Monday, July 27, 2015

Rocky roads and movements of the Spirit.

Chin up kids. Look how long it took for Woolman's message about slavery to bear fruit. (For those not familiar, as I had not been, with the history here in NWYM check

Yes, there is deep disappointment and loss of confidence in the leadership of the Board of Elders of Northwest Yearly Meeting. It's not new. We are all too human and that's what we get for dealing with humans. I have to wonder that the Board would continue in the most conservative reading of their mandate to resolve doctrinal issues after they acknowledge that there is some question as to the nature of that mandate and of the binding elements of our Faith and Practice. Clearly the nature of the difference between "Doctrine" and "Testimony" needs to be spelled out, as I have mentioned.

I have not seen rumored communications from Meetings that demand action to discipline Meetings which do not hold to Testimonies as written, but this is a parallel to what I understand happened to Western and Indiana Yearly Meetings and what is now happening to North Carolina Yearly Meeting. My reaction to such a communication would be to indicate that those people might be happier affiliated with say the Church of the Nazarene, but I have little patience with ultimatums in Quaker Business and consider such tactics far more "shattering" than published variance from stated "Testimony" under review. In the above referenced article the authors present what they have determined to be a pattern: "Given this long, recurring history, the pattern is easily recognizable: Several vocal pastors and other outspoken church members form a caucus, pick a target, based on issues which can be doctrinal, social or political, and insist that either those people go, or they will leave, and take their churches and donations with them."

It seems to be working.

And the difference seems to be that matter of tactics as no one has set up such a caucus to combat the openly sexist stance of Anthem (Now Anthem-Hayden Lake)Friends. As reported in the article: The issue of equity likewise looms large. In the 2011 Faith & Practice there are two statements condemning homosexuality. But there are also in it no less than seven declarations, dating back as far as 1887, specifying that the equality of the sexes, in church and out, is an integral part of the yearly meeting’s Quaker Christian testimony. (pp. 2, 10, 13, 20, 23, 81) Yet Anthem-Hayden Lake has been openly defying them for four decades, and still is, without consequence.Such widely disparate treatment brings to mind Leviticus 19:15: “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.”

In conclusion I would like to quote a recent letter from Camas Friends Church: "However, when we learned about the intervention of Yearly Meeting Elders into the discernment process that West Hills followed, Camas Friends Elders felt led to send a letter of concern. The entire meeting, as affirmed in a Business Meeting, wanted to be part of the letter as a sign of our meeting’s unity. For Camas Friends Church, what is most important is that our Yearly Meeting protect rather than police the discernment process of our local congregations.(bolding mine)

I don't see that happening.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Silly, Poor Gospel in a current application

So, I wrote for almost a year and it has only been almost 6 years since my last entry.....seems about right....for me.

Another crisis is on and it seems appropriate that I take up this means of expression again, so here goes.

My Monthly Meeting recently discussed the disciplinary action under way and I found out that it is about discipline of a Meeting for violation of the.....wait for it....Testimonies expressed in the Faith and Practice of the Yearly Meeting.

Yes, Testimony. Discipline. Blew me away.

So, I did a little research and find that what Margaret Fell called a "silly, poor gospel" is pervasive.

Her observation was about the "rules" that were being practiced about such things as the color of clothing Quakers should wear, the style of hat, the fact that buttons were pretentious and so on, but the main point here is that it is a very human tendency to take observations we believe and make them into rules for everybody.

Apply that to our Testimonies: The best explanation of the traditional Quaker perception on testimonies I found in The American Friends Service Committee's description:

"Quakers believe in living life in the spirit of love and truth and peace, reaching for the best in oneself and answering “that of God” in everyone. Quaker testimonies are expressions of the commitment to put those beliefs into practice.

The testimonies bear witness to the truth, as Friends in community perceive it— truth known through relationship with God. They do not exist in any rigid, written form; nor are they imposed in any way. Each Quaker searches for how the testimonies can best be expressed in his or her own life.

While attempting to live in concert with these teachings, Quakers are tender with themselves and with each other when they fall short, ready to recommit and try again."

I'm doen with that and it was my expectation, but then I looked at the description of Testimonies given on The Earlham School of Religion website and find that the idea that early Quakers were non credal is "belied, however, by the existence of the Quaker Testimonies, which set out several explicit principles for good living to which Friends consistently refer in ordering their lives."

"Belied" The expectation is that they were and are rules of behavior.

I have heard some people say that "Evangelical Quaker" is a contradiction in terms and the idea is surely supported by this mindset.

I really believe that the Evangelical Movement brought much of value to the Quietist Quaker world, but some of the baggage is destructive and it is this mindset and the recent application of it in Western Yearly Meeting that cause them to split.

We need to think about this.

One of the objections to any change to the published testimonies was that the other view would be imposed as a rule on the Yearly Meeting as a whole by the minority with that view; the tail wagging the dog as was said, but the point is not to wag the dog, but to allow the tail to wag. This can only happen if the testimonies are NOT viewed as rules for compliance, but a DEScription of what we have found to be true in our relationships, subject to change with new information