March 26, 2007

Unraveling the myths about Convergent Friends

When I finally had half a minute to talk with Robin in Boston about her experience at FWCC's Section of the America's gathering in Providence, Rhode Island earlier this month, something she said took a hold of me:

Friends are continuing to ask about, or assume that, Convergent Friends is an internet phenomenon; and there is a concern that the cyber-era of blogs will restrict others who are not connected to the blogosphere from engaging in the conversation.
With three hours of time to whittle away in the airport between flights on my own way home from Boston, I found myself scribbling some thoughts about myths that are already floating out there about Convergent Friends and what, if anything, I have to say about them.

One thing I have come to understand about myths, though, is that more often than not, there is a kernel of truth in even our grossest "myth-perceptions." I hope to root out some of that truth and unravel a myth or two along the way, while also demystifying what it is about Convergent Friends that has some of us confused.

Myth 1: Convergent Friends are only on the internet.

TRUTH 1: The passion for Quaker renewal, around which Friends from across the branches are... converging..., has in fact gotten a big boost from cyberspace and the internet. There's no denying that fact. The internet has helped many of us participate in and be witnesses to a phenomenon that is out there among us.

UNRAVELING THE MYTH: The phenomenon and the miracle of transcending the schisms that we have in our history is taking place because of the people in our meetings, not because of the computers in our living rooms.

Friends in our worship groups, in our monthly meetings, in our yearly meetings, and in our institutions are carrying the concern and are helping advance the conversation about deepening our understanding of our shared Quaker heritage.

Maybe the word "convergent" isn't attached to these particular conversations, but when we lay aside the words, we may recognize the movement of the Spirit, blowing across the branches and across our differences, blowing in the same direction... to paraphrase Robin M.

Myth 2: Convergent Friends is a new thing.

TRUTH 2: The word "convergent" is in fact new to most Friends.

UNRAVELING THE MYTH: The passion and the concern to transcend our differences existed before the word "convergent" ever made its appearance in the Quakersphere.

We may need to look at and learn more about organizations, institutions, gatherings, and print materials that have been pursuing this work or have been otherwised engaged in it before the internet became such a hot phenomenon. For example:
  • Friends World Committee on Consultation,

  • any number of Quaker colleges in the U.S.,

  • Earlham School of Religion,

  • Pendle Hill,

  • Woodbrooke,

  • Quaker Books,

  • the World Gathering of Young Friends,

  • the Quaker Women's Theology Conference (written about in this Pendle Hill pamphlet),

  • Friends Journal (of note is the October 2006 special issue focused on "What Are Friends Called To Today?")

  • and

  • the Pendle Hill pamphlet series
  • .

    Myth 3: Convergent Friends want to purge Quakerism of nontheists.

    TRUTH 3A: Some of what some Friends are wrestling with might be less difficult if all Friends shared a belief in the Divine, but that is not the same as saying nontheists Friends don't or shouldn't have a place at the table.

    TRUTH 3B: I myself believe in a Divine Principle, and it is hard for me to engage in certain threads of the conversation with Friends who are nontheist or polytheist. Maybe the reverse is true. There certainly are times when I don't "get" nontheist Quakers. There is a difference, though, between not seeking someone out for counsel and "purging" them from the community.
    QUESTION: As Convergent Friends dig more deeply into our Quaker heritage and Christian/Spirit-oriented roots, we frequently turn to one other to wrestle with or grapple with ideas that seem to run counter to our current understanding. Do nontheists not feel included in the wrestling...?
    UNRAVELING THE MYTH: Not all Convergent Friends on the internet or in our meetings believe in (one) God, and some of these Friends may not see themselves as Convergent but are contributing greatly to the conversation. A few examples:
  • SPLICE?, in which Pam wonders if Love is a testimony;

  • Christian language and Tolstoy's onion, by Peter; and

  • The place of the past in the Quaker present, by Zach.
  • By the nature of these posts and the number of comments in response to them, it appears to me that nontheist Friends, Quaker Pagans, and others are indeed part of the body.

    Myth 4: Convergent Friends is a Quaker melting pot.

    TRUTH 4. There is indeed a form of "coming together" among Friends from the different branches who are finding tTruth in what we are sharing.

    UNRAVELING THE MYTH: My experience has been that we are encouraging Friends to participate faithfully and fully in their own tradition, to retain it for as long as there is Life in it, whether that tradition be programmed, semi-programmed, or unprogrammed; Evangelical, Conservative, or Liberal; Christ-centered or universalist.

    I continue to believe that the more firmly rooted we are in our own tradition and belief, the less threatened we will be by those who practice and believe differently from ourselves, and the more open we will be to learn from one another without fear of being assimilated, converted, or imposed upon.

    Myth 5: Convergent Friends must be Christian.

    TRUTH 5: Many of us are Christian, some of us are not. I've written about my own wrestling with this myth-perception previously.

    UNRAVELING THE MYTH: All of us who have been seeking to delve more deeply into Quakerism and share our faith more fully seem to care for the condition of the Religious Society of Friends and how Quakerism is expressed within in our tradition, in our own monthly meetings, and across the schisms. Whether or not we are Christian does not seem to impact our desire to be faithful to how we are called.

    Myth 6: Because these myths are out there, that's a problem for Convergent Friends to address.

    TRUTH 6: If Friends still carry the perception that Convergent Friends is an internet-only phenomenon, that you have to be Christian to be part of the Convergent Friends movement (if that's what this is), that there's no place for nontheist Friends, etc., then it IS our problem.

    Those of us who share our concerns primarily via the internet need to help carry the message away from the internet so more Friends may have access to it.

    UNRAVELING THE MYTH: And those of us who are not on the internet as much as others need to broaden our own field of vision and consider that our personal experience may not in fact mesh with the intention of those who are actively engaged in the conversation.
    Thanks, as always, for reading me.

    Blessings,
    Liz

    RELATED POSTS and MATERIALS:
    (as if there weren't enough links scattered throughout the post already!)

  • C. Wess Daniels' article in Quaker Life

  • 2006 FGC Gathering interest group on Quaker renewal and being "on fire"

  • 2008 FGC Gathering interest group on where the Convergent conversation is now

  • (Added just a few days after posting this essay) Robin's initial thoughts about revisiting the definition of convergent
  • 34 comments:

    Heather said...

    Hi Liz,

    I wanted to let you know first that I really appreciated your comment on Kristen's blog. How refreshing is it to hear someone online ask what kind of response they want! I often hear this among local Friends, but have not seen it often on the blogosphere. It's a good reminder that we can still be Quakers online, and not fall into bad Internet habits.

    I've had my own struggles with the idea of convergence. I heard it described as a coming together of the Christian part of liberal Friends and the liberal part of Conservative and/or Evangelical Friends, and I thought, "Well, what about the liberal, universalist wing of liberal Friends and the conservative wing of conservative/evangelical Friends? Are we chopped liver?"

    I'm happy about Friends coming together, no matter how or where we do it, and I understand the need for focus groups and fellowship with Friends facing the same issues. I just don't like it when I'm excluded.

    I think what you're really up against, though, is the unpleasant experiences that many of us have had with mainstream Protestant exclusivist groups. These myths exist because the message of convergence touches fears created by these old experiences. Like the national government we're currently suffering under.

    Anyway, I'm not too sure about this whole convergent thing, but I am certain I want to stay in fellowship with those Friends who are into convergence. Thanks for telling me that I'm not going to be excluded because I'm not (ever) willing to sign a statement of faith (even if I agree with it).

    quakerboy said...

    Wonderful post, Liz! While there is much to speak to in what you write, I would like to address the issue of Convergent Quakerism being only an internet phenomena.

    This past Firstday, I made available Robin's handout that she produced for the recent FWCC Gathering. My hope is to get some dialogue going among Friends here in Greensboro.

    It seems that even in a city with a large population of Quakers such as Greensboro we know little or nothing about each other in our various Yearly Meetings.

    So, to that end, I plan to put together some sort of get together for Friends in various Meetings around the city. I've already spoken with some Friends in FUM who are very interested in helping with this venture.

    If the convergent Friends movement is to get beyond the net, we must make it happen.

    Now why does the song, "Getting to know you....getting to like you..." keep running through my mind :-)?

    Love and peace,
    Craig

    James Riemermann said...

    I recognize your right to use the word convergent as flexibly as you wish, though this is complicated by the fact that you seem to not *quite* consider yourself to be convergent. Your efforts here have a parallel in my own insistence that Quakerism does not require theism, because genuinely nontheist Quakers exist. This is a simple fact of contemporary living Quakerism, for better or worse. For better, I think.

    But some of your myth-busting efforts seem contrary to the way most self-described convergent Friends describe themselves. This movement, if it is a movement, has been clearly informed by a strong sense that liberal Quakers are too liberal, too theologically diverse, too individualistic--and nontheistic Quakers, along with Buddhists, pagans, Wiccans, and others have often been trotted out as prime examples of this "too-ness." The description you rightly challenge--a coming together of the Christian part of liberal Friends and the liberal part of Conservative and/or Evangelical Friends--echoes the first blog post that used the word. And it has been echoed on many blogs of those who most clearly affiliate themselves with convergent Quakerism.

    This is not a mere "kernel of truth" to the myth, but a central thrust to convergent Quakerism as described by its main proponents, and I'm against it. I think it is absolutely the wrong direction for liberal/Hicksite Quakerism, which is the branch of Quakerism I belong to. If drawing closer to FUM or EFI Quakerism means moving toward their orthodoxy, then I don't think it's worth the price. I think our creedlessness is a strength to be built on, not a weakness to be overcome.

    There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of sects that try to define themselves around adherence to theological beliefs. Liberal Quakerism is one of very few that explicitly does not. If it did, I could not in integrity be a part of this beloved community. Nor could hundreds, thousands, of beloved and faithful Friends, and I'm not just talking about nontheists here. In fact, Liz, I think I'm talking about you.

    Dave said...

    In response to those who oppose convergence: I had the opportunity to attend the Section of the Americas of FWCC. I shared more in common with those of other Quaker traditions than I could have imagined. Granted, the people who attend FWCC are the ones who want to find our commonality.

    What I found interesting was my reaction to the description of evangelical Friends who consider FWCC to be a distraction from spreading the Gospel. I found myself saddened at their refusal to join us at the table of listening.

    So when I read comments that convergence - which I interpret as finding our commonality, of listening to each other’s faith - is something to be theologically avoided, I am saddened. In our pride at being so “liberal” that we have no theology, we in FGC are quick to exclude those whose theology doesn’t match ours. In our fear of exclusion, we become the excluders.

    I am new to commenting on blogs, so if my tone or words are out of line, I apologize.

    Dave Chakoian

    James Riemermann said...

    Just to be clear: I absolutely do not want to exclude any Friend whose theology is greatly different from my own, or from that of most FGC Friends--including the more tolerant sort of evangelical Christians. What I oppose is a tightening of orthodoxy within FGC which would tend to exclude other Friends on theological grounds, in order to move toward unity with FUM or EFI.

    The only theology I care to exclude, is exclusive theology--theology that says, if you do not believe such-and-such, you are not one of us, you are not a real Quaker. It is not tolerant, to tolerate intolerance.

    quakerboy said...

    James writes: " I think it is absolutely the wrong direction for liberal/Hicksite Quakerism, which is the branch of Quakerism I belong to. If drawing closer to FUM or EFI Quakerism means moving toward their orthodoxy, then I don't think it's worth the price."

    It seems to me that the fear you have around FUM and EFI is no different than thier fear of liberal Hicksite Friends. Fear leads to fundamentalism whether that is Christian fundamentalism, Islamic fundamentalism or atheist fundamentalism.

    For me, the one thing that draws us together as Friends is that we have the understanding that we are "not there yet", that there is Truth which is to be discovered. The opposite of that is fundamentalism.

    As a gay man, I have much to fear in conversation with FUM and EFI folks. However, if I don't have dialogue with them and open my heart to thier viewpoint how can I ever expect them to hear and understand my viewpoint.

    Honestly, I welcome the coming together of liberal and conservative/evangelical Friends. There is much we can learn from each other. I applaud the reclaiming of the early Quaker spiritual path. But even more importantly, in my opinion, convergent Quakerism is all about dialogue and building bridges rather than walls.

    RichardM said...

    It seems that everyone's view on what convergence is is a little different. That's fine truth has the best chance of emerging in an atmosphere of give and take.

    I find myself agreeing with James and at the same time disagreeing. I've come to have a lot of respect for James' integrity and that's a big thing in my book. James speaks his mind as politely and fairly as he can without mincing words when he knows that other people disagree. I found myself agreeing with James when he said some people in the movement think some liberal Friends are too liberal and some evangelical or FUM Friends are too "Christian" and that the solution is to come together in the middle. I would certainly describe myself that way and it seems to me that similar sentiments are held by others. Where I differ with James is that I think this convergence on the center (liberal inclusivist Christianity with a distrust of notions) is just the right place to go. It doesn't exclude theistic non-Christians who are very close to this center anyway. And those at the further extremes--the exclusivist Christians among FUM or the avowed atheists among FGC--aren't purged. I don't seek to split from them or read them out of meeting. But I still want to articulate an open liberal experience-based yet minimalist consensus that the Inner Teacher is real and distinct from my own subjective thoughts and feelings and available to all and the same Teacher who has been leading faithful people across the generations for a very, very long time. This minimal theology isn't just negative ("We Quakers aren't fundamentalists.) But it does state what I believe and does offer a coherent explanation of why I practice Quakerism. It is the faith (minimal) behind the practice. And presenting this coherent picture, along with experience of the practice, along with the example of the gentleness and humility that characterizes the lives of those who follow the practice for many years all together makes an attractive enough picture to draw people in. If we can present a positive picture of who we are it will speak to "that of God" in others and they will be drawn to us. It is not a matter of excluding anyone. Excluding and condemning isn't the point at all.

    Liz Opp said...

    Thanks, everyone, for your comments thus far. I sense there is more to be said about Convergent Friends, perceptions that are out there, and how the Spirit is moving among us.

    Heather -

    I agree that "we can still be Quakers online." It may mean we have to be extra-cautious about keeping the secular, internet-crazed world at bay...

    You're rhetorical question about "liberal, universalist wing of Liberal Friends and the conservative wing of conservative/Evangelical Friends" seems to relate to some of the concerns that James raises in his comment.

    What I am wondering more and more about is if Convergent Friends are about speaking--no, LISTENING-- across the branches of Friends in addition to within the branches of Friends. Convergence among Friends may not be so much about preaching to the choir as it is about discovering the music of a different choir that has been there all along--and appreciating the differences rather than desiring to change or assimilate any of the voices, including our own.

    I also appreciate the caution that Convergent Quakerism may be touching on "the unpleasant experiences [from] mainstream Protestant exclusivist groups." I can't comment on that myself because I was not raised in that tradition, so that is not the lens through which I view Quakerism.

    Heather, if you were in Boston at the Weed Lecture, and engaged in talking with any of us about plans for dinner that night, I can say confidently that you would have received an invitation to come along. But if you fear you're being excluded, it's that much easier to view events through that lens and decide you're being excluded--and that, my fFriend, is an experience that I have been through...

    Lastly I'll say, among the blogs I've read and the few events I've been to, I have NEVER heard or suggested that those of us involved in the Convergent conversation consider signing a statement of faith. We are, instead, openly sharing with one another, our faith journeys among Friends.

    Craig -

    What a natural next step, to take a comprehensive handout like what Wess and Robin used (use the link in Robin's post) and get a discussion going about Convergent Quakerism!

    I have to add, since you and I both attended the Midwinter Gathering for FLGBTQC in which FUM, Conservative, and Liberal Friends all came together in Greensboro for fellowship and worship, that that event broke down many of the remaining stereotypes I was still carrying unknowingly.

    The thing is, once again, no one was there saying, "You're wrong" or "Hey, what about me?" And THAT wasn't even an event for Convergent Friends (see Myth 2).

    James -

    I really appreciate your taking the time to comment. It reminds me of the times I have spoken, reluctantly, with Liberal Friends about my own concern for not feeling welcome or for not feeling nurtured among them.

    You are perceptive to note that yes, I am reluctant to name myself as a Convergent Friend, though I suspect others see me as such. That said, I do see myself as part of the conversation... It's hard to distinguish between the two.

    What concerns me about the tone of your comment, though, is that you seem to overlook the movement of Convergent Friends to deepen our connection to our Quaker heritage--which includes practice as well as faith... and I myself don't count "faith" and "belief" as identical, just as I don't equate "creed" with "theology."

    I understand Quakers to have no creed (be creedless) AND to have a theology. And it seems to me that having a theology is different from having an orthodoxy, but now I'm treading into waters I don't entirely understand, so I best stop that particular thread.

    Here is where I can almost unite with you, James: Liberal Quakerism is one of very few religious sects that explicitly does not define itself around adherence to theological beliefs.

    The thing is, in my travels among Liberal Friends, especially in 2006, I began to understand that individual meetings define for themselves, as a meeting, what degree of "adherence" is expected, called for, or sought after.

    The meeting to which we both belong has found much fruit in welcoming nontheist, humanist, universalist, and Christ-centered Friends and seekers, but since Liberal Friends have no leadership-and-policy-setting body apart from our yearly meetings, I don't know that we can say whether Liberal Quakerism explicitly says anything. (FYI, FGC is a service organization, not a governing body.)

    On a different note:

    I don't recall having read from you what it is about Quakerism that you personally wrestle with, especially in light of the current topic. Is there any "kernel of tTruth" you yourself can observe or affirm from this ongoing conversation?

    Also: this morning I found myself realizing I don't know what of our Quaker heritage speaks to you personally; what nourishes you, grows you, helps you be faithful...?

    Of course it's not my place to insist that anyone share something that he or she is not ready to share. At the same time, I realize that apart from the nontheism concern, I don't really KNOW you... It's from that realization that I share my questions.

    (Truth be told, before I hit the "PUBLISH" button, I went back and re-read your piece I Am What I Am, which was featured a long time ago on Quaker Ranter. Reading that again helped.)

    James, I went back and forth with writing a reply. These issues are tender and complex. And vocal quality, eye contact, body language, and facial expression are all lost in this electronic medium, so I worry how my written comments may be received.

    That said, I felt great resistance in responding to you privately, and so I have spent the last few days simply holding what has been brought forward in these comments.

    And of course, I realize that our labor together will not end with a blog post or a thoughtful comment. The amazing thing for me, I must say, is how... reconciled... I have felt with thee over the past year.

    And that to me is a small miracle and a great blessing from God.

    ...As for replying to Dave, RichardM, and subsequent comments, I need to stop here and return to this conversation again as Way opens.

    Blessings,
    Liz

    Anonymous said...

    Friends may find unity through gathered worship and prayer which is the only place real process happens. This is not possible over the internet. Everything else is commentary and language. Blogging is a trend and interesting fun but not worship or process. Any perceived change by this means will be the purview of an elite.

    Laurie Kruczek said...

    I disagree with you, anonymous. The internet is much more than commentary and language. The internet is full of communities... communities that foster "real process" in the form of immediate communication. What begins as a small idea, a simple definition, may grow and influence many people worldwide. The internet is where I first learned about Quakerism, and the internet is what's allowed me to be connected to other Quakers, as well. It's about all I've got out here in my neck of the woods. I don't think I'm ready to cash in my love of Quakerism for some other church just because there aren't many Friends in my area. It is surely a blessing to be able to worship & gather with other Friends... a blessing of which I currently have little chance of. Do you care to change your definition of just who is elite?

    As for convergence... I define it as those Quakers who believe in God, whether that is defined for them by the Inner Light or Holy Spirit or as Jesus himself. For me, that may be a simple definition, but one I feel applies to most Quakers, and follows the teachings and leadings of the earliest Quakers.

    Good discussion, peeps.

    Laurie Kruczek

    Liz Opp said...

    Continuing with where I left off...

    Dave -

    So great to see you here! I didn't know you were at FWCC; maybe you ran into fellow blogger Robin....? I would have asked her to look for you had I known you were there...

    As I mention in my earlier reply (above), not all of "FGC" [sic] is "so liberal that we have no theology." As a service organization--with a focus on serving affiliated unprogrammed meetings in Canada and the U.S.--FGC's Central Committee approved adopting a Minute of Purpose as part of its long term plan:

    Friends General Conference is a Quaker organization in the unprogrammed tradition of the Religious Society of Friends which primarily serves affiliated yearly and monthly meetings. It is our experience that:

    * Faith is based on direct experience of God.

    * Our lives witness to this experience individually and corporately.

    * By answering that of God in everyone, we build and sustain inclusive community.

    Friends General Conference provides resources and opportunities that educate and invite members and attenders to experience, individually and corporately, God’s living presence, and to discern and follow God’s leadings. Friends General Conference reaches out to seekers and to other religious bodies inside and outside the Religious Society of Friends.


    Certainly there's some theology in that statement, though I use "theology" loosely in this case, since the statement is carefully worded around the phrase "It is our experience..."

    Clearly, there are many Friends wrestling with the inclusion/exclusion message of contemporary Friends. If we stay grounded in Love and if we are willing to live with the discomfort and conflicting tensions, we might find a Third Way opened to us.

    . . . * * * . . . * * * . . .

    Back to James -

    About the concern of Liberal Friends "moving toward unity with FUM or EFI," I wish to say that my understanding is that most (but not all) meetings within FUM and EFI (1) are programmed/pastored; (2) give more authority to Scripture than to personal and corporate discernment of Truth; (3) are more politically/socially conservative around issues such as gay marriage; and (4) have policy-setting bodies that impact their constituent yearly and monthly meetings.

    Given these points, and possibly a bunch more that I'm not aware of, I'm doubtful that Liberal meetings will draw closer to FUM or EFI Quakerism. If anything, individual Friends and maybe a handful of individual Liberal meeting will draw closer to Conservative Quakerism, to "conserving" (or reclaiming) certain traditions that are on the brink of disappearing.

    Craig -

    This particular sentence frames for me what the Convergent conversation has been about: "convergent Quakerism is all about dialogue and building bridges rather than walls."

    It also has been a way for me to look at and break down the stereotypes I had been holding against more Christian-centered, Bible-oriented Friends. And, even in my broad brush-stroking of the branches that I just offered, that does not account for individual Friends within each branch that break the mold.

    RichardM -

    WoW, I like this added way of considering what Convergent Friends might be striving for: "liberal inclusivist Christianity with a distrust of notions."

    That said, Richard or other Friends, can any of you say a little something about primitive Christianity and how that might tie in here? Thanks, Richard, for your thoughtful and thorough reply.

    Anonymous -

    I appreciate your caution and I believe many of us share it: the internet is not a place for Friends to engage in a Spirit-centered process.

    At the same time, I would say that what is happening in the Quaker blogosphere is more than "commentary and language." It's been an experiment in sharing our experience, our questions, our faith journeys. It certainly has opened doors that did not (readily) exist for me beforehand, and that experience has been priceless and worthwhile.

    By the way, it is not lost on me that you likely read the post and some of the comments before making a comment of your own. ...If you are wrestling with coming to terms with your own (emerging?) interest in the blogosphere, despite some caution against Quakers on the 'net, I hope you'll hold the question tenderly so you might understand if this online conversation is something God would open you to.

    Take care.

    . . . * * * . . . * * * . . .

    Laurie -

    Nice to see you here. I see your comment to Friend Anonymous draws on your own experience of how the Quaker blogs have grown you. Glad you've been nurtured here.

    Blessings,
    Liz

    Liz Opp said...

    This just in: Robin wishes to revisit the original definition of convergent Friends. Good timing. smile

    Blessings,
    Liz

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

    Not being a supporter of "convergence" myself, I've been hesitant to involve myself in this discussion. But a few points deserve to be made, and I don't see anyone else here making them --

    In response, Liz, to your Myth 3, and also to Dave Chakoian's comment: the very idea that "we want everyone to have a place at the table [of the Society of Friends]" strikes me as being a specifically modern-liberal-Quaker notion. The Society of Friends was not originally conceived as something that would automatically include everyone who wanted to call her/himself a "Quaker", and outside the liberal branch of Quakerism, it still is not conceived of that way. Many evangelical Friends do not come to FWCC events precisely because they don't buy into that notion of inclusiveness, and many FUM Friends come only because they view liberal Quakerism as still capable of finding its way back to the path.

    James Riemermann's comment -- "it is not tolerant, to tolerate intolerance" -- also needs some responding to, I think. We might recall that the Society of Friends was founded as a body of people committed to a particular project, "primitive Christianity revived" in William Penn's famous words. As such, the Society had no obligation to include people as members who were not prepared to join in that project. To whatever degree that the Society remains dedicated to "primitive Christianity revived" -- as it does remain, outside liberal circles! -- it still has no obligation to include such people.

    Not including those who are not joining in the project is not "intolerance", it is merely maintaining the Society's chosen focus. The secular world outside the Society is a big place, and there is plenty of room in it for people who are not prepared to join in the Society's project. It is not like (say) racial intolerance in the Deep South in the 1930s, which left destitute Southern blacks with no avenue of escape.

    In response to one part of "quakerboy" (Craig)'s comment: to equate fundamentalism with fear is far too simplistic. A lot of fundamentalism is wonderfully fearless of anything but God Himself (and "fears God" only in the positive sense of taking His Will with utmost seriousness). I absolutely love Charles Bowen's story of Henry Richards's missionary work in Africa, from The Fundamentals, Vol. III, p. 255, and I continue to see evidence of the same spirit in some fundamentalist quarters today.

    As should be apparent from these comments, I utterly disagree with RichardM's statement that "liberal inclusivist Christianity with a distrust of notions is just the right place to go". Christ's own Christianity was neither liberal nor conservative but prior to both; it was not inclusive nor exclusive but dedicated to a purpose which the rest of us were asked to make a choice about, either to join and help with or not. (It is significant that the Gospels record Christ as saying, both, "Those who are not with us are against us," and, "Those who are not against us are with us.") I personally think Christ's own Christianity is just the right place to go.

    But I appreciate RichardM's articulation of this concept, and Liz's endorsement of it, because it helps me understand what's going on here.

    quakerboy said...

    Friend Marshall,

    I'm not so sure that FWCC's goal is to be inclusive, but rather to come together and talk. So what if FUM participates only to return liberal Friends to thier idea of Quakerism? The question is not what are THEY doing, but what are WE doing?

    Many of those who particpate in FWCC do so out of the shear joy of fellowship and, at least for me, the desire to know about other branches of Quakerism. For example, it was through the FWCC that I learned of Holiness Quakers. How cool!

    Do I agree with Holiness Quakers, or for that matter, liberal Quakers? No! Is it important that I hear what they are saying and, in doing so, perhaps shed some of my sterotypes about them? Yes! My hope is that they would also learn of conservative Quakerism and shed some sterotypes about GLBT people (after all how many folks have ever met a quasi-evangelical/conservative Friend who happens to be gay).

    About fundamentalism and fear. I can only speak from the experience of growing up fundamentalist. Perhaps there are fundamentalist Christians that fear only God. The fundamentalists I grew up with feared everything...specifically change. It was a religion that was was fed by fear. Thus, they have easily played into the extreme-rightwing agenda of fear-mongering.

    Love and peace,
    Craig

    P.S. Would love to see you at NCYM-Conservative YM this year! You too Liz!

    Anonymous said...

    If the internet is not a place for Friends to engage in a Spirit-centered process, then how can it influence our Quaker process in any effective way if spirit-centered process is the most important part of the Meeting. Turn off the computer and go to meeting or call a friend.

    p.s. I've been emerging as a Quaker for thirty years.

    RichardM said...

    Liz,

    "Say something about how primitive Christianity plays into all this..."? That's a big one. I promise I'll get to it, but it might take me a few days.

    Liz Opp said...

    A few quick comments...

    Marshall -

    I so often appreciate the perspective you bring. Your comment here is no exception.

    For me, I make a distinction between everyone having a place at the table, convergent Quakerism, and syncretism.

    Clearly at the Convergent Friends dinner in Boston (see the end of this post), I experienced an event where everyone there quite literally had a place at the table (well, nearly everyone): Beanite Friends, Evangelical Friends, FUM Friends, Conservative(-leaning) Friends, Liberal Friends. (...I can't say there were in fact EFI Friends or Holiness Friends there.)

    What I mean by having a place at the table is that we can all hear one another in love and live into the really big questions about letting our lives preach. No single voice or theology dominates the conversation.

    Convergent Quakerism to me doesn't have to do with blending or fusing of traditions (syncretism). It has to do, in part, with shedding stereotypes as a result of opening ourselves to one another's experiences of the Divine and of Quakerism, and helping one another grow in our faithfulness to God according to our own tradition.

    And I think you also know from my other writings that I myself lean fairly heavily towards the okayness of drawing a boundary around "this is what it means to be a Quaker."

    The thing is, as a Quaker, I am doing what I can to abide by the sense of the monthly meeting as it discerns God's instruction while also seeking opportunity to lift up elements of Quakerism that seem to be endangered as a result of contemporary Liberalism among Friends.

    Sometimes I err on the side of being too silent or out of sight; other times I err on the side of being too vocal or visible.

    You have not walked with me the entire length of my journey to know of my own labor and exercise within myself as well as among Liberal Friends, but I am pleased to have you accompany me in the ways that you have, through the internet and, on occasion, in person.

    One last thought about this: There is, for me, a difference between inclusiveness (i.e. tolerance, as I understand that word) among Friends and formal membership among Friends. I know that not all Friends agree with me on that point, though.

    Craig -

    Thanks for the invitation to NCYM (Conservative) annual sessions. It's hard to imagine yet another trip during the summer, given my current commitments to a trip to Chicago (father's birthday); the FGC Gathering (Wisconsin); and the annual sessions of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative).

    But if I see a burning bush or if the Atlantic Ocean splits in two, I'll reconsider. wink

    Anonymous -

    Thanks for returning and giving me a chance to reply further.

    I will speak about my own experience with how the internet has influenced my Quakerism and my involvement in Quaker process. Perhaps others will share their own reflections on your question.

    First, as I understand it, Quaker process--both of worship and of decision-making--is grounded in corporate discernment--that is, a group of Friends come together, intentionally listening for God's instruction on the way forward, regarding a particular concern or item.

    So when I read Quaker blogs, I am not coming to engage in worship or in decision-making. But God still may speak to me through what I read, just as the words of George Fox's epistles most likely spoke to Friends and seekers of his day. And clearly his epistles, and the Light that comes through the words on the page, still speak to us in modern times.

    So early on, as I began to get involved in the internet (email and blogs), I began to think of Quaker blogs as a vehicle for electronic epistles--not always, but on occasion.

    But even Fox's epistles were not worship in-and-of themselves; they did not engage the Quaker decision-making process over a specific item either. But they answered that of God that had been residing in the hearts of Fox's readers...

    When I am impacted by what I read, when the Light finds its way into my heart so that I might soften and understand the manner of Love that I am newly called to, I am changed; my own manners are converted.

    And when I am changed, how I participate in the world and in my Quaker meeting is also changed. God does not wait only for us to arrive at MfW in order to change us in that weekly hour!

    We are available to God's Love at any moment; we are capable of being transformed at even the least expected time!

    That "least expected time" might well be while a new seeker is reading doing a Google search for Quakers; or while an experienced Friend is reading a series of blog posts of how God has moved through the lives of a number of adult young Friends...

    That said, if the computer were to get in my way of hearing God--as television had been doing in my life a few years ago--I would in fact leave the computer as I have left the television.

    It is very much why I do not travel with the computer when I attend Quaker events out of town.

    Thanks for giving me a chance to articulate these things. It's questions and observations like yours that can grow me and make me reconsider. I hope you are doing some reconsidering, too.

    RichardM -

    I get to ask for what I want, but that doesn't mean I'll get it--now or ever!

    Blessings,
    Liz

    Marshall Massey said...

    Craig, you wrote, "I'm not so sure that FWCC's goal is to be inclusive, but rather to come together and talk." Isn't that a distinction without a difference?

    To borrow FWCC's own words on the matter: "The purpose of the Friends World Committee for Consultation is to encourage fellowship among all the branches of the Religious Society of Friends." Such a goal cannot be achieved without inclusion. To have such fellowship as a goal is, automatically, to have inclusion as a goal also.

    FWCC was founded by people animated by the spirit of ecumenism that was so strong in the liberal Christianity of their day. FUM and FGC and London Yearly Meeting were on board in one capacity or another from the beginning, because they'd all been infected by that ecumenical spirit. (In FUM, the ecumenical spirit went all the way back to Joseph John Gurney himself.) But the Conservatives were slower to get on board, because ecumenism was no part of their traditional thinking -- conservatism is just not liberalism, after all -- and the evangelical Friends are a group that evolved away from Quaker ecumenism as it evolved away from FUM.

    Now, Craig and Liz both -- One good question here is whether ecumenism, the spirit of "let all of our household sit down at the same table", is valid. The answer is not an automatic "yes", even though (as Craig says) listening is a good thing.

    George Fox was not ecumenical; he never dined at a conference with the bishops of the Church of England and toasted good fellowship and a common understanding the way Joseph John Gurney did. Fox had a witness to maintain against the fallen church that precluded ecumenism, even though it never stopped him from listening to what people in that fallen church were saying.

    Similarly, Johan Maurer once told me that Lewis Benson told him, "I don't have an ecumenical bone in my body." Benson was an outstanding listener when he wanted to be, but he saw Fox's witness as being still valid today.

    Most evangelical Friends, a strong portion of Ohio (Conservative) Friends, and a growing fraction of FUM, now maintain a similar witness against various parts of the rest of the Quaker world, seeing those parts as fallen into apostasy. (And I might add that many FGC Friends return the compliment, seeing FUM and EFI as fallen into apostasy and being similarly disinterested in real fellowship.) This again precludes ecumenism, even though it doesn't preclude listening.

    If Fox, the early Friends generally, most evangelical Friends, many Ohio (C) Friends, and that growing fraction of FUM, have any measure of Truth on their side, that measure is to be found in their recognition that it becomes hard to witness against fallenness when you are busy cultivating good-fellowship with the fallen. The flip side of the picture, though, is that it is also hard to witness against fallenness when you're not even on speaking terms with the fallen. There is a desirable in-between place where the opportunity for witness is maximized -- a state of mutual respect without any inhibiting commitment to harmony.

    Liz -- no, dear friend, I have not walked with you the entire length of your journey. But neither have you walked with me the entire length of mine. Because of my sense that Friends of all persuasions are called to a living witness on environmental issues, and because of the opposition I've encountered from Friends communities of various stripes, I've felt myself for more than twenty years to be caught up in the middle of an unsettled quarrel, as to whether Friends are properly one ecumenical body or not.

    Suffice it to say that I've become persuaded that this actually is a fairly complicated issue, and that there is actually much more at stake on all sides than simply the opportunity for fellowship and listening.

    Paul L said...

    Re the discussion of "inclusivity", I've always liked this definition from Freedom Friends Church's comprehenisve glossary of Quaker terms:

    Inclusion:To be inclusive does not mean that you try and make your table a place where everyone wants to sit - But it does mean that you try and make a place at your table for everyone who wants to sit there.

    Marshall Massey said...

    Hi, Paul!

    If you're really inclusive, aren't you going to stop thinking of it as "your" table, where you are the one deciding what kind of table it will be?

    And if you do that, and then the evangelicals respond that they don't care to play the game with you, doesn't the same spirit of not-owning-the-table require you to honor their choice, and stop mocking them by setting a place for them that they don't want?

    Shawna said...

    I hope you don't mind if I butt in here. I am a member of Ohio Yearly Meeting (conservative).
    Marshall, some of us are indeed interested in spending (wasting?) our time talking about how much other branches of Quakerism have it wrong. Many of us are not. As a matter of fact, a growing number of us are very interested in convergent Friends, and some of us would even call ourselves convergent. I see convergence as what you describe as that "desirable in-between place" where we have an opportunity to communicate in "a state of mutual respect without any inhibiting commitment to harmony."

    For me, a convergent Friend is someone who is seeking a more authentic spiritual life (whether or not they currently acknowledge any belief in any God). They love Quakerism, and probably have a particular fondness for a specific branch of Quakerism. BUT they understand that "their" Quakerism is not THE final, perfect, unchangeable manifestation of Quakerism. They are willing to explore with other Quakers what it means to live in Spirit and in Truth. They love the strengths of "their" Quakerism enough to want to share them, and they respect other people enough to be willing to listen to them as they share the strengths of their "other" traditions. AND when/if they discover that something is True, they are willing to be Changed. I do not see convergence as an attempt to water us all down. I see it as a seeking/sharing attitude, done in love.
    That said, enough of us at OYM(c) are interested in exploring what it means to be a convergent Friend, that we are planning an evening program on the topic during our yearly meeting in Barnesville, Ohio, August 15-18, 2007. We don't know yet what day it will be scheduled for, but everyone is invited, whether just for the convergent Friends evening session or for the whole yearly meeting.

    Your sister in the kindom of God,
    Shawna Roberts

    Marshall Massey said...

    Shawna, it's a pleasure to hear from you.

    Kindly note that I have never said that all of Ohio YM regards other parts of the Quaker world as being in apostasy. Certainly a strong portion leans toward that position, and I have been pleading here for a better understanding of their concerns. But I do understand that Ohio YM includes Friends with a diversity of views, including some who are taking a keen interest in the idea of convergence, and I believe I have phrased my comments here accordingly.

    quakerboy said...

    Marshall,

    You and I seem to have differing definitions of "inclusive". However, I think it would be pointless to argue definitions.

    If your definition of "inclusive" is our working definition, then I agree with you to some extent.

    What is hard for me is finding that balance between being open to the Spirit in places other than my own path and being faithful to the path I have chosen, namely Christianity. I struggle with that every day. I don't want the dogmatism and arrogance of the "Christianity" in which I grew up. Yet, for me, the most important thing in the world to me is my relationship with Jesus.

    The example I try to follow is Jesus when he encountered the woman at the well. It seems he broke all the rules by talking with her. She was a Samaritan and a woman. What the heck was a good Jewish boy doing engaging her in converation?

    Yet, Jesus was firm with the Truth. He found that balance that I seek.

    Do I believe that Conservative Quakerism (and the interpretation of Quakerism as defined by Benson) is Truth? Yes, of course. I believe that the closest we can get to early Christianity today can be found within Quakerism.

    Yet, for me, Quakerism is secondary to my faith in Jesus. It is a big tempation, I think, for those of us who are conservative Friends to equate Quakerism with Christianity. I think Benson does this somewhat. The Quakerism I know and hold dear is "the finger pointing at the moon, not the moon itself."

    Anyway, enough rambling. I'm still trying to figure all this out and am thankful for folks like you who challenge me to go deeper in my understanding and become clearer in what I believe.

    Perhaps, with Paul, I should attempt to "know nothing but Christ, and him crucified." If that is true, then it really shouldn't matter if I fellowship with EFI, FUM, FWCC, FGC or whatever. As long as I uphold Jesus' teachings, listen to the Spirit and walk in Love then everything should come together.

    Again, thank for making me think Marshall. I appreciate any words from weighty Friends.

    Love and peace,
    Craig

    Cathy H. said...

    All,

    As I was lying in bed one night, this particular internet conversation came back to me. (I'm new to the Quaker blogosphere, ever since the FWCC workshop on Convergent Friends.) I immediately thought of the verse "In my Father's house there are many rooms."

    The way I understand Convergent Friends is that many of us have found ourselves coming into one particular room in God's house, despite the fact that we may have previously been in quite different rooms. We didn't create this room, and we cannot say who may or may not enter the room. Our attempts to "define" the convergent movement are really feeble attempts to describe our experience of the room. It is not "our" room, but God's.

    Everyone searches to find the room to which he or she is called. Sometimes a call to one room lasts a lifetime, but sometimes a person is called to leave a former room in search of a new one.

    Those who are not called into the room we've called "Convergent Friends" are not being excluded. They are simply called to be elsewhere. Because one room feels right for me, does not mean I think it should be right for everyone. I leave that kind of judgment to God.

    At the same time, those of us in the room do ourselves and others a disservice when we pretend that our room is big enough, or inclusive enough, to hold people who feel a different kind of call. We can't change the room. It is not ours, but God's. We simply find ourselves there, and we rejoice when we meet others who have arrived before or after us.

    Knowing which room is my spiritual home does not prevent me from wandering around the halls of God's house, discovering the other rooms and people who live there. In fact, such journeys can be very enriching, especially when I listen for the voice of God speaking to me through someone quite different from myself.

    Praise God always!

    Cathy Habschmidt

    Liz Opp said...

    I am so very grateful to all the Friends who have stopped by and have contributed to this ongoing conversation. Points have been raised that I would never have considered; other themes have been touched on that have been alive in my own heart.

    And since the conversation has gone on while I had needed to absent myself from it, rather than respond to what's been added in the meantime, I wish instead to acknowledge the thoughtfulness and gentle sharing that has occurred here.

    I am grateful that the Love we reach for in our day-to-day lives somehow emerges here in cyberspace as well, despite the complex questions with which we wrestle.

    Blessings,
    Liz

    "It is sometimes difficult to remember that love is a gift of the Divine Spirit and not simply a human emotion. As imperfect human beings, it is not always possible for us to feel loving toward one another, but by opening ourselves to the Light Within, we can receive and give love beyond our human abilities.

    Relationships among meeting members take time to evolve. Sometimes misunderstandings develop. When differences arise, they should not be ignored for the sake of superficial unity. We believe disagreements which might divide or disrupt a meeting can be resolved through human effort and divine grace, and may result in a stronger and more creative meeting. True harmony depends upon each persons deep respect of and faithful attention to the Divine Spirit within us all. We endeavor to practice humility, attempting to understand positions of others and being aware of the possibility that we may be mistaken."


    --from the Advices of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative), "Harmony within the Meeting."

    Anonymous said...

    I'm a member of Ohio Yearly Meeting and on 8th Month I'm going to Barnesville for a couple events including Yearly Meeting. I don't know anything about this "Convergence Friend" meeting that someone said is going to take place. When I read all this diaglogue on these blogs I'm left scratching my head. What's this discussion all about? Trying to figure out how to reconcile people who believe in Christ with those who don't? If someone is a true Quaker, he or she will also be a Christian. Quakerism was described by Friends on its founding as "primitive Christianity revived." There was no concept that someone would claim to be a Quaker and not believe in God, Christ or the Bible. I'm still baffled by "liberal" Quakerism and its ideas. Apart from unprogrammed worship and endorsing a few historical tenets of Quakerism like non-violence, there isn't much about liberal Christianity that resembles original Quakerism. So if "convergent Quakerism" means incorporating unchristian elements and unbiblical elements in the religion I practice, then count me out. The apostasy has gone on way too long. Quakerism was founded to counter the apostasy in the churches of its day but instead, Quakerism has been consumed by apostates for the last 150 years.
    A purification in beliefs and practice needs to be undertaken to make Quakerism live up to its original self-moniker of "primitive Christian revived." And remember what the term "Friends" means: Friends of Christ. "You are my Friends if you do what I command." Jesus commands us to practice righteousness and to not practice sin. Tolerance is a nice concept in theory but there's one thing that shouldn't be tolerated: sin.

    Liz Opp said...

    Dear Anonymous Reader-Commenter,

    Thanks for taking the time to raise your questions and concern.

    Like you, I find myself scratching my head at times. I seldom understand how atheists can be Quaker, though I often see atheist and nontheist Friends act with amazing Love in difficult circumstances and so I myself find I cannot reject them. I suppose that puts me on the Liberal side of Conservative Quakerism.

    On the other hand, like you, I fear that Liberal Quakerism is becoming very much "of the world" and is becoming highly secularized. I carry a concern for restoring within that branch our practices that are on the brink of going extinct: engaging mutual accountability and eldering; living into Gospel Order; seeking God's will and instruction and being obedient to it... I suppose that puts me on the Conservative side of Liberal Quakerism.

    As to the question of Convergence, it has NOT been my experience that Convergent Quakerism is about "incorporating unchristian elements and unbiblical elements" into Quaker practice.

    If anything, my experience with the Convergent thing has been about reaffirming the place of the Bible and of the Living Christ, the Light within Quakerism; my experience has been about restoring God to the center of our faith.

    Nontheist Friends, Liberal Friends, Evangelical Friends, Conservative Friends, and even Quaker pastors are and have been part of the conversation because we have chosen to wrestle with much of what you write about. ...A number of us started off by scratching our own heads, too!

    Reading about Convergent Quakerism though is like reading about Quakerism in general: we simply cannot understand it by reading alone. We must "come and see..."

    Blessings,
    Liz

    Yvonne said...

    One thing I love about the comments on Quaker blogs is that you all seem (for the most part) to be really listening to each other.

    I particularly enjoyed Cathy Habschmidt's comment about the many rooms, which also came to mind for me on reading the discussion. There's a joke based on that verse which I've always enjoyed, of which there is an ecumenical version and a multi-faith version. In the ecumenical version, a recently deceased person arrives in Heaven, and sees many rooms. One of the rooms has a closed door, and St Peter motions to him to tiptoe past. When he asks why, St Peter says "Oh that's the Plymouth Brethren in there, they think they're the only ones here." In the multifaith version, a recently deceased Pagan arrives in the Summerlands, and happily greets her Sikh, UU, Quaker, Hindu, and Jewish friends from her life on Earth. Then she sees a large wall, and follows it to see where it goes, but eventually comes back to where she started. She asks a passing nature spirit what it's for, and is told, "Oh that's the Christians in there - they think they're the only ones here."

    For myself, I find community where there are shared values between myself and others, whatever faith (or none) they happen to follow. I imagine George Fox would have found he had a lot in common with Orthodox Hesychasts, for example. Similarly, the Centering Prayer movement seems to have a lot in common with Quaker practice.

    As a child I was brought up in the Plymouth Brethren, and though my parents sheltered me from much of the worst effects of it, it has still massively affected my views of Christianity. Recently I had an encounter with Jesus (rather to my surprise) which effectively reintegrated the two parts of my spiritual heritage (Christian and Pagan). I have now started attending a Unitarian church, as this seems the only way to honour my rather Taoist understanding of life.

    I think the Quaker tradition of seeing 'that of God in everyone' and the patience and tolerance of Quaker process will eventually ease the factional differences (which I don't really understand, not being an insider). At least, I hope so, because I've always admired Quakers.

    blessings to all on your path

    Yvonne said...

    Oh, I meant to say - about the theist vs non-theist debate: it may be of interest to read about Buddhist non-theism, which holds that all beings arise simultaneously. The concept of all beings being future Buddhas seems to me to have a lot in common with the idea of 'that of God in everyone' and there are other parallels. The problem for the contemplative (according to Thomas Merton) is that after a while we realise that we no longer know what God is - but the blessing is that we realise It's a Who. As in the famous Hindu saying, "Thou art that".

    If anyone finds my eclectic references confusing, I apologise, but I find it exciting and encouraging to find parallels between traditions, which can offer insights that we might have missed due to cultural bias. That's not to say that we should collapse into saying they're all the same really; clearly they are not, and people have died for the differences. But there are parallels, and it seems important to me that dialogue for mutual understanding and respect should take place, in order to prevent the ill-treatment of those who differ in their views by those who hold to exclusivist or sectarian worldviews.

    Liz Opp said...

    Yvonne -

    I'm glad you found your way here, though you can tell the conversation has been going on for a while!

    Blessings,
    Liz

    Daniel said...

    I am confused by the term non-theistic Friend.
    If Friends think there is 'that of God in every person' then what do nontheistic Friends think is in every person, if not God?
    Also, to me the center of Friends meetings is worship. If some Friends don't worship because they don't think there is anyone to worship, then what do they do during worship?
    I am an inclusvist in the John Woolman sense and have also learned much from nontheists, so my questions aren't meant as negative but as seeking clear answers.

    Since I am not Evangelical nor conservative, maybe I am convergent:-)

    Thanks,
    Daniel

    Liz Opp said...

    Daniel -

    Like you, I am "confused" by how nontheist Friends engage in certain Quaker practices that are traditionally God-centered.

    The one thing that I can speak to is that nontheist Friends are more readily accepted and more active, it seems, among Liberal meetings than they are among Conservative or Evangelical ones. But even in Liberal meetings, there is some raising of the eyebrows and some fFriendly and not-so-fFriendly laboring over the topic.

    Contributing to this acceptance of nontheist Friends within Liberal Quakerism in the U.S., universalism seems to no longer be understood solely as something of the Eternal that is within all of us, the Turk and the Jew, the criminal and the do-gooder.

    These days, in the most Liberal of meetings, universalism has come to mean inclusivity of a great breadth of practices and beliefs.

    I do know, as well, that at least my home meeting used to labor with nontheist Friends when there was a request for membership sought out by a nontheist Friend.

    In addition, I have come across some of the clearest writing about being a nontheist Friend among Quakers at the Nontheist Friends website, especially one essay in particular, about being a religious skeptic, written by a nontheist Friend.

    Since I believe in an eternal Divine Principle, I can't help clear up your confusion about nontheist Friends. Hopefully some of the other essays on the above website can do that for you.

    Thanks for writing. It's important to keep the dialogue open and the questions fresh.

    Blessings,
    Liz

    Daniel said...

    Good Morning Liz,

    I just finished reading the George Fox biography, First Among Friends by Larry Ingle--and was somewhat amazed about all the disagreements among Friends even at the start, even when many of them were being sent to prison, some to die there. I guess its the nature of humans to disagree.

    Your comment about "an eternal Divine Principle," not only reminds me of Naylor's famous reflection, but also makes me think of Ralph Waldo Emerson's powerful spiritual experience he had when crossing a commons one evening. I re-read his experience at least once every couple of months.

    Thanks for the urls; I have been to the nontheist website. The impression I get is that James is intellectually convinced there is no Meaning to life but emotionally he still feels drawn to Meaning via behavior and emotion(that is my own paraphrase; maybe he would word it differently).

    That some modern meetings have nontheists, etc. versus Friends' early meetings where Fox verbally fought Perrot over the question of when or when not to wear hats!--What a contrast! Again, it seems balance is called for, not going to extremes. And that is what I get the impression of when I hear about "convergence," a getting behind semantics and forms to Spiritual Reality.

    In fact that is what first drew me to Friends--that at least idealistically the movement sought to avoid doctrinal strife and legalism but focused instead upon the transcendent experience of God and eternal ethics such as Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, Amos' tribute to justice,etc.

    I am thankful that you and others have these blogs where Friends and visitors can dialogue and grow in God's Spirit.

    Thanks for the dialogue,

    Daniel

    Liz Opp said...

    Daniel -

    You are welcome. I particularly resonate with this part of your comment:

    "Again, it seems balance is called for, not going to extremes. And that is what I get the impression of when I hear about "convergence," a getting behind semantics and forms to Spiritual Reality."

    What you call "balance" I have thought of in terms of paradox, as I've written elsewhere.

    Thanks for adding to the conversation.

    Blessings,
    Liz