformer Friend William Pol­lard. Pol­lard is a fas­ci­nat­ing fig­ure in his own right, an ear­ly pro­po­nent of mod­ern lib­er­al­ism in a Lon­don Year­ly Meet­ing that was then large­ly evan­gel­i­cal and mis­sion­ary. Even his pam­phlet and book titles were telling, includ­ing Prim­i­tive Chris­tian­i­ty Revived and A Rea­son­able Faith. He had an agen­da and this phrase was a key for­mu­la­tion of his argu­ment and vision.

He is hard­ly the first or last Friend to have lift­ed an inci­den­tal phrase or con­cept of George Fox’s and given it the weight of a mod­ern tenet (“That of God” springs to mind). More inter­est­ing to me is that Pollard’s work was fre­quent­ly reprint­ed and ref­er­enced in Friends Intel­li­gencer, the Amer­i­can Hick­site pub­li­ca­tion (and pre­de­ces­sor of Friends Jour­nal), at a time when Lon­don Friends didn’t rec­og­nize Hick­sites as legit­i­mate Quak­ers. His vision of an “Old Fash­ioned Quak­erism” rein­cor­po­rat­ed qui­etism and sought to bring British Friends back to a two-step con­vince­ment prac­tice. It paved the way for the trans­for­ma­tion of British Quak­erism fol­low­ing the trans­for­ma­tion­al 1895 Man­ches­ter Con­fer­ence and gave Amer­i­can Friends inter­est­ed in mod­ern lib­er­al philo­soph­i­cal ide­als a blue­print for incor­po­rat­ing them into a Quak­er frame­work.

The phrase “bring peo­ple to Christ/leave them there” is a com­pelling image that has lived on in the 130 or so odd years since its coinage. I sus­pect it is still used much as Pol­lard intend­ed: as a qui­etist brak­ing sys­tem for top-down mis­sion­ary pro­grams. It’s a great con­cept. Only our tes­ti­mony in truth now requires that we intro­duce it, “As William Pol­lard said, a Quak­er minister’s job is to…”

And for those won­der­ing, yes, I have just ordered Pollard’s Old Fash­ioned Quak­erism via Vin­tage Quak­er Books. He seems like some­thing of a kin­dred spir­it and I want to learn more.

Dusting off the Elders of Balby

One of the blue­prints for Quak­er com­mu­ni­ty is the “Epistle from the Elders at Bal­by” writ­ten in 1656 at the very infan­cy of the Friends move­ment by a gath­er­ing of lead­ers from York­shire and North Mid­lands, Eng­land.

It’s the pre­cur­sor to Faith and Prac­tice, as it out­li­nes the rela­tion­ship between indi­vid­u­als and the meet­ing. If remem­bered at all today, it’s for its post­script, a para­phrase of 2 Corinthi­ans that warns read­ers not to treat this as a form to wor­ship and to remain liv­ing in the light which is pure and holy. That post­script now starts off most lib­er­al Quak­er books of Faith and Prac­tice.

But the Epistle itself is well worth dust­ing off. It address­es wor­ship, min­istry, mar­riage, and how to deal in meek­ness and love with those walk­ing “dis­or­der­ly.” It talks of how to sup­port fam­i­lies and take care of mem­bers who were impris­oned or in need. Some of it’s lan­guage is a lit­tle stilt­ed and there’s some talk of the role of ser­vants that most mod­ern Friend would object to. But over­all, it’s a remark­ably lucid, prac­ti­cal and rel­e­vant doc­u­ment. It’s also short: just over two pages.

One of the things I hear again and again from Friends is the desire for a deep­er com­mu­ni­ty of faith. Younger Friends are espe­cial­ly drawn toward the so-called “New Monas­tic” move­ment of tight com­mu­nal liv­ing. The Bal­by Epistle is a glimpse into how an ear­lier gen­er­a­tion of Friends addressed some of the­se same con­cerns.

ONLINE EDITIONS OF THE EPISTLE AT BALBY:
Quak­er Her­itage Press: qhpress​.org/​t​e​x​t​s​/​b​a​l​b​y​.​h​tml
Street Cor­ner Soci­ety: strecor​soc​.org/​d​o​c​s​/​b​a​l​b​y​.​h​tml
Wik­isource: en​.wik​isource​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​T​h​e​_​E​p​i​s​t​l​e​_​f​r​o​m​_​t​h​e​_​E​l​d​e​r​s​_​a​t​_​B​a​l​b​y​,​_​1​656

DISCUSSIONS:
Brook­lyn Quak­er post & dis­cus­sion (2005): brook​lyn​quak​er​.blogspot​.com/​2​0​0​5​/​0​3​/​e​l​d​e​r​s​-​a​t​-​b​a​l​b​y​.​h​tml

I don’t have anything to say (either)

Some Quaker Bloggers

Summer visitations got an early start last month when the Northeast US "Quaker blogroll":http://www.nonviolence.org/Quaker/Quaker_places.php converged in my back yard with no agenda to follow and no epistle to write.Front row: "James":http://curiouspenn.blogspot.com/, "Jeffrey":http://www.nonviolence.org/martink/archives/000588.php and visitation ringleader "Amanda":http://ofthebest.blogspot.com/. Back: "Ryan":http://snorkelinglight.blogspot.com/, "Rob":http://consider-the-lilies.blogspot.com/, "Me":/martink, "Theo":/theo and poor blogless Christina.

Well since Kwakersaur is inaugurating the "I don't have anything to post":http://kwakersaur.blogspot.com/2005/06/i-dont-have-anything-to-say.html meme, I'll chime in that I don't either. Actually I've written two and half essays but realized they're both really for myself. This is how it happens sometimes. I've long noticed this phenomenon in fully-formed verbal ministry that I know I'm not supposed to deliver and it feels as if such restraint is sometimes healthy on the blog. The message will reappear in other forums I'm sure, most likely next month's "Gathering workshop":www.nonviolence.org/Quaker/strangers with Zachary Moon.
In the meantime, there's been fresh talk about plain language and dress this week by "Johan Maurer":http://maurers.home.mindspring.com/2005/06/plain-language.htm, "Claire Reddy":http://Quakerspeak.blogspot.com/2005/06/simplicity-unfocused-thought-blurt.html and the "Livejournal Quakers":http://www.livejournal.com/community/Quakers/105292.html. Russ Nelson's started a "Planet Quaker":http://planet.Quaker.org/ blog aggregator (which includes Quaker Ranter: thanks!). LizOpp talked about "field testing":http://thegoodraisedup.blogspot.com/2005/05/after-annual-sessions.html her upcoming "Quaker identity Gathering workshop":http://www.fgcquaker.org/gathering/workshops/work36.php at Northern Yearly Meeting sessions and Kiara's talked about "being field tested by Liz at this year's NYM sessions":http://wordspinning.blogspot.com/2005/05/northern-yearly-meeting.html (how cool is that?!).
I've been geeking out on "Del.icio.us":http://del.icio.us/martin_kelley, the "social bookmarking" system and on the esoteric concepts of "tags":http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tags, the "semantic web":http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_web and "folksonomies":http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folksonomy. Two weeks ago I would have laughed at these neologisms but I'm beginning to see that there's something in all this. The only outward form the regulars will see is a more accurate "Related Entries" selection at the bottom of posts (thanks to "Adam Kalsey":http://kalsey.com/blog/2003/05/related_entries_revisited/) and better visibility in "selected Technorati entries":http://www.technorati.com/tag/Quaker (which will get less me-centric as I finish tagging my own back posts).
And of course we're tilling the field, planting a garden, putting up laundry lines and otherwise thoroughly enjoying the first Spring in our new house. It's bedtime, off to read the radically folksonomic adventures of Sam and "My Car":http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0060560452 (it's pure tags: "My name is Sam." "This is my car." "I love my car." I'd worry that not-so-baby Theo is getting too excited by combusion engines if he weren't even more excited by "dia-di-calschht" aka the "bicycle" Papa rides off to work on.)