I'm not sure I'm in the right forum as I belong to Lake Erie Yearly, but I would love to hear from my conservative F(f)riends their thoughts about unity among all Quakers in some formal rather than name-only fashion. More and more sects are being created when there should be room enough for all. Wasn't that G. Fox's original intention before the first big schism? I am not sure anymore what kind of Quaker leaning I gravitate to. It used to be so simple. 

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Hello, Missy,

You are in the right place. I am LEYM too, and I dearly love Quaker Quaker. I learn so much from Friends across the spectrum here. I feel like this is a safe place for Friends to sit together in worshipful space and teach each other what it means for them to be a Friend, and how they experience the Divine.

Thy Friend Paula (North Columbus)

Thank you, Missy.    It seems from what I've heard that  Conservative and Liberal branches of Friends might be more likely than some to "get together" whereas the Evangelical and Liberal branches would hurt each others' heart just constantly I think over issues such as homosexuality.  I keep hearing on this site from people who had enough problems with "the church" that they woudn't have even been able to stand Friends if there wasn't the Liberal branch that didn't require Christianity of them, etc. and in some cases years later they find that faith from a renewed place. 

Conversely, some of us Christians have found our definition of God to evolve over the years and as we become more full of love and peace for all branches of faith as they are, we find ourselves feeling more in common with those calling themselves non-theists than you might think!  (many who call themselves "non"s still believe in Divinity in some form but just not a white man on a cloud -- which they think is what theists believe). 

I agree with your sentiment that " I am not sure anymore what kind of Quaker leaning I gravitate to. It used to be so simple."      I feel like a super-progressive Jesus freak. I know how to get along in solidarity with Jesus people (and I get something I deeply long for from that) and I also know how to get along with people who are apparently falling off the liberal end of this spectrum, since this diverse world has shown me how much wider and deeper God is than I initially thought.  I don't know if we can more officially join one another, but I hope very strongly that the Conservative and Liberal Friends will not separate or divide any further.  I suspect that all of us would benefit from a Christ Light that was bright enough to allow for all the Buddhists, Jews, New Agers, mystics and "non-theists."

I think Pink Dandelion does a good job of covering the American branches of Quakerism in his A Very Short Introduction to Quakerism. I am glad there are different branches. It seems to me each accomplishes Good that the other branches could not accomplish. It does seem that what some people mean when they say they want one branch is that they want everyone to be Liberal Friends, and there are Good reasons why some people don't feel led there, nurtured there, or spiritually satisfied there. Just as there are Good reasons some people do.


I love Jesus and his teachings based on love and forgiveness, and my understanding of that message would not be fullfilled if I associated only with Christian Quakers. I think of myself as a Christian, but I also think of myself as a Universalist, a Taoist, a Seeker, and a Skeptic. I speak in Christian terminology mostly, but sometimes I speak with Buddhist or Taoist terminology. Sometimes I sound like I'm in the movie "Star Wars", referring to the "Force" when referencing the ultimate reality. When I pray, I think of Christ and how he wants me to live. But I know that is my choice and not a requirement. I am grateful for my liberal Quaker meeting, where all of this and more is enthusiastically embraced, and I am free to experience the reality of Christ (the Light, if you will) in all it's varied forms, whatever those forms take for me at any given time.

I think the message of Jesus is universal, and I can't imagine him being concerned about a label instead of the transforming power of Love. I think he believed that for all practical purposes "God is Love"' and I believe similarly. Where there is a life based on love, there is also God - no matter what the label, and no matter whether the individual labels the ultimate reality as "God". Jesus' goal was to bring us to a life of love. Shouldn't that be the primary goal of a Quaker meeting? Aren't all of our labels just "notions", to use early Quaker terminology?

Well, no, what label we use for God says something about how we believe the world works-- which should affect how we try to manifest "love". [& Certainly different ideas about what "love" means are going to affect what we try and how well that's likely to turn out.]

"None Of The Above" is one kind of statement about the world; "Doesn't Matter" is similar (and about as blasphemous as I could imagine, except that people who believe in D.M. don't realize there's Anyone there who does matter-- that they are forgetting and letting others forget where their true hope belongs.)

"Love"? "Love" is a Pakistani mother sobbing over her dead child. Heartbroken by the futility of anything she could do in the face of American violence. That really is an example of love, but in a world without Spirit, that and a couple bucks could just buy you a cup of coffee. The reality of Spirit changes everything. Given that, you can ask It, Itself, what would be best for you to call It, for now.

Having put this a bit harshly... It still needs saying.

'Love' is not God. 'God' is not human love, not futile love.

There are two problems with the notion of living in a world of particles without Spirit. One is that it simply isn't true. No matter how much organic material got itself up on legs, walked, talked, wrote down opinions of "What I Believe", there'd be nobody home in such a universe. Your own observation should disconfirm that!

Admittedly not relevant, if such a universe had been possible, if spiritless matter could have felt such an existence... Love would not have been tolerable, for anyone who truly cared what happened to anyone he loved.

I guess I'm just a simple guy.

Love, in all of its [agape] expressions, is the manifestation of Spirit. Jesus was consumed by Spirit (Love). And in that, he demonstrated the "way". Some need to be aware and consumed by him (Jesus) in order to manifest that same Spirit in their life. Others do not. Either way they are both consumed by the same essence (Spirit) that is eternal.

Love is one manifestation of Spirit... but not by any means the only one.

It isn't that people need to use the word 'Spirit'. When I was an atheist I had a sense of what that meant. But I had no idea that it was the living foundation of the physical universe.

And without that realization, what do people have to offer each other? The best we could do would be to huddle like children abandoned in a blizzard.

I think we are saying the same thing in essence.

Love is a deep well, and at its deepest levels, it connects everything together in a purposeful power of spirit that bonds all existence together in love; i.e., God - for the lack of a better word. It's just a matter of how deep one wants to go on this journey of Spirit.

Hello all,

Forrest, I love when you get on this soap box: 

Well, no, what label we use for God says something about how we believe the world works-- which should affect how we try to manifest "love". [& Certainly different ideas about what "love" means are going to affect what we try and how well that's likely to turn out.]

Because of this routine soap box I remain much more clear that it's not all the same thing, and I can have a little Forrest in my head going "well, no..."

The original post seems to speak to the idea of a possible movement in the hearts of the Conservative branch of Quakers toward unity.  I would support and LOVE unity between the Liberal and Conservative branches, I believe.  Both would have to know that change would happen when they were all mixed together, getting to know one another....but I love the idea that in the great progressive vision there would still be that which is pointing to God, to Christ, as the Maker of it all.  This is what I have found to be a fallacy in the Progressive vision. 

I feel God leading me to know that the truth includes "ALL THIS!" and yet as soon as people are open to all this! they are too often no longer interested in giving God credit for it and authority over it....as if God is the enemy of change, liberation, cosmic consciousness and inclusive kindness to all people.   

I'm sensing why it might be futile for conservative and liberal Friends to formally meet for sharing and discussion. The liberal Friends would say that it is the Spirit-led experience that matters, no matter what label is put on it. And the conservative Friends would say that only an experience labeled as a Christ-centered one counts as OK.

The problem is that in such a discussion the liberal Quaker's experience is then de-valued and judged as not of God, making a sharing based upon equal respect impossible.

And we are back to the original reason for the great Quaker schism when Elias Hicks preached that the experience of Spirit is the important thing. He stressed that reliance on the power of silent worship and the sense of the meeting for decision-making are the vehicles for the Spirit to operate freely among us - no matter what we labeled it.

In the liberal Quaker tradition I actually find that human intellect, doctrinal reasoning, and judging of others is frowned upon because they are not thought to be of the Spirit. I sense that perhaps if Jesus were among us in physical form today, he'd feel similarly. I certainly might be wrong about that - but that is where I've been led in my very real spiritual experiences that I've had sitting in silence in both conservative and liberal Quaker meetings for worship.

Hi Howard,

Just to blur the lines though I want to make sure you are clear that I am one of the Liberals!  I think Forrest may consider himself one as well (at least if you look at his posts you might start to think so).  I am all kinds of New Agey.  I believe in stuff that is too liberal for most liberals.  However, that said, I have also found from life experience that Christ matters.  

Hold the knee-jerk reaction(s) for a moment though and let me offer this understanding (one that you and I may have in common).  I don't believe Christ is a word.  Christ is an energy of Divine love and as with any monotheistic, positive faith approach that has integrity it must apply in general to all peoples, not just Christians.  So I believe a devout Hindu can be living fully in the Light of Christ (Gandhi certainly lived this) and any number of other approaches that don't use the word Christ, such as Buddhism, may also include any number of sincere followers who are fully living in that Light.

Likewise, with God.   God is not a word, God is the meaning behind the word.   But I do not define this meaning as one limited thing.  I certainly don't define it as a white guy on a cloud as some non-theistic Liberals seem to think God-people are doing.  The closest I can get to my personal definition of God is to to say: there is that which is the most intelligent, most loving Energy in existence.     

My understanding of Conservative Quakers is that they have the goal of subjecting all to the Divine Light of Christ with openness to where that leads them.  Sometimes into radical inclusiveness of very divergent perspectives.  My comments above were not about Liberal friends who worship "the Ultimate Source" by some name or another, but were instead about the great tendency among many of us Liberal Friends, myself included, to water down the Source because we are uncomfortable with its very Ultimate-ness and with people who talk as if there is such a thing.

My faith journey has led me to an understanding that it does matter what I believe in because it is essentially whatever I am choosing to resonate with, a Divine help that I am either choosing to allow or push away, and that I frequently am not aware of what baggage I have brought along when I don't submit all that I am to the Ultimate higher authority.   Things just don't go as well.  I only came to this from really messing up my own life and suffering a lot so I don't exactly recommend that learning process.  But I can't deny the truth that was on the other end of it:  that submitting to that Ultimate source -- whether it offends my view of what it "should" be or not -- was absolutely critical.  Undeniably.

It's not a cliff of conservatism or limited-thinking that you fall over at that point, it's a world of strange, Divine power that opens up and you become more effectively YOU.    To the degree that you have already found this in your own life, I expect that it was because you were submitting to a single-minded Divine awareness too, by whatever name.

At the moment, I trust the Conservative Quakers and the Liberal Quakers enough individually to believe that both sides would be changed by being together and that would not be a bad thing...   And also trust both enough to know that both would challenge the other in ways that are needed.  Whatever our world view is, if it can't allow for other people's experience as part of the whole view.... surely it is mistaken.    Our own faiths must have room for all that is true or something is amiss.  Right?   This is more likely to happen if we MUST come together.  Since surely we don't really want to be challenged and grow in the Light of each other's realities.

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