I find it confusing to be using these titles in reference to Friends when they are also the currently used referents for the political factions in this country. I have decided to call myself a Primitive Friend rather than a Conservative Friend because I dislike having to go into a disclaimer about conservatism, partly because I am kind of conservative (my kids think so anyway) but not in the ways the public may think, and so on.

And while we are on this topic, can anyone in a nutshell define liberal quakerism? When I try to think about this I feel very confused. I suspect that as with all things human there is much overlap group to group. But those here who have identified themselves a Liberal, what are you saying? Are there those who would call themselves Christian Friends and Liberal Friends? Oh dear. How is that different then from Conservative Friend who is politically liberal?

Any thoughts?

Barb

Views: 1359

Replies to This Discussion

I can in no way speak for other Friends but for me Liberal is somewhat related to Liberation in that freeing the oppressed, doing for the least of these, etc. is very much a part of my belief system. It also in my mind is somewhat similar to universal when universal means that "the way, the truth, and the life" is not limited to those who have heard the name of Jesus or of Christ. However, for me Christ has come to teach all people "in their own language."  In addition, "Liberal" tends to be associated with those that focus much more on feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and "social justice" than any "beliefs" or "authority structure."

"Authority" has been an historical and current concern as "Liberal" tends to imply little to no "authority" figures or writings.

 


I have been a member of the Conservative Religious Society of Friends for 30 years.  "Conservative" means to preserve past traditions.  John Wilbur lead the Conservative Friends movement in the late 1830s, a breakaway movement, to refute evangelism and preserve Plain traditions (and non-resistance).  Conservatives are actually preservers of a highly liberal movement but we are different than Evanglical Friends, FUM, and FGC.  We are not Pacifists (who believe in "Just" war) but Non-Resistors following the tradition started by Jesus.  Jesus did not come to bring salvation to all.  Jesus came to bring, and teach, the world the necessity of non-resistance which is God's way.  Jesus is termed the "Prince of Peace."  Jesus, the Son of God and God in human form could have saved Jesus...but did not to show we must be non-resistors.  If God will not ever engage in violence then how can we?

Conservative Friends abide by non-resistance, many were incarcerated and, basically, tortured druing WWII and other wars.  Conservatives also continue the tradition of Plain Dress, the Friends Calendar, showing no "hat-honor," using Plain Speak, and so forth.  Conservative Friends generally do not accept a person combining multiple traditions (Friends and Buddhism, for example) as Conservative Friends.  We are based in Jesus so combining traditions is more in the realm of Liberal Friends. 

Happy First Day,

Robert

There is a website (http://www.liberalquakers.org/) that might be helpful to understanding liberal Quakers.

I think of myself as a Wilburite, but I use Conservative as it is more generally understood. Some Friends have used Traditional Friend. This is one of those cases where no matter how inapt a label might be, its wide currency makes it to a certain extent unavoidable.

I approach any misunderstandings/assumptions about my political thoughts on this or that topic as an opportunity for humility. It has felt like an ego-trap, outside of submission and obedience to God, for me to be concerned that people know I hold the "right" opinions about something.

"Christ-centered Liberal Friend" is a thing I've certainly heard of. I tend to just think of Liberal Friends as meaning non-Christian-identified folks are welcome in the meeting, or if talking about an individual, that they can find religious fellowship with non-Christian-identified folks.

I do remember once describing Micah Bales as a "Conservative Friend" to one of my coworkers (we were all at Occupy DC, and he'd known Micah for a few weeks at that point), and he made a surprised face, and then I had to do a quick calculation in my head for "oh! Religiously conservative, not politically conservative."

Robert:

Your equating of pacifists with agreement with the "just war" doctrine surprises me. Usually I see people equating pacifism with "throw up your hands and do nothing about any injustice" or what should be spelled "passivism," which is also not right (and comes from the assumption that the use of violent force is the only way to stop injustice).

In my experience "pacifism" in the liberal traditon of Quakerism does not "support just wars". Not sure where that perception came from. However, it is true that it is likely that a Friend who might believe in "just wars" would be welcome at a liberal meeting.

And by the way, there are quite a few liberal Friends who consider themselves Christian. But they also find truth from other religious traditions that resonate with their Christian leanings.

For liberal Friends, I would conjecture that many understand Jesus words, "I am the way" as meaning his teachings and spirit-led life are the way to live in Spirit and truth, rather than those words being a literal requirement to "accept the person of Jesus as savior". This is because Jesus is understood as being a living symbol of Light and Love. But there certainly could be other living symbols, and whether there is or isn't such, it doesn't detract from the ultimate reality of Light and Love that is especially experienced during unprogrammed worship, as well as other times.

Thank you for posting this thread, Barbara.

I, too, have been confused about the differences in conservative vs. liberal Quakers. Lately, I have had a heavy heart wondering if I should be part of the Quaker faith because I thought that the liberal Quakers were mostly all non- Christian. Thank you, Howard, for clearing that question up a bit.

I consider myself a plain, conservative Quaker, and from my readings thus far, a Wilburite. I, in part, dress plainly to show my Christian faith and I would not want to be mistaken for a non-Christian.  I have seen quite a few websites that claim Quakers are not Christians and when people ask me if Quakers are indeed Christian, I can only answer that some are.  That saddens me.

As a Christian, I believe that if God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) isn't the center of one's worship, that makes one pagan. From what I've read, I just don't believe that is what George Fox had in mind.

 

I've begun responding to "Quakers aren't Christian" with "most Quakers are." I fall more around what Howard said, but I have no illusions that Liberal Friends are in the majority. I've heard that Liberal Friends are a single-digit percent of Friends worldwide, and non-theist or Universalist ones are 0.x%.

Marcie Tillett said:

Thank you for posting this thread, Barbara.

I, too, have been confused about the differences in conservative vs. liberal Quakers. Lately, I have had a heavy heart wondering if I should be part of the Quaker faith because I thought that the liberal Quakers were mostly all non- Christian. Thank you, Howard, for clearing that question up a bit.

I consider myself a plain, conservative Quaker, and from my readings thus far, a Wilburite. I, in part, dress plainly to show my Christian faith and I would not want to be mistaken for a non-Christian.  I have seen quite a few websites that claim Quakers are not Christians and when people ask me if Quakers are indeed Christian, I can only answer that some are.  That saddens me.

As a Christian, I believe that if God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) isn't the center of one's worship, that makes one pagan. From what I've read, I just don't believe that is what George Fox had in mind.

 

Yes, it would be correct to say that most Quakers call themselves "Christian". I think liberal Quakers are only about 10% of the Quaker population, and most of them would not like being labeled as "non-Christian". Those liberal quakers who cringe at the label "Christian", likely do so because of the baggage they perceive goes with that label; i.e., the crusades, intolerance, fundamentalism, etc. However, if you reworded the question, "do you believe in the teachings of Christ?" most would answer with a resounding, "yes". But they wouldn't exclude teachings from Buddha, Taoism, judaism, etc.

Web sites that say Quakers are not Christians, simply don't understand because they haven't experienced the power of Quaker worship in all it's varied forms.

When I first went to Quaker meeting some 30 years ago, I was struck by the Christ-like demeanor of the Friends I found at meeting each Sunday. I was puzzled though because it wasn't obvious to me by the messages during worship that they were Christians. I thought how can these people act more Christian than any group of people I've met, but not proclaim "Jesus, Jesus". They seemed to not make the personage of Jesus central to their lives, yet he obviously was by the "fruits of the Spirit" they consistently demonstrated. I came from a very Bible oriented, Christian background. My puzzlement made me not come back for a year. Then it clicked for me. I recalled the parable of the sheep and the goats, where those who proclaimed Jesus' name were considered "goats", and those who did not know the name of Jesus were considered "sheep" because they were actually living as Jesus did. "By their fruits you will know them."

Of course since that initiation to liberal Quakerism, I've come to realize that its foundation is the teachings of Jesus, and messages about him do occur, and Friends do discuss his teachings at liberal meetings, and children in First Day School do learn about him and the Bible. It's just that these things are considered helps to know what Jesus knew - that the root of all these things is the Light and Love that permeates the universe and sustains it. So sources from non-Christian religions that also reflect Light and Love are also valued. You might say that to a liberal Quaker, to put the Bible on a pedestal is to make it one's idol. Liberal Quakers are most concerned about experiencing God rather than labeling him,even though they might refer to him/her by many labels - because no matter what one chooses to call this ultimate Spirit or Force, it is what it is, and our labels won't change that.

Liberal Quakers simply don't feel compelled to require any certain label or name be applied to the reality of the Spirit. If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's a duck! And even though I consider myself a Christian, I have been very moved by the message of liberal Quakerism, and am grateful I found them some 30 years ago.

What you said here is exactly why I say that I see there being two definitions of Christian that are sometimes at odds with each other:

- Those who accept Jesus as their persona saviour, atonement through the cross, etc.

- Those who try to do what Jesus said to do

The first one is the one that most people think of when they hear the word "Christian." The second... "follower of Jesus" may be more appropriate to keep from stepping on the toes of an already-accepted definition.


Howard Brod said:

Yes, it would be correct to say that most Quakers call themselves "Christian". I think liberal Quakers are only about 10% of the Quaker population, and most of them would not like being labeled as "non-Christian". Those liberal quakers who cringe at the label "Christian", likely do so because of the baggage they perceive goes with that label; i.e., the crusades, intolerance, fundamentalism, etc. However, if you reworded the question, "do you believe in the teachings of Christ?" most would answer with a resounding, "yes". But they wouldn't exclude teachings from Buddha, Taoism, judaism, etc.

Thank you for both of your very gracious and eloquent replies!

Great food for thought.

 

 

I can only offer a brief comment as I am still relatively new.  In my area of Texas, there is a Christian Friends group (Conservative) in Austin. I've been referred to them and hope we can meet up soon. They are small as it seems most are in Texas other than the churches of the Houston area which are EFCI.

Like many, I am isolated and live a distance from any meeting.  Most are "Liberal" and say they are independent but use the FGC materials in Austin and Georgetown.

 

In so many words just finding others who are "conservative" or "christian" is work. I suppose that unless someone communicates with me from the only known group in this area, I'll have to attend the "liberal" meetings or wait until I can go to Houston.

It seems that "Christian Friends"would better describe the traditional group as you say the term "conservative" has powerful political implications....not that being a conservative is bad or negative. Just my thoughts as it is a label but sends a message to those unfamiliar with the different types of Quakers.

 

Thank you all for your diplomatic replies. I feared this questions might get into some disagreements over beliefs and I am glad that did not happen. I really just wondered about the terminology, and I still wonder where the terms originated - maybe someone knows (Isabel?). I can also see a couple things:
1. Members of the different groups are often not sure what the other groups really are and therefore make assumptions.
2. The groups overlap considerably in different ways, for example I know there are "liberal" Conservative Friends who could be more liberal than a Liberal Friend
3. The groups also have what seem to me very basic differences and sometimes the only thing that ties them together is the name Quaker and a common heritage.

I do agree with Mackenzie that it would be helpful to make a distinction between a follower of Christ and a Christian. I went through a 20+ year phase of calling myself a Christian while really I was a follower of Christ (because I still did not personally know who Christ was and was unwilling to say I believed he was God without really "knowing" that personally). Anyway, the two groups now seem to me as different as a Christian and a Buddhist. But I, of course, cannot tell anyone else how to identify themselves.

I will also comment that I have always considered myself a pacifist and do NOT think there is such a thing as a just war (does that come from Catholic theology or practise?).

Thanks again,
Barb

RSS

Support Us

Did you know that QuakerQuaker is 100% reader supported? If you think this kind of outreach and conversation is important, please support it with a monthly subscription or one-time gift.


You can also make a one-time donation.

Latest Activity

Keith Saylor commented on William F Rushby's blog post 'From John Woolman on Ministry'
"#AuxiliaryConsiderations #WoolmanProject #Conscience James Naylor, on page one of his Discovery of…"
21 hours ago
Annett Pettet commented on Glenn Morison's blog post 'One good turn deserves another'
"Playing PC games for a considerable length of time and evenings may be obliterating for kids'…"
yesterday
William F Rushby commented on William F Rushby's blog post 'From John Woolman on Ministry'
"In my younger years, I tried to get Quaker sociologists to turn the spotlight on their own faith…"
yesterday
William F Rushby commented on William F Rushby's blog post 'From John Woolman on Ministry'
"It seems clear to me that John Woolman was guided by intuitive leadings rather than (or more than)…"
yesterday
Keith Saylor commented on William F Rushby's blog post 'From John Woolman on Ministry'
"Reference Key: TJAEOJSOAC Summary, Observations, and Considerations John Woolman's Journal…"
yesterday
Kirby Urner replied to Kirby Urner's discussion 'Connecting Quakers and Sufis (ongoing project)'
"Indeed I agree and Jorjani goes into that in his Perisian Renaissance interviews, contrasting the…"
6th day (Fri)
Kirby Urner replied to Kirby Urner's discussion 'Connecting Quakers and Sufis (ongoing project)'
"Hi Marcia.  Yes, the Sufi Gulenists as one might call them (are Quakers Foxists?) have or have…"
6th day (Fri)
Forrest Curo replied to Kirby Urner's discussion 'Connecting Quakers and Sufis (ongoing project)'
"Religions seem to intrinsically develop a mystical wing and a doctrinal one. Mystics from different…"
5th day (Thu)

© 2020   Created by QuakerQuaker.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service