Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

When We Are Divided by Jesus' Name?

There was a time, a few years ago, when my meeting was quite divided by Christocentric messages, and the reaction to them. We met, we spoke and less tension resulted. However, of late, this tension is back. Many Friends leave meeting angered by the notion that they are being proselytized to when Jesus or Christ is mentioned in meeting.

At times I refer to Jesus' ministry, and yet, I do not say that Jesus is the single path to God, or IS uniquely God born on earth, any more than each of us have the potential to be fully present to God within ourselves and others... but, I feel, as one who is drawn to Jesus' ministry, I must again pose the question, as I did in the past, what do we do, together, when the name of Jesus divides us.

Well, perhaps we who speak of Jesus might ask about what it means to not worship another God before Me. By creating a unique role of one man in salvation, are we perhaps inviting outrage? Historically, it is a fact, should we study the documents of the time, that Jesus was in fact a man. Could it be that we endanger the peace of meetings when we make an idol of him, an abstraction for God? I think most of us don't do that. But is that not the danger of paganism, my God is bigger than your God? On Amanda's blog, ( Best Stuff and Plain in my links ) Jeff Hipp proposes that we have to be careful of not alienating many Friends in Africa and other places. Yes, absolutely, but Quaker unity is not about numbers, it is about openness to the process of moving towards God. If we are driving others out of the peace and unity of God in the name of Jesus, what have we done, if not made greatly complex the process of coming to unity, and then, often we create divisions in our faith and what difference is there in our community of active love, than any other who war with whatever means for the ego of our abstractions...
I don't know. This is pure query... I really don't know. Let's labor together.


At 5:23 PM, Blogger ash said...

Lorcan my friend... you're becoming a church ;o)

Churches always squabble. Eventually, they tend to agree to disagree and get on with it. Sometimes they split up. sometimes splitted groups rejoin (like the Baptist Union o 1804).

The vastly ecclectic Anglican Communion, of which I am part, has a doctrine called "adiaphora" which says that we agree with one another on some founding principles (in our case, things like the Nicene Creed, the doctrine of the Trinity, the importance of the Bible to Christian life etc.) and everything else is the non-important stuff we're allowed to disagree on.

I don't think Quakers hold the same core doctrines as Anglicans... Infact I know you don't. But you'll all have somethign in common. Love and journeying toward God seems to be what you're saying.

Surely everything that isn't that is just a mixer to the whisky of life? as long as we're all drinking whisky, who cares what we add to it?

At 6:53 PM, Anonymous Isabel Jane Penraeth said...

Hello Lorcan,

It is hard for me to accept that because someone else is troubled by my faith language (Jesus, Christ) to such an extent that they would leave the meetinghouse, that I should then cease to use that faith language. I assure you that I, like you, do not speak lightly in meeting. I only speak when exercised by the holy spirit. That my message may not be for every single person there, I can accept. I can only perceive the problem is within the person who felt they had to leave, and I cannot help that. God can, but I cannot.

There seems to me a lack of faith there. A lack of faith in me, a lack of faith that I could be speaking in the spirit, and certainly disbelief that God could be spoken of which such language. But that is all the troubled persons problem and not mine.

I like what John Punshon has to say in Encounter with Silence, on p. 78
"It follows, I think, that we have to train ourselves to overcome our personal likes and dislikes and treat everything said in meeting with uniform seriousness and consideration. That is part of Friends' spiritual discipline and cannot be compromised with. It is not at all easy, but it is unavoidable. If we are to practice discernment we have to do it at a spiritual and not a merely intellectual level. We need time and calmness to reflect on what we have heard. Only when we have taken it into ourselves shall we be in a position to decide whether or not it is from God."

At 7:08 PM, Blogger Lorcan said...

A Friend asked me if the only thing we all held in common in our Quaker faith, was the belief of God in everyone. I replied, and I think I still believe, that this is the unifying thought, but to be a Quaker in thy heart is to be present to God in others.

So... I agree with thee, and have never been angered by another's expression of faith. However, personally, I tend, as part of my decrement of wether a message is in fact inspired ... is the question is this message to bring us to unity or not. When it is obvious that it is not, the next question is how much of this message is ego? I ask is my language of God held over the unity in God of the meeting.

Our meeting, as an urban meeting with both a Hicksite and Wiberite background, being two meetings which joined together in 1964, and one which has a huge number of Friends who have recently become convinced, many would be what I would describe as New Age Friends... it is easy to divide by the language of a message.

If we drive well meaning searching Friends from our meeting, how can we say we are present to the God in them? I agree if they go, they are not sitting out the process... but, where is the presence to them before that... we can't have constant Quaker 101 classes to teach Quaker process each week we get new attenders... is there another way?

At 5:18 AM, Anonymous Isabel Jane Penraeth said...

The atheists and non-theists at seem to argue that what we need is to minute doctrinal openness as a societal standard. They seem to be asserting that once we state this as a truth we hold dear, meetings would then be more welcoming to all, Christian and universalist and atheist alike. I think that this assertion is a bit idealistic. And it does not at all address your concern that non-members and those not educated in that standard would still be driven away by the language some of us might use.

I still can't help thinking that if they are so unable to be open to a Quaker's sharing in meeting that they aren't quite ready to attend meeting. It would clearly be a sad mistake for us to edit our language, if that language is what describes our experience. I wasn't there, so this is second hand but second hand from several sources: we had visitors to our meeting speak in meeting using Christian language and quoting from the Bible. A member of the meeting rose and said that Quakers were not Christians and do not believe in the Bible. If I had been there, I would have refuted that, even if refutation is not encouraged in meeting. But I was not, and no one said anything, out of shock as much as anything else I like to hope. Nevertheless, those visitors never returned . . . my understanding is that there is more than one meetinghouse on the East Coast in which Christians do not feel welcome.

At 7:29 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Hi Friend Isabel!

In refuting the comment that we are not Chirstians... well, I'm not sure if that is a statement on which there is unity throughout Quakerism. I am often asked if we are, and it is a difficult questions. I don't have a simple answer... I begin by saying some of us are, some aren't, most define Christian in a variety of ways... it comes of us not having a creed.

For the new year, I might define my Christianity in a post, and I know that it will cost controversy, hurt, anger... and I affirm as strongly as anything I have ever said, that my purpose is clearness.

My question here is not wether or not we are a Christian faith... but rather what do we do.

There is a regular attender at our meeting for years, who also is active in business meetings, goes to 101 classes... very active in the shelter and peace projects... but he can't bring himself to accept our practice of seeking unity in business meeting. He says he can't ever be that Quaker... so it is a constant aspect of tension in meetings for worship with a concern for business when this Friend digs his heals in and goes into cyclical argumentative mode...

My worry is that if we cannot find a way to transcend this controversy which divides us in our meetings our role in bringing unity in our peace work is a high farce - as we can't answer the question of how to get past the ego of our language of God- all of us can't on all sides of the issue.

At 6:42 PM, Blogger Joe G. said...

There is a regular attender at our meeting for years, who also is active in business meetings, goes to 101 classes... very active in the shelter and peace projects... but he can't bring himself to accept our practice of seeking unity in business meeting. He says he can't ever be that Quaker... so it is a constant aspect of tension in meetings for worship with a concern for business when this Friend digs his heals in and goes into cyclical argumentative mode...

This is a good example of the tension that Liz has written about on her blog the Good Raised Up. How much to accept and how little to accept, whether that is faith, practice, or both.

But, in the case that you describe above (I quote above) Lorcan, to me this is a clear case of the influence of individualism having much too much sway than the needs of the community, particularly if this is a pattern with this indivdiual. It's one thing if the one person "stands in the way" as a leading of the Holy Spirit. It is quite another if this is a regular pattern regardless of what the issue is because an attender can't "agree" with some basic Quaker practice.

I attended a Meeting where a long time attender, an avowed anarchist, regularly "stood in the way" - as if it were some debate procedure - to "ensure" that every one was heard. The guy didn't believe in anything supernatural so he couldn't even use that as a reason for his behavior! :)

On the original issue of Jesus Christ and Christianity. WHen someone says we are not "Christian" I think there is a need to define the term. If you mean that we have rejected (or at least try to) those things that mare the image and teachings of Jesus associated with the religion institution of Christianity, than perhaps I could agree with that. If it's to state we are no longer voluntarily and willingly bound to the teachings and life of Jesus, then I'd say the person was misguided. I'm really of a similar mind on this issue with Friend Isabel.

It's time to get over the "refugee" pain as a corporate body that so many of us, myself included, saddled the liberal wing of the Society with over the past 40 years or so!

At 7:10 PM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Beppe! Happy new year Friend...

Do we need to believe in the supernatural to believe in God? Frankly, I don't believe in the supernatural. I believe that there is a single law of nature and that the organized universe, all created and the act of creation is both natural and is God and is present in all.

It is so often the magic and the miracle which is used to prove the idol is God, and place that in the way of presence to God in the one who does not accept our idol or replaces it with another. What a dangerous trap that is. I fear, at best we can only pay polite lip service to that of God in others if we live our lives in that matter.

I believe in other people's miracles ... on one level. But... <- hard to define that but... but let's have a go...

I was in law school, and found my self at the American Indian Community House. One of Goyatla's ( Geronimo ) great grand children was sitting quietly by herself, a dignified elderly lady. She did not know that I knew who she was... she had been pointed out to me before this... She noticed my long ( then darker ) hair, and my law books. She smiled ( maybe thinking I was native ) and she said, "Look at that... books on law, are you studying to be a lawyer? " "Yes, Grandmother... " I replied. "It is good you are going to be SOMEBODY!" she said gently and smiled. "Oh, no Grandmother. A law degree is only the good housekeeping seal of conformity... I never heard of a lawyer who stopped the sun in the sky for an hour." She beemed and said, "You know who my great grandfather is!" I nodded and said, "Yes, Goyatla." She nodded and smiled.

Did Goyatla stop the sun, physically in the sky? Of course not, no more than Moses parted the red sea, or Jesus' dead body was reanimated. However, the miracle that he stoped the sun was as importantly real to the meaning of being Apache as the definition of the spirit of Goyatla, as the spirit of Christ in the man Jesus rising is important to the definition of being Christian. However, to say that to believe in the spirit of Goyatla you have to believe that God set aside the laws of nature to make real the parable of Goyatla's escape from the army, is ... well, it is to begin the argument that my God is greater than your God and the words there is that of God in everyone and I am present to that God is, as an African friend of mine living in Ireland put it... to say, we both worship the same God, and by the way it is my God and not Thine.
I am a man of great faith and great caution about the nature of belief in miracle.

At 12:30 PM, Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

In general, I tend not to panic about these kinds of disputes when they arise. This time in particular I think I have to question whether it's true that the mention of Jesus is as divisive in our meeting as Lorcan seems to think it is. Lorcan says "Many Friends leave meeting angered by the notion that they are being proselytized to when Jesus or Christ is mentioned in meeting."

I know of two Friends who Lorcan may be referring to, and I suppose there are probably others. But many? I don't think so. And in some cases I think that talk about Jesus is only one aspect of the alienation these Friends are feeling. We aren't going to heal any divisions by censoring ourselves when we talk about Christ.

This is not to suggest that we should be indifferent to any Friends' alienation. When someone takes the trouble to tell me that something I have said is troubling, I try to really listen, and to ask questions, and to bring out the core of the problem. In at least one recent example I came away from such a dialogue with the distinct impression that the Friend was actually more troubled by other things than by the presenting complaint. (In that case, the presenting complaint was that some messages about Christ were "dogmatic", but the deeper complaint was in part that they were too long, too intellectual, and left too little time for silence).

For that matter, how many people are there who stay away or go away for the opposite reason: because they don't feel they can be fed spiritually by a community that seems to be threatened by open faith in Jesus and His way? I have known several people over the years to turn away from Friends' Meetings for exactly that reason.

Meanwhile, it seems to me that attendance at Meeting is actually increasing and involvement in the life of the Meeting in general is reviving somewhat after a recent lull that was due to controversies entirely unrelated to theology. There were lots of relatively new attenders in the Quakerism 101 class this past Fall and some of these seem to be moving toward deeper involvement in the Meeting.

Lorcan and I don't necessarily agree about very much. Like him, I find it perplexing that some Friends seem to take him for a Jesus-freak, when I always thought he was a died-in-the-plain-coat liberal. We may even disagree about how much we disagree (Lorcan often thinking that we are saying the same thing in different words, when I tend more to think we are saying different things with the same words). Nevertheless we are friends as well as Friends. If we were afraid to disagree or afraid to reveal how much we disagree, then while we might have more quiet between us we would not be such good friends.

Somewhere in there there's a lesson.

- - Rich Accetta-Evans
Brooklyn Quaker

At 10:21 PM, Blogger Jeffrey Hipp said...

I see a two issues being addressed in your initial post. First is the issue of inclusiveness -- of making our meetings a welcoming place to all, including those who have been hurt by Jesus' name. My meeting includes those who find meaning in Jesus, those who don't but who find meaning in God, and those who are hurt even by the Theocentric presumptions amongst Friends. We strive to love one another and learn from one another. I think this is an important issue for us to labor with.

The second issue you raise is the establishment of a theological hedge between those who see Jesus as "uniquely God born on earth" and those who see such beliefs as making "an idol of him, an abstraction for God"

I have an interest in the former. I have very little interest in the latter, as it is presented. One speaks of unity, the other, as I have read it, seeks to divide.

It is often valuable to seek to understand how we are different, but the way these two understandings of Jesus are juxtaposed here, with one set above the other, seems to be working toward disunity, not unity. As someone who is somewhere in the point where these two Christological nexuses meet, I find this saddening.

I am interested in how we can learn from one another and build each other up. I am not interested in how we can tear one another down. If we are talking about how we can find the same Divine Principle that gives birth to our diverse spiritual natures, I want to learn, and share what I have found.

If we are seeking to tell people that our theology trumps their experience, we've gone horribly wrong.

Your Friend,

Jeffrey Hipp
Member of Friends Meeting @ Cambridge, NEYM

At 5:22 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Hi Jeff:

I hope I understand thy point, so forgive me if I miss one thing or another... it is the problem with writing rather than speaking face to face.

The second point first... I describe my theological bend for two reasons... One to show that within the Christian community there are, at least, two points of general view... and I am reacting to the assumption that Quaker rationalists, are atheists... more on this latter.

The second, more important point, is that messages in meeting are given in worship ... in a form of worship which we, Friends divide uniquely from worship of meeting or worship sharing in Quaker discussion. As we do not reply to each other's messages, or debate, part of our process of discernment should be the unity in worship to which our messages point.

So... what are the implications of this... hard to describe, let me try. Ryan and I had hours of discussion on this yesterday, and here I try to boil it down in less than a book... :)

All aspects of faith are not created equal. Faith which fills in the gap between the observable and the observable has a much more universal acceptable potential. So, if I say, " God created the world in seven days and all the evidence to the contrary is false... " That invites a degree of disunity among folks in a meeting in this day and age, where it would have been considerably less dividing in 1620. Today, saying such a thing in a worship sharing environment, open to listen to others, is less dividing, it is what Quaker discussion is about, and how it differs from Quaker worship.

Maybe, I will pause here for more discussion, and not try to big bites of this at one go...

At 6:20 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Hi Richard... there is a lesson in all this, a lesson in love. Thee knows that I love folks on one level with equal love, if they have purposefully harmed me, or what... Thee does not fit into that category, I hold thee so special in my heart as a good and trusted friend and Friend.

That we are speaking of the same thing, is that we are speaking of God. However we speak of God, we speak of and to God.

That is the fist lesson, I'd say, our presence to God in each other.

I understand the references thee makes about the number... but I am actually speaking over the long term, for me, almost fifty years of seeing conflict in these meetings over how we worship together. I agree, that in the past few years, other than the few incidents thee has pointed to, we are doing better and better. However, when we feel we've got it right, we are in danger of really loosing it all! There is always this simmering tension about messages, and I think we can, short of censorship, come to a better understanding of the process of seeking unity in this kind of worship... perhaps more worship sharing get togethers on the nature of ministry and the nature of worship.

Frankly... I think if thee and I sat down and totaled up the points on which we agree, perhaps not on theology, but on Quakerism in general, and life... we are not so far apart at all.
Thine, of course,

At 8:15 AM, Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

Hi Lorcan,

Thanks for the quick response to my comment (and the other comments of course). In light of what you are now saying, I'd like to suggest that you consider editing your original post to more accurately reflect the current situation in our meeting as well as your own intention as you've now explained it. As it stands now, your post reads "..., of late, this tension is back. Many Friends leave meeting angered by the notion that they are being proselytized to when Jesus or Christ is mentioned in meeting." I responded to this by saying "I know of two Friends who Lorcan may be referring to, and I suppose there are probably others. But many? I don't think so." I could have added that even the two Friends I was thinking of have not in fact left the Meeting. You then clarified that "I understand the references thee makes about the number... but I am actually speaking over the long term, for me, almost fifty years of seeing conflict in these meetings over how we worship together. I agree, that in the past few years, other than the few incidents thee has pointed to, we are doing better and better." You then go on to explain why you feel we need to pay attention to ongoing tensions even though in fact things are going pretty well right now. That's fine, and I take your point. But the original post is still sitting there and still saying to the world that at 15th Street Meeting of late there are many Friends leaving the meeting because they feel they are being proselytized. If this were true, this would imply a pretty sorry state of affairs, but happily it isn't true. If past experience were a guide to future results, I could predict that the next time I attend a Yearly Meeting gathering someone will come up to me and say "I hear the Jesus wars are raging at 15th Street Meeting again." and I'll say "News to me!" and they'll say, "Well, Lorcan says so in his blog." In the interests of both truth and mutual understanding, I hope you can say what you need to say without leaving this false picture hanging out there.

I'll add that I am particulaly sensitive about this because of my experience during the years of our internal struggles about the topic of same-gender union and same-gender marriage. I repeatedly heard from Friends outside of 15th Street who had "heard" (from members of 15th Street who were not careful with their facts) that 15th Street Overseers (as they were called at that time) were refusing to consider requests by heterosexual Friends to be married under the care of the Meeting. I was one of the Overseers and I knew this was false, but once out there in the gossipsphere this statement became part of what people "knew" and could not be unsaid. We really should be careful about how we characterize ourselves, each other, and the disagreements we have from time to time.

- - Rich

At 8:55 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Hi Rich... and a note about to people in and about the Blogosphere...

These are not the long worked over tombs on philosophy and history, but are short jump on line and talk, comments. The overall accuracy is honest and to the point, but unlike writing a paper, we say things more off the cuff, and as one can see in dropped words and such unclear sentences... at times the comments are hurried during a time I am running from place to place, juggling three major projects at least,

So, yes, Richard... there can be a misinterpretation and inaccuracy, and some may think it is a bigger issue, though I do think it is an important one, as in the case of one Friend, who I think spoke to us both... her pain and concern was heartfelt honest and disturbing.

I am seeking a way of finding a description of discernment which is neither censoring or proselytizing of anything but is rather a way of building greater unity, I believe which reflects closer sailing to the truth. One should not forget that as one sails closer to the wind, the sail is on the edge of luffing...

As to people who hold the blogs to be more than a light conversation... I remind them that I share the belief that professors should fail a paper based only on research in Wikipedia. :)


At 3:10 PM, Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

Hi again, Lor.

I should probably drop this, since I can see you don't want to modify your original post, but I can't resist getting in a couple more words, mostly because I have the nagging feeling that either you haven't understood my objection or I haven't understood your response.

first, I understand that you are hurried and busy, but I'd like to point out that it must have taken you longer to write your comment explaining why it isn't necessary to fix the post than it would have to fix the post.

second, it sounds like you view the original statement as being pretty close to true and perfectly harmless. I still see it as completely false and very hurtful.

third, you seem to be saying that people shouldn't take what is said on a blog seriously. So if someone thinks that many 15th Streeters are leaving the Meeting just because you said they were, that's their fault for believing you mean what you say? I don't think you should even say such things in casual conversation, much less on a blog.

No doubt in the long run it's a small issue. I'm not going to worry at it any longer. But I have to say that I don't undersand at all how you can take this position when it would be so easy to just go back and replace the phrase "However, of late, this tension is back. Many Friends leave Meeting angered by the notion that they are being proselytized to when Jesus or Christ is mentioned in meeting." with something more accurate such as "Occasionally a few Friends get angry when Jesus is mentioned in Meeting." Again, my distress is not because the underlying issue is mentioned, but because you said that "many" people are leaving the meeting because of it, and as far as I know no one is, even though two people may have talked about doing so.

'Nuff said.

See you at Meeting.
- - yer ol' friend Rich

At 5:25 PM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Well, Rich... point is, I hear a lot of unhappiness these days... even Quaker families divided over the issue... First day, I will tell thee a story or two to illustrate this... remind me to tell thee about that particular, then about the range of the controversy. Thee and I at least, are geographicly close enough to speak...

At 6:48 PM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Experiential aspect, Jeff...

I have a different experience. I have seen martyrs, like King, be robbed of something very precious, their humanity. It is the way the institutions objectify someone. How is it less wrong to objectify Jesus than to objectify a woman as a sex object?

Once thee takes from a man or woman the wonder of their flaws, you also take the meaning of their lives. We make a Roman God of a Jewish teacher, whose greatest flaw, in comparison to, for example Hill el, was his revolt against the evil of occupation, and paid the price by being objectified by a Greco Roman movement to conquer in his name.

Frankly, I can't see how the objectification of the rabbi Jesus could do anything but divide the world, as truth unifies, truth, pure and simple - standing face to face with God ... brings us together... untruths must divide. The church had to purge itself of Crossin ... destroy old gospels, burn those who doubted the story in wishing to seek the simple truth... and in the end, no matter how long time passes, it is still wrong to make an object of a human.

At 12:11 AM, Blogger Nancy A said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 12:13 AM, Blogger Nancy A said...

I think a lot of northern/eastern quaker meetings have been through this cristocentric identity phase. Hopefully we're through it now, though perhaps not everywhere.

Most meetings carefully teach newcomers about the solemnity of engaging in spoken ministry. But perhaps we should also teach the solemnity of listening to spoken ministry as well. Friends listen with deep humility and an openness to learn, especially if a person's language and imagery jar with one's own. This jarring sense is simply a sign that it's a topic one really needs to learn about.

We also need to talk more seriously about who elders whom and about what. The idea of Friends casually telling someone that their ministry was not good seems alarmingly out of process to me. Where is the humility and openness to learn? Where is the respect for someone who spoke in the light what they heard in the dark? No wonder people leave!

There was a young attender who used to come to our meeting. But she couldn't stand if we ever sang, because that made meeting too much like church. She wanted it to be different from church.

Well, it's different enough from church. But should the whole meeting refrain ever from singing so that she can maintain this illusion? Meetings sing. The talk about Jesus. They read from the bible. It comes from the Spirit, not from us. We just accept it as it comes.

I find that meetings that do speak about Jesus and read from the bible regularly are more comfortable with this language. Friends come to realize that there is no hidden threat here. They come to accept that the bible can be viewed as both The Word of God and as A Word of God, and that Jesus can be viewed as both The Saviour of the World and as A Saviour of the World.

It comes down to A and The.

Nicely provocative post.

At 2:08 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Talking about Jesus, and talking about the Bible can be and should be spirit led ministry. But there are ways in which reference to Jesus may not be spirit led. As a justice of the Sup. Ct. said about pornography, "I can't give you a clear definition but, I know it when I see it." I suppose one reason that some people bristle is the same reason that many women bristle over pornography. In the objectification of anyone, you take for your own purpose the image of another's life and mold it to thine own purposeful needs.

One may say Jesus meant such and such to my life. Fine. To say Jesus my lord and savior lived a perfect life... well. By the objectification of Jesus as a perfect being Constantine can say, "by this symbol conquer." Worked fine for Constantine, the poor soul with his stomach ripped by a Roman spear may have a different light. In the same manner the gentle Friend who says Jesus, THE Christ, saved me, breaks the unity of a meeting by creating the need for discussion with "non-believers" in a forum where discussion is not part of the format of worship, and then says they are obedient to a voice beyond their own. For the Friend who, like so many former church historians says, well to accept Jesus as perfect and THE Christ, one has to change both Jewish history as well as the historical life of Jesus, and if we are a faith that stands on more than theological truth, but stands so fully on truth that we will not swear in court, each word we speak, we speak factually true before God... well, who are we to engage in myth? Would it be Quakerly for four or five members of a meeting to create, or become convinced magically, of a myth that Mary Dyer was a personal Lord and Savior, assign to her a set of miracles borrowed from other "Gods" and give messages in a Quaker meeting, three or four together at a time, so to a new attender it seemed that Quakers worship Mary Dyer as a personal lord and savior? I ask this hypothetical, not in the spirit that this might happen, but to ask what is the difference of this and the injection of pagan like Christianity into Quaker worship?
I realize this is a rather difficult question for some Christocentric Friends, emotionally, but this whole issue is difficult emotionally, and sometimes it takes a bit of courage to ask ourselves the big questions, and frankly I remain open to the same. For example, I refrain in meeting, from a message which might go, "Jesus' imperfection seems to have been to attempt to force the hand of God, to drive the Romans from Judea and restore the unity of the spiritual land of Isaac and Israel and the political land of Isaac and Israel. Should we not be more like Hill el, who was a free man in a conquered land, would it be a more gentle world if Hill el was our Christ? Or would have Hill el been made into the war god of Peace that the Romanization of Jesus accomplished?" I know that, though this message is personally very true and honest, the language of this message would be divisive. So, in seeking God's unity, I feel advised to sit on such a message until the words come which speak to unity not division.

At 5:00 AM, Blogger Jeffrey Hipp said...


To speak plainy:

Ultimately, this conversation does not seem to be about unity. There are a good number of issues Friends do not have unity in other than Jesus. It seems to be about your theological disagreement with Friends who see Jesus as God, and how their faith is inferior to yours.

You keep mentioning how the Friends you have a problem with are proselytizing in meeting, yet you are the one who is insisting that others' faith is wrong and that they have to change.

Like I said before -- I'm happy to join a converstion about unity. I'm not interested in talking about who we can exclude, silence, or convert to match one's personal vision of Quakerism. And it doesn't matter whether I'm the one who's being excluded, or someone whose beliefs are very different from mine.



At 5:28 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Dear Jeff:

I never said that their faith was inferior to mine, not at all. There are times, like this, for discussing the nature of God. I am not sure meetings for worship are, as I said, it breaks unity. I am also saying that not all ministry about Jesus is divisive. I am speaking of unity. However, I notice that some Christocentric Friends bring that notion into meeting as an unchallengeable fact, and in that are as closed to Quaker process as someone who stands in the way of unity in meeting saying I cannot be moved.

Simple hypothetical... If a group of Friends found that they could not express their Quaker faith in meeting without saying that Mary Dyer had become a cat and jumped into a tree, rather than being hanged... and every meeting incorporated that into messages as Quaker ministry, would thee elder that Friend to find a more unifying message?

In point of fact, as I said in my email to thee, messages which deny the existence of God, can't bring unity as they are closed, in the way someone saying I can never move from my objection during a meeting for worship with a concern for buisness, is closed and has steped outside Quaker process.

Thine in the light
and love

At 6:01 AM, Blogger Nancy A said...

Hi Lorcan

Interesting ideas. I guess I don't dwell on the literal meaning of words given in ministry, but on the message meant for me. If the speaker speaks in dogmatic cristocentric language or buddhocentric language, I listen for the message from the Spirit to me. This is the discipline of listening to spoken ministry that I spoke of.

In the 1700s, Quakers eldered members that spoke out against slavery in meeting because many Quakers had slaves and so antislavery was outside of Quakerism. As I recall, Quakers did the same sort of thing to Lucretia Mott in the 1800s over ministry on women's rights.

Quakers aren't very good at distinguishing what should and shouldn't be said in ministry. I think if we just treat every person as the messenger, then we will get the message.

Cheers, N

At 6:10 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Hi Nancy,
Good point and well put.
It is also not a new thing to weigh what makes our Christianity or Quaker faith different from another... others HAVE indeed said that certain expressions of faith are inferior ( I remind thee, Jeff, that I have not, only that certain expression break unity... )
There is for example this...
For, let us never be so tender and charitable in the survey of those nations that entitle themselves to any interest in the holy name of Christ, if we will but be just too, we must needs acknowledge, that after all the gracious advantages of light, and obligations to fidelity, which these latter ages of the world have received by the coming, life, doctrine, miracles, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, with the gifts of his Holy Spirit; to which add the writings, labours, and martyrdom of his dear followers in all times, there seems very little left of Christianity but the name; which, being now usurped by the old heathen nature and life, makes the professors of it but true heathens in disguise. For though they worship not the same idols, they worship Christ with the same heart: and they can never do otherwise, whilst they live in the same lusts. So that the unmortified Christian and the heathen are of the same religion. For though they have different objects to which they do direct their prayers, that adoration in both is but forced and ceremonious, and the deity they truly worship is the god of the world, the great lord of lusts: to him they bow with the whole powers of soul and sense. What shall we eat? What shall we drink? What shall we wear? And how shall we pass away our time? Which way may we gather wealth, increase our power, enlarge our territories, and dignify and perpetuate our names and families in the earth? Which base sensuality is most pathetically expressed and comprised by the beloved Apostle John in these words: "The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life," which, says he, "are not of the Father, but of the world, that lieth in wickedness" (1 John 2:16).

Well... it is not what Penn says in No Crown Nor Cross, here, but that he says it. It was a courageous act to question the paganism of institutions of his day, and as Quakers, I don't think we should think that questioning ends in another time or another people's house. I add that the time for the laboring on this is not during meetings for worship.

At 6:13 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

PS, Dear Friend Nancy:

Like thyself, I also don't give much if anythought to the language used by others in Meeting, but I also notice that I am not in unity with the meeting in this, there are some who object to language, in the same manner some Black Friends where not in unity with our use of the word Overseers, which I was comfortable with, personally, but in unity with their discomfort. I suppose, Jeff, I am not saying my theology is more advanced than that of those who see Jesus as God, but I am in unity with the discomfort of others who are bothered by it.

At 10:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I came to Quakerism directly from Unitarian Universalism having grown up fundamentalist. My partner and I made our way into the Quaker fold to reconnect with Jesus.

To hear that there are people in our Meetings that are offended by Jesus, his teachings or his life amazes me.

On one hand we are struggling with the evangelical Friends in FUM some of which have dropped the peace testimony and have taken up using physical elements for the sacraments. On the other we have non Christo-centric Friends.

I know that Quakerism is a faith based on progressive revelation, but it might not be a bad idea if we could review what our foreparents said about the Society of Friends. A good reading group centered around Barclay or Fox or Woolman might just do us all a world of good.

And I am sticking my neck out here...if you are an evangelical protestant, call yourself such. If you are an ethical and/or secular humanist, then wear that label. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with be a an ethical humanist or an evangelical protestant. But for goodness sakes, don't call yourself a Quaker if there is nothing Quaker about you.

We are a broad faith tradition is recent years. But when is being broad to broad? At what point do we cease being Quaker? If you think there should be no boundaries, please think through the implications of this.

At 12:52 PM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Dear Anonymous... Names are really appreciated... but if for some reason thee wishes not to be called by a name, that's ok also.

I came to Quakerism... well, in diapers and carried here by my parents... into a Hicksite meeting. This meeting is now more diverse, which I think is wonderful. Why do I call myself a Quaker... I think thee feels one must accept Jesus as a personal savior and Lord in order to fulfill the Quaker expectation... well, I see it a wee bit differently. I think Jesus is as important as Fox, and no human on earth is my pope and infallible. This is not to say I don't accept the place in our faith of those who do accept Jesus as a Lord and Fox as a pope.

What I think it is to be a Friend, is to see that of God in all, and be present to God in all.

I am as present to those who feel they must speak of Jesus as God, or Lord, or THE Christ, as I am present to those who find this so offensive that they feel under assault from those who use that as a fundamental part of their messages.

Unlike them, I feel as Nancy does, that I can over look language that I find not to faithful to fact but seeks to express truth. Others don't, and it is in the interest of unity I pose the question, how to we stand present to them?

Some here seem to feel I am calling for censorship, or split. I am not. I am raising the question. How do we do, as we did in recognizing the discomfort of Black Friends in the term overseer?

At 7:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a clarification. I do not in any way think one as to "accept Jesus Christ" as his or her personal savior to be a Quaker. It is the teachings of Jesus I feel is important.

I also feel that historically the Quakers have affirmed the faith path of following Jesus (certainly not in the evangelical protestant steeple house way). I consider myself a universalist Christian, yet I am not ashamed to say that my path is one of following Jesus' teachings...turning the other cheek, honesty, unconditional love.

Other paths are valid, certainly. But it is the Christian path that gives my life meaning. In my Meeting, given the fact that our historic roots are as followers of the Light and that Light being Jesus in our tradition, I don't expect to be challanged when I spead Truth to power in a Christian context.

Do I welcome others into the Meeting including non-theists? Yes indeed! But these brothers and sisters must respect the we are a community gathered around the teachings of Jesus. This seems exclusive, but I don't go into a Hindu temple (which I love to visit) and expect the attenders not to mention Krishna or the teachings of the Bhagvad Gita.

I hear your Hicksite coming out and that is okay...better a Hicksite than a Gurneyite, better a Wilburite still (just kidding).

At 11:35 AM, Blogger Dave Carl said...

I see two questions being posed here:

1. Who has the right to say what?

2. How can I connect with this person on the heart level?


At 12:30 PM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Perhaps to answer Dave Carl's question I can give a short answer by editing a letter I wrote to a Friend today, as it answers some of the queries here...
What this conversation is and is not about is important, as I know these
are issues which dig deeply into the hearts of Friends. This is not a conversation about
right or wrong, either in theology or practice. Rather it is a search for a
process of unity. There is no distance in faith or friendship between Friends
Nor do I believe myself farther along on an intellectual road of
theology than other Friends.

Friends in the past have held the world at large to the light in a search
for truth and held each other to the light. In this process there is
nothing which Friends have set aside as being separate from our spirit of
Friendship to discuss. But, we have also acknowledged that Meeting for
Worship is not a forum for debate. In No Cross No Crown William Penn refers
to the practices of most Christians as pagan, for the injecting of outward
symbols in the form of icons and sacraments. To this day, most Quakers
consider this as, not only fair comment, but an anchor to our faith. I
expect that Penn wrote this not in a holier than thou attitude towards
other Christians, (though the language pulls no punches). In challenging
other Christians, I presume Penn would accept being challenged as well,
rather than saying, in my understanding of faith, I will go this far and go
no further, I have closed the book of my soul’s understanding.

In our rejection of creed and promise to search for truth, we take a dive
off a cliff towards finding courage on the way down, sometimes. Well… how
we do this is the question here.

In meeting for worship, there are various ways Friends have sought
clearness on whether or not their message is spirit led. Some rely on what
seems to me to be a slightly magical formula… does my heart race, am I
troubled by the sense I must speak and my fear that I should not… I
understand the description of this, though I am not sure that it is a
wrestling with an outward spirit, or a separate spirit within or what… I
have felt and acknowledged it without feeling it is likely as magical as
some have described. The second part of this discernment often described is
weighing if the message is ego or intellect driven, or if it does not speak
universally to the meeting, but rather is a message for thyself.

All these methods of discernment taken together, construct the tradition
that we not answer each other’s messages, that we listen with an open heart
and an open mind, and that, I would add, we listen without assumptions.

This not answering each other, this expectation that others will listen
with an open heart and mind, creates in each of us who dare to allow God to
speak through us in meeting, to guard against a number of human expression
of ego: zeal, the urge to convince, human prejudice and more.

This is close to a hypothetical I posed to a Friend...
Let us say that there is a Friend who has lived a good life of example. We will call him, Zeb. Zeb falls into a coma and is hanging between life and death. Bill, a member of Zeb's meeting, is struck by lightning on the way to meeting and comes to meeting dazed and yet elated to report that he has had a vision that all will be well. Morah, Zeb's daughter should let go of the human father, and let him die, as he will rise again as the second coming, and all will be well. Morah who has been struggling intensely with what her father would want done, to be kept alive on machines or not, asks Bill to but out of her business. However, Sarah and Hugh are so taken by Bills faith that they begin to proclaim the special place Zeb has, as Lord and savior. Morah begs them to stop objectifying her father...
My Friend answered, in the reality of the hypothetical, the removal of Jesus from his Jewish family, that he has a religious Jewish friend who is not put off by my Friend's faith in Jesus as Lord and faith based sense that Jesus was a unique
and perfect man and as such can be, to whatever degree, an object of his

This does not really speak to the question proposed in the hypothetical. In
his reply, he has invented a daughter who is not hurt by this use of her
father. In the hypothetical Zeb’s daughter IS outraged and hurt. Is our
answer to her, be like thy sister who is not hurt?

I hear and acknowledge concerns that to ask Friends to take care in
Christocentric messages… might not sit well with the majority of Friends,
especially Friends who are members of African and Atlantic Island meetings.
But, unity is not about numbers. In our long on going fight against the
objectification of women, we must acknowledge that the majority of… even
women, had to go through a process of coming to unity and understanding. I
am old enough to remember a time when the majority of women in America were
outraged by the women’s movements contention that placing a woman on a
pedestal was as wrong as the objectification of pornography.

Yes, thee loves and respects Jesus, and thee puts him on a remarkably
special pedestal. In so doing, however, can thee be completely blind to the
possibility that thee has cause special hurt and harm to members of the
Jewish community who ask why thee must objectify one of their great rabbis
to the point that many Jews turn their back on his teaching. Frankly, I
shudder when I hear priests in my wife's church ask from the pulpit why Jews
don’t accept Jesus as Christ. To me it is quite clear. They can’t abide to
read a Christian interpretation of his words, because that alienates him
from both his Jewish and human identity.

Once thee can picture the harm that this causes, perhaps a way will open to
find unity in messages. However, if the conversation comes up to a wall,
where thee says this far I will go, and go no further in understand thee…
well, we come to the case of the other side of the coin, atheists. They
also say, I will go this far and go no farther, I cannot accept the mystery
and will dismiss as a possibility God. A Friend who rises in meeting and
says there is no God, we are all there is so we better get it right,
invites discomfort and discourse rather than unity.

To return to the question of objectification, as well as the question of
what to do… I would stay emphatically that I was not in unity with Kathleen
McKinnon’s statements that pornography, as a violent objectification of
women, should be outlawed or censored. I don’t believe that it is possible
in a diverse community to judge the consensual speech of others, and that
some people find meaningful expression in objectifying each other and being
objectified. I believe it is a tyranny over the spirit to outlaw such
expression. However, it is towards unity in the community that such
expression is constrained from certain public forums. In these forums there
are people to whom such public expression of objectification would be
hurtful. This is historically not true of all human societies. Human
cultures are diverse, and in some places, like ancient Rome or present day
Germany ( he said with only a small degree of humor ) such public displays
of sexual objectification are more or less within the accepted norms. So,
in our present day America, pornography free speech is constrained to
forums where harm can be, ( or to be more accurate, should be… ) mitigated
if not eradicated.

So… I have to agree with thee, that creating constraints or suggesting
caution is a dangerous undertaking and a slippery slope. In Canada,
McKinnon’s anti pornography laws were put into effect with a disastrous
result. The state ignored the industrial strength pornographic industry and
arrested and shut down gay and leftist publishers. In the same way, to
formally constrain the speech of Christocentric Friends, in seeking unity,
those who are anti-Christian, and closed minded about that, would likely
censor me as quickly as they would censor thee. As such, let me move
towards the kernel of a proposal…

There is one God, a God of unity who speaks to all hearts in a still small
voice. We seek to be present to that still small voice in others completely
as deeply as we are present to that voice in us. That’s Quakerism in a
nutshell. The entire idiots guide to Quakers. We see that of God in all,
and are present to that of God in each other.

How we hear that voice may be the same, but on its way to our mouth,
differences happen. Therefore in our messages… we should speak to the God
in the listener with greater faithfulness than we express that of God we
hear in our hearts. In other words, “do nothing to another, that which is
abhorrent to thyself, that is the Torah and the rest is commentary.”

At 1:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There is one God, a God of unity who speaks to all hearts in a still small
voice. We seek to be present to that still small voice in others completely
as deeply as we are present to that voice in us. That’s Quakerism in a
nutshell. The entire idiots guide to Quakers. We see that of God in all,
and are present to that of God in each other."

On this we can agree. You, Friend, speak my mind.

I'm going to have to give more thought to the other things you have written.

I suppose the problem is that I don't see having a definite path (mine being Jesus) as negating anyone else's path.

In the Meeting I attend, we do have diversity of beliefs. However, our Faith and Practice is very clear that Jesus is the object of our worship. I really don't see a problem in that as we are Christian Quakers. Doesn't mean we don't respect other paths. It does mean that we dedicate our lives to the Truths that Jesus taught and those Truths are our anchor.

Anyway, like I said, you've given me much to ponder. And thanks for letting me have a place to "think out loud."

At 1:29 PM, Blogger Lorcan said...

There is something lovingly dear about opening our hearts and laboring together, knowing we will never finish perfecting our love.

At 6:22 PM, Blogger Jeffrey Hipp said...

"There is one God, a God of unity who speaks to all hearts in a still small
voice. We seek to be present to that still small voice in others completely
as deeply as we are present to that voice in us."

If we can only speak messages in meeting that have "unity," watch out about saying this, Friend. A good number of Friends who attend my meeting would not be in "unity" with saying that there is a God.

Also, two different members of my meeting have voiced their concern at different occasions about calling movements of the spirit a "still small voice" in minuted statements because they find the words untrue to their experience. And I think they were being sincere.

Am I actually concerned about you using these words? No, of course not. I sense the truth when you write these words, despite my knowledge that Friends may not find unity in using them. I hope you feel free to use them as you are led, and I hope you welcome these Friends to not use these words, in faithfulness to their understandings of Truth.

Strict unity ultimately can't be the standard of vocal ministry. It is a daunting standard that can far too easily stifle and be used as a tool of opression. New revelation isn't given to all simultaneously. Sometimes it starts with one voice saying something different than everyone around them. You know -- M.L. King, Amos, John Woolman, Jesus. We call those people prophets.

Love; faithfulness; groundedness in my own faith experience; compassionate sensitivity for the beliefs of other Friends; the teachings, life and present friendship of Jesus; and the tenderness of seasoned elders are some of my guides I try to follow whenever I minister in any forum. And I sometimes fail at following them. But I don't think I'm on the wrong track, I'm not embarassed of my friendship with Jesus, or of speaking from that friendship.

At 7:26 AM, Blogger Dave Carl said...

The comment has been made here that if you can't abide language about Jesus, you're not ready for Quaker meeting. It occurs to me that perhaps Jesus, looking back at the history of torture and oppression in his name, would fully understand the pain of those who now find his very name offensive or frightening. I think he would seek them out...and perhaps he would weep with them.

At 1:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave, I hear you. I was reared a fundamentalist. At one time, the mention of "Jesus" made me naseated...literally. I think Jesus WOULD weep with us in our pain. I do believe, however, that he would call us to become whole, to get past the pain and to rejoice in his unconditional love and grace. It is easy to make an idol out of our pain...I speak from experience on this, brother.

At 3:50 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Dear Annonymous...

It is easy to make an idol out of anything. Idols are the issue and the problem.

Idols divid us, plain and simple.

But, speaking of idols and immages, if thee does not want to share thy name with thy Friends, how 'bout creating an image for thy self, some name so we know to how many annonymous folks we are speaking. It is a little disconcerting to write to someone who wont give any tag, sort of like speaking in a dark room and I prefer a little light of love.

Frankly I find annonimity not in the spirit of Friends... it is witholding presence, but that is for thee to decide.

As with Quacarol, I find it odd, to speak as a Quaker from behind a mask to all thy Friends who open a hand to thee and share who we are.

We Friends are ususally called to be a little more courageous.

Thee is always welcome in the home of my blog, however thee presents thyself, but consider thy Friends, friends.

Thy dear Friend

At 3:55 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

A quick not on Annonimity, I did post, once, as Santa Clause on a Friends blog, but anyone who didn't know it was me... well... there were hints galore. And, of course did not deny who I was when asked.

But, fear is as great a divider as an idol is.

We really should trust each other more.


At 1:35 PM, Blogger Ryan said...

Hi All,

Wow, this is quite the discussion you have going here!

I think that for all of us, it is important to remember that in world Quakerism today, THERE IS NO NORMATIVE QUAKER THEOLOGY. No two Quakers are the same in their understandings of the cosmos, whether we are speaking of one Quaker in North America and one in Africa, or two Quakers in the very same meeting.

Whether or not we like the fact that there is no normative Quaker theology does not change the fact. Some Quakers focus on the teachings of Jesus, others don't. Some who focus on Jesus' ministry believe Jesus to be God incarnate, others don't.

I think it is important that we encourage all Friends (including Lorcan, Jeff, Rich, Nancy, Anonymous, etc.), to speak to truth in their own way, and to talk about how God works in their lives, without making assumptions about these Friends.

As someone who has been very defensive about my own Christian faith, I am beginning to understand that the belief that a nontheist or rationalist is trying to prosylytize speaks more to our own defensiveness than to the nontheist's or rationalist's intent.

To speak more specifically, I don't see Lorcan trying to convert anyone here, and I don't see him claiming that his theology trumps anyone else's. I do see him writing about things he clearly feels strongly about, things which may be difficult for others to read. But I think that we Christocentrists need to examine our own feelings of defensiveness before we assume anything about Lorcan's intent.

Light and Love,

At 4:01 PM, Blogger Dave Carl said...


I'm not exactly Christocentric (still "Christo-curious" at this stage), so what you said -- which I truly appreciate -- came better from you than from me.

Anonymous, glad you've moved beyond iconizing pain. I've been there too -- without the necessity of a fundamentalist past. Sure we need to heal, but a lot of that is about being able to reach beyond/below the language that otherwise divides us. That of course is true whatever side of the divide we find ourselves on.

A few months or so ago I was taking a universalist stance over at Brooklyn Quaker's blog, while at the same time conceding that people who show up at Quaker meetings to light incense and bow to the four directions be given a map to a more suitable shrine. Intolerance about language is a little tougher. If I'm challenged in that way by a visitor, I hope I can labor in love long enough for said visitor to get the message that what I hope for more than a convincing argument is ... what? ...words don't come easily here... but that perhaps my "Lord, Lord" was meant to be more than that.

I also believe that non-theists who hang around Quaker meetings are putting their non-theism at risk (I've been there, too bro!) A very good place for them, then.

At 7:28 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Hi Dave Carl:
Isn't this what it is all about?
" A few months or so ago I was taking a universalist stance over at Brooklyn Quaker's blog, while at the same time conceding that people who show up at Quaker meetings to light incense and bow to the four directions be given a map to a more suitable shrine. Intolerance about language is a little tougher. If I'm challenged in that way by a visitor, I hope I can labor in love long enough for said visitor to get the message that what I hope for more than a convincing argument is ... what? ...words don't come easily here... but that perhaps my "Lord, Lord" was meant to be more than that. "

Symbols are perfect, people are not. So, thy above discomfort thee has is over symbolic movement, rather then symbolic speech. I don't get the diff?

At 9:47 AM, Blogger Dave Carl said...


And I'm not sure what you're asking, although I'm sure my post was obscure. I'm glad you've raised the question that started this post, I think its an important one, although very thorny! We are having some struggles in our meeting over it.

At bottom I'm hoping we can get beyond "my way or the highway" thinking. I don't think that's what Jesus wanted. And I'm not blaming this on only those who use language about Jesus. Actually I'm not intending to blame anyone, but to go beyond blaming and insisting. Rather than focusing on "how can I get others to accept my language" or "how can I get others to stop using language I don't like," I'd feel better about sinking down into the spirit to which all our variegated language attempts to give voice. Hopefully there we can heal our pain over particular language and also learn that we don't need to draw lines in the sand (on this question, at least) that must/must not be crossed in order to be Friends.

Hope that is a little clearer!

At 10:02 AM, Blogger Dave Carl said...


Just reread your question and now I think I got it. What I meant to say was that some conduct and even speech could interfere with Quaker worship. For example, a mention of the Buddha in vocal ministry is fine with me. Setting up a shrine, lighting incense, and clanging ceremonial cymbals might give me pause though. "Not that there's anything wrong with that," its just not the time or place. That's perhaps a bit of red herring, but its what was going through my fevered brain when I commented above.


At 11:10 AM, Blogger James Riemermann said...

Wonderful conversation here, and I greatly appreciate Lorcan's willingness to stay open toward those Friends who apparently take offense at mention of Jesus in worship.

Though I do not think of myself as a Christian or even a theist, it saddens me when I hear that a Christian Friend might be reluctant to express his or her Christian faith in worship. I do not see how we can possibly build deep, genuine and open Quaker community when such fear holds sway.

I have been working in a number of ways to finding a secure place for Quakers of non-traditional beliefs in our communities--including unbelievers. But it seems crucial to me that this effort be steeped in love for and appreciation of the Christian heritage of Quakerism, and also that we extend to Christian Friends the openness, tolerance and love that we are asking for ourselves.

I, personally, would be very much inclined to gently elder a Friend who publicly rebuked another Friend for using Christian language in meeting. I have been told that such rebukes have taken place in my own meeting, though I have never heard them myself.

There certainly might be messages couched in Christian language that strike me as unFriendly--for instance, a message that passes judgment on others for reasons of theology or sexual preference. But that is another concern entirely.

I also agree with David above that we could lose something of great value by diluting our rich and simple worship practices with ceremonies and practices from various other faiths. Even here, though, we should take care that we not make a fetish of our ways, and be open to changes that are clearly in the spirit.


At 3:28 PM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Dear James:
" I greatly appreciate Lorcan's willingness to stay open toward those Friends who apparently take offense at mention of Jesus in worship. "

Not exactly. This is why this particular set of questions is so difficult. Some Friends are missing a subtle difference here, only subtle as we are dealing with often the same names used with different context...

I don't think there should be any offense taken in worship. However, we should take care in not giving offense. So... my concern, and not one that calls for censorship but care in discernment, is the difference in reaching into the wisdom of Jesus as a teacher, even calling Jesus Christ ( the one Christ is going to send a shudder into some... )...

Must the message include the singular nature of THE, or perfection, for... looking at things as a process... those visions of THE or ONE or PERFECT end the process of moving towards understanding for some, for the reason that they end the conversation, the searching by removing all ambiguity.

We seek, as several Friends have said in emails to me, and in posts here, to be in constant movement together towards God. That is all I am saying. In thy discernment, ask thyself... by some absolutes, do we invite separation by creating a conclusion to that search.

In the old testament, there is not an end to the search. All the figures are imperfect, but God, and as such seek to balance sin against atonement, humility and thereby walk with righteousness before our God. As Yeshua - Jesus said when asked how do we know the children of the light, he said, by "movement and rest." Rest... not conclusion.

Thine dear friends

At 4:59 PM, Blogger James Riemermann said...


I didn't mean to imply that you approve of taking offense in worship. Rather, I sense very strongly that you wish to stay open to those Friends. In another place you wrote how, given the spotty (or worse) history of institutional Christianity, you can understand how talk of Jesus in worship freaks some people out. Being willing to understand that, and say so, in my view, is staying open. You can stay open to people, without necessarily approving of everything they say or do.

I'm sure there is much in your message that I am missing, but I think I'm right about that piece. If not...oops!


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