Saturday, June 25, 2005


Only in a Friends' meeting is one likely to find these kinds of people (likely only in an unprogrammed meeting!). In more conventional churches they don't seem to show up very often.

In contrast the Society of Friends has been a magnet for people who had 'bad trips' at more conventional churches. Why is that? Basically because Friends (worthy of the name) welcome people from every theological viewpoint, every walk of life (at least ideally).

We are inclusive to the point that it doesn't matter very much what you believe. We see that of God in you, and we attempt to accept and love you and encourage it to come forth.

As a consequence an unprogrammed Quaker meeting may include Friends of many different theological stripes. In particular we meet many who had had those 'bad trips'. Some of these people unfortunately may be whipping their former religious associations as long as they live.

Last night at our monthly Quaker sharing group we studied a Pendle Hill pamphlet by Douglas Steere entitled Traveling In (324). (Incidentally Douglas Steere was one of the founders of Pendle Hill.)

Douglas was a tremendous ecumenist, but this pamphlet largely concerned his relationship to God, and this was reflected in our discussion. But as it developed, it became clear that some members of the group had a problem with God.

In particular one member (whom I consider by far the most fully Christian one in the group ; I just can't help making these distinctions) opined that he had problems with the word. I believe he was opening the door for a much younger member, a very alienated Catholic, who said that he had hoped to learn more about the Quaker testimonies. (That comment really hit me, and with my usual foolish generalization I began to wonder if a preoccupation with the "testimonies" might not be a means of distancing oneself from Christian theology.)

It dawned on me then that in my 22 years as a Quaker I had never before witnessed a discussion of the "christocentric-nonchristocentric" positions which divide Quakers' theology.

It was an amiable discussion; I don't believe anyone's feelings were ruffled; a great deal of love was expressed. Someone pointed out that God is a three letter word, and that there are innumerable alternative designations. In the Bible for example among the many alternative designations are 'father, mother, husband, counselor, judge (terrifyingly), and beyond the Bible force, source, and countless others. None of them is fully adequate. My wife recalled Moses' interview where he asked for God's name, and got an enigmatic response.

It delighted me that Quakers could air this (usually unspoken) difference in an orderly and loving manner.


Lorcan said...

We have had a number of such talks at 15th street, if you follow Richard's blog, Brooklynn Quaker, I think, Brooklynn something... on my links, Richard and I have had any number of such loving talks. We realy, I think, are trying to find the common linking thread in Quakerism common to Christ centered and and other Friends... the split however needs a better term, I am a Christ centered Hicksite, who feels that Jesus was "a" Christ not "the" Christ... so ... better terms sought.

In Christ

Larry said...

If you put it like that, Lor, I guess I must be a 'Christ centered hicksite', too, although I've never learned enough about hicksites to feel close to them.

The term(s) I like most for self identification is evangelical, Methodist, Quaker, universalist. When I say that, people often seem nonplused, but the relationship among the four categories seems perfectly reasonable to me.

Mark Walter said...

Larry, regarding your comment just above mine, I think you might enjoy this post from Sadiq.

Larry said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Larry said...

Thanks, Mark; I found it and put in my two cents.