I doubt the Church.

I doubt the Church..

From Hye Sung Fran­cis: I am con­vinced that God’s grace can reach into any moment, any expe­ri­ence, and even any insti­tu­tion. The rich­ness of the gifts in Quak­erism holds me in this pecu­liar Soci­ety. I have not found a vision of the gospel more com­pelling, more trans­for­ma­tive, than that of Friend

A Gathered People

A Gath­ered Peo­ple. Craig Bar­nett on com­mu­nity in the mod­ern world:

A gath­ered peo­ple is not just an asso­ci­a­tion of indi­vid­u­als who hap­pen to share over­lap­ping val­ues or inter­ests. It is formed by the rais­ing and quick­en­ing of a new spir­i­tual life and power within each per­son.

Cheap Quakerism and Living Tradition

Cheap Quak­erism and Liv­ing Tra­di­tion. Mark Russ reflects on a recent lec­ture by Ben Pink Dan­de­lion:

Cheap Quak­erism results in pseudo-communities – groups of peo­ple who have made no com­mit­ment to each other, and there­fore don’t spend any time cul­ti­vat­ing inter­per­sonal rela­tion­ships. How can we trust each other if we hardly know each other? How can we be a Soci­ety of Friends? 

Thoughts on Quakers, zines, and participatory culture

Wess talks zines and pam­phle­teer­ing and sketches out a pos­si­ble con­ver­gent model:

I would like to see exist­ing and new Quaker orga­ni­za­tions move more towards what I would call “a con­ver­gent model” of pub­li­ca­tion. Draw­ing on the rich and vibrant voices within our var­i­ous streams Quaker pub­li­ca­tions can model what it looks like to be many-voiced, embrac­ing and build­ing up the beloved com­mu­nity.

I’m glad he lifted up zine cul­ture. My first pub­li­ca­tion was a weekly zine in col­lege. We asked all sorts of embar­rass­ing ques­tions about the school and had a lot of fun doing it.

But here’s the thing: most of the polit­i­cal zines were in-your-face. So too were many of the early Quaker tracts. There’s a Mar­garet Fell pam­phlet with one of those wonderfully-long titles that basi­cally out­li­nes every­thing she has to say. She man­ages to call out pretty much every Chris­tian denom­i­na­tion for heresy. It’s a thor­ough, detailed list of how they’ve sub­verted the true gospel and sold out the good news of Jesus:

To all the pro­fessed teach­ers in the whole world, who go under the name of Chris­tians and make a pro­fes­sion of Christ (who was offered up at Jerusalem, which the scrip­tures declare of), whether they are Jesuits, bish­ops, priests, protes­tants, pres­byters, inde­pen­dents, Anabap­tists, and to all sorts of sects and sec­taries what­ever. This [is] unto you all, to prove or dis­prove the doc­trine of the Quak­ers, which is the same with Christ, the apos­tles, and prophets, which does prove your doc­trine to be false and out of the doc­trine of Christ. (Page 19 of A Sin­cere and Con­stant Love, edited by Terry Wal­lace),

Today none of us would pub­lish­ing some­thing like that today – it’s too nasty and divi­sive. Being for­mally inde­pen­dent, Friends Jour­nal can get away with more of “Emperor Has No Clothes” pieces but we’d never get any­where near Fell’s tone.

And for good rea­son: those early Quak­ers fought not only the Pres­byters, Bap­tists, Papists and free­lance Pro­fes­sors of the Truth but also one another. All sorts of pol­icy and the­ol­ogy ques­tions were up for grabs, from the peace tes­ti­mony to wor­ship­ping in times of per­se­cu­tion to just how Jesus-like we claimed to get (Friends threw co-founder James Nayler under the horse­cart when he went a lit­tle too far into Jesus cos­play and entered the town of Bris­tol on a don­key).

And what are we to make of the sec­ond flow­er­ing of inde­pen­dent Quaker pub­lish­ing 150 years or so after Mar­garet Fell? I’m talk­ing about the explo­sion of ink pre­ced­ing and fol­low­ing the schisms of Amer­i­can Friends in the 1820s? A few feet from my Friends Jour­nal desk are bound vol­umes from one of our pre­de­ces­sor mag­a­zi­nes, whose early pages are full of denun­ci­a­tions of the Hick­sites – that “other Soci­ety” that erro­neously claims to be Friends. This kind of infight­ing and denun­ci­a­tion is also part of our his­tory (and some­times our present).

Last weekend I was invited to speak to Abington (Pa.) Meeting’s First-day school…

Last week­end I was invited to speak to Abing­ton (Pa.) Meeting’s First-day school (n.b. proper FJ stylesheet) to talk about vocal min­istry in wor­ship. I haven’t been to wor­ship at that meet­ing for eons and can’t speak to the con­di­tion of its min­istry, but I do know that vocal min­istry can be some­thing of a mys­tery for unpro­grammed Friends. Many of us are “con­vinced,” com­ing to the Soci­ety as adults and often have a nag­ging feel­ing we’re play-acting at being Friends, but I’ve met many life-long Quak­ers who also won­der about it.

Per­haps as a response to these feel­ings, we some­times get rather pedan­tic that what­ever way we’ve first encoun­tered is the Quaker way. The cur­rent fash­ion of vocal min­istry in the Philadel­phia area is for short mes­sages, often about world events, often con­fes­sional in nature. What I wanted to leave Abing­ton with was the rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent ways unpro­grammed Friends have wor­shipped over time and how some of our prac­tices out­side wor­ship were devel­oped to help nur­ture Spirit-led min­istry.

(writ­ten this a.m. but only posted to lim­ited cir­cles, cut and pasted when I saw the mix-up) 

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Predictions on the ‘new evangelical’ movement

Read­ers over on Quak​erQuaker​.org will know I’ve been inter­ested in the tem­pest sur­round­ing evan­gel­i­cal pas­tor Rob Bell. A pop­u­lar min­is­ter for the Youtube gen­er­a­tion, con­tro­versy over his new book has revealed some deep fis­sures among younger Evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians. I’ve been fas­ci­nated by this since 2003, when I started real­iz­ing I had a lot of com­mon­al­i­ties with main­stream Chris­tian blog­gers who I would have nat­u­rally dis­missed out of hand. When they wrote about the authen­tic­ity of wor­ship, decision-making in the church and the need to walk the talk and also to walk the line between truth and com­pas­sion, they spoke to my con­cerns (most of my read­ing since then has been blogs, pre-twentieth cen­tury Quaker writ­ings and the Bible).

Today Jaime John­son tweeted out a link to a new piece by Rachel Held Evans called “The Future of Evan­gel­i­cal­ism.” She does a nice job pars­ing out the dif­fer­ences between the two camps squar­ing off over Rob Bell. On the one side is a cen­tral­ized move­ment of neo-Calvinists she calls Young, Rest­less, Reformed after a 2006 Chris­tian­ity Today arti­cle. I have lit­tle to no inter­est in this crowd except for mild aca­d­e­mic curios­ity. But the other side is what she’s dub­bing “the new evan­gel­i­cals”:

The sec­ond group — some­times referred to as “the new evan­gel­i­cals” or “emerg­ing evan­gel­i­cals” or “the evan­gel­i­cal left” is sig­nif­i­cantly less orga­nized than the first, but con­tin­ues to grow at a grass­roots level. As Paul Markhan wrote in an excel­lent essay about the phe­nom­e­non, young peo­ple who iden­tify with this move­ment have grown weary of evangelicalism’s alle­giance to Repub­li­can pol­i­tics, are inter­ested in pur­su­ing social reform and social jus­tice, believe that the gospel has as much to do with this life as the next, and are eager to be a part of inclu­sive, diverse, and authen­tic Chris­tian com­mu­ni­ties. “Their broad­en­ing sense of social respon­si­bil­ity is push­ing them to rethink many of the fun­da­men­tal the­o­log­i­cal pre­sup­po­si­tions char­ac­ter­is­tic of their evan­gel­i­cal tra­di­tions,” Markham noted.

This is the group that intrigues me. There’s a lot of cross-over here with some of what I’m see­ing with Quak­ers. In an ideal world, the Reli­gious Soci­ety of Friends would open its arms to this new wave of seek­ers, espe­cially as they hit the lim­its of denom­i­na­tional tol­er­ance. But in real­ity, many of the East Coast meet­ings I’m most famil­iar with wouldn’t know what to do with this crowd. In Philly if you’re inter­ested in this con­ver­sa­tion you go to Cir­cle of Hope (pre­vi­ous posts), not any of the estab­lished Quaker meet­ings.

Evans makes some edu­cated guesses about the future of the “new evan­gel­i­cal” move­ment. She thinks there will be more dis­cus­sion about the role of the Bible, though I would say it’s more dis­cus­sion fo the var­i­ous Chris­tian inter­pre­ta­tions of it. She also fore­sees a loos­en­ing of labels and denom­i­na­tional affil­i­a­tions. I’m see­ing some of this hap­pen­ing among Friends, though it’s almost com­pletely on the indi­vid­ual level, at least here on the East Coast. It will be inter­est­ing to see how this shakes out over the next few years and whether it will bypass, engage with or siphon off the Soci­ety of Friends. In the mean­time, Evans’ post and the links she embeds in it are well worth explor­ing.