Most liberal Quaker meetings in the 21st century find the recording of ministers or spiritual gifts distasteful - for good historical reasons. Starting in the early-20th century the formerly-labeled Hicksite meetings (today labeled “liberal” meetings) started embracing spiritual egalitarianism because of the value placed on mysticism - due to the influence of Rufus Jones (and others). Mysticism began to be viewed as the engine of liberal Quakerism. And today the degree of egalitarianism practiced by liberal Quakers varies from meeting to meeting. Nonetheless, this egalitarianism of liberal Friends makes them sensitive to not present the impression that some Friends are elevated as more spiritually gifted than others. This is because spiritual gifts come in all shapes and sizes that humans would often miss, as they sat in judgment of spiritual gifts upon recording them. A “club” of recorded ministers or spiritually gifted might hinder others from growing their own gifts as the Spirit guides them on their spiritual journey. Even if the intention is not to create a “club”, it would likely be perceived that way. Egalitarian spiritual groups mature to their full potential when such labeling is not practiced. And liberal Quakers seem to have grasped that.

An egalitarian spiritual community would be working against its own nature to start officially listing some members as spiritually gifted. A truly egalitarian spiritual community would understand that gifts of the Spirit might come from any one, at any time, in any situation. Just as there is ‘that of God’ in everyone, there are spiritual gifts in everyone as well – waiting to be manifested whenever the Spirit calls them out – at just the right moment. A liberal Quaker meeting that understands this chooses to simply encourage its Friends to be diligent as individuals and as a community to always listen for spiritual wisdom from anyone among them, including themselves. Designating certain Friends as possessing spiritual gifts could cause Friends to miss the spiritual gifts that abound within and among ALL of us - just when they need to be heard and experienced.

In summary, having the need to formally “record” certain individuals to publicly recognize them is an ego-mechanism that an egalitarian spiritual community would not want to embrace. Likewise, in an attempt to further enhance egalitarianism many liberal Quaker meetings no longer put any weight to formally recording (recognizing) members; and while they may still provide the recording of a Friend’s membership upon request, such recorded members are not viewed differently from non-recorded members. True membership, just like genuine spiritual gifts, is demonstrated humbly in an egalitarian liberal Quaker meeting, as Friends serve each other and the spiritual community that they are part of. There’s no need to announce to Friends in the meeting who among them have a spiritual gift, nor who is committed to the meeting community. All Friends are already well aware as they witness the care and concern offered by Friends to each other - just when it has been needed.

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Replies to This Discussion

It is edifying to gather with others who share the living presence of the spirit of Jesus Christ in their heart, according to their measure. Gathering in silent meeting is a personal preference when moved to seek the fellowship of others. Gathering with others in any given practice is not out of the question. When I am gathered with others in the immanent presence of the Spirit, it mostly happens that the living experience and ministry of Christ in my heart and in the hearts of others washes over my consciousness. This is true even while gathered with pentecostals in the most animated of services. For me, in the immanent presence of the Spirit, I am drawn out of the outward practices and vocalizations, however, I live in, love, and cling to our shared being in Christ. There is my unity with them. Generally, I do not begrudge or judge their practices, though I am called out of them. When I do find myself reflecting upon them in a judgmental way, I am convicted of being out of the presence of God and the need for repentance. 

As someone who did travel within a Liberal Yearly Meeting in the past and was totally turned by Quaker nostalgia as someone just starting to attend meeting again because during Quarantine silent waiting helped me through as much as in the past I wanted something like this myself I see it as something that does produce hierarchy and does in some way hurt equality at the same time I am Jewish now and we do have Rabbis but technically speaking Rabbis are the most learned in our congregations they don't stand above us as congregants but they can out-argue us.



Karl Malchut said:

As someone who did travel within a Liberal Yearly Meeting in the past and was totally turned by Quaker nostalgia as someone just starting to attend meeting again because during Quarantine silent waiting helped me through as much as in the past I wanted something like this myself I see it as something that does produce hierarchy and does in some way hurt equality at the same time I am Jewish now and we do have Rabbis but technically speaking Rabbis are the most learned in our congregations they don't stand above us as congregants but they can out-argue us.

The main Quaker hierarchy today are those who learn to manipulate "Quaker Process".

I think there is a relatively small elite at the top of the power structure of unprogrammed Friends.  Some of them are paid and some not, but they usually hold important positions.  They form a "star system," getting called upon regularly to perform by giving lectures, etc. at yearly meetings and conferences.  These people are trend-setters and opinion-shapers.  Ministering Friends, whether recognized as such or not, don't begin to have the same influence.

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