Matthew Callow commented at the end of his discourse on liberal British Quakerism: "It often feels like we're trying to work something out in Liberal Quakerism, to resolve some great philosophical puzzle..."  I think his imagery is powerful and regret that no one on QQ has chosen to address it.

I would concretize Matthew's concept of liberal Quaker faith as a puzzle by viewing it as a zigsaw puzzle with some of the pieces missing!  What do you think the missing pieces are in the liberal Quaker faith puzzle?  Or, do you think the "missing pieces" are all there; we just have trouble putting them together?

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Do you have the link for his discourse ?

Reply by Matthew Callow on 1st mo. 5, 2020 at 8:00am [on QQ]

I am within the Liberal Britain Yearly Meeting tradition which I guess is very similar to Philadelphia Year Meeting, which I think Jon belongs to. In Britain, the ascendancy of liberal thought was apparent at the 1895 Manchester Conference, by way of the emerging leadership, who had the secular university education and exposure to ideas which their Evangelical parents were not.

By 1920 Britain (or London as it was then) Yearly Meeting was firmly Liberal, and in the 1960’s, the tolerant and  BYM was accommodating of, and increasingly influenced by:

  • Depth psychology
  • Feminism
  • Social / socialist Gospel
  • Universalism
  • Diverse philosophies

Some of these sat easier than others as the majority of Friends still identified as Liberal [Christian] Quakers. As way of holding things together, belief, or rather talk about belief has been marginalised in Meetings. Belief can be expressed, but tentatively, sensitively, provisionally, and as the BYM QF&P Advice goes:

Think it possible that you may be mistaken….  

Jon Watts uses the word “ministry” in the broad way have I have heard it used in more overtly Christian contexts. In the British Quaker , “ministry” is what we do when we stand and speak in Meeting for Worship.

Acts of service within Meetings are not thought of as “ministry” but “roles” to which f/Friends have been nominated to by Nominations Committees, and appointed by Local and Area Meeting for Worship for Business (NB: “Meeting for Worship for Church Affairs” is rarely used). Ministering to our local communities is our “social witness” and increasingly described as “activism”.

A few years ago I asked a Friend,

How’s your new ministry as an Elder going?

He replied,

I don’t really think of it as ministry.

His Quaker-Catholic wife interjected

Of course its ministry! You’re serving the Meeting

More traditional religious language causes tension among British f/Friends and “ministry” in the minds of some may equal “minister” in the clerical sense. There is also a real preoccupation with what is perceived a hierarchy, which unfortunately includes the roles of Elders and Overseers, which is an ongoing discussion and in some Meetings have been replaced with Worship and Pastoral Care Committees, which I do not think work very well.  

It often feels like we're trying to  something out in Liberal Quakerism, to resolve some great philosophical puzzle...

See the previous (just posted) item.

David Keel said:

Do you have the link for his discourse ?
Thank you William. I'm quite a novice on present day Quakerism. But was interested in what the subject was about.
I didn't get a notification email that a response had been made here. I don't know if I was meant to ? Just by chance I checked the forum.

I think a big part of that missing puzzle of a Liberal Quaker is not having the light of Christ as their guide.   

Jesus said :  But when he the Holy Spirit comes he will guide you into all truth (Gospel of John 16v13).  A lot of liberal Quaker beliefs seem to fall into the category of just human belief grasped out of thin air without the true guidance of the Holy Spirit or no backing in the Bible as their guide.   I don't believe that we are free to just believe anything we feel like,  but have to follow Christ as our guiding light.  We have to find and seek the truth as God recognizes genuine truth to be.   

I feel uncomfortable to say another Quaker is wrong because.they follow a more eclectic discipline. Don't put labels on faith.

Let's say instead that they don't typically call the Light "Christ", "Spirit," or "God", and thus lack any plausible way of making sense of the guidance they often, in fact, receive. So often they're led on baby steps along the paths they can make worldly sense of. This has disadvantages for the body of a Meeting; but also makes the Meeting more available to people from a secular culture that doesn't recognize any source of truth except experience & consensus (mostly the latter, alas.)

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