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.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Are we Hicksites or Barnardites?

Not a frivolous question. I read a recent comment on who owns original Quakerism, the Orthodoxy or the Hicksite tradition. I accept that this question is still lovingly asked. And tonight, as I woke up sick around 3 or four, as I do most nights... I began to sink deeper into this question.

We certainly begin with the preaching of Hannah Bernard and the reaction to it. In many ways, Hannah is the innovator, and the reaction is driven by men... who hammer nails into the institution, like putting up plywood in the face of a coming storm.

But... that is not the defining moment. The defining moments Hicks supporting her not being read out, and then Hicks being read out. So, the Hicksite tradition is not anti Christian, nor New Age, nor Non-theist, nor Bernardist. It is that part of original Quakerism which did not set up orthodoxies by reason of keeping process moving forward.

Most meetings today, orthodox or otherwise, accept that we seek unity in a process of openness. That sense of the meeting happens, not only when all agree, but when those who disagree take themselves out of process by saying, I cannot ever accept such and such. So, to stand in the way of ... unity, to say, I am not there yet, we must keep talking, does put off the sense of a meeting, and an issue remains open, but to say, this far I will go and no further, is to take oneself out of process, and also to make a new orthodoxy. Here it is important to note, Hicks did not leave, he was cast out by some, and others did not cast him out, becoming the Hicksite tradition.

The Orthodox communities cast each other out with some regularity, there after, seeking more clearly defined and narrower unity, while it has been noted that Friends were much more rarely read out of Hicksite meetings. One can't ever answer the question, which is truly original Quakerism, as original Quakerism could not survive the growing multi-cultural environment of moving out from small English villages. If we are present to new ideas, and are open to process, inclusiveness had to happen. That some would cling to the values of the original founders is a human process which also always happens, every society grows and resists growth... that we came together is much more original Quakerism, to me, but than again, I grew up Hicksite!

Would Fox have thought twice if told that one day his teaching about inclusive process would lead people away from his observations on the nature of Christ? I don't know. No one can say they do know, and if they can, ... well, then what, are we Foxists, or Quakers? Did Fox intend a faith that would make a pope of him? Again, I doubt it, but again ( do I need to say it again :) ) ... I'm a... oh go on, ye can all say it... like the audience at a Pete Seeger concert...

Oh my, we always come back in every human politic or faith, are we defining a process or an outcome...

Boston Recorder and Religious Teligraph


At 6:52 AM, Blogger Liz Opp said...

Thanks for sharing the news clipping, Lorcan. Very interesting, to read the language used back then and to sense (at least for me) the love and labor that went into the whole process over time.

I wish to comment on one section, where you write, "...sense of the meeting happens, not only when all agree, but when those who disagree take themselves out of process by saying, I cannot ever accept such and such.

I disagree with this definition of "sense of the meeting," and I have needed my own reminders from those Friends more experienced with clerking and with business process than I myself have:

- Sense of the meeting is not about unanimity.
- No single Friend has veto power.
- It is up to the Meeting to discern if it is in good order to continue to labor with a Friend who feels called to "stand in the way."

Here are a couple things that have helped me unpeel the onion that is sense of the meeting:

1. The pamphlet Beyond Consensus: Salvaging the Sense of the Meeting.

2. The bottom third of "Dost Thou Mind the Pink Triangle?"--a transcript of a "Monday night lecture" at Pendle Hill, in which the speaker relates the meeting's struggle with allowing same-sex marriage.

Here's the best bit of it: When one long-time opponent (but revered Friend) rises to speak one too many times, a Friend calls out (perhaps inappropriately so), "For seven long years we have heard you in your opposition. Sit down. The Meeting has passed you by!" When the clerk asked Friends if the member should be allowed to speak, there was no doubt but what the woman who had challenged him had spoken the Meeting’s mind and will.

I've done my own writing about the pamphlet I mention, pulling out bits and pieces of it. But I sense, Lorcan, that you and I are not very far apart in how sense of the meeting works, and perhaps by putting thoughts and understandings into words, we only seem to have different understandings.

Liz, The Good Raised Up

At 11:09 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Hi Liz:
I think thee and I are saying the same thing, I in less well chosen words. Arthur Larabe puts it something like this: If someone says I stand against that and can never see it otherwise, then that person has stepped out of process, if one says, I don't agree, yet, then the meeting should continue to seek unity. Now, I would also add, and I think others would agree, that an objection which makes the same argument again and again, without listening to the other side, is also stepping outside of process. Being dismissive of the objections of others, without reasoned answers, all this is stepping out of process. It is also not the majority in a meeting simply ignoring minority voices... it is a culture one often needs time to assimilate.

I do want to get a copy of the pamphlet thee mentions about the same sex union minute, that was a very difficult and at the same time uplifting time in our meeting.

As to the "clipping..." it is not a clipping, but I have the entire paper, in mint condition from 1828. It is very like the PBS series Religion and Ethics Weekly. It is little blurbs from different religious communities in the North Eastern US. We are planning a museum for our meeting, at which time I am going to have this framed, folded to show the cover page, and the notice about Hicks, for the museum's safekeeping.


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