Why call yourself a Quaker? Why go to a Quaker Meeting House building?

Replying to comments by Martin, Callid, Wess below a previous post, on Scott McKnight's stuff about community.

I'd agree we have to be willing for everything to be pruned away, whilst we hold to the cross which we can rely on. My model is that "being a Quaker" is living in that willingness to give up everything, to be re-formed by Christ amongst us into the church God intends us to be. That's what I mean when I use the word, what do you mean? Sounds like you want to use the Quaker banners on this site to hijack the name Quaker and set up yet another a new set of splinter groups in the U.S.A.? You don't find that embarrassing? I don't live in the situation you folks are in so I don't know.

Do you not have a Meeting to live amongst? What's so wrong with (us) other folks? What happened to the eye and the nose not telling each other they're not required? I guess I think the core practice of being the Body is to be one body not keep dividing like amoebae, but that's the perspective of a "rest of world" Quaker where I think we don't in general have all those splinter groups I gather you're cursed with in the U.S.A..

I mentioned that thing about "twice the number of Quakers" because I've found a Meeting to live with here, we try to do the Quaker thing. I brought that particular one up as an example of some habits we used to have (like that one of not actually including newcomers) that worked against our collective ability to live up to the Message we've been given. I've learned a lot from what Martin's written about outreach - my parents were both convinced Friends in their early twenties so wondering whether I'm living gospel order such that similar people of their age now would get included is a useful test with special meaning for how I go about living my life and being part of my Meeting community.

Are you U.S folks starting yet another branch of your tradition of Quaker separations or what? I guess I know how much I gain from seasoned Friends who have lived many years in this same Light we're talking about, people who travelled the world preaching the gospel or picking up the sick and dying or just getting their possessions bailliffed because of the Light they live under. It is so unusual that the stuff you're talking about Christ, communities of resistance, scripture study, and living in the presence, people have been preaching this gospel to me since I was a teenager? They mostly say they have to suffer for it as a lot of people find it hard to hear but I got the impression that since our leader led all the way on that one and it worked to bring the Roman Empire down we could trust in the grace God gives?

The New Foundation fellowship turned out a lot of folks in the UK who had a really clear message and lived it in Meetings, they were the ones who brought me into this Quaker thing - I guess I got the impression that was the natural foundation of the Quaker thing, living the gospel. It's what I found when I started swimming upstream to find where the gifts of peacemaking and resistance to consumerism and fashion and so on came from: the folks who were doing it were the ones who would tell me about why following Jesus meant they had to do it that way. We have been managing to struggle along, e.g. homophobic and gay people side by side mostly without throwing out the either the bible or the waiting worship, I guess I assumed that was there everywhere if you looked for it, maybe I'm wrong about that as well.

Maybe it is really different for you, Martin, Callid, Wess, in the United States than it is here in the UK, or maybe I just don't get what you're on about! Likely, I know my brain is not in the best shape. Quakers are almost all one group here in the UK, not at ease but nothing like two churches in one street. As far as I know, we struggle together to understand ourselves as one Body despite the huge differences between the worldviews: from the spiritually wounded who may just have come for the shelter of a church that might love them and celebrate their gifts, to people who know they have been called to live in the cross but don't always know how to express it or help the wounded find healing and hope.

I'm not so attached to the name Quaker as I am to the community, the gospel and the praxis of it. I guess I'm writing this because it comes across a bit to me like you are building and you've looked at this foundation stone and said to yourself, nah, I can find a better one why should I start here? Have I got it wrong? I think all you guys are gifted so I can well see it might be that I am not seeing what you are trying to show me.

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Comment by Martin Kelley on 6th mo. 5, 2009 at 12:18pm
@Richard: point well taken, we should get out more. I've been to some actual services but not in any kind of extensive inter-visitation. FWIW, the emergent church folk I've seen in Philly are culturally as liberal as the Quakers. At least a few are lefty hippies with southern accents. There's no one emerging church type and congregations will look different in other parts of the country.

@Isabel: I've also seen the burnt-out ministers (along w/some parishioners) and wonder if traditional Quaker practices presented in a non-sectarian format might have something to offer them. What we have is the idea that the Living Christ is here now and is accessible and that we don't need a floor show or paid staff to get us into spiritual communion.

@Peter: I'm concerned that QQ's demographic profile isn't right for outreach (it's skewing way old) and that most of the active users of the interactive features are long-time Friends hashing out inter-Quaker issues that in some cases might turn off the very people I'd like to appeal to. I vlogged a little about this last week.
Comment by Nathan Swift on 6th mo. 5, 2009 at 9:52pm
My sense is that "post modern" is less about denying an objective center than it is about saying that it ain't so easy to be sure you ARE in the center. For that reason creeds and dogmas and doctrines would be held much more loosely if at all, and the christocentric position might boil down to Matt. 5:43ff in which Jesus says essentially that God loves everyone and we should try to be more like God. Propositional theology, in which we were supposed to determine what we believed is replaced by narrative theology in which what is important is how our perceptions play out in our lives. That's pretty simplistic, but maybe it points in the right direction.
Comment by Nathan Swift on 6th mo. 6, 2009 at 10:57am
Mystery, check again; you seem to have missed the point of "emergent church" versus "mega churches."
Comment by Nathan Swift on 6th mo. 6, 2009 at 4:32pm
Aha! Maybe we are coming at the communication problem. I see the "emergent church" as arriving at a quite different "place" from "most protestant groups," so I guess I have to ask what you see as "that place?" I gotta tellya, if they are at the same place, a LOT of the entrenched leaders of protestant groups are wasting a lot of energy denouncing "the emergent church." Perhaps the "apologists" for the movement are confusing, but the movement is/was there before those perhaps bumbling attempts to explain it.
Comment by Nathan Swift on 6th mo. 6, 2009 at 10:03pm
My impression is that it is primarily "Evangelical" leaders, though I have talked to a few mainstream protestant pastors who echoed the thoughts. You might be interested in http://videorow.blogspot.com/2009/03/rc-sproul-albert-mohler-and-ravi.html
but the whole catastrophe is 9 minutes.
Comment by Nathan Swift on 6th mo. 7, 2009 at 9:26am
"Still not partial to the thing as a whole, but that's just me. "
No, you would not be; it is after all, still Christian. The point is that it is not the dogmatic, exclusive, doctrine driven Christianity you are used to and seem to expect, and that is why Martin sees that the Quaker experience has a lot to offer them, and vice versa. That's why he said, "A lot of folks are looking for something like Friends. They're looking for ways to live in community and I'm pretty sure that the traditional Quaker practices (the "Quaker toolkit" I talk about) would be something they'd love." This is what "convergent" is about as far as I can tell.
Comment by Nathan Swift on 6th mo. 7, 2009 at 5:43pm
"My question is two-fold: If it is not dogmatic, exclusive and doctrine driven, what is there to attract Christians to the group? Secondly, what happens when you attract Christians who want to make the group dogmatic, exclusive and doctrine-driven?"

Of course I can't speak for Martin, but for me, my answer to the first part of the question would be to reiterate the advice, even make the plea to try to understand what the "emergent" phenomenon is about, noting that it has been emphasized that it is attractive to people who are turned off by the dogmatic, exclusive and doctrine driven churches and who are looking for communities of people who want to expreience what it means to live out the love of Christ in their lives as well as communities. As for those who are dogmatic, exclusive and doctrine driven, whether they are Christian or not, I would ask whether they believe it is possible for the Light to operate within a Christian context or whether people must be converted from whatever perception they have, Christian or not, to the one held by that dogmatic and exclusive person before they were able to operate in the Light. Then I would ask if those people wanted to be a part of a conversation about living out their perceptions, Christian or not, in a community of mutual respect. That would be my advice to Martin, but then he will have to let you know his own ideas.
Comment by Nathan Swift on 6th mo. 8, 2009 at 9:51pm
I'm not well qualified to answer, but will do the best I can. No movement of the Spirit exists in isolation and there will be a trail of pioneers expressing the same or very similar thoughts. If anything, I think the Emerging Church differs in emphasis on community and personal story within that community, but I would at least call it some fruit of the vines you have mentioned. I hope you can find a better answer from someone capable, but this thread is a tad obscure at the moment for good reason.
Comment by Martin Kelley on 6th mo. 9, 2009 at 2:08pm
Hi all: I'm not commenting here anymore. This whole conversation has gotten incredibly annoying, academic and confrontational. The breath of fresh air with the blogging subculture is that we weren't having these kind of internet battles, fighting over words and definitions and getting all mock-offended about everything. I have no interest in facilitating this kind of polarizing debate.

QuakerQuaker is an outreach effort, which by definition means I'm most interested in people who are not already Quaker. I think I've been clear about the focus: primitive Christianity revived: looking positively at the Friends tradition (yes, which is Christian) and looking positively at the fresh winds in mainstream Christianity. If this isn't your bag, that's fine, I love you, you can come visit any time but please hold back on commenting five times per post. I'm asking for self-control here. I'm asking that everyone sit back and spend a moment in discernment whether their comment is really helpful or whether it's merely trying to score zingers against someone you disagree with.
Comment by Amelia Anne Schafer-Rutherford on 10th mo. 5, 2009 at 6:55am
The end of this blog is very unclear to me. Could you expand on this please?


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