Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
I am beginning a discussion as a member of Northwest Yearly Meeting. This is a meeting that began in the 19th-century as a meeting heavily influenced by Wesleyan/Holiness revivalism. As time went by, that influence waned. When talking with senior members of NWYM, Wesleyan/Holiness revivalism probably stayed on too long.
I am sensing that, just as Wesleyan/Holiness remained too long, Evangelicalism is probably outstaying its usefulness. When I use the term "Evangelical", I mean the post-WWII, Billy Graham-ian, Wheaton/Fuller, response to modernity and fundamentalism.
In particular, I see Evangelicalism, as bringing in with it, a whole slew of baggage that is not particularly amenable with Quakerism. Graham came from North Carolinian Presbyterianism, and, naturally, his movement became top-heavy with figures from the Reformed side of Christianity. The only Arminian-minded figure that I can think of that was included within the Evangelical leadership was Dennis Kinlaw.
As Evangelicals engaged with modernism, they portrayed, very successfully, their doctrine as unquestionably biblical and orthodox. Anything which stood out as different or distinct from Evangelicalism became suspect. For Quakers influenced by Evangelicalism, the question became, "Which rightly speaks about authentic Christianity? Is it George Fox, William Penn, etc., or is it Chuck Swindoll, James Dobson, etc.,? Because Evangelicals were so successful at presenting themselves as orthodox, any Friend with an appreciation of orthodoxy would naturally focus on Evangelicals and not on Fox or Robert Barclay.
I see two problems with this. One is that Evangelicalism, with its Reformed roots, has a lower understanding of perfection or holy living than does Quakerism. As Evangelical Friends lost their connection with their own historical doctrine of holiness and adopted the one offered by Evangelicalism, it led to a much shallower sense and practice of sanctification.
A second problem has to do with our culture's movement from modernism to post-modernism. This is causing a great deal of consternation among Evangelicals because their whole raison d'etre has to do with engagement with modernism. If modernism is passing away, what will Evangelicals do? Their only option seems to be to perpetuate the modernist-fundamentalist-Evangelical debate.
I think the verbage problem only effects those of a certain age, say 70+. So when working with them, maybe different semantics would be more effective. People one or two generations removed don't seemed to have been negatively effected.
Two years ago, I was invited to a round-table discussion over at the Wesley Center at NNU. The discussion was to be about holiness. Diane LeClerc, the NNU church history professor, lamented that fewer and fewer incoming students to NNU, ostensibly from "Holiness" churches, had any awareness of Wesleyan sanctification. These students do, however, have some knowledge of sanctification derived from Reformed sources. LeClerc suspected that students were absorbing ideas from the popular Evangelical mainstream, rather than from Nazarene or Wesleyan/Holiness sources.
Thank you Rodney for your observations on this topic.
The aspect of whether Evangelical Quakers are a reflection of Reformed (Calvinistic) theology or Quaker (Barclay) theology is extremely important.
George Fox always had to struggle against Calvinism especially when promoting victorious living (walking in the light, perfectionism). So when we have Evangelical Quakers so bent on a Calvinistic interpretation of salvation-sanctification rather than what Fox, Barclay, Penn, have defined for us we definitely need to ask the question, Are we dishonoring our founders? Should we really still call ourselves Quakers?
It is my desire that NWYM would not only return to their roots (Fox, Barclay, Penn), but also implement that direction in those meetings and with those pastors th.at have any connection with NWYMThe end result of Evangelical Quakers on a Reformed route is the annihilation of true Quaker theology and the disassociation of those of us who believe and live what George Fox and others suffered and died for.