Youngering or Eldering - a Core Problem
For years now I have seen the New York Quaker Quarter deal with conflict badly. We are pulled along by people with obvious issues and little personal discipline. I believe, this is in part, an outcome of an age (the Sixties and Seventies) where discipline became stigmatized.
So, to begin, let's look at the concept of discipline - from the root disciple. In our Meetings, we are not disciples of Gurus or Religious leadership, but of God as expressed in the gathered Meeting coming to unity.
If discipline breaks down, our discipleship is without meaning.
In the past, in a Hicksite Meeting, discipline was maintained by reading out of Meeting those who consistently broke discipline by not allowing a Meeting to elder them, by ignoring the process of unity. Again, it was about process, not about behavior, not about opinion. I make the distinction between Hicksite practice and the Orthodox sects, as the Orthodox sects read out of Meeting on the basis of theology, and reading out in a Hicksite Meeting was rare.
Today, a small number of people hold sway in the Meeting by employing public anger, by obstructionism, and by backroom politicking - keeping secrets from the Meeting as a body.
When challenged in the manner employed by friends from the start of our faith, the writing of Friends to each other, the reaction is predictably negative. In the past, even at time of great stress in the Society, Friends have answered writing with a response in writing, or a request for clearness, or a request for threshing.
Today, we are adrift, seeking ways to go forward, without any examination of the past. I heard a Friend respond to a call for our Quarter to look to elders by saying, "We need youngering, not eldering." Frankly, we have been "youngered" to the point that we have lost our way. If we do not look to the past strengths of our faith, we might as well call it a day for the Society of Friends.
Thine in the light