Becoming the Community the Spirit Would Have Us Be

Note: I originally posted this as a comment to Mike Shell’s stimulating blog, “Seeing Beyond the Projections” (which I recommend you also read).  I offer it here as a separate blog to invite comments just on it.

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It is unfortunate that many of our Quaker meetings/churches have brought into the meetinghouse the divisiveness that is so prevalent in the world at large.  One of the great charges of Jesus is that God provides for and loves all - even those we might individually consider wrong, misguided, and so forth. Lao-tzu in the Tao Te Ching says the same thing.  Further, Jesus stated that we each should love all in this same perfect manner. If this isn't "universalism", then I don't know what is.  Yet, you cannot love someone of a different perspective, if you don't take the first action of welcoming them into your spiritual community.

I will speak here from the liberal Quaker perspective - but my questions could easily apply also to pastoral and evangelical Friends.  If our meetings do not appeal to the varying shades of Christianity and general spirituality, the whole political spectrum, the rainbow of ethnic origins, varied economic backgrounds, and intellectual capacities - then we just might not be loving (as a community) others, as Jesus suggests we should.  It is one thing to say we accept all; but the 'proof in the pudding' is how comfortable are the 'all' being among us.

Again, let's just take liberal Quakers as an example (an easy one to point to for me because I am part of a liberal Quaker meeting).  The form of worship utilized by liberal Quakers could be an inviting environment for all - no pastor, no sermon, no anything but the living Spirit to minister among us.  However, many of our meetings don't come off as inviting to Republicans, Evangelical Christians, etc.  Our dedication to the movement of the Spirit among us should be uniting us in love - period.  Yet, we often act as the world does by sending subtle messages that we don't respect, accept, or value these "others".

We must ask ourselves direct questions as a meeting in order to reform ourselves into the community the Spirit wants us to be.  Such as, "Do we emphasize our SPICES testimonies (Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, Stewardship) without also emphasizing what political action Friends should take?  Does our Peace and Social Concerns committee stick to these testimonies - or do they direct Friends on how they should vote or what they should support in order to "be good Quakers"?  Example: My yearly meeting's Peace committee recently sent out a directive that Friends should contact their legislators about supporting the Iran Nuclear Treaty.  This was done in a directive manner without first arriving at a sense of the yearly meeting that we ALL wanted to do this?  Yet, we have some politically conservative Friends among us who sincerely believe that this treaty will lead to war, violating our Peace testimony.  Surely, it must be obvious to any objective person that our common support for our testimonies does not mean we all support the same political actions in order to manifest them.

Our meetings/churches would do well to embrace some humility before we make assumptions about those among us.  While we all embrace love and light, it is unlikely that we all embrace the same application of these in daily earthly life.  And unless we have come to a common understanding through our Quaker process that we are unified in particular secular action, we must concentrate on spiritual unity above all else.  This is the only way we will ever be able to demonstrate that we actively love all.  The Bible itself says “God is Love”, and so it makes perfect sense that Jesus consistently advocated for Love above all else.  What better basis for our spiritual unity could we have than this?

This simple change in attitude within our meetings/churches could make a distinguishing difference and a witness to the world we live in.

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Comment by Howard Brod on 9th mo. 28, 2015 at 8:14am

I do think that is where FGC's "heart" is moving (the Korean model you mention, Jim) where within Quakerism - it is all good.  And FGC just wants to support the journey of its member meetings (rather than control them).  Perhaps FWCC (Friends World Committee for Consultation) imagines itself as that.  But rather than a daily support organization, they are more of UN type organization for Quakers.

Of all Quaker organizing structures, my observation is that FGC is the most Christ-like in the unconditional support and love offered spiritually, emotionally, financially, and organizationally to all without conditions. 

When our apportionment got too high for my meeting with our yearly meeting which is located far from us, we actually started investigating withdrawing from our yearly meeting and just associating directly with FGC, because we have trouble travelling to yearly meeting events; so we get little benefit for our apportionment money.  When we asked FGC what that would cost each year to associate directly with them, they answered "Pay whatever you think is reasonable".  That whole exchange was a far cry from our yearly meeting which determines what we should pay each year. 

My meeting has also had two other good experiences with FGC (aside from their annual conferences) where they have bent over backwards to support us.  We had no facilities (building) for "First Day" School for our 40 children.  On a whim we checked with FGC to see if they could help in some way, since the meeting was financially strapped with a high mortgage payment after just purchasing our first meetinghouse.  With virtually no red-tape, FGC showed us so much love and caring - with a final act of giving us a starter grant so our children would have somewhere to go each Sunday.  Then just recently, our aging meeting population was having trouble accessing our meetinghouse (unsteady walkway and lots of stairs).  Again, FGC was very concerned and provided a grant to us, so we were able to at least create a universal (handicap) access walkway to the meetinghouse.

When our mortgage is all paid off in seven years, I am hopeful our meeting will take a big portion of that budgeted amount, and give it to FGC each year.   I have nothing but good things to say about FGC and their spiritual approach and attitude in everything they undertake.

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