Response to some explanations about Quakers, speaking during worship, and leadership

On another site, a Friend has posted a thoughtful and seemingly thorough response to an inquiry from someone asking about orthodoxy, the Bible, and leadership among Quakers especially as it relates to worship and spoken ministry.

I wanted to gently point out that what has been written applies to a segment of the unprogrammed Quaker world (in which waiting, or silent worship is practiced), but not to all of it.

As it turns out, I was unable to successfully post a comment at that site, and so here are my thoughts. I post here much more than I would have on another's site.

In my experience among Conservative Friends, there is a different understanding (than offered at the above mentioned site, as well as others) about what makes a Friend a Friend and what occurs during worship, and that information can be found online and through the Tract Association of Friends literature (online and in print) and other sources.

Better still, contact can be made with real, live Conservative Friends (through quakerquaker, for example). Sharing one to one can be just as helpful as reading posts and literature, and can be even more helpful, depending upon what one seeks.

The reason I felt moved to respond, though indirectly, is that when I hear statements that begin with something like, "Quakers believe, " "Quakers don't believe, " "Quakers do, " "Quakers don't do, " I sense that the writer has limited acquaintance among Friends. The answer is, to the writer, full and complete. But as it turns out, it misses the mark due to the omission of references to the faith and practice of those outside their acquaintance.

Of course I haven't met all the different kinds of Friends in the world! And when I respond to questions about Friends, I first explain my own experience, the Yearly Meeting to which I belong, and work to be careful to state only what I know, and how I know it. If I am speaking of personal spiritual experience, I indicate that. If I share what has been explained by other Friends I indicate that, and so on.

My hope is that careful speech will avoid confusion. I cannot explain how every Yearly Meeting addresses pastoral or spiritual concerns, but I can explain what I have seen our Yearly Meeting members do. Inquirers who wish to know more about different groups need to contact those different groups and find out from those living in the community how they work.

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Comment by Chel Avery on 11th mo. 26, 2009 at 5:09pm
Raye, I think I am the author of the blog that you are concerned about. Sorry you couldn't post a response -- someone named Tyler Hampton posted something similar to what you are pointing out. The blog consists of responses to questions people send to the Quaker Information Center, and one of the reasons we decided to start blogging some of our responses is so we could get feedback about how we represent the RSoF. Often I twist myself into spirals trying to be clear about what (little) can be said for Friends as a whole, and how variations play out in our different branches. I was more limited in this response because the writer was from the UK, so I only spoke for "unprogrammed Friends." I was aware that I was lumping together the branch I think of as "liberal" (FGC-affiliated and many western independent friends) with the three Conservative YMs. I myself am part of the liberal branch; I read the literature of and rub elbows a lot with Conservative Friends, but feel less qualified to speak for them. (The organization I was writing for -- Quaker Information Center -- is not specifically a liberal Friends organization, although our supporting Friends organizations are weighted in that direction.) Based on this much exposure, my impression is that Conservative Friends are much more consistently Christ-centered than are liberal Friends; however I have also observed that in a general way, Conservative Friends are even stronger in their noncredality -- I would like to be corrected if I'm wrong. In retrospect, I do wish I had double checked my understandings about Conservative Friends before describing how unprogrammed Friends respond to "inappropriate ministry." No one has corrected me yet, but if there is any inaccuracy, I hope to hear about it. Chel Avery (email me at:; see blog at
Comment by Raye on 11th mo. 26, 2009 at 6:38pm
Chel, Thanks for the comment! I do not envy you the job of having to try to answer questions on behalf of the entire Religious Society of Friends. As I wrote, I certainly could not cover all the variations. I am learning more each month, sometimes each week, as I broaden my acquaintance among Friends.

Based on the time I have spent in non-Conservative (liberal, FGC, there are different terms used) meetings for worship, I think your answer was thorough. Someone much more experienced among these meetings could set me straight, perhaps, but from what I recall, what you wrote matched my experiences sojourning among meetings other than my own in Ohio.

I wanted to post a thanks to you, and plan to begin a more thorough effort to fill in a couple of gaps as clearly as possible about how I have experienced eldering, ministry and oversight among the Friends of Ohio Yearly Meeting, because in these are the answers to the original question posted on the QIC blog, from my perspective based on my experiences as part of OYM. It seems to me that not all yearly meetings referred to as conservative handle matters identically, so someone else will need to step up for answers from the rest of the Conservative bunch. (c:


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