The Significance of William Rogers Historical Documentation written in 1680

William Rogers states in his book "The Christian-Quaker ..." that his specific intent was it is a historical document set down for posterity so that future Children of Light may know the testimony of those founding Quakers who did not follow other founding Quakers who institutionalized those gathered in the inshining Light.

In the First Part of his book Rogers writes on pages 41 and 42:

"Oh, Friends! away with all such discourse, that tells you in one Line, that no Man, Men, no Meetings, but Truth must Rule and Preside; and yet reflect on others, as claiming and pleading for Separate Privileges, and distinct Governments, when in Reality, they plead for nothing, but to be left (according as the ancient Laborers, who were Instruments in God's hand to gather us, did leave us, commit us, and commend us) to the Grace of God, and the teachings thereof, as manifest in every ones Inward Parts' making no mention of having their Dependencies on General, Quarterly, Monthly, or any other Meetings of Men whatsoever; and therefore, we cannot but give forth this as a warning to all, to take heed, that ye be not deceived by the cunning Sleights and Devices of Man, to leave your Teacher, that cannot be removed to the Corner; and instead thereof be found depending on the Dictates, and Prescriptions of fallible Man."


From the beginnings of the gathering of the Children of Light, there was a tension between those who sought to lead the Gathering into outward institutional frameworks and those who would not be led back into identity with outward forms; stating that they would not return to that which they had been led out of.

In the quote above Rogers tells us that there were founding Quakers who said on one hand that the Truth itself in our "inward parts" rules and presides and yet, on the other, imposed dependency on and identity with the outward institutional frameworks of, for example, "General, Quarterly, Monthly Meetings" over against the Gathering. The accused those who would not identify with their outward forms as seeking "separate privileges and distinct governments," which was not the case. Rogers, as a first personal documentarian, shows us that there were founding Quakers in the Gathering who held solely to a Faith in the sufficiency of the direct and unmediated experience of the inshining itself in the conscious and conscience as their only teacher and guide. They did not value outward the establishment outward forms of general, quarterly, monthly, meetings as a help in guiding and instructing the Gathering. For them, the direct and unmediated inshining Presence itself was sufficient to guide their conscience.

This is the significance of Rogers' work for those of us who share the same faith as those founding Quakers who contended against being led back into outward forms. These founding Quakers held firm to the inshining Light alone as their only Guide. Rogers' book is a validation of the ancient spiritual experience that many us of know and experience today.

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Comment by Forrest Curo on 3rd mo. 31, 2016 at 10:53am

What 17th Century religious leaders wouldn't have considered is that God might simply find different institutional arrangements appropriate with different groups of people (which could all be governed by Christ's authority, even though not necessarily using that terminology.)

Thinking of the wide variation in how different groups of people-called-Friends currently organize their worship, let alone all the other people who opt for conventional church services -- or nothing --

I find that gathering with a group to tune into 'my' spiritual foundation doesn't often lead to us being all that 'like-minded' or finding any common action we're all called-to -- but does seem to be serving God's purposes for us all.

Think of those once-traditional schoolhouses, which could mingle grades 1-to-junior-high in one room. The graduating members might not agree much with the first graders... but kids in the middle would often be helping those a few grades lower.

Some people might think the modern arrangement of everyone the same age & (supposedly) studying the same subject would work better, but there's little evidence that it does. The attitude of the students (& whether they're being attentive to the teacher) is clearly more important.

Different Friends, attentive to the same Teacher, may still be working different assignments...

The tension between people who crave outward authority 'to hold everybody _acountable_' vs those who find all that organizational machinery an unnecessary burden -- has always been present among Friends.

So far as each Friend grounds hrself in inward truth, the whole question issue could settle itself; but so far as we generally come with a full set of individual & group prejudices, it's no doubt been helpful to grind these against each other, so long as that doesn't generate too much heat. 

Comment by Keith Saylor on 3rd mo. 31, 2016 at 12:40pm

I appreciate your response, Forrest. In particular, the final three paragraphs. When you wrote: "So far as each Friend grounds herself in inward truth, the whole question issue could settle itself ..." I was struck by the phrase "the whole question could settle itself." The intent of my post is to advance and hold up, the testimony of those founding Quakers who did not follow those other founding Quakers who established outward forms amongst the Quaker gathering.

I am particularly interested in advancing their testimony because it is my experience that the extent to which identity becomes anchored in outward forms, rather than in Presence itself, is the extent to which disunity and tension manifests. Those who contended against the establishment of outward frameworks were warning the others in the gathering that in the very act of establishing outward forms, traditions, and institutions, they were nurturing disunity. 

Those founding Quakers whose faith was grounded completely in the direct and unmediated guidance of the inshining Spirit itself readily acknowledged a "diversity of conscience" and were accepting and welcoming of that diversity in the inshining Light. Their living witness was that in direct and unmediated Presence itself, there is no occasion for disunity because the inshinging Light is their shared identity rather then representative forms. The moment people in the gathering became needful of outward forms and then set out to establish and impose those forms on the whole of the Gathering is the moment an occasion for disunity manifested in the turning from the sufficiency of the inshining Light itself to guide the gathering in all things. 

In upholding the significance of William Rogers' historical documentation of the significance moment in the Gathering's participation in the inshinging Light itself, I am also upholding those of us who today share the sufficiency of the inshinging Light itself  in our conscious and conscience without regard to outward forms and persons and who know Presence itself in itself removes all occasion for tension and disunity in all things and circumstances in life.  

With that said, your observation that ' ... so far as we generally come with a full set of individual & group prejudices, it's no doubt been helpful to grind these against each other, so long as that doesn't generate too much heat ..." is compelling and instructive; that the Spirit works even in the grindings is a testimony to Grace.

Keith

Comment by Forrest Curo on 3rd mo. 31, 2016 at 1:03pm

Yes, Grace is a sweetie!

Outward forms of rigid structure and outward forms of utter floppiness are both beside the point; and God can make use of either.

There is no substitute for that inward GPS, but people can be slow to learn to trust it; and in any case people are nourished by what God sends, inwardly and outwardly -- and not necessarily by anything they or anyone else thinks best for them.

Whatever organizational form best serves our divinely-given collective purpose -- will of course depend on what that purpose may be, a subject people can and do argue at exhausting length.

Comment by Howard Brod on 3rd mo. 31, 2016 at 9:05pm

I will testify that Keith's contention that an abandonment of outward forms and structures in order to allow a full operation of the Presence within, is a worthwhile endeavor for every meeting to consider.  I have seen that it encourages MORE unity among Friends because the unity is based on a shared purpose of increasing the Presence within - period.  Prescribing or implying how that Presence manifests in individuals within your meeting is a sure way to quickly diminish it.  At many Quaker meetings (even liberal meetings) there is an implied 'how' among Friends. 

When a "spiritual" community places their unity on the ways of the world - doctrines, creeds, holy books, traditions, political group-think, Faith and Practice manuals, on and on - they will never reach the unity that was the vision of Jesus, Buddha, Lao-tzu, and other enlightened souls.  They are stuck in the kingdoms of this world and all that is part of it.  That is fine for a club, a political party, lobbying groups, or a community-organized group.  The truth is that the world has enough of these.  What the world needs is a group of spirit-led communities that are only interested in bringing a change to people's hearts by helping them all to be aware of our true nature that awaits us - NOW.

I was once very oriented towards a more traditionally Hicksite Quaker tradition (inside my head), as was my meeting.  Over a period of six years or so, it has been made aware to our spiritual community that we should start abandoning structures and forms that are unnecessary for our corporate spiritual life.  At first this effort began as a desire to just simplify the operation of the meeting in order to become more efficient and to lessen the burden on Friends. Once, however, that transformation started to occur, deeper spirituality individually and corporately began to develop in all kinds of amazing ways.  With unneeded forms and structures removed in the name of simplicity, the Spirit was now free to move us individually and corporately in surprising ways.  The final outcome of this transition has been a realization that forms and structures as instituted by the mainstream of early Friends may have eventually become a damper on the full operation of the Presence within.  Such a sad occurrence could only lead to less spirituality among us.

We began to realize that at our meeting too many of us had actually been idolizing these early Quaker structures (I was one of these doing so).  I am not arguing that perhaps they were not needed for a period of time at the start of Quakerism (I wasn't there then to judge their establishment).  But to assume they should always be present, is to indeed worship these forms; not trusting the Presence to manifest itself as it would desire to be.

Once we began to realize that more than just simplification was happening at our meeting, we also realized that our 'expectant waiting' worship based on silence, as well as our Quaker process of corporately seeking the way forward - were both essential to maintaining an environment that allowed the Spirit to operate as it saw fit; not beholding to humanly created forms and structures.

The above gave a boost to more regular attendance at worship and Meeting for Business, as Friends began to really understand that these were the core of our corporate experience of the divine - not the trappings and traditions that we had inherited.

Other subsequent changes began to naturally happen at our relatively small meeting.  First and most surprising was the attraction of a number of Friends who were devout and active Christians.  We had very few self-identified Christians from the meeting's start thirty years prior.  We were surprise that now all of the sudden "seeking" Christians were attracted to our spiritual community.  Additionally, a greater appreciation of the teachings and experiences of Jesus with the divine, has grown - even among those not identifying themselves as "Christian".  I think this is because as the Spirit has now been allowed to flourish with no respect to Quaker traditions or culture, individual spirituality has deepened.  More Friends (even though they feel no desire to name themselves "Christian") have made 'friends' with Jesus, as they may also be 'friends' with inspirational persons from other religious traditions.  The meeting has become no respecter of labels (another way we humans divide and exclude one another).  We don't care what someone identifies as.  We are about supporting them on their journey to increase an awareness of Oneness with our Source.

The most surprising thing that has occurred has been a welcoming of persons not persuaded to liberal politics.  In fact, the prior obsession with political action as a meeting has all but ceased.  All of the actions of the meeting regarding the testimonies now come from a deep spiritual place.  Political advocacy per se has solidly become a personal action rather than one endorsed by the meeting.

Abandoning forms and structure - how ever these were first created - can be scary.  At this point, our meeting considers the ones we have as "necessary" in order to ensure the free action of the Spirit.  Yet, none of them are considered 'sacred' or even permanent.  Elimination of unneeded structures and forms leaves a spiritual community with no choice but to trust the Presence of the Spirit within. 

It's actually the same message that Jesus preached 2000 years ago and how sweet it is.

Comment by Keith Saylor on 4th mo. 1, 2016 at 8:28am

Howard,

It is a blessing to read your testimony about your Meeting's living Witness in the inshining Light. Thank you for sharing it. 

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