May 2, 2005

Quaker Ranter: an electronic ministry

A few days ago, I received word that the website Nonviolence.org needs a financial boost in a hurry. The same is true for the visionary individual who maintains that website and the companion Quaker Ranter blog.

For those who want to stop reading and right away get out your checkbook, an envelope, and a postage stamp, the snail mail address for the Nonviolence.org (or Martin himself) is:

     Nonviolence Web (or Martin Kelley)
     P.O. Box 38504
     Philadelphia PA 19104


Martin's presence in the blogosphere

Martin Kelley does a lot in the Quaker blogosphere:
• He's a supportive voice among other bloggers who are seeking and playing a part in a sort of Quaker renewal, each in her or his own way.
• He has posted a number of guest pieces on Quaker Ranter in order to lift up that Friend's message, many times helping knit the community around a rich topic of conversation.
• He has sent off private emails, no doubt to more than a few of us, to invite us to dig deeper, to labor with us, to encourage us, to minister to us.

For me personally, Martin has provided a model for how I might share my thoughts and openings in a context that allows readers and fellow bloggers to connect readily with one another; that connection in turn allows readers and fellow seekers to bring their thoughts, yearnings, and openings forward too.

An Opportunity to support a minister

But why am I writing about Martin the Quaker Ranter, when he can write for himself?

It's because he is in a difficult time right now and my keeping silent, simply hoping things work out, without my ever having to lend him more than an encouraging word, is counter to what a Friends' community is about.

For me, Martin is not a faceless webmaster that maintains a respected blog and peace website simply as a hobby. He is a Friend of conviction who is called to a ministry.

In today's times, this minister needs our attention and care. Please visit either of his websites, Nonviolence.org or Quaker Ranter, and consider if you are led to support Martin's ministry, be it his peace witness, his Quaker writings, his support of young adult Friends, or any combination thereof.

Issues of accountability

For those Friends who, like me, wrestle with the question of accountability as it relates to Quakerism and coming under the discipline and authority of a meeting, I thought I'd offer my thoughts around this question.

I understand that the word "ranter" in Quaker history refers to a 17th-century seeker who sought an authentic religion and direct experience with God but came under no discipline of any individual or body. (Martin has an excellent essay about Friends and Ranters that touches on today's spiritual individualism among contemporary liberal Friends.)

Over the past year, as I have read the posts on Quaker Ranter, I feel as though I have come to understand Martin as a minister rather than a ranter. Granted, Martin alludes to the lack of a home meeting that might provide him with healthy eldership, which in turn may, by Martin's own definition, categorize him as a ranter. In my Conservative-leaning heart, though, I'd at least consider Martin as a minister without a home.

Though less significant among contemporary liberal Friends, for Conservative and Conservative-leaning Friends, having a local Quaker community helps hold Friends accountable for the right use of their gifts, the right use of their ministry. In the current situation for many of us with Martin, knowing him "electronically" is not the same as knowing him as part of a Quaker meeting, as knowing him in that which is Eternal, so...

Who am I to declare whether this Friend has a ministry or not?

I am no one. Without a shared Friends community between Martin and me, I am no one. (I'm not sure the internet counts as a community, but I'm working on a post related to that idea...) That is: I have no authority, within the Quaker discipline, from a monthly, quarterly, or yearly meeting and so there is no Minute of Support which I can approve; no Funds for Sufferings that can be tapped.

And yet, Friend Martin has ministered to me. Has he ministered to thee as well? Are there others among us who can bear witness to Martin's gifts? Already a number of us have commented to Martin, thanking him and acknowledging his gift and ministry directly.

Let us continue to consider our individual leadings around supporting this Friend.

Blessings,
Liz

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Related reading

Robin Mohr shares some additional thinking about accountability in an online community in her guest piece on this blog.

Also, I have now posted more of my thoughts regarding the internet as a vehicle for Quaker witness and ministry.

5 comments:

Martin Kelley said...

Hi Liz, thanks for the kind words. I'm not even sure it's proper for me to reply (shouldn't I leave the room when you're discussing me?), so just a point of information: while I feel a certain sense of estrangement from my monthly meeting, I am a member in good standing. Prompted by the recent youth leadership nomination, I met with overseers last month to talk the range of work I've been doing and they were very pleased. They agreed to oversee the leadership grant disbursement and the following business session of the monthly meeting confirmed this support. While I'm not sure the meeting would feel comfortable with the concept of the recorded minister, they did minute their recognition and support of this ministry. Your recognition also means a lot to me, I am humbled by the friends that have come to my aid in the past week: what blessings!
Thy Friend, Martin

Robin said...

Martin,

I really, really dislike it when we ask people to leave the room during a discussion, having been on both sides of the door. I think that healthy community means being able to openly ask for and receive support or hear honestly why not. So I'm glad you're able to hear and receive the support of Friends.

However, I think that I, and perhaps other people, didn't want to comment on your situation over here, since I had already written over there. [Frustrating inability to make a proper link!]

I'm so glad to hear that your local Meeting is able to work with you to some mutually satisfying degree. Maybe this grant, although not what you had hoped for, is in fact just enough to help non-Internet-friendly people (which would have included me up until very recently) start to pay attention to what is actually happening. Have your local overseers had the Opportunity/ taken the time to read some of the expressions of support that came forward? Can you include them in some way in your reports on the results of your grant? In my world of non-profit fundraising, these are important for donors, since they "prove" the wisdom of one's grant by showing that other people made grants and wrote letters of support/testimonials to the same project.

Rant on my Friend, a new day is dawning.

Amanda said...

I wanted to thank Liz for lifting Martin up here. you said everything I could have said, but so much more clearly. I've mentioned before in other venues that the Quaker Ranter site was the spark that first lit my Friendly fire. I had been dabbling with the idea of visiting Friends but was unable to find the personal testimony anywhere that might give me a real idea of what Friends were (and especially what they have been and can be in the future.) In a long dry websearch on the subject, I came upon Martin's site by chance, and then stayed up all night reading all the posts. The very next First Day I wobbled my way into 15th street on trembling knees.

When I am old and weighty :) and writing my Quaker Memoir, Martin Kelley will be the minister I name in the obligatory scene of "Heard Preaching - Got Convinced".

Furthermore, all of the deep online relationships I have developed in the Quaker world, and nearly all of the other outstanding online ministers who deeply nourish and uphold my daily spirtual life, not the mention the Quaker boy I now love, were introduced to me through one conduit or another of Martin's site.

He is a minister, an advocate of young adult Friends seeking a deep and abiding faith, a good Friend to many, and a damn good writer on top of it all.

Much love and God bless us all,
Amanda

Liz Opp said...

Amanda and Robin, I couldn't have said it better myself.

From Robin: I think that healthy community means being able to openly ask for and receive support or hear honestly why not.

From Amanda: [Martin] is a minister [and] an advocate of young adult Friends seeking a deep and abiding faith...

Eileen Flanagan said...

Hello Friends. As someone brand new to blogging, I am happy to discover Quakers online. Generally I write about the relationship between my Quaker beliefs and everyday dilemas, especially as a parent. I've been trying to figure out who the audience is for my new blog www.imperfectserenity.com (mothers? Quakers?) and exactly what the focus should be. So far, my leading as a writer has been to make Quaker ideas accessible to a broader audience, but I have a sense that it would be helpful to know that some Friends were reading it and helping to keep my accountable (I do think that's an important function of community). So please visit www.imperfectserenity if you feel so moved and leave a comment.