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.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Joe "Beppe"'s wonderful questions

Joe, "Beppeblog" in response to my responses to his pod cast, to which folks should really listen - Joe is great e-radio!, made the following response. It is so pithy, so much to think about and respond to, I thought it deserved a post on my blog, rather than a long thread of responses on his... so here is his response... I think it is accurate to say, Joe has been looking for something other than Quakerism, due to the lack of form ( I think) he finds in "Liberal Quakerism"...

Let me clarify something: I do not believe that acceptance is wrong or a bad thing, hence my example of how well liberal Friends have done in accepting glbt [ Lorcan's translation of Joe's initials correct me if I am wrong - Gay Lesbian bisexual and transgendered ] folks. My concern was that acceptance tends to be the primary internal issue for Hicksites (to use your label) Friends (at least here in the U.S.). It doesn’t seem to go deeper or at least beyond that issue as a community.
I also disagree with you about your branch of Quakerism avoiding “splits”. True, there are no official splits, but plenty of people have left liberal Quakerism over issues of theology and/or practice. It just hasn’t happened as a “movement” of sorts.
Despite all of the claims to “diversity” to the contrary, I think your branch of Quakerism is pretty monoculture internally, pretty much like most other communities. Its monoculture by drawing people to it that view individualism as their most important spiritual issue and who reject or avoid any element of authority as inherently problematic. It also tends to draw people who want as much latitude around issues of theology. It’s the perfect religion for white, middle-class, liberals (and the occasional radical). Nothing wrong with that, in my book. But, the community won’t diversify, as it so much wants to do, if it can’t acknowledge its own monocultural ways.

(From Beppe's new blog, see my links... )

Where to begin? How can one divide our acceptance of one kind of diversity and hold us to task for another? Yes, acceptance IS a primary issue, as diversity is certainly part of God's plan, and to find unity in God, we must accept unity on many many levels, from sexual diversity, to diversity in expression. I think that the question you pose about going deeper, is in regards the diversity of our community economically and racially, looking ahead to the end of Joe's comment, I answer this in a moment, but I am not sure this is what Joe means in the first paragraph.

Thy disagreement on splits. Let us look at the difference between official splits and people walking away. We lost several members to our same sex union minutes in many meetings, and if that is a Liberal Quaker issue, well, we did not read folks out of meeting, they chose more exclusive communities. They chose schism because they did not accept that it is God's intention to bless the union of people who were not sexually wired as they were. I fail to see this as a schism on our part. In our meeting we have several Friends who have said they prefer to worship in exclusively Christocentric meetings, though they have not left over that. In no recent letters asking for release I can recall is there mention of our inclusion of non-Christocentric Friends. But, as with leaving because of our inclusion of GLBT Friends, it seems to me that this is not our monocultureal outlook.

I would not say we, in our meeting, reject authority. Rather we are very careful to seek God's authority and not the authority of our individual ego. Most of us agree that God's authority is expressed in our seeking unity. That is a difficult process, but one we work very hard and very seriously towards in my home meeting. We have a remarkable clerk today, one who I do not see eye to eye on everything with, but who seeks unity with energy and talent and one who expresses the greatest strengths of Liberal Quakerism, patience and resolve. Bad clerking can harm any meeting in any branch of Quakerism and should not be laid at the feet of one or another Quaker expression.

Frankly, on the issue of race and diversity, that is very complicated. In our deep history, many of those who opposed the underground railroad, also opposed Hicks on antislavery. Hicks believed in full inclusion of Black Americans in education and industry. Our meetings have struggled with race, and I remember those struggles with some concern and sadness in the 1960s. Frankly, our meeting is not as diverse as it should be, but, at least one Black fFriend in the meeting has expressed to me, and I agree with her, that the fault is not the theology of our meeting, that is what brings her to meeting, but the elite nature of the school. She feels that returning to the birthright of Friends to Quaker education would create more racial and class diversity in our meeting. I am rather in unity with that, and find that concern spoken to in Quarterly meeting minutes from the 1970s. I wonder why thee thinks that only White Middle Class Americans distrust arbitrary authority. I say arbitrary authority, as in our meeting it is not a free for all, but authority must be justified as flowing from God, not one theological clique in our meeting. I hope thee does not mean that to accept God's authority without that definition of God being Jesus as Christ is to be without authority...

Well, that is a start, hope I begin to get to the core of thy concerns Joe. I hope thee has an opportunity to visit us in 15th Street during one of our business meetings. I joke about it turning off Quakers, but in reality, we are doing it rather well these days, and have had some great clerks in the past as well.


At 7:13 PM, Blogger Thee, Hannah! said...

I feel a bit silly commenting since it only sort of addresses a very small part of the post, and I apologize for taking so long to get to the point, but . . . here goes. I know that there are individual Friends in our meeting who are much more Christocentric than others but, on the whole, this does not seem to cause a lot of conflict. I don't know if this is a regional difference; it seems that there are enough hard-line Christians around here that people who seek more structured Christianity generally are drawn to other denominations. If anything, we seem to have a lot of people who consider themselves to be "in recovery" from more mainstream religions (usually Southern Baptist or Catholic) . . .

Which leads me into the observation that individualism does, indeed, seem to be one of our most prized "possessions", often to the point that it seems to interfere with the meeting's efforts to accomplish anything as a body. Everyone has their pet causes, projects, and viewpoints.

However, rather than become frustrated by this "monoculture" of individualism, a group of us have made it our own ministry of sorts to draw out these people and support them, while also channeling some of their energy back into the meeting. It does not require us all to think alike or to adopt the same approach to everything, but it does work for the betterment of our community.

At 7:27 PM, Blogger Lorcan said...



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