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.)