What Convergence means to Ohio Conservative

Robin M's recent post on a "Convergent Friends definition":http://robinmsf.blogspot.com/2007/07/two-convergent-events-in-california.html has garnered a number of fascinating commenters. The latest comes from Scott Savage, a well-known Conservative Friend (author of "A Plain Live," publisher of the defunct "Plain Magazine" and lightening rod for a recent culture war skirmish over homosexuality at Ohio State University). Savage's comment on Robin's blog follows what we could call the "Cranky Conservative" template: gratuitous swipes at Conservatives in Iowa and North Carolina, wholesale dismissal of other Friends, multiple affirmations of Christ, digs at the issue of homosexuality, a recitation of past failures of cross-branch communication, then a shrug that seems to ask why he should stoop to our level for dialogue.
What makes my sleepy response especially strange is that except for the homosexuality issue (yay for "FLGBTQC":http://www.quaker.org/flgbtqc/!) I'm pretty close to Scott's positions. I worry about the liberalization of Conservative Friends, I get cranky about Christian Friends who deny Christ in public, and I think a lot of Friends are missing the boat on some core essentials. When I open my copy of Ohio's 1968 discipline and read its statement of faith (oops, sorry, "Introduction") I nod my head. As far as I'm aware I'm in unity with all of Ohio Conservative's principles of faith and practice and if I signed up for their distance membership I certainly wouldn't be the most liberal member of the yearly meeting.
I'm actually not sure about Scott's yearly meeting membership, I'm simply answering his question of why he and the other Conservatives who hold a strong concern for "the hedge" (a separation of Conservative Friends from other branches) might want to think about Convergence. Of all the remaining Conservative bodies, the hedge is arguably strongest in Ohio Yearly Meeting and while parts of this apply to Conservatives elsewhere--Iowa, North Carolina and individuals embedded in non-Conservative yearly meetings--the snares and opportunies are different for them than they are for Ohioans.
Why Ohio Conservative should engage with Convergence:
bq.. If you have all the answers and don't mind keeping them hidden under the nearest bushel then Convergence means nothing.
But if you're interested in following Jesus and being a fisher of men and women by sharing the good news... Well, then it's useful to learn that there's a growing movement of Friends from outside Conservative circles (however defined) who are sensing there's something missing and looking to traditional Quakerism for answers.
Ohio Conservatives have answers and this Convergence movement is providing a fresh opportunity to share them with the apostate Friends and with Christians in other denominations seeking out a more authentic relationship with Christ. Engaging with Convergence doesn't mean Ohio Friends have to change anything of their faith or practice and it needn't be about "dialogue": simply sharing the truth as you understand it is ministry.
Yes, there are snares involved in any true gospel ministry; striking the right balance is always difficult. As the carpenter said, "narrow is the way which leadeth unto life":http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?book_id=47&chapter=7&version=9. We are beset on all sides by roadblocks that threaten to lead us away from Christ's leadership. Ohio Friends will need to be on guard that ministers don't succumb to the temptation to water down their theology for any fleeting popularity. This is a real danger and "it frequently occurs":http://www.quakerranter.org/for_other_uses_see_light_disambiguation.php but while I could tell eight years of great insider stories from the halls of Philadelphia, is that what we're here to do?
Let me put my cards on the table: I don't see much of Ohio effectively ministering now. There's too much of a kind of pride that borders on obnoxiousness, that loves endlessly reciting why Iowa and North Carolina aren't Conservative and why no other Friends are Friends, blah blah blah. It can get tiresome and legalistic. I could point to plenty of online forums where it crosses the line into detraction. Charity and love are Christian qualities too. Humility and a sense of humor are compatible with traditional Quakerism. How do we find a way to continue safeguarding Ohio's pearls while sharing them widely with the world. There are Ohio Friends doing this and while I differ with Scott Savage on some social issues I consider tangential (and he probably doesn't), I very much appreciate his hard work advancing the understanding of Quakerism and agree on more than I disagree.
But how do we find a way to be both Conservative and Evangelical? To marry Truth with Love? To not only understand the truth but to know how, when and where to share it? I think Convergence can help Ohio think about delivery of Truth and it can help bring seekers into the doors. When I rhetorically asked last month what Convergent Friends "might be converging toward":http://www.quakerranter.org/convergent_friends_a_long_definition.php, the first answer that popped in my head was Ohio Friends with a sense of humor. I'm not sure it's the most accurate definition but it reveals my own sympathies and I find it tempting to think about what that would look like (hint: "kraken might be involved":http://www.conservativefriend.org/newsandevents.htm).
p. A reminder to everyone that I'll be at "Ohio Yearly Meeting Conservative sessions":http://www.conservativefriend.org/2007yearlymeeting.htm in a few weeks to talk more about the opportunities for Ohio engagement with Convergence. Come round if you're in the area.
Also check out Robin's own response to Scott, up there on her own blog. It's a moving personal testimony to the power and joy of cross-Quaker fellowship and the spiritual growth that can result.

  • Hi, Mar­tin… and Robin, in case you make your way over here.
    Two quick things:
    1. I too find res­o­nance in some of what Scott lifts up – many Friends (Chris­t­ian or not) just want to “get on with it” and be faith­ful ser­vants to the Inward Teacher and the Light. And: in the end, “No con­ver­gence nec­es­sary.” …Of course, many of us blog­gers and blog-readers will rec­og­nize that no one ever said con­ver­gence was “nec­es­sary.” Some of us have said that the word sim­ply describes a phe­nom­e­non, a move­ment of the Spir­it, that has already been happening…
    2. I believe, Mar­tin, you’ve hit on a love­ly key ele­ment of Con­ver­gent Friends: Friends “who are sens­ing there’s some­thing miss­ing and [are] look­ing to tra­di­tion­al Quak­erism for answers.”
    As Robin is find­ing, there’s always more to it than first meets the eye, but the beau­ty of this sim­ple state­ment is that it applies to Quak­ers regard­less of the branch from which they hail.
    Well, back to my own busy­ness and respon­si­bil­i­ties of the day.
    Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

  • Raye

    Hi, Mar­tin!
    I appre­ci­ate your post to Scott.
    As a mem­ber of Ohio Year­ly Meet­ing (Con­ser­v­a­tive), I feel drawn to make a few comments.
    Scott Sav­age is not, to my knowl­edge (I’ve checked the YM Min­utes) a mem­ber of OYM. He is cer­tain­ly well known among us, and reg­u­lar­ly attends var­i­ous events that include Ohio YM mem­bers. He lives in Ohio, I believe, and is con­ser­v­a­tive, no doubt, in a num­ber of ways.
    Based on my con­ver­sa­tions with OYM Friends, and my read­ing of Scott’s blog post, I don’t think he is speak­ing for the major­i­ty of OYM.
    One of the things that many Friends are look­ing for­ward to at this year’s YM is the explo­ration of the con­ver­gent conversation.
    The third para­graph (“Ohio Con­ser­v­a­tives have answers” ) of your response to Ohio Con­ser­v­a­tives is a quite good sum­ma­ry of just what many of my con­ver­sa­tions with oth­er mem­bers of OYM have covered.
    Open­ing our eyes and hearts has become an inten­tion­al spir­i­tu­al dis­ci­pline for a num­ber of us, as we seek to serve Christ.
    It is a shame that the min­istry being done by and among Ohio YM Friends is not vis­i­ble, at least in com­par­i­son to the appar­ent­ly error-filled online writ­ings of which you write.
    I am espe­cial­ly sen­si­tive to this right now, per­haps, because at a very recent meet­ing of min­is­ters, elders, and over­seers, we heard many sto­ries of out­reach, open hearts, patient lov­ing guid­ance, and joy­ful inter­ac­tions between OYM Friends and … all man­ner of peo­ple. It seems that for sev­er­al of us, at least, lov­ing and serv­ing the Lord is what holds the high­est val­ue for our lives, rather than a par­tic­u­lar YM affiliation.
    Is it that the Friends who are tru­ly min­is­ter­ing are not pub­lish­ing enough? That may be.

  • Good stuff mar­tin, I’m look­ing for­ward to doing this with you.

  • Friend Mar­tin,
    I too wor­ry that NCYM-Conservative is in some ways going the way of FGC in an attempt to become all things to all people.
    How­ev­er, any­one who attends our Year­ly Meet­ing ses­sions knows that we are still decid­ed­ly Chris­t­ian ori­ent­ed. Part of being faith­ful to our call­ing as Chris­tians is that we DO accept gay and les­bian peo­ple as equals. To do oth­er­wise is a sin.
    The beau­ty of NCYM-Conservative is that many of us believe that Christ WILL teach His peo­ple Him­self. If we are faith­ful to our call­ing to live in the Light of God and speak Truth to pow­er (that Truth being Christ Jesus), those who are not yet fol­low­ers of the Lamb will be con­vinced of the Gospel message.
    I sup­pose where I am on the issue is try­ing to focus on spead­ing the good news of Jesus and the abun­dant life that He offers rather than focus­ing on keep­ing my Year­ly Meet­ing “Chris­t­ian”.
    To (mis)use a Bud­dhist say­ing: “NCYM-Conservative is the fin­ger point­ing at the Moon, not the Moon Itself.” I for­get that some­times. My hope is that NCYM-Conservative will remain in the Cen­ter of tra­di­tion­al Chris­t­ian Quak­er spir­i­tu­al­i­ty. How­ev­er, if that does not hap­pen, then I pray that I would remain faith­ful to fol­low­ing what I know to be True.
    Just as I believe that God will bring those whom He calls to the cross, I believe that God will open the eyes of those caught in the bondage of big­otry to repen­tance. May we ALL lis­ten to the Voice of God with open hearts and minds and not shrink from that work which our Sav­ior calls.
    Love and peace,

  • I could be mis-remembering, but I believe that not only is Scott not a mem­ber of Ohio YM, but his issues with Ohio are strong enough that he actu­al­ly left it.
    There are Friends in Ohio YM who have been tru­ly seek­ing how to be faith­ful wit­ness­es in the larg­er world, both of Friends and of the wider soci­ety. I think you will find that a num­ber will real­ly want to hear what is hap­pen­ing with those who iden­ti­fy as Con­ver­gent Friends, and won’t assume that it is some­thing dilut­ing or harmful.
    Mar­tin, I cau­tion you not to go the OYM ses­sions with neg­a­tive assump­tions and a chip on your shoul­der. Go with an open heart, assum­ing that Christ will be speak­ing to you through Friends you meet there and that He is will­ing to speak through you if you are tru­ly open.

  • *Hi Raye, Hi Bill*: Thanks for the ques­tions about Scott’s mem­ber­ship. I made the sil­ly assump­tion that some­one in Ohio talk­ing as a Con­ser­v­a­tive Friend would be a mem­ber of OYMC but I should know by not this needn’t be the case. I amend­ed the post a bit to be more accurate.
    I should also stress that I’m not talk­ing about all Ohio Friends or even any par­tic­u­lar Friend so much as an atti­tude of dis­cour­age­ment that I’ve seen and which has kept the Con­ser­v­a­tive mes­sage of Ohio from reach­ing as far as it might.
    *Raye*, I’ve been quite encour­aged by some recent out­reach Ohio Friends have been engaged in. I got to one of the two pub­lic meet­ings they held at Marl­boro Meet­ing in Chester Coun­ty PA (a Christo-centric meet­ing of Philadel­phia YM with some indi­vid­ual Ohio cross-membership). I was also glad to see that this year’s Con­ser­v­a­tive Gath­er­ing was more wide­ly pub­li­cized that pre­vi­ous ones.
    Your ques­tion about pub­lish­ing is inter­est­ing. Obvi­ous­ly I’m a pub­lish­er. And I’m some­one with a par­tic­u­lar­ly keen inter­est in out­reach. I tend look at Quak­er bod­ies more by how they do and don’t present them­selves to the world and less by the warmth of their indi­vid­ual gath­er­ings (I nev­er quite thought of that). There’s a tremen­dous num­ber of peo­ple with­in a day’s dri­ve of Bar­nesville who I think would be open to OYM’s mes­sage; how do we reach them?
    *And Bill*: I wouldn’t be return­ing for a sec­ond year at OYMC ses­sions if I hadn’t seen all the faith­ful Friends there. OYM’s got its own spe­cial quirks (it is Quak­er after all) but I love it.
    *Craig*: I love North Car­oli­na too, don’t wor­ry. But there are chal­lenges mix­ing with lib­er­als espe­cial­ly as the het­ero­gene­ity gets wide­spread enough that “we believe” state­ments need to be care­ful­ly craft­ed com­pro­mis­es. The Con­ser­v­a­tive voice in Philadel­phia didn’t sur­vived year­ly meet­ing reuni­fi­ca­tion six­ty years ago. The his­to­ry of Con­ser­v­a­tive Friends is a his­to­ry of loss and dilu­tion and I feel it’s impor­tant not to take concerns

  • Scott Sav­age

    Well, Mar­tin, I am cranky — about some things. Con­ser­v­a­tive “in a num­ber of ways” as Raye cod­ed to you.
    I did enjoy your com­ment about Ohio Year­ly Meet­ing and a sense of humor! Though not an OYM mem­ber, actu­al­ly, still I proud­ly and exces­sive­ly wear the Wilberite dour.
    Here’s the Scott-You-Stupid-Oaf quote on my wall today:
    “I refuse to take direc­tion on God and hap­pi­ness, from peo­ple who have nei­ther.” –G.K. Chesterson

  • My wife just replied “ooooh, he’s quot­ing a Catholic!” (Chester­ton). In Quak­er short­hand she’s kind of Wilbu­rite Catholic (left Friends after eleven years strug­gling with the lib­er­als, now part of a tra­di­tion­al­ist Roman Rite 1962-Hymnal-all-the-way-baby kind of church). She actu­al­ly read your first com­ment on Robin’s blog, thought to her­self “yes I think he’s right” then not­ed in embar­rass­ment that I had post­ed some­thing in response: whoops!
    Any­way… I have a cer­tain fond­ness for cranks and most peo­ple prob­a­bly think I’m much of one myself. I’ve said before that I think call­ing our­selves “Con­ver­gent Friends” makes us sound more orga­nized, cohe­sive and cen­tral to the move­ment than we are. There’s no ID card, much less a for­mal definition.
    As I see it, “Con­ver­gence” is short­hand for a gen­er­a­tional and cul­tur­al shift that’s hap­pen­ing. The pendulum’s swing­ing back and Friends out­side Ohio are more inter­est­ed in Quak­er roots, Chris­tian­i­ty and Con­ser­v­a­tive Friends than they have been for awhile (it would be easy to over­state the case, of course, and many Quak­er insti­tu­tions con­tin­ue to get more and more lib­er­al). Out­side Quak­erism, a grow­ing num­ber of under-50 Evan­gel­i­cals are turn­ing away from the megachurch­es and tel­e­van­ge­lists, start­ing house church­es, look­ing for authen­tic­i­ty of wor­ship and talk­ing about prim­i­tive Chris­tian­i­ty revived and sure­ly we have some­thing to say to them too. Where it’s all going is anyone’s guess.
    It was neat to read Chris M’s com­ment on his wife’s blog about the rip­ple effects of your vis­it to San Fran­cis­co a decade ago. And anoth­er Friend emailed me pri­vate­ly this after­noon to tell me how North Car­oli­na year­ly meet­ing has become more deeply Chris­to­cen­tric in the few years he’s been with it. In Christ all things are pos­si­ble! The sit­u­a­tion might call for the faintest Mona Lisa smile on that dour exterior.
    Are you going to be in Bar­nesville next week? And what kind of reli­gious body might you belong to now? And what’s up with the com­put­er, we’d all love to hear that story!
    In Friend­ship, Martin

  • Craig

    Ya know, I don’t know why I feel such a lead­ing to point this out, but in all this con­ver­sa­tion on Robin’s blog and here, I have not seen a word about grace. Grace is THE rea­son I am a Chris­t­ian instead of a Bud­dhist, pagan, etc.
    It’s not that the com­ments back and forth are harsh…far from it. But there is some­thing just not right about how we deal with one anoth­er even on a seem­ing­ly civ­il level.
    We are all grow­ing in Jesus only by God’s grace. I am not what I shall be…as Luther said, “Life is not being but becoming.”
    God grant us patience to allow each oth­er to hear the Voice of God and fol­low. Grant us the grace to be as gra­cious to one anoth­er as God has been to us.
    Love ane peace,

  • *Craig:* Uh-oh. First Chester­ton, now Luther! “Grace” means dif­fer­ent things to dif­fer­ent peo­ple and can be a pret­ty loaded word in Chris­t­ian cir­cles. Despite or per­haps because of my Luther­an Nana Klein­top, I’m not a big fan of Luther’s abso­lutist under­stand­ing (what I under­stand of it anyway).
    I think we can con­scious­ly align our lives and lifestyles in ways that will make us more recep­tive to the voice of the Inward Christ. My email sig­na­ture used to be a quote from Rev­e­la­tion that I picked up from Bar­clay (“chap­ter 16”:http://​www​.qhpress​.org/​t​e​x​t​s​/​b​a​r​c​l​a​y​/​c​a​t​e​c​h​i​s​m​/​c​h​a​p​t​e​r​1​6​.​h​tml of the _Catechism_):
    bq. God dwelleth with the Con­trite and Hum­ble in Spir­it [Isa. 57:15] For he said, he will dwell in them, and walk in them [2 Cor. 6:16] And Christ standeth at the Door, and knock­eth; if any man hear his Voice, and open the Door, he will come unto him, and sup with him, and he with him [Rev. 3:20].
    I moved by the idea that Christ is always there, always gen­tly knock­ing and that our role is sim­ply to open the door. Grace is always avail­able and con­stant­ly offered. Not quite as dour as Luther, though again I’ve not real­ly stud­ied him.
    It’s always good to remem­ber what we get we get from God’s love. Get­ting back to the thread of this post, this trans­late into an aware­ness that we shouldn’t expect any kind of imme­di­ate result when under­tak­ing min­istry. And that we should fol­low authen­tic lead­ings even when they seem pret­ty point­less – that we nev­er know when God will breathe new life into indi­vid­u­als or a peo­ple. Our role is to be faith­ful, not effec­tive. But faith­ful­ness requires act­ing on lead­ings and on active­ly shar­ing the Good News of God’s love and grace as we are led.

  • Paul Rick­etts

    Yes Mar­tin, you’ve hit on ele­ment of Con­ver­gent Friends: Friends “who are sens­ing there’s some­thing miss­ing and [are] look­ing to tra­di­tion­al Quak­erism for answers.”
    I made a deci­sion cou­ple years ago to stay in the Reli­gious Soci­ety of Friends.
    Big part of that deci­sion was find­ing peace with being a Quak­er of Col­or in a very
    White faith com­mu­ni­ty and now being a Chris­t­ian par­tic­u­lar­ly in the FGC
    unpro­grammed tradition.
    The days of Thomas Kel­ly and Rufus Jones-liberal Chris­tian­i­ty are over!
    FGC/ Inde­pen­dent unpro­grammed Quak­erism has evolved into a
    non creedal reli­gious plu­ral­ist faith community.
    That’s not good or bad it just is.….….….…..
    Like many Friends, I have strug­gle with how to live in and among
    the diver­si­ty among Friends.
    But I am remained of the sto­ry in Mark 9:38 – 41, John said to him, “Teacher, we saw some­one dri­ving out demons in your name, and we tried to pre­vent him because he does not fol­low us.” Jesus replied, “Do not pre­vent him. There is no one who per­forms a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For who­ev­er is not against us is for us. Any­one who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will sure­ly not lose his reward.
    I know of many unpro­grammed Friends who do not walk with Christ.
    But Christ walks with them in, dri­ving out the demons racism, sex­ism, homo­pho­bia , war, prison reform, work­ing for the rights of children.
    Many of these friends have giv­en me a cup of water to drink (a lis­ten­ing ear) when I was going through a dry peri­od among Friends.
    All this in the name of Love which for me is the incar­na­tion of Christ.
    What is tra­di­tion­al Quakerism ?
    For me tra­di­tion­al Quak­erism is sim­ply the work of Christ in all and through all.
    The One who is Truth and Love sits with me at the table, with White Friends work­ing on racism in and out­side of the Reli­gious Soci­ety of Friends.
    The Eter­nal Life and Pow­er prays with me in wait­ing wor­ship with the non-theist Friends, Yes, the Sun/Son of Right­eous­ness and Prince of Peace marchs with me for peace and jus­tice with AFSC Friends.
    I would gain noth­ing by trot­ting off to anoth­er denom­i­na­tion where I could doubt­less find a place, but it would not be my place with my peo­ple. I choose to stand with­in both the com­mu­ni­ty of Chris­t­ian rev­e­la­tion and the com­mu­ni­ty of Quak­er seekers.
    I choose to stand where I know Christ con­tin­ues to stand.

  • Pam

    Thanks so much for this. As a Friend who “doesn’t walk with Christ” -I appre­ci­ate your abil­i­ty to see that he walks with me.
    In the past I might have found that insult­ing (as if I’m a chris­t­ian but don’t know it, have had the wool pulled over my eyes.)
    but I *am* a chris­t­ian in the sense that I am (most­ly) try­ing to fol­low a path much like the one Jesus point­ed to. It’s not about say­ing, “Lord, Lord” after all, but about how we are in the world, is it not?

  • Diane

    Now that I can appar­ent­ly get through … Hi Bill!
    I don’t know if I’m “con­ver­gent,” (prob­a­bly not) but I have been involved with the emerg­ing church for sev­er­al years and with Quak­erism for a decade. I also am aware of the house church move­ment, but my expe­ri­ence of it is that is is very tan­gen­tial­ly relat­ed to Quakerism.
    I real­ly, real­ly hope and pray that Chris­t­ian revival is com­ing to lib­er­al Friends, but per­son­al­ly I have not seen that phe­nom­e­nom. Where do you see it most? Do you see it more as com­mit­ment to Christ or as more peo­ple being Christ curi­ous, to use Robin’s phrase?
    Scott Savage,
    I have enjoyed your books.

  • Hi Diane, I start­ed a quick com­ment to this. Para­graphs lat­er it’s “become it’s own post”:http://​www​.quak​er​ran​ter​.org/​c​h​r​i​s​t​i​a​n​_​r​e​v​i​v​a​l​_​a​m​o​n​g​_​l​i​b​e​r​a​l​_​f​r​i​e​n​d​s​.​php. I didn’t have time tonight to write that but your ques­tions just seemed so pertinent!

  • Mark Wut­ka

    Pam, you wrote: but I am a chris­t­ian in the sense that I am (most­ly) try­ing to fol­low a path much like the one Jesus point­ed to. It’s not about say­ing, “Lord, Lord” after all, but about how we are in the world, is it not?
    The verse about “Lord, Lord” doesn’t real­ly say it isn’t about say­ing “Lord, Lord”, but that say­ing “Lord, Lord” isn’t enough. But I am not point­ing this out in order to impose some set of things that you must believe or say. I feel I need to just state this with Chris­t­ian lan­guage, please bear with me, it says that you can’t just SAY “Jesus is Lord”, but you have to MAKE Jesus your Lord — which would result in you doing the will of his Father.
    What­ev­er you call that inward guide — “the Light of Christ”, “the inner light”, “that of God”, etc., the most impor­tant thing is to fol­low it. The part about “how we are in the world” flows from that, and the things we do or don’t do can be an indi­ca­tion of how well we are lis­ten­ing, but they aren’t a replace­ment for the guide. So, it just feels to me like there is some miss­ing phrase in what you said that links the “it’s not about Lord, Lord” to “how we are in the world”.
    I’m not even real­ly try­ing to crit­i­cize your state­ment, as much as to say that I think lib­er­al Quak­erism has grad­u­al­ly dropped what­ev­er that miss­ing phrase is, and that the first step is to recov­er it.
    With love,