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An Open Letter from Quaker Youth, Part 1

January 22, 2013 6 comments

At the conclusion of the fall semester, my Quaker Seminar class wrote open letters to the Friends Church writ large. I will use this space to post their letters, one each day, for you to get a sense of how a portion of the youth in the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends are looking towards the future with hope and also concern.

Readers should know the prompt given to each group of students: If you were to write a letter to the members of the NWYM, what would you want them to know?

Here is the first submission:

____________________________

Dear Friends of the Northwest Yearly Meeting,

God is at at work. God is moving and things are stirring. And it is messy and it is beautiful and it is the heart of our Yearly Meeting. It is the recognition of this action of God that has driven Friends forward since the beginning of the Quaker movement. George Fox’s sensitivity to the ways that God was speaking to him was the very foundation of his seeking and ultimate foundation of Quakers.  In the past, this has been seen in ways that Friends have stood up for social justice, accepted and brought forth change, and continue to press forward as a body and accepting our differences all in an effort to do as God leads.

God’s speaking and the “inner light of Christ” in each of us as believers is the central reason that we as Quakers have arrived to where we are today. Our deep value in hearing God speak has shaped our worship practices, grounded our beliefs and theology, and has been why we have moved in the directions that we have felt that God led. A recognition of God’s action in our world and in our individual lives also has been a binding and lasting thread, constantly present and leading us as a body.

For hundreds of years, Friends have listened to and depended on God’s speaking. It is crucial to remember that Friends have always responded to how God leads to arrive at where we are today. We are writing to encourage you to continually strive to be sensitive to how God is working in our individual lives and in our direction as a body of believers.

Trust God as we always have and believe that each one of us has the power to hear God speak. God has a plan for our yearly meeting and we encourage you to listen and depend on his provision as he leads.

Sincerely,

Quaker Youth

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A Quaker Apology for Today?

December 27, 2010 Leave a comment

I began this blog with a call for submissions for a new book which will tell the stories of young Quakers who have come to call the Friends church home. This type of “testimonial narrative,” as Paul Anderson notes, is a type of apology, albeit one that is perhaps too personal to be generalizable to others. That said, telling our stories is a significant form of truth telling in our postmodern culture. We need to tell our stories – for others to hear, and to be able to make sense of who we are becoming.

This type of apology for the Quaker church is, in my estimation, needed. Especially from younger mouths. But the Quaker church needs more than just story. It needs a framework within which to work. Perhaps the most dangerous and yet most exciting aspect of Quaker belief and practice is the freedom is has preached, due to the correct belief of the Holy Spirit’s immediacy. This is both exciting and dangerous at the same time – a combination that has the potential for great growth or great peril.

This is where I want to continue to interact with the most recent issue of QRT, specifically Paul Anderson’s article which distills and contextualizes Robert Barclay’s Apology from 1673. Calling it An Apology for Authentic Spirituality, Anderson collapses 16 of Barclay’s original propositions into 12, in which the “timeless message of Scripture will be connected with timely concerns for today” (21).

On this blog, I will be interacting with a few of the propositions he lists – focusing on those that I perceive the larger Christian movement is most suspicious about. I would encourage you to read through both David Johns article and Paul Anderson’s article, including Arthur Robert’s response to them (which I eventually get to) and then join in the conversation – either here, on your own blog, or (gasp!) in person over a beverage of some sort.

Thanks for joining in – through reading, wrestling, and investing in the conversation.

Quakers and Ecumenicity

December 23, 2010 14 comments

In the most recent Quaker Religious Thought (#114), David Johns has an article titled, No Apology Required: Quaker Fragmentation and the Impossibility of a Unified Confessional Apologia. In it he is arguing that a modern-day Quaker apology is not needed nor is it possible. While much could be discussed about this issue, I want to note one aspect he focuses upon that is helpful for me as I think about the Quaker movement today, especially as it is interpreted by the younger generation of Quakers.

It is not new to most people that younger generations of Christians are increasingly un-denominational – that is, there are not strong ties to a particular expression of Christian faith. Theologians would call this, broadly, ecumenicity. I don’t believe that in not choosing a denomination, younger Christians are intentionally embracing the various streams, as Richard Foster calls them, in their spirituality. I do know that the sociological ties to certain denominations in the past are no longer present.

The Quaker movement, with this information in mind, is left with two options:

1) Hunker down and force people to accept the quirky aspects of the Quaker movement – Johns states it well: “It has long concerned me that Quaker rhetoric sometimes takes a form that is both spiritually arrogant and dismissive of the legitimacy of the wider religious world” (12).

2) Begin to recognize and live into the fact that, as Johns notes, “Quakerism does not exist on its own; it did not come into existence on its own, and has no future apart from the future of other religious bodies” (11).

As Johns believes, and with him I agree, the way forward is for the Quaker movement to recognize and live into the realization that the, “Religious Society of Friends does not have a life of its own and should not. In fact, Friends are a corrective, and ought not to exist beyond their usefulness to the Church catholic” (11).

This does not, as some fear, lead to the decline of the Quaker movement – instead, it adds life to the larger Christian church.

And that is what is needed at this time in history.

Categories: Book Project, Christianity

Quakers and “Vital Christianity”

December 22, 2010 3 comments

In the conclusion to A Peculiar People, Joseph John Gurney notes the importance of two phenomena within the Quaker movement:

1) Quaker belief and practice is, when compared to other forms of belief and practice, a bit peculiar. His contention is that such peculiarity has served the Quaker church, and the world which it inhabits, well. Holding onto these peculiarities as the end, though, is futile.

2) Quaker belief and practice rests upon what Gurney calls vital Christianity. That is, it is most pure and true when it rests upon what he labels primitive Christianity – and what we might label orthodoxy.

This interplay of peculiarity and familiarity is essential to health within the larger Quaker movement. Gurney’s quote best sums up the point which I believe is central to this post:

“Solicitous as I am that our peculiar testimonies should be maintained by us with all that faithfulness and vigor which their practical importance demands, I am perfectly aware that they are no sooner separated from vital Christianity than they become vain and unprofitable – deprived at once of all their efficacy and of all their stability.” (451)

This, I believe, has been my particular calling in life – to more fully connect Quaker peculiarity with vital Christianity, to continue to remind myself and others of the necessity of grounding belief in some teleological sense, while also recognizing that all institutions need what Quakers have historically done well – question (some might use the word “query”) the status quo in search of truth.

Categories: Book Project, Christianity

Why this Book?

December 21, 2010 Leave a comment

In A Peculiar People, Joseph John Gurney writes:

“Dearly ought we to prize the many noble testimonies which have been borne by the Society of Friends, not only in the present day, but from its earliest rise, to the truth and importance of the doctrines of the New Testament. Christ has been the centre around which they have delighted to gather; and those who have quitted that centre have never failed to lose, in a spiritual sense at least, their unity with body.” (p. 3)

This passage serves as a catalyst for this project. In a movement (I choose movement over denomination for its dynamic implications) that is shrinking in North America, yet that has so much to offer the world, it is my firm belief we need to tell the stories (testimonies) of what has drawn young people to the movement. Doing so, I believe, will add to the many voices today and throughout time that have been connecting Quaker belief and practice with the real needs of this world.

Will you be faithful to tell your story?

Categories: Book Project

Call for Submissions

December 20, 2010 3 comments

Finding Christ in the Quaker Church: The Not-So-Peculiar Stories of Young Friends

Please feel to pass it on/post it in appropriate places. Thank you!

Call for Submissions

Book Project – Finding Christ in the Quaker Church: The Not-So-Peculiar Stories of Young Friends

This is a call for essays to contribute to a “collective memoir” for young adults (age 40 and under) whose pursuit of Christ has led them to the Quaker (Friends) church. Essays should be narrated life stories depicting an aspect of one’s unique journey to/journey within the Friends church. Questions to help further clarify your proposal might be:

–       Why were you originally attracted to the Friends church?

–       What experiences have solidified your commitment to the Quaker church?

–       How have you lived out your Quaker values in the world? Your community? Your family?

–       If you could tell your story of growing up Quaker, or of coming to the Quaker church, how would you tell it?

–       What would you want non-Quakers to know about the Quaker church?

–       What would you want “more mature” Quakers to know about your commitment to the Quaker church?

These essays should focus more on experiences than exposition, more on story than theory.

Who can submit? Anyone under 40 years old whose pursuit of Christ has led them to/taken root in the Quaker (Friends) church.

What is the length of submission? Submissions should be between 1,500 and 3,000 words

Submission Date: July 1, 2011

Contact information: Jamie Johnson, jejohnson@georgefox.edu

Submissions should be the author’s original work and previously unpublished.

Categories: Book Project