Lets do an experiment.  Pick a Meeting, any Meeting.  Find a Monthly Meeting that dares to list its recorded members as a matter of public record, with or without other contact information.  Have you found one yet?  Take your time.

Time was, being public about one's membership was an act of courage.  You might go to prison for it.  The English church considered Quakers too subversive to be allowed to spread.  Many left for the New World as a result of these persecutions, although it wasn't long before Quakers inter-bred with high society types and rose in stature, even inside their homeland.  By 1790, being "Quaker" was consistent with being "well to do".  Quakers did a lot to galvanize the so-called Industrial Revolution, even if their model, of a benign company town, friendly to workers, never caught on among more rapacious brands of capitalist.

In the US especially, a bellicose nation defined by its growing empire, questioning the prevailing code of conduct might get one in hot water somehow.  Now that we only "register" for the draft, public declarations of one's Quakerism seem even less necessary than before.  Better to play it safe then, and "come out" as Quaker mostly to one another, in the safe confines of some social hall.

Imagine a form a Quakerism in which "becoming a member" meant consenting to having one's name publicly listed on the Internet as such?  That might require mentioning the Internet by name in Faith and Practice however, and introducing any technologies beyond the telephone is what many Meetings are loathe to do.  Ours mentions the Yellow Pages ad our Meeting supposedly places each year.  Oversight is in charge.  Isn't that charming?  I find it alarming.

We've recently started to hammer out some language that will mention post 1980s technologies, in the form of an Annex or Addendum to NPYM's Faith & Practice.  It's a top-down process, more prescriptive than descriptive.  Instead of polling the meetings about their own experiences, the document tends to lecture on why conference calls will trump more deliberative archived listserv discussions.  Those most comfortable with the phone want to retain their role as "discerners".  When it comes to "discernment", lets stick to the old ways.  I'm skeptical of this position, but do welcome the debate.

Back to membership... We have a regional directory that's like pulling teeth to produce, with Meetings reluctantly sending their information, some refusing to do so by any electronic means.  Fear and suspicion of the Internet runs high.  In no way do "members" want their identities divulged in any "world readable" format.  The directory goes out privately, with warnings to not spread the contents irresponsibly.  Does anyone see the irony here?

I'd say no wonder the whole institution of membership is in question.  What could it possibly mean if it's not a matter of public record and isn't the Web how we share with the public in this day and age?  I'm for starting a new regional directory that's specifically geared to Friends who wish their affiliation to be made known.  We'll make sure it's opt in, allowing the secretive to continue in their slinking around.  I'd expect many who are not yet formal members to want their names broadcast in this way, perhaps with the caveat "not a member".  Maybe non-members will outnumber members on some web pages?  That'd be OK.  At least they're willing to come forward.  Takes guts.

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Comment by Forrest Curo on 3rd mo. 10, 2016 at 6:49am

Certainly there can be collective 'spirits' with evil manifestations, ie the 'esprit de corps' of a military (or political) organization; and yes, we're aiming for the One transcending all that.

& sometimes we are so bent on some lesser ideal that we become merely 'a community of the like-minded,' whether that means the latest likes or the most traditional. This doesn't take God entirely out of the loop, but makes us collectively less teachable.

Comment by Howard Brod on 3rd mo. 14, 2016 at 8:04am


When Friends at my meeting realized that Jesus never considered himself a "Christian"; rather, he was trying to just bring new understandings of the reality of the Universe to all in a transcendent way - a change came over many of us.  It dawned on Friends that he was/is actually a Universalist who was simply cutting through the crap of religion to get to the core of our oneness in divinity.  This reality about Jesus is something nearly all liberal Quakers are able to respect and relate to, while still rejecting the label of "Christian" (which incidentally, Jesus never used).

Comment by Kirby Urner on 3rd mo. 14, 2016 at 1:23pm

Thanks Howard.  I think liberal Quakers are able to respect and relate to this reality about Jesus, and yet also accept the label of "Christian" as valuable at least to other Friends if not to themselves. 

Some Friends very much want to identify as Christians and role-play as such and I think their rationale is air tight in the light of historical precedent.

When I'm presenting to non-Quakers about Quakerism (which I sometimes do), I might say something like:  "Quakers are an historically business-oriented Christian sect that reached their peak in power and influence in the 1790s; centuries later there's less consensus on the 'Christian' branding, mainly out of a healthy suspicion of all labels and titles, which we recognize come from mortal / fallible humans and not from God directly." 

My late wife is a case in point:  she really admired Jesus and loved to read about his life and the women around him, Mary Magdalen especially.  She was a scholar and knew more about recent scholarship about Jesus than the average Friend, yet when she became a member of Multnomah Meeting she wanted her Clearness Committee to formally accept that she did not identify as a Christian.  She wanted to be one of those non-Christian Quakers. 

They were OK with that at Multnomah.  I was already a respected member at the time (I later resigned membership as a crutch I no longer needed -- I authenticate as a Friend in other ways). Our family has been a pillar of the meeting, contributing financially and in many roles. 

Dawn taught workshops at Annual Sessions, both in NPYM and South Africa, regarding how to draw and walk a labyrinth.  She died on St. Patrick's day nine years ago, so this is an appropriate time to celebrate her memory.

Comment by Howard Brod on 3rd mo. 14, 2016 at 3:25pm

Yes, certainly you are correct Kirby.  I didn't mean to sound like all Quakers reject the "Christian" label.  I was speaking for those who do.  Thanks for giving me the opportunity to clarify that. 

Your wife sounds like a wonderfully interesting and loving person.  You have been a lucky man to have had her in your life all those years, and I am sure she is still with you in spirit!

Comment by Kirby Urner on 3rd mo. 15, 2016 at 9:54am

She is, yes, with me in spirit, and yes of course I understood you were welcoming, with open arms, those Friends publicly affiliating with a religion constructed around Jesus, even if Jesus himself was not attempting establish a new brand of religion (it's debatable whether that was his focus).

Quakerism eschews elaborate theology in part to extricate itself from "religious wars" over terminology and labels.  Friends manage to meet in silence and partake of God's grace without coming to blows over whether this service is "really Christian" or not. 

We stay non-violent out of faithfulness and loyalty to the ones we count as Friends, Jesus certainly included in their number, and influential to the nth degree (an expression, don't ask me what n is).

More about my relationship with Dawn Wicca, who lived from September 20, 1953 until March 17, 2007:

Maybe because of my Quaker wiring, I tend to take business law as my starting point when formalizing relationships, and Dawn and I became a business partnership, filing an IRS 1065, in 1990, three years before our Quaker wedding under the care of Multnomah Meeting on September 11, 1993. 

Working through whatever issues were required to become a business partnership was our way of becoming engaged, a model I might commend.  We had separate checking accounts that we paid into from the shared business account, which paid for shared business expenses.

Dawn was a bookkeeper by self training, coming from a background in psychology (she'd tended Vietnam vets) and the women's self help movement.  She grew in stature as a bookkeeper, earning certificates as well as word of mouth appreciation from auditors, who liked her meticulous and well-organized books, always computerized.  She specialized in "fund accounting" which aims at keeping non-profits accountable to their sponsors and, in the US, the IRS.

Her focus on the Labyrinth coincided with her identification with Celtic traditions pre Saint Patrick's appearance as the vanguard of a new expression of faith in cosmic integrity. 

Dawn and her Quaker friends Elizabeth and Gayle toured holy wells in Ireland dating back to Druidic times.  After receiving a diagnosis of terminal cancer, with advanced medical treatments able to prolong her life by some years, she made a pilgrimage to the Glastonbury Tor, important in Celtic mythology.

Dawn's bravery in the face of a life cut short allowed her to continue her bookkeeping business with her apprentice, assuring her many clients continuity.  That bookkeeping business exists to this day and is thriving thanks to the woman she brought on board. 

My side of the business was computer programming and I've continued with that also, engaged in my social role as single dad (our daughter was 13 when Dawn died). 

Although partnership legally dissolved in 2007, I was in denial and mistakenly tried to file 1065s after that as "the only partner" in Dawn Wicca & Associates (that only led to confusions, since cleared up).  The business checking account remains, though today it belongs to a sole proprietorship, with a DBA (business alias) of 4D Solutions (what I've used all these years e.g. 4dsolutions.net is one of my domains).


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