Thursday, August 07, 2008

Peter on a Spirit of Peace

On the floor of New England Yearly Meeting Sessions, in the middle of a discussion of the ongoing controversy over NEYM’s affiliation with Friends United Meeting, someone rose and read a passage from the Richmond Declaration of Faith, written in 1887 and recently reaffirmed by FUM. It included the line, “We disavow all professed illumination or spirituality that is divorced from faith in Jesus Christ of Nazareth.” The speaker pointed out how this directly contradicts the Quaker testimony of continuing revelation. He urged NEYM to make a complete split with FUM, saying that we could continue to engage with them as we would with any other Protestant church, but they are not really Quaker. The comment was hurtful to a lot of people in the meeting who are Christ-centered and identify with FUM and also consider themselves very much Quaker.

The same day, a commenter on this blog told me that “Quakerism is founded in Christ. … With respect, you can no more be a pagan quaker than a virgin mother (with one notable exception!)”

The light of God is in all of us, and if we listen, the light of God can speak through any of us. Two years ago, I’d have broken out in hives over these doctrinal statements by people who seem like they want to shove each other out of the boat. This year, I’ve found myself much more at peace with the fallen and fragmented language we use to describe our spirituality. The language matters, but it matters so much less than the willingness to sit together in the presence of the divine and experience the light of spirit within each other.

When the violence erupted in Kenya last fall, we lit a candle for peace next to the statue of Athena on the Pagan alter in our living room, and we put in front of it a picture of our friends Eden and Jim Grace, who are Christ-centered FUM missionaries in Kenya. The Graces are at the extreme opposite end of the theological spectrum from the Cat and me, and yet our friendship is grounded on our shared experience of faithfulness to the Divine. As Eden put it, “We’ll just keep loving each other until someone tells us to stop.”

Sessions as a whole did not do so well at staying grounded in that kind of love this year. Meeting for worship for business became quite rancorous last night, as discussion of the budget exploded into debate over NEYM’s affiliation with FUM. I am sad and exhausted this morning, and struggling with some very harsh judgments I’m feeling towards people who did not hold one another tenderly last night. I’m waiting for a leading on what to do with that, but I have so much more faith than I did two years ago, that the Spirit will be patient, and that we are led by more than our own wisdom.

21 comments:

Yvonne said...

Hi Peter and Cat,

You might enjoy this poem from the Zen Buddhist tradition.

Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...

Dear Peter,

I was struck by these words: "...Someone rose and read a passage from the Richmond Declaration of Faith, written in 1887 and recently reaffirmed by FUM. It included the line, 'We disavow all professed illumination or spirituality that is divorced from faith in Jesus Christ of Nazareth.' The speaker pointed out how this directly contradicts the Quaker testimony of continuing revelation."

I don't suppose I need to remind you, Peter, that our Quaker testimony of continuing revelation is based directly on our Quaker dependence on Jesus Christ of Nazareth. I feel confident that you understand. But maybe some of your readers need to be told this. For it was Jesus of Nazareth who, at the Last Supper, promised his disciples the Intimate Teacher, the Paraklete, from which continuing revelation comes; and it was he, furthermore, who gave them their continuing connection to that Paraklete. The testimony started there, in the apostles' connectedness through Jesus to the Paraklete that came in his name; and the testimony has continued down through the ages in the communities that have cherished that connection, like people keeping a flame alive from each generation to the next.

It seems to me (and I hasten to say that I am just speaking personally here) that those who divorce themselves from Jesus Christ of Nazareth, thereby cut themselves off from the source of continuing revelation that he provides us a connection to — for he, and the source he connects us to, are in essence one and the same, and we cannot wall off the one while continuing to be connected to the other. People who wall him off may still have something that can be described as continuing revelation — but it will not be the same sort of revelation as that which the Quaker testimony is actually all about.

Yes, dear friend, I agree with you (and with the author of the fourth Gospel) that the Light is in all of us, and can speak through any of us. But that Light and what is known of the historical Jesus are one and the same; anyone who embraces what truly is that Light will find nothing to object to in what is known of the historical Jesus. Thus, if someone divorces her- or himself from the historical Jesus, it is quite reasonable to take it as a warning sign that what she or he calls the "Light" may well be something other than what Quakerism means by that term.

But I have a similar reaction to the "rancor" you mention, and if I read you rightly, this rancor was evident on both sides. I cannot imagine that such rancor proceeds from the Christ who took human form at Nazareth; for while that Christ was capable of anger, he was also capable of endless forgiveness and of reaching out in peace to his worst enemies. Rancor didn't tangle and bind him, as it does us when we lose contact with his Spirit. If we are rancorous, therefore, it hardly matters whether we are condemning Christ or defending him, since we have already lost that connection.

Perhaps we need to remind ourselves that we are little beings and very fallible. Perhaps we need to proceed in greater consciousness that the spirit that possesses us in moments of passion may not actually be the Spirit that the Quaker doctrine of continuing revelation points to, but some darker thing.

I honestly do not reject or condemn New England Friends. But I am saddened by what I'm reading of this wrangling. I understand how it tears your heart. Were I anywhere near you, I'd offer you a hug, and all the support in my power.

All the best,
Marshall

Bill Samuel said...

Early Friends believed that God was consistent. Therefore they were willing to have all their doctrines tested by scripture, since scripture was revealed by the same God which revealed things to them in the present moment.

That line in the Richmond Declaration is wholly consistent with the testimony of early Friends.

I grant that some Friends today have different testimonies than the early Quakers, and it is inconsistent with the testimony of some present day Quakers. But does one segment of present day Quakers represent Quakerism?

Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

Hi, Marshall,
A couple of points. First, though I am not sure that Peter's post captures it, you should know that the point made by the Friend who quoted from the Richmond Declaration in such an ungenerous fashion is not, as I recall, minuted or reflected in the Epistle of NEYM--for the very good reason that it did not reflect the sense of the meeting.

I would not describe the sense of the meeting of NEYM as in any way rancorous either to FUM or to Christian Friends. What discussion there was of the Richmond Declaration was, with the sole exception Peter mentioned, held outside of meeting for worship or meeting for worship for business. And what anger there was expressed was almost entirely expressed with one another in NEYM, in how we are wrestling with the painful matter of remaining in loving fellowship with an organization whose policies strike us as at odds with the leadings of Spirit as we understand them together in NEYM.

It would be inaccurate to take that one statement as reflecting a sense of rancor from NEYM as a body toward FUM; in fact, I believe that we are growing closer to and more loving toward our affiliations within FUM as a result of a longing to unite with one another. That I heard reflected from many, many of us in NEYM this past week. And, though it may not be minuted, I suspect it does reflect the sense of the meeting.

I think that NEYM has grave concerns over a number of policies and understandings coming from FUM. As FUM, reflecting so many less liberal views within the Quaker family, no doubt has serious concerns around NEYM and our spiritual health. But it would be wrong to describe that concern as rancorous.

The second point I'd like to make with you is that, while I fully acknowledge the origin in the history of ideas of the emergence of the testimony of ongoing revelation from Christianity, and that the understandings of all early Friends were that the inner teacher, the paraklete, was Jesus Christ, "come to teach his people himself," I think insisting on the name brand--something you well know that universalist Friends like Peter and like me may question--obscures an important point: whether or not the historical Jesus is the inward teacher, the Seed, all of the testimonies of Friends properly emerge from that Seed.

I think this is important to point out because I believe that creeping secularization of Friends is actually a threat to our spiritual health, and that simply replacing Biblical authority with a list of testimonies is no substitute for learning to listen for and be filled with fire by those testimonies when they are inspired by that Seed, that Light.

You and I can talk all day and all night over what it means to be Christian and what the place of the Bible and of explicitly Christian belief may be; I don't think we'll come to an agreement by the end of the day. But I'm pretty sure we will unite around the truth that our testimonies are far less about acronyms (SPICE, etc.) or lists than about an experience of the Living Spirit, and of striving to be faithful to the direct, lived encounter with that Spirit.

I may be wrong, or wrong in some details. But I suspect that this is a place where Conservative Christian Friends and "Divergent Friends" (to speak humorously of Quakers as far outside the box as the two of us are) can see eye to eye, soberly and lovingly.

Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

Hi, Bill,
It would take a lot of careful and worshipful dialog for you and Peter and me to really explore what the three of us, never mind the entire Liberal branch of Quakers, make of the Richmond declaration or even the single sentence from it quoted here.

But please note, the speaker Peter quoted in his post was quoted as one of a pair of speakers we found to be perhaps as un-Quakerly as their labeling of other Friends as such. Peter was not endorsing the perspective of the Friend who spoke to the Richmond Declaration--he was critiquing it as part of a tendency Friends from a variety of perspectives may have to speak without reference to the Spirit of Peace we both find essential to living out Quaker beliefs.

Nor would I say that Friend's opinion reflected any sense of the meeting I heard at NEYM this year. So please do not think it represents the views here at this blog, uncomfortable though Peter and I quite logically may be with the Richmond Declaration and with the sentence drawn from it. But that sentence was quoted out of context, and if it was shared in a spirit of love, I did not sense that. And I do not believe that I can be illumined by such a hostile approach to differences.

I may not accept the Richmond Declaration--but I certainly reject using it in a legalistic fashion to disparage Friends I may not agree with. And, though it may reflect at least partly a failing on my part to listen to the Friend who shared it with sufficient tenderness, legalistic is how it came across to me on the floor of sessions.

From what I saw, it carried little weight among us as a body in that meeting.

Anonymous said...

Much will be written and said and shared about this year's New England Yearly Meeting Sessions. They were quite remarkable.

Peter and Cat are certainly not presenting themselves as capturing the essence of the full experience. I'm not sure that would be possible. It may be one of those 'you had to be there' occasions.

Friends in New England Yearly Meeting raising concerns about Friends United Meeting often bring the Richmond Declaration into the conversation. Our issues with the organization go beyond the narrower focus of the personnel policy, which virtually everyone in the yearly meeting agrees is discriminatory.

Though the Richmond Declaration speaks to the condition of some in our yearly meeting, I believe this doctrinal statement is a source of distress, confusion and even embarrassment to most New England Friends. The Friend quoting it in business meeting was not the only person speaking against it during Sessions. Our Bible Half Hour speaker, a pastor in the yearly meeting, preached against it forcefully and directly.

The work of FUM, it is important to say, was held up with respect and love by all who spoke. There was much love and grace in our sessions this year despite the hard truths that were said and heard.

Marshall Massey said...

Cat, I much appreciate your clarifications. I'm glad that you did not feel there was that much rancor.

I sense that you may have misread me on a few points. I wasn't defending FUM, for one. My major concern is simply that we get the story straight, and understand each other's views well enough not to judge them unfairly.

Possibly you misread me on another point as well. I was not insisting on a "name brand" (or on a "brand name", either). I was pointing to a connection between the Light of Friends (or "the source of continuing revelation" as Friends understand it) and the historical Jesus, but frankly, I don't care what you name it. The understanding is what matters here, not the name (at least, in my opinion).

I also said nothing about testimonies, or "SPICE". I am not sure why you brought them in to the discussion.

I am not sure you and Peter are all that far out of the box. I think you are much more in the box than a lot of Friends who mouth conventionalities but never wrestle with the Big Questions.

All the best,
Marshall

Bill Samuel said...

Those that react very negatively to the Richmond Declaration should realize it is the foundational document of FUM. If this is a problem for a yearly meeting, perhaps it is right that the YM consider whether it belongs in FUM.

Even more important than the Richmond Declaration, IMHO, is the FUM Purpose Statement. Bodies need to be united around purpose. Has your YM seriously considered FUM's Purpose? Can it wholeheartedly unite with it? If not, why does it stay in FUM?

Can a body constructively engage in dialogue as a brother/sibling about an issue such as same-gender relationships if it can not do it based on a common purpose?

Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

Hi, Anonymous,
When you say, "The work of FUM, it is important to say, was held up with respect and love by all who spoke," that may not be true of every person who attended NEYM, but it was very much my impression of the sense of the meeting. Thank you for saying this!

I also attended the Bible Half Hours (and I've come to love the irony that it is now one of my absolute favorite things about NEYM) and listened to Peter Crysdale and the others who spoke out of the silence after his preaching. I'm not sure I'd say Peter "preached against it forcefully and directly," though--I think he alluded to it with his typical tenderness and humor, while trying to make the deeper point (which he returned to again and again and again) that it is listening to one another humbly in the Spirit of love that is likely to be the most helpful to Friends as we labor together.

Indeed, it's remarkable how much that was a theme running through sessions this year, even in our memorial minutes read during sessions but prepared in advance. Though perhaps I was hearing selectively, and perhaps you are right and I am wrong in how you characterize Peter's preaching. But I will say I did not hear it in quite the way you describe it here. (You're spot on, though, in saying we're not trying to reflect the whole experience of NEYM, and I hope that many people will share their own subjective impressions, to give balance--as well as read the Epistle and minutes for a sense of us as a whole.)

Marshall, as I'm sure you know, I also want very much to "understand each other's views well enough not to judge them unfairly," and it's one of the reasons I am so glad you comment here; you so often help me to see when I've slipped into partisanship, which is not the Spirit of Peace I want to live in. I take your comments in that light, and thank you.

I did hear the care with which you chose your words when you said that "if someone divorces her- or himself from the historical Jesus, it is quite reasonable to take it as a warning sign that what she or he calls the "Light" may well be something other than what Quakerism means by that term." You spoke of warning signs, and also framed your words by saying "anyone who embraces what truly is that Light will find nothing to object to in what is known of the historical Jesus." I agree--certainly, with the sole exception of Jesus blighting the fig tree, I can't come up with any act or words of his from the gospels that might cause me hesitancy about his teachings or being.

But his name has been misused often enough by angry and judgemental people that it can be very hard for some people to hear what else is being said once his name is spoken in a conversation. Rather than discuss the place of explicit Christianity and the historical Jesus among liberal Quakers, here, on this particular thread, I wanted to focus on what the Spirit you know as Christ leads us to, using words I hope all of us can hear. (The other discussion is well worth having, and I hope we'll get there as Peter and I continue in our separate Bible studies, at least some of which are likely to wind up here as blog posts.) I didn't mean to silence you, however. I'm just letting you know that I want to save that conversation for another day. By all means, use whatever language reflects your wisdom and understandings, and please be patient with me if I seem sometimes to say otherwise; I've got a whole lot more to be uncomfortable with in my history than blighting a fig tree that has no figs. :)

As for the references to SPICE and similar acronyms for various testimonies, yes, you did not mention them. I was reflecting my understanding--and the speaker's who was decrying the Richmond Declaration--that ongoing revelation is itself a testimony. My sense is that the speaker was using the concept of a testimony rather as if it were a creed, and as if loyalty to that creed were appropriately a yardstick by which we can judge one another as Quakers. I think that's horse hooey; all of the testimonies properly burn from within, gifts of Spirit, rather than being memorized and adhered to from without, as if they were creeds. It is that which I think we probably see in similar ways. There's nothing holy about the ways modern Quakers list out testimonies, particularly if we wield them like blunt instruments against one another, (just as the speaker was saying the Richmond Declaration gets used.)

Bill,
I think it is important to remember that New England is a dually affiliated meeting, and, in fact, at the time when we united, there were more pastoral meetings affiliated with FUM (Five Years' Meeting) than meetings of any other kind. Those meetings have tended to become smaller over the years, or to grow with an influx of new members who have perhaps more in common with FGC affiliated meetings. This does not mean we in New England do not hold our members (both the monthly meetings and the individuals) whose theology is closer to that of FUM very tenderly. Not as tenderly as I would like, in fact, but still, I have observed that the more seasoned the Friend, the greater the love and fellowship across the doctrinal lines that might be expected to divide us.

That makes sense to me, given with what I know of the Spirit we all attempt to follow.

What may not be clear to you is that, in encouraging us to consider whether or not to disaffiliate with FUM, given the points of disagreement we have with written statements and policies of that body, you are asking us to break up our fellowship. We are part of Friends United Meeting; we would cast off some of the smaller, most vulnerable of our monthly meetings if we left FUM, and we would rend in two some of the larger monthly meetings.

Can that possibly be what a Spirit of love and reconciliation is asking us to do?

If so, it was not leading us in that direction in our meetings for worship for business this year. Our leading as a yearly meeting continues to be: work to clarify our own understandings on sexual ethics. Work within our monthly and quarterly meetings to consider the 2005 minute affirming same-gender marriage from our own Connecticut Valley Quarter. Visit with one another and with Friends in FUM in this country and around the world. Labor in love.

As for the Richmond Declaration, it is my understanding that it has never been affirmed by all the monthly or yearly meetings within FUM, and that the attempt to realign FUM along the lines of the Richmond Declaration did lead to a lot of pain and antagonism when it was considered in the early 90's. I wasn't a Quaker then, and I may have a distorted impression of those events. I do not know whether, if NEYM were to consider affiliating with FUM now, it would be appropriate for us to do so, given the theological differences our yearly meeting has with that statement. But that is not the question we are being asked. We are part of this fellowship. And it is a different question to ask ourselves to consider leaving over differences that might keep us from an initial "marriage"--just as a decision to divorce should be based on weightier concerns than a decision not to marry to begin with.

We're here. And, as Eden Grace said to me, as we embraced one another after a year apart, "we're going to keep loving each other until Somebody tells us to stop." (At this point, that Somebody needs to be Spirit.)

As for the mission of FUM, well, I can't speak for my yearly meeting, but I certainly have spent time laboring with it personally. And if this weird little Quaker Pagan universalist can see her way clear to supporting FUM and its mission (which I do financially, personally as well as through NEYM and my monthly meeting) then I don't hold it impossible that our yearly meeting can.

For the moment, we belong here. Till God tells us differently.

Get this, world: I am a proud member of Friends United Meeting. (Gotta love the irony!)

Thank you all for your comments.

Bill Samuel said...

NEYM probably has more folks really into FUM than any other dually affiliated YM. I appreciate trying to keep it together.

But if remaining affiliated with a broader group because a small number of members are most comfortable with that affiliation also results in the YM getting caught up in trying to "fix" FUM and a lot of negative comments about FUM being thrown about, is it worth it?

The fact is that Friends in the FUM-only YMs know that the FUM-identified Friends in the dually affiliated YMs are in the minority, and large numbers of Friends in those YMs aren't at all on FUM's wavelength. They therefore highly resent efforts from the dually affiliated YMs to change FUM. I don't think that factor has been given enough weight by the dually affiliated YMs generally.

What there are, in varying proportions, in the dually affiliated YMs are minorities who identify with FUM, groups (maybe not always minorities - is this why SEYM disaffiliated? - and groups somewhere in the middle. I don't know that there is really any way to keep the two ends of the spectrum content in the same YM.

FUM freely accepts people to serve who are not in FUM-affiliated YMs, and bodies of unaffiliated Friends are free to relate to specific programs of FUM (many do to Ramallah, for example). And a mechanism can always be found, like the Western Association, for meetings to remain in affiliation if the YM does not. In NEYM (and other dually affiliated YMs), unlike EFCSW, that could probably be done with the meetings not having to leave the YM.

Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

Bill,
To the extent that we in NEYM see our purpose in remaining in FUM as being "fixing" FUM, we are in error.

However, sharing our deep concern for the place of gays and lesbians among us can be done without arrogance. Perhaps must be done. Certainly, many of us are feeling called to speak this truth within FUM--and it is a concern I hear as clearly reflected by members who are more comfortable with the ideas and purposes of FUM than they are with the more liberal Quaker bodies.

I'm sure we in NEYM are infuriating at times.

But please bear with us. However faulty we are, I think we do have a message that's rising in us. I think we are being led here.

I'm clearer on what we need to convey to other Friends within FUM than I am to what we need to take in.

But I will try to hear you when you point it out to me. Really. I am (and lots of others of us are, too) really trying to be as present to be changed as to bring change. Please be patient with our stumbling.

Anonymous said...

The same Anonymous is back--still absorbing what I heard and felt in Sessions, and following this thread with interest.

Bill, I'm grateful that New England's involvement in FUM is recognized. If you are active in yearly meeting here, you see that it is not a small number or minority of ym Friends who are supporting their work. Many do. For every Friend you see on the Board, or see in a mission somewhere, there are circles and circles of loving supporters. The flavor of the yearly meeting (language used, prayers, substantial Bible Half Hour attendance) is Christian, something many first-time attenders moving here from Pennyslvania or coming from one of our liberal meetings find startling. If you attend the FGC Gathering in July and then NEYM Sessions in August the difference in feeling is just enormous. Some even decide Sessions isn't for them, which is unfortunate.

The yearly meeting is beginning to work on a purpose statement of its own, or a vision statement or something like that. Our umbrella organizations' purpose statements will probably come under more scrutiny and examination during that process and become more widely known. I read some questioning of the purpose when I look at FUM blogging. Are we too mission-oriented? Do we need to give more attention on our own churches and spiritual life at home? Anyway, mostly Friends who aren't thrilled with FUM here tend for the most part to ignore the Richmond Declaration and the purpose statement. They can't so easily ignore the personnel policy.

The question comes up, in one way or another, of whether we can have more influence for change as a yearly meeting by leaving or by staying. There's not much energy for leaving. That's a fringe position, I'd say. Too many people love the Christian home Friends find in FUM, and love the people who love it. As I read the internal conflicts within FUM, I think it's in more danger of folding up itself than it is of losing New England Yearly Meeting any time soon.

I consider myself a Hicksite universalist Friend with a profound appreciation of the essential teachings of Jesus and the Christian message as carried out and developed by Quakers. I've been enriched by the presence and spirituality of my FUM-centered Friends; they've kept me in a Christian influence I wouldn't have otherwise. I think they've been opened up and broadened by being in partnership with those more at home in FGC. Dual yearly meetings have richness and vitality as well as disagreement. Sometimes I have to remind myself of that.

Cat, I've ordered the recording of the Bible Half Hours and will listen carefully to see if I overstated the directness of Peter's objection to the Declaration. I don't think I did. It's true he spoke briefly. But I think what he said on the Declaration took courage and I know there were those present who didn't like it and let him know it. He told me so.

I apologize for commenting anonymously. I'm new to the blogosphere and a bit shy of putting my name on the web, especially here, given the position I hold in the yearly meeting. I am committed to making any anonymous posting as respectful as I would something to which I signed my name. Also, I keep getting the message that my password isn't right. I know it is right and am too inexperienced with Google accounts to know how to do anything about that.

Bill Samuel said...

In my last comment, I left a number of words out in my description of groups which left the 2nd group unclear. It should have been "groups (maybe not always minorities - is this why SEYM disaffiliated?) which are hostile or at least unsympathetic to FUM"

Another point I was reflecting upon as I did my grocery run. The difference between inclusiveness being seen in a polarized fashion and it being seen in an unpolarized fashion.

The liberal Quaker-UUA-UCC approach to gay and lesbian issues tends to be very polarizing. It takes strong stands and explicitly or implicitly is very derogatory towards those who disagree. It may be inclusive to gays and lesbians, but it is definitely not inclusive to those with a different view of right relationships. I don't know how many times I've heard about unity by intimidation in Quaker meetings. The other view is so demonized that people who hold it don't feel free to speak, and many just leave.

Having left liberal Friends, I'm now part of a community that puts a very high value on inclusiveness. It is not polarizing. The church is not taking "positions." It is just welcoming everyone into participation. So gays and lesbians feel warmly accepted and can play any role in the church, but the church can also embrace people with widely differing views on same-gender relationships. In the culture of our church, that one may not agree with such relationships does not mean one does not welcome those who are in those relationships.

I think our pattern would be a much easier one for many Friends churches to accept.

I realize that one of the attractive features of Friends, weddings being public expressions of the whole community, may make this difficult. It is much easier in other churches, where weddings are private, to just not have a position on same-gender marriages. I don't know quite how to deal with this tension.

leftistquaker said...

I have blogged on the topic "Is the Light "Christ"? A Central Divide in Quakerism" at http://blog.360.yahoo.com/charley03

Anonymous said...

Friend Marshall
you said,
Thus, if someone divorces her- or himself from the historical Jesus, it is quite reasonable to take it as a warning sign that what she or he calls the "Light" may well be something other than what Quakerism means by that term.

I am remained of the story in Mark
9:38-41, John said to him, "Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us." Jesus replied, "Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us. Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.

I know of many unprogrammed Friends who do not walk with Christ like you and me. But Christ walks with them in, driving out the demons racism, sexism, homophobia , war, prison reform, working for the rights of children.
Many of these friends have
given me a cup of water to drink
(a listening ear) when I was going through a dry period among Friends. All this in the name of Love which for me is the incarnation of Christ.
Whether one understands this as divine love, Jesus, fellowship, affection, or the
Spirit of Christ, it is still love. We are, however, bound loosely, and this gives
us freedom to develop as individuals and to change shape as we grow in grace,
service,and wisdom.
What I love about finding the Sovereignty of Christ today is,
the One who is Truth and Love sits with me at the table when I break bread with other Christians.
The Eternal Life and Power prays with me in waiting worship with the non-theist Friends,
Yes, the Sun/Son of Righteousness and Prince of Peace march with me for peace and justice with
AFSC Friends.
Paul R

Carol said...

I'm very interested to read of NEYM's sessions this year. Especially so, since I was unable to attend my own yearly meeting's sessions at Silver Bay in July.

I'm grateful to Cat and Peter for posting and for everyone's comments. But, Bill, for the record, SEYM has not disaffiliated with Friends United Meeting. Indeed, Lisa Stewart was very much in evidence at the FUM Triennial in High Point and made a report at a plenary session about her experiences this past spring in Kenya, working with Eden Grace and John Muhanji.

My understanding of what SEYM Friends have done about their relation to FUM has been to give themselves a sabbatical from discussing it. I believe the sabbatical period is two years.

Friends might be interested to read SEYM's epistle for 2008. Much of it is devoted to their laboring: http://72.14.205.104/custom?q=cache:zEjXXn8Od9EJ:www.seym.org/Epistles/SEYM%25202008%2520Epistles.pdf+friends+united+meeting&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=2&gl=us&ie=UTF-8

And while it can be said that the Richmond Declaration was a foundational document for the Five Years Meeting that became Friends United Meeting, it was never universally accepted by those participating in the Five Years Meeting. As I recall, New England Yearly Meeting never accepted it, even though Rufus Jones was involved in its creation (I think I have that right. I'm open to correction on that.)

As I am coming to understand the history of FUM, it's looking to me like the Richmond Declaration was born in the midst of contention, and instead of resolving that contention became a further source of contention itself.

Kyrie Eleison.

Bill Samuel said...

Well the SEYM epistle describes their relationship with FUM in a different manner than the actual minute of last year which states they were suspending their membership for 2 years, after which it would be automatically terminated unless they made a decision otherwise.

Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

Here's a click through link to the SEYM Epistle for 2008 which Carol mentioned, in the form of a pdf file.

Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

And here is a click through to a page (maintained by Bill, I note) on the Friends United Meeting website which contains the 2007 SEYM minute he was referring to.

You do have to scroll down the page a bit to find it. The Epistle does seem a bit softer in tone, so perhaps the "sabbatical" SEYM is taking has been a good thing for them.

Difficult though our sessions were this year, it is my impression that it is highly unlikely that NEYM will take a similar path. My sense is that our feelings of connection to FUM are deepening, as is awareness of it and of the ways it is "more than a personnel policy," as I heard said more than once.

Marshall Massey said...

Dear Paul R,

The logic of your comment puzzles me a little. I am not aware that I have tried to prevent anyone from driving out demons in Jesus's name. Nor am I aware of anyone who divorces her- or himself from the historical Jesus, and at the same time performs mighty deeds in Jesus's name. Nor am I saying anything against anyone who gives one of Christ's disciples a cup of water because she belongs to Christ.

It seems to me that from your point of view, the pivotal part of the passage you have quoted must be Mark 9:40: "he who is not against us is on our side." So let me suggest to you that the pivotal question is whether someone can divorce her- or himself from the historical Jesus, without being against the historical Jesus. I am not saying that the answer is an automatic yes or an automatic no. I am simply saying, as I said before, that is quite reasonable to suppose that there may well be a problem here.

All the best,
Marshall

Anonymous said...

Thanks Friend Marshall
for your response…
Much of my pass statement is a Stream of Consciousness.
As a Quaker something’s are becoming very clear to me..
First I am moving away from Hyphenated Quakerism.
I do not consider myself a Quaker Christian because I think the term redundant. Christianity is part of our religious heritage and I am not willing to relinquish it to those who would use it as a bludgeon.
Christ is sovereign no matter what worldview we have, whether we are faithful or not, whether we acknowledge there is anything beyond human experience or not, and whether we work for or against justice. We are Quakers, I believe, when we live and love in the power of that sovereignty. Christ need not be believed in to be joined.Perhaps Christ believes in us far more than many of us believe in him.
Paul R

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