A Review of Traditional Quaker Christianity

As I read and re-read Traditional Quaker Christianity, I felt a spirit of humble diligence intent upon conveying the core substance of Quaker understanding, as well as the practices that have thus far assisted its continuation. The original draft of this book was the result of a study of Friends faith and witness by Ohio Yearly Meeting member Michael Hatfield. He gave his work to the yearly meeting "to do with as it saw fit." Small study groups were formed in which his writing was found useful but in need of more work. OYM called upon four Friends (Arthur Berk, John Smith, Susan Smith, and Terry Wallace) to edit and develop Hatfield's original draft.

 There are seven chapters in the book, each containing anywhere from four to ten sections. Each section is comprised of a title, selections for recommended reading, a short essay, and questions for discussion. Four appendices complete the main body of the book, providing more discussion of eldering, a brief history and present-day scope of alternate forms of Quaker faith, a glossary of Quaker terms, and a bibliography.

 This book would be helpful for anyone wanting a readable introduction to or comprehensive overview of the original tenets of Quaker Christianity, and the sustaining practices that have evolved in Ohio Yearly Meeting. The primary doctrines of the faith are all included: the Word of God is Christ (not the Bible); the Spirit of Christ is universally bestowed; salvation entails obedience to the living God (not intellectual assent to doctrine); only in the daily cross of Christ can evil be overcome. In addition to presenting the central beliefs, the book examines particular tenets that have arisen from the faith: that gospel ministry is oracular, that the Scriptures are esteemed and studied, that baptism and communion are inward occurrences, and that females and males have equal spiritual potential in substance and practice. Pertinent passages from the Scriptures and Friends writings are frequently cited and paraphrased to supplement the editors' descriptions and explanations.

 Some present-day misconstructions of Quaker faith are addressed. For example, in the fourth section of the first chapter, Lewis Benson is quoted contrasting the ethic of obligation with the ethic of idealism: the former being a principle grounded in divine Will as opposed to the latter, which is based in human values. A later discussion in chapter seven on testimony versus testimonies furthers the discussion, and the difference is then illustrated in later sections where the original peace witness and the contemporary peace testimony are each described.     

 I found the essay on clerking substantial in identifying gifts needed for clerking, responsibilities of both clerk and meeting while conducting business, and helpful practical advice for maintaining order, and writing or modifying a minute. Throughout the book, practical advice is regularly offered and always purposeful.

 The roles of elders, overseers, ministers, and teachers are each described: their work, the strengths and gifts necessary, and the typical dangers encountered. A chart at the end of chapter six compares the different functions and orientations of each, providing an easy reference to Friends who are not practiced in identifying these gifts and are unfamiliar with their specific benefits to the community.  

 Though Traditional Quaker Christianity is intended to convey the tradition among Conservative Friends, it may find readers among Liberals and Evangelicals. Should another generation of Quakers come forth and undertake the restoration of "the desolations of many generations," they could find this book a resource for building up a Quaker Christian society. Here they would find stated the purpose and aim of the society, means to realize that aim, practices to support those means, and generally a structure  provided in which a people of God could arise, flourish, and serve the cause of Truth.

          

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Comment by Keith Saylor on 10th mo. 27, 2014 at 11:50am

" Setting aside the tradition is not a step forward, as you know it Keith; it is a step backward into lawlessness, emptiness, and idolatry."

It is not a step forward and a step back. Presence is the Tradition. Yes, it is true, you and I are not of the same conscience. It is not my interest that you share my conscience. Mine is to testify. If others reject it, I am okay with that. I am Presence in all things even in the midst of conflict and disagreement.

"Setting aside the tradition is not a step forward, as you know it Keith; it is a step backward into lawlessness, emptiness, and idolatry."

If tradition is so sustaining and fulfilling, why the history of conflict in Quakerism? Your argument belies a blind spot, I have learned in the Presence of the inward Christ outward tradition does not sustain, liberal or conservative, only the immediacy of inward Presence. In Presence is true lawfulness, fulfillment, and life untethered by the idolatry of outward forms. To know the Presence of Christ unmediated by outward forms sustains eternity within.

I am grateful you have labored against me on this matter, for it has strengthen the Life within and I embrace it even further. Oh, the joy and love of life in eternity. I quake. 

Comment by Patricia Dallmann on 10th mo. 27, 2014 at 12:04pm

Keith, hold on there. You misunderstood me. What I intended to say was that your experience of the Presence is a step forward that allows you to subordinate the tradition. That is not the case with people who do not know the Presence. For them to ignore or dismiss the tradition is a step backward, not forward. I hope this clears up my misunderstood statement! Let me try to rearrange that statement so that there is no misunderstanding:

Setting aside the tradition as you are recommending, Keith, is one thing as you know the Presence. Setting aside the tradition as is done regularly by Liberals (or Ranters in the 17th century) is a step backward into lawlessness, emptiness, and idolatry.

Comment by David McKay on 1st mo. 1, 2018 at 10:06am

I'm coming a little late to this discussion: I've just uploaded this book to my e-reader and have read the first chapter. Thanks to Patricia for her review.

Comment by Christopher Hatton on 8th mo. 21, 2018 at 5:13pm

The picture used for the book is the same as "the word within"  Essays on Prophetic Faith also by Patricia Wallmann, this I find is a captivating and inspirational book. As a self-confessed "convergent" Friend, thee is much of this book that speaks to me.

Comment by Patricia Dallmann on 8th mo. 22, 2018 at 8:01am

Thank you for your encouraging comment, Christopher! Traditional Quaker Christianity, though,  doesn't have the same picture on the cover as The Word Within: Essays on Prophetic Quaker Faith. The TQC cover  has instead a drawing done by someone from Ohio YM. If you're interested in reading some of my newer essays, you can find them at Abiding Quaker. Thanks again!

Comment by Christopher Hatton on 9th mo. 18, 2018 at 2:19am

Thank you Patricia, I now see the difference, and I also now have both books.

Comment by Patricia Dallmann on 9th mo. 19, 2018 at 8:03am

Christopher, I'm glad to hear that you've gotten both books. Though they're different in many ways, they are the same in that they recognize and center upon Christ in us, the hope of glory.

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