Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
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?
"Just War" is certainly something you find in Catholicism. I remember getting angry reading in a Catholic Newsletter (on Christmas Eve...my family is all Catholic, so I was taken along to church) about how according to Catholic theology, Obama's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech makes perfect sense because "just war" this and "just war" that. I suspect other denominations have it as well though.
"Just War" is certainly something you find in Catholicism. I remember getting angry reading in a Catholic Newsletter (on Christmas Eve...my family is all Catholic, so I was taken along to Mass) about how according to Catholic theology, Obama's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech makes perfect sense because "just war" this and "just war" that. I suspect other denominations have it as well though.
The origins of the labels are complicated. This website explains quite a bit about the Wilburite and Conservative yearly meeting origins, and some distinctions between them, just to give thee a taste of the complications just on that side of the Quaker picture.
I think this current article at Friends Journal is a helpful if very abbreviated explanation of things. As Howard mentions, and as the article I link to in Friend Journal mentions, a key distinction is where Friends place authority:
"Where authority lies. Do Friends place a strong emphasis on the authority of Scripture, on the Inward Light, and/or on Quaker tradition and the discernment of the meeting community? Are smaller bodies subordinate to larger bodies? "
I think it is helpful to pay attention to where a Friend places Authority (as this article mentions). Thee might find it helpful to read this article I wrote called Understanding Ourselves, Respecting the Differences: Accepting Each... about conflict between the branches.
Howard,I can relate to this. It should actually start another conversation about the most outrageous or unusual things you've experienced at a meeting or in church. I am the son of a Methodist preacher and my brother and I were of course as the saying goes "p.k.'s" (preacher's kids) who are noted for being some of the worst in town. Growing up in a programmed environment of worship at times we stood out like sore thumbs with some of our antics as young boys ... of course paying a heavy price afterward with the correction of a loving but serious father.
Howard Brod said:
Thanks Isabel for the great references. I especially liked the link to the Friends Journal article.
I spent a number of years when my children were in my meeting's First Day school visiting conservative, orthodox (FUM), and evangelical Quaker meetings/churches. We have all of these within 2 hours driving distance of my liberal (FGC) meeting in Midlothian, Virginia. It was part of the Junior Young Friends religious education to spend many months visiting these meetings, so that they could experience how other types of Quakers worship. I have three sons, so I went at least three times to all of these (I actually went to the conservative meeting many more times because I liked it!). So, I've always been fascinated by the events surrounding the Quaker schisms. I especially experienced little difference in the feel of worship between my liberal meeting and the conservative one.
A funny story: The last time I went to the orthodox (FUM) meeting with my youngest son, his First Day school teacher, and the other middle school aged Quakers from my meeting, I was extremely embarrassed by my son's innocent, but thoughtless remark. The meeting was semi-programmed. We already felt out of place because we were dressed in shorts and T-shirts, while the orthodox Friends were dressed in their Sunday best. When the pastor finished his sermon, he asked for 15 minutes of silence. My youngest son had never been to a church where there was a minister and a sermon. He had only experienced silent worship. So, at the beginning of the 15 minutes of silence he looked at me and said of the pastor very loudly, "I thought he'd never shut up!". His voice resonated throughout the whole worship room. I wanted to crawl under the pew! I went home and told my wife that we need to make sure he experiences other forms of worship so he doesn't think silent worship is the only way to worship God.
It was good to speak with you by phone, Paul. Thanks to Martin Kelley who gave you my information. In isolated circumstances, my response is to meet with my meeting via Skype when I can, and to seek out those who would hear God speak to them in the silence.
Paul Box said:
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.
For those interested in contacting Conservative/Christian Friends in Texas, I recommend contacting the Caprock Christian Friends Fellowship: http://caprockfriends.blogspot.com/
Even though they may be located a long distance from you, they will help you to make other contacts closer to you.
I'm not sure adding another name solves the underlying problem. If each of us sought God's will with our whole heart, our whole soul and our whole mind we would find Him directing us to love each other and not label ourselves. He doesn't need us to preach to the choir. He needs us to love one another. He never needed another denomination, He needed a community of friends.
I think labels are primarily useful for identifying those who may have a shared religious/cultural vocabulary. When I meet another person who went to Phillips Exeter Academy, I can talk about V's, dickies, DHM and the "peanut between" without necessarily having to give a lot of explanations. Similarly, if I talk to another Conservative or Conservative-leaning Friend, s/he will usually respect and understand arguments based on the words of Jesus or William Penn or George Fox without my having to convince her/him about why s/he should care. Appeals to authority make sense in a context where people share the same authority. We can argue about the interpretation of the words or that God is taking us in a new direction, but the use of the words doesn't have to be independently justified/explained.
Though I think James' sentiment is lovely, and one I once held, I have had to accept that knowing where one is among the labels is helpful in reaching across the boundaries. Labels arise when they describe actual difference, and we can't see one another clearly until we see the differences and acknowledge them. That Christ is larger than these labels is true, but we are human beings, and must work within the limitations of our sinful natures.