Posts Tagged ‘quakers’

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.


Quaker Youth


Quakers, Justice and Jesus – Part 4

November 13, 2011 1 comment

Part 4 of this mini-series looking at how Quakers embraced diversity/social justice in the past. To see where I have come from, read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. This is only a glimpse of the subject matter – who or what would you add?


Another way Quakers have attempted to practice a living faith was in relationship with Native Americans, especially in the United States during the 18th century. Though there are misperceptions as to how this relationship was actually practiced, there are certain aspects of these relationships that express the commitment of Quakers to social justice. The earliest examples of this are found in William Penn, who attempted to work peaceably with the Lenni Lenape instead of using force as earlier European settlers had done. Penn learned their language, sought to deal fairly with them as people who were equally human and equally possessive of God within them (Moretta, 136).

Other Quakers established with relationships with Native American tribes as they continued westward expansion. In one instance, a Seneca chief named Cornplanter sought out a relationship with Quakers in order to “expand economic opportunities for his people…and have political and legal advocates…who could help win compensation at the state and federal levels, for legitimate Seneca grievances that were left unresolved, or simply ignored, by the local American justice system” (Swatzler, 237). 

Perhaps the Quaker who possesses the greatest amount of social capital in the areas of commitment to diversity and social justice is John Woolman. Woolman is best known for his work in the abolition of slavery, and his commitment to the matter was central to his growing understanding of who God was and how every person was created in the imago Dei. His first encounter with the keeping and selling and slaves led him to “speak out” against the practice, and while he reflected later that he could have been clearer in his speaking, a spark was lit that burned brightly within him for the rest of his life.

Woolman’s approach was through a rooted mobility – a firm conviction in mind and heart juxtaposed with an ability to travel. From his first encounter in 1746 it took twelve years for the larger movement of Quakers to begin to see the disconnect of believing in everyone’s equal access of God and the holding of slaves. As Michael Birkel has noted, “Woolman’s reflections on the cross are profound because they grow out of his inward experience of participating in the sufferings of Christ.” Reading Colossians 1:24 (I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church) led Woolman to understand the world as “profoundly unredeemed” at the social level.

Quakers, Justice and Jesus – Part 2

November 11, 2011 3 comments

See Part 1 here. This is a piece I have been working on for George Fox University in its continued commitment to more fully represent the Kingdom of God.


There is inherent in the word “church” a structure often defined by rigidity. A byproduct of institutionalization, this rigidity often carries with it negative connotations that reformation-minded people long to shatter into indistinguishable pieces from which new life might spring.

These “forms” were the very thing a young George Fox subversively exposed when he encountered the active, living Christ whose voice enlivened a soul thirsty for something more than the unimaginative and oppressive church of his time. His revelation led to a conviction that living in communion with the ever-present God required him to, “Walk cheerfully over all the earth answering that of God in everyone.”

His revelation was one defined by action, by a living connection between what one believed and how one lived in the world. His convictions resonated with the people of his time, and what came to life through this revelation cannot be categorized as just another institution; rather a movement. It was a movement that sought unity through equality; that sought truth wherever it might be found; that lived boldly in spite of the difficulties they faced, because their message was not about them – it was about the living and active Christ available to all people.

From its inception, Quakers have emphasized the immediacy of God through the work of the Holy Spirit, whom we are taught dwells within and in the midst of humanity. As people created in the image of God, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, true faith begins by recognizing the need for an intimate knowledge of the living Christ and living in such a way that values the work of the living Christ in others.

As one author has noted, “The Quaker apocalypse was a revolutionary ground swell aimed at transforming the entire society” (Gwyn, 319). This transformation was found in, among other things, the way women were valued, in relationships with Native Americans and in the abolitionist movement.

One of the earliest indications of Gospel order –  a Quaker understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ as something that rightly orders all of life – was seen in the importance role women played from the very beginnings of the Quaker movement. From its meager beginning, women were enlisted as preachers, leaders and integral to the spread of Christ’s message as far as possible.


More coming tomorrow!

Quakers, Justice and Jesus – Part 1

November 10, 2011 4 comments

I’ve been working on a short document on Quakers and diversity. This is part of our Theological Statement on Diversity at George Fox University, and while there could be a lot written about the subject, I tried to give a brief overview in a small amount of space. Over the next few days I’ll post snippets of it…


Rufus Jones has written, “What does happen…to persons whose inner life has been vivified and quickened, is that they begin at once to feel a passion for the enrichment and enlargement of the lives of others” (Jones, 44). This inward awakening, this belief in the immediate presence of Jesus Christ in every human led the earliest Quakers to develop a way of living their religious convictions through what became known over time as the Quaker testimonies – simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality and stewardship.

These testimonies, described by Dandelion as the “consequences of the spiritual life as expressed in daily life,” (221) are the basis for any Quaker understanding of and investment in any form of diversity. If one truly believes that Christ is present to all people, then there can be no other response but to create and invest in communities that reflect the entirety of God’s creation. What follows are examples of these beliefs as experienced in the Quaker movement. Though they are not exhaustive, they begin to paint a picture of the important work done by Quakers over the past 300 years.

There is inherent in the word “church” a structure often defined by rigidity. A byproduct of institutionalization, this rigidity often carries with it negative connotations that reformation-minded people long to shatter into indistinguishable pieces from which new life might spring.


More to come tomorrow…