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
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