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.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

What Quaker Clearness Is and Is Not

Quakerism is not judgmental. One cannot be for peace, if in order to come to peace we have to find one side a culprit. That is hard for some folks who come to Quakerism, rather than grow up in the culture of Quakerism have a hard time with, and that is understandable. We live in a world where justice and revenge are interchangeable in popular media and justice is in punishing the guilty.

Quaker clearness is not that. It is getting to know each other's heart and moving on in unity. Unity is the goal of every thing about us. It is not important to investigate, uncover, prove, use logic to show the other is wrong... it is important to get to know the goodness in each other.

Quakerism is also not about unilateral action. There are no Quaker clerkships which are empowered to unilaterally set policy, cast out, act, all power in a Quaker meeting is a pyramid ending with the base, the gathered meeting. We have no priest or pope, no president or prime minister, we have a gathered community. In order to be a gathered community we can't be so hard headed and sure of the justice of our point of view, or belief in the facts, that we sow dissension by casting another out. We move forever towards each other.

In the past, as seen in the letter of the Elders of Balby, Friends held Friends to the light, often, and formally:
That if any person draw back from meetings, and walk disorderly, some go to speak to such as draw back; to exhort and admonish such with a tender, meek spirit, whom they find negligent or disorderly. And if any, after admonition, do persist in the thing not good, let them again be admonished and reproved before two or three witnesses; that by the mouth of two or three witnesses, every thing may be established. And if still they persevere in them, then let the thing be declared to the church: and when the church hath reproved them for their disorderly walking, and admonished them in the tender and meek spirit, and they do not reform, then let their names and the causes, and such as can justly testify the truth therein, and their answers, be sent in writing to some whom the Lord hath raised up in the power of his Spirit to be fathers, his children to gather in the light, that the thing may be known to the body; and with the consent of the whole body, the thing may be determined in the light.

If, in that, there is a need for clearness, this process is explained:

4.-That as any are moved of the Lord to speak the word of the Lord at such meetings, that it be done in faithfulness, without adding or diminishing. And if at such meetings, any thing at any time be otherwise spoken by any not of the light, whereby the seed of God cometh to be burthened; let the person or persons in whom the seed of God is burthened, speak in the light (as of the Lord they are moved,) in meekness and godly fear, to him; but let it be done in private, betwixt them two, or before two or three witnesses, and not in the public meetings, except there be a special moving so to do.

I take this to mean, if a person is disorderly, is acting out of the tradition of Friends, they are contacted individually and in larger numbers, until if they still refuse to face their actions, they are named to the meeting. Then, if there is conflict, contradiction, they meet in private, seeking clearness.

The lack of judgmental behavior ... seeking together the Balbay Elders state in this manner:
16.-That no-one speak evil of another, neither judge one against another; but rather judge this, that none put a stumbling-block or occasion to fall in his brother's way.

17.-That none be busy bodies in others' matters, but each one to bear another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ; that they be sincere and without offence, and that all things that are honest, be done without murmuring, and disputing, that you may be blameless and harmless. the sons of God without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, amongst whom they may shine as lights in the world.

Sometimes, we can't agree on facts, often in fact. Real Friends then agree to the intentions of the other and move on together in loving membership in the beloved community. Frankly, I think this should be a core question of attenders seeking membership, can thee always forgive and love. Can thee love the best of us and the worst of us. Without that, we have no Quaker community, as the core, the definition of our community is the unity of the peaceable kingdom. Sure we can have confrontation, even some conflict, but without love, without unity, without clearness, we are nothing of what we claim to be.


At 5:06 PM, Blogger Liz Opp said...


As usual, there are things within this post that give me pause. I have started two different comments but am left with just offering this one for now: that I am chewing on what you write, and I appreciate your search to write about clearness in a fair and objective way--or such is how I interpret your post, anyway.

Perhaps I'll comment further, when I'm done chewing.

Liz, The Good Raised Up


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