Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
I find it confusing to be using these titles in reference to Friends when they are also the currently used referents for the political factions in this country. I have decided to call myself a Primitive Friend rather than a Conservative Friend because I dislike having to go into a disclaimer about conservatism, partly because I am kind of conservative (my kids think so anyway) but not in the ways the public may think, and so on.
And while we are on this topic, can anyone in a nutshell define liberal quakerism? When I try to think about this I feel very confused. I suspect that as with all things human there is much overlap group to group. But those here who have identified themselves a Liberal, what are you saying? Are there those who would call themselves Christian Friends and Liberal Friends? Oh dear. How is that different then from Conservative Friend who is politically liberal?
I have been associated as a "revolving door" member/ex-member with Conservative Friends (Ohio variety) for over forty years. And my wife was born into Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative). I note these things not to boast, but to indicate that I speak from considerable experience.
Calling oneself a Conservative Friend invokes lots of tradition and institutional baggage; some of it is good, but some is also very much a hindrance. The old rituals of worship among traditional Friends are IMHO deeply spiritual, and show the value in the Conservative tradition; they are hardly ever practiced now, even by those who consider themselves to be "traditionalists". "Birthright membership" is a case in point of the latter; it has done much to destroy the integrity of Conservative Friends as a religious community.
To call oneself as a Christian Friend, or an orthodox Friend, identifies one with the Christian tradition(s) of Friends without invoking much of the institutional baggage of Conservative Friends, or Evangelical Friends for that matter.This is where I would "hang my hat"!
Are you aware of the "Primitive Friends'" presence in the Finger Lakes region during the 19th and early 20th Centuries? Persis Hallock, Edward and Marianne Woods, and Hepsibeth Hussey were members of the Primitive Friends in the Poplar Ridge area. I am surprised at how little information about this group seems to be on the Internet. For pictures, see http://www.quakerjane.com/spirit.friends/plain_dress-plainquakersto...
It's interesting that Paul and his fellow prophets were first called Christians at Antioch not for what they taught or believed or wore but because they were seen by the people of Antioch as "little" Christs.
Faye - Are you asking what the impact of "neo" conservatives is? I guess that is what I am trying to figure out. What was, and still is, confusing to those new to this world of liberal versus conservative Friends is that there is considerable overlap in any given meeting, but it also seems that the labels have caused much divisiveness and confusion as those who might be conservative in the Liberal meetings, and those who are liberal in the Conservative meetings don't see themselves as similar, if that makes sense. And those on the outside looking in for the first time are totally confused! Maybe this is not uncommon in Christian denominations, for example all the divisions in the Lutheran church, but they have specific names for the branches and they function as different bodies. Whereas among Friends there is no such thing as a Conservative organization, or a Liberal organization, it is just a matter of self-definition, or what the other groups call you. When I was in a liberal meeting we never referred to ourselves as such, we were just Quakers. It seems the conservatives are more aware of themselves as a body, maybe they are in the minority among Friends.
To answer your question though, I think the neo conservatives play a crucial role in holding on to and carrying the torch of the thinking and practises of the Early Quakers. I feel they are carrying the torch, or maybe keeping the flame alive, that holds the essence of the spiritual discoveries of Early Friends - discoveries about the simple life of obedience to the Spirit that have become confused and garbled in the intervening centuries of religious movements. It seems very important to me for OYM to keep protecting and fanning that little flame, even though it seems small and not well appreciated, and definitely not the most popular version of Christianity. I see it as similar to the need for us as humans to not forget how to do various things for ourselves, like how to live without electricity, as some day we may need to go back to those skills. A bit different, as we as humans need to re-discover the Holy Spirit NOW, not at some time in the future, but the wider Christian world may not recognize that - ever.
Faye - I was not happy with my answer to your question so I will try again. Perhaps the question is too broad for a single answer. But I can tell you instead what drew me to the neo conservatives. For me they hold the key to who Jesus Christ actually is and was and are truly faithful to the fact that Christ has come to teach His people Himself. They expect to be led by Christ daily and in all details of their lives in very real ways. They expect to have real communication with Christ. They expect to be born again and to be re-made by Christ in this lifetime. They understand the reality of Satan. They expect and teach submission and obedience and fear of God. They uniquely bring together this Living knowledge of Christ with the silent waiting worship: worship that is in Spirit and in Truth. Other branches of Quakerism have parts of this picture but it is the conservatives, and really the neo conservatives, that I feel are keeping it all alive together. This is the Truth our modern world needs to know.