In his booklet “A Revolutionary Gospel,” Lewis Benson writes of three stages of work that seventeenth-century Friends undertook: the first in the sequence was turning people to Christ through preaching the Word (the substance of vocal ministry), which reached to the witness of God in others (convincing/convicting of sin); the second stage was settling and establishing the newly convinced, which entailed repentance and amendment of life; and the third was building on this newly laid foundation, thereby enabling the Church to form and become a witness to the society at large of the new order of righteous community.

Many in our liberal meetings today are not yet convinced—have not moved into the first stage—and therefore the second and third stages of development (settling and building) go largely undiscovered. The work for any who have been inwardly convicted of truth and have learned the necessity of silently watching for its promptings for guidance to speak in meeting have before them the work of the first stage: turning people to Christ, the truth, through giving voice to the power and spirit of the Lord that can reach to the witness of God in everyone. This was the vocal (gospel) ministry as it was at first, and is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Benson concludes the segment on stages of the work with a paragraph that reminds; reassures; and, yes, comforts us that our time is not the only time of mistaken notions of individualism:

A fairly large segment of first-generation Quakers misunderstood the nature of the Quaker revolution. They thought it was leading to an individualistic righteousness and a loose association of free-wheeling religious individualists. They failed to catch the vision of a great people gathered to God by Christ who would learn together, obey together, witness together and suffer together. However, faithful Friends, who had grown up in the truth, became builders of the new righteousness and the new community (p.11).

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Comment by Keith Saylor on 3rd mo. 25, 2016 at 7:22pm

Hello Patricia,

A fairly large segment of first-generation Quakers misunderstood the nature of the Quaker revolution. They thought it was leading to an individualistic righteousness and a loose association of free-wheeling religious individualists. They failed to catch the vision of a great people gathered to God by Christ who would learn together, obey together, witness together and suffer together. However, faithful Friends, who had grown up in the truth, became builders of the new righteousness and the new community (p.11).

I'm curious. Does Benson document who those first-generation Quakers were who misunderstood the nature of the Quaker revolution? If not, are you able to support his (and by implication, your) contention by pointing us to the writings of those first-generation Quakers who misunderstood the nature of the Quaker revolutions and who thought that the revolution "was leading to an individualistic righteousness and a loose association of free-wheeling religious individualists?" After all, the only way Benson or yourself can even highlight this misunderstanding is through the writings of first-generation Quakers. I am interested in reading specifically from those misunderstanding Quakers ... unfiltered through Bensons' or your characterizations.

Comment by Howard Brod on 3rd mo. 25, 2016 at 8:38pm

Jesus was gathering a great people to experience first-hand the power, presence, and glory of God within; a power that will move all sorts of people to lives of love in action.  He exemplified his own message and called others to experience it with him so they too could exemplify this new life to others.

For so-named "Christians" in the ensuing centuries to water that glorious commission down to be just gathering people to honor a book (i.e., the Bible), a religious tradition (pick your brand of Quakerism or any other 'ism'), or a doctrinal interpretation (too many to name) - pales in comparison to the divine message of love that can be experienced simply by recognizing our true nature. 

One doesn't have to even know how to read a holy book to experience this.  One does not need to understand religious dogma or tradition to experience this.  One does not need to be any particular religion or use religious labels advocated by humans such as "God, Buddha, Christian, or Jesus" to experience this.

Humans have a history of turning wonderful spiritual teachers who manifested that eternal Spirit into idols to be worshipped. And our egos love "classifying" each other as 'members of the club or not'.  "By the fruits of the Spirit we will know them" - not by what they think about religious traditions or doctrines.

I hear a number of so-named "Christian" Quakers asking others to adhere to Quaker creeds of 400 years ago in order to be OK, when the message of Jesus was all about love - period.  And I can't help but wonder who is really being the raging individualists in this 21st century through their identification of others as not OK.

Just because Friends allow others to respond individually to the operation of the Holy Spirit operating in their consciousness, and support their spiritual growth within a corporate body of faith, does not mean those Friends do not have corporate discernment among them as a group.  I participate in a Quaker meeting that does this very well.  And we are unified in the Spirit as we support each others' individual spiritual journey in that eternal love.  And it is beautiful, loving, and awe-inspiring - bearing spiritual fruit within Friends that only could come from eternal divine love.

Comment by Patricia Dallmann on 3rd mo. 26, 2016 at 10:45am

Keith: I doubt if Benson in this essay gives any more attention to those he's referred to as "free-wheeling religious individualists," as his interest is in studying the new righteousness and community that seventeenth-century Friends created, rather than those who were their detractors, such as the Puritans, etc.

Howard:  Original Friends and we who value them hardly value dogma, or the tradition because it's the tradition; we value Scripture and our tradition because they speak of what we've found inwardly, and speak of these inward discoveries in beautiful, powerful ways, full of wisdom. Either Liberals can't see the correlation between Scriptures, tradition, and faith; or they can see but would rather not, for what it says about themselves (Jn. 3:18-19).

Comment by Howard Brod on 3rd mo. 26, 2016 at 12:43pm

Patricia,

I read those verses of condemnation from John (an obvious synopsis or interpretation of Jesus' words long after he said them) as not referring to intellectual doctrinal beliefs or traditions.  Rather, they refer to unloving behavior, as made clear as that synopsis continues: "the Light, sent from God, pierced through the world’s darkness to expose ill motives, hatred, gossip, greed, violence, and the like. Still some people preferred the darkness over the light because their actions were dark. 20 Some of humankind hated the light. They scampered hurriedly back into the darkness where vices thrive and wickedness flourishes."

It is clear that it is referring to unloving acts towards others.  Of more interest and import to me are the synopsis and interpretation of Jesus' words by Matthew in chapter 7, because it applies to the judgement and condemnation so many professed Christians hoist onto others:

1  Jesus: If you judge other people, then you will find that you, too, are being judged. Indeed, you will be judged by the very standards to which you hold other people. Jesus: Why is it that you see the dust in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but you can’t see what is in your own eye?

21 Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven. Simply calling Me “Lord” will not be enough. Only those who do the will of My Father who is in heaven will join Me in heaven. 22 At the end of time, on that day of judgment, many will say to Me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name? Did we not drive demons out of the possessed in Your name? Did we not perform miracles in Your name?” 23 But I will say to them, “I never knew you. And now, you must get away from Me, you evildoers!”

24 Those people who are listening to Me, those people who hear what I say and live according to My teachings—you are like a wise man who built his house on a rock, on a firm foundation.

Jesus' expressed teachings centered on living a life in Godly love, compassion, and forgiveness as demonstrated by our day to day actions (deeds).  The theology, creeds, doctrines, and traditions that so many so-named Christians are invested in was established by humans after Jesus' death.  To have blind faith in those writings is to idolize them.  The only place for faith is with the indwelling Spirit that is not partial to doctrinal belief and traditions.  It is wholly sufficient for us as it was for Jesus and others throughout the centuries.

Comment by Patricia Dallmann on 3rd mo. 26, 2016 at 1:39pm

It's ironic, Howard, that you would make a case for "love" in such a bitter diatribe against another! This is the kind of contradiction Liberals engage in as a matter of course.

Here's a paragraph written just yesterday by a fellow NFF worker, Ellis Hein. He goes into how to recognize God's love, the Christian's responsibility to speak the truth (which does not contradict itself!), and the accusations the Christian is to expect in return.  As a matter of fact, Ellis wrote this paragraph in support of another worker who was being abused by her Liberal meeting in Michigan. No need to respond to this, Howard; I understand your position, having been around Liberals a long time. 

As Ellis writes, we "stand faithful through all storms of accusations." 

Regarding speaking truth "in love" or not in love. Jesus said, "I am the truth." For us, there is no other foundation of truth than the Word that speaks life into us,making us living beings. There is no such thing as speaking truth in love, in anger, or in any other human state. We can only speak truth in that same breath that breathed it into our hearts. The work of truth is to burn up and beat down all that is contrary to God in motion, word, or work. Those who will embrace that inward work can see this as the very love of God to bring them into life. The one who is faithful to the motions of Christ within them to minister in truth are often chastised for anger, for lack of love, for a spirit of division, etc. The true minister of Christ will stand faithful through all the storms of accusations.

One other point: "the Judge not, lest ye be judged" admonition you quoted does not worry those of us who know Christ, because we are already judged and are happy to be judged at any moment. We want to be judged by Christ at any and every moment, for it is in being open to his righteous judgement that we are then open to receiving Christ, and only then. Christ is more important to us than remaining in the dark, unwilling to see or be seen for what one is. So, Howard, here's one more example of how you fail to understand the tradition, the Scriptures, and the faith of the first Friends.   

Comment by Keith Saylor on 3rd mo. 26, 2016 at 2:57pm

Patricia. Benson, in fact, does not support his contention by referencing the words of those who he represents. I read the whole of the piece you reference. For those who are interested, it can be read online by clicking here. He points to a group of people, within the Quaker gathering, that he represents as misunderstanding the Quaker revolution because they were "free-wheeling religion individualists" who ostensively were under no governance because they did not conform to the "new" outward centralized institutional structures and instrumentalities that George Fox, and those who followed him, established. Benson represents a group of Quakers, who did not follow the outward forms that Fox was imposing, in a certain way to build up the newly established forms and undermine those who did not follow those forms. In essence, Benson uses his representation of these people to demonstrate the value of Foxonian establishment forces.  Benson, in his piece, is interested in setting up a representation of the testimony of  a group of founding Quakers and solidifying his representation of those people as a true representation. He is not so much interested in showing us what those Founding Quakers he writes against actually witnessed and testified to. Benson is interested in promulgating his own representation of them to further the agenda of his piece. 

Further is his piece Benson writes:

In order for Christ to be known in this way the church had to come togather at set times and places, and for convenience it was found best to regularize meetings. This orderly schedule of meetings had no special religious significance. There was no sacralization of structure in the early Quaker community. From the beginning there have been many variant in the Quaker calendar of meetings but, in the main, they follow a pattern of three concentric circles consisting of Monthly, Quarterly, and Yearly meetings. Christ is in the midst of all these local, regional and more comprehensive levels of fellowship. He is the center, the middle part. It is his presence and what he does that gives the church its authority and its motive power. He call men and women to be his ministers and gives them the power to speak a prophetic word to his church. "We are not our own," says Fox,

"and are not to live to ourselves, nor to order ourselves, but to live unto him and be ordered, ruled, and governed by him...to be counselled by him, and led by him and taught by him, as he is heavenly prophet."

The purpose of the structure of meetings was to give the maximum opportunity to experience the presence and leadership of Christ in his church. The "gospel order" is not structureless but the structure itself does not impart order to the church. The unity and fellowship in witness and in suffering will not be features of this church structure unless the presence of Christ is felt and his leadership experienced as a present reality. This is the reason why Fox is continually asserting that the "gospel order" is "not of man nor by man." Fox is not the inventor of the gospel order any more than he is the inventor of the gospel. "So here is the foundation of our meetings," he says,

"the foundation of them is Christ, of the increase of whose righteous, glorious and spiritual government there is no end; nor of the glorious, heavenly unity and orderof his heavenly gospel...which is not of man nor by man; so man has no glory, but God and Christ alone."

There were certainly many founding Quakers who did not share Fox's new order of outwardly established structures. Benson says the that the purpose Foxonian structure is to "give maximum opportunity to experience the presence and leadership of Christ in his church. Those who did not conform to Fox's new establishment order often did not share the need for outward structure to "maximize" the "opportunity" for witness or experience Christ's presence or leadership. Many of these founding Quakers witnessed and experienced Christ's presence and leadership all the time and in all circumstances in their daily life. They spoke of knowing the second coming as already happened and happening every day on this earth. There was no need for established times and places to "maximize" the experience of Christ's presence of leadership. The inshining Light anchored their conscious and informed their conscience in all things. Outward set times, places, worships, traditions, practices, etc. were trappings that they had been led out of. In fact, they testified that establishing an outward "new order" was going back into that which they had been led out of. They testified that the inshinging Light itself in itself is their "new order" and that there was no purpose to returning to the establishment of  outward structures of set times, places, etc. 

Benson quotes Fox:

We are not on our own and are not to live to ourselves, nor to order ourselves, but to live unto him and be ordered, ruled, and governed by him...to be counselled by him, and led by him and taught by him, as he is heavenly prophet.

Benson uses these words of Fox to suggest that those who did not conform to Fox's outward order advocated "living to ourselves and ordering ourselves" instead of being governed by Christ himself. It is time now to share some  words from one of those who questioned the imposition of Foxonian outward structure upon the whole of the Quaker gathering. William Rogers , in his historical documentation of the struggle between those who sought to impose an outward order upon all those in the Quaker gathering and those who did not conform to the desires imposition, writes:

Oh Friends, let the Remembrance of this Day come before you, and consider furhter , what was the voice of the Eternal Poer into such you were struck with amzemant, after they believed the appearance of the Power of God: I well remember the voice of this wise, To your own, To your own, To your own. Meaning thereby that they should turn in their minds to the Light of Christ in their consciences, which was declared to be that teacher, which could never be removed into a corner ... For no doubt but the Spirit of the Lord, revealed unto those first laborers in the Gospel, that there was a proneness in the Sond and Daughters of Men, to admire, to depend upon, and sometimes ... to worship such as were instruments, to give forth outward Directories, or Church-Faiths ... I am pursuaded that the voice of Truth through them was not only thus, viz. To your own (which, being observed, leads into an independency upon others) but also ... We preach no our selves, look not unto us. 

In the Consideration of these things I cannot but cry aloud ... fear God and and glory to him. And then no doubt but [everyone] that has concerned himself to condemn his Brother, on no bettern ground than from the example and prescription of another, will come to see, that therein he has not kept to his own, and so hath been led into a By and Erring Path. Oh Friends! Let therefore this cry pass through every heart, To your Own, To your Own, To your Own. (That is to say, to every ones own measure of Christ's Light or Grace of God Recieved, which the Apostle saith is sufficent) with this secret breathing of Spirit unto the God of our lives, that all my be retired. For if that Counsel might but take place, it seems to me, that there could then be no room for any to impose, or press the observation of other mens Lines upon any ... and not only so, but it would mould all ... in to the very nature thereof, and so consequently, a reconciliation in the everlasting Truth might quickly ensue ...

I well Remember, and many with me, that whil'st friends kept to their Own, and conscerned not themselves to promote a zealous observation of other men's Lines made ready for their hands, we then heard not of so much contention, strife, and debate, both public and private, as of late years hath been: but since the promotion thereof, Confusion, Disorder, Emulation, Malice, and Envy that been its offspring which hath been manifested by public unjust revilings against some, when zealously contending for the Faith of God's Elect; and though these are of that number that prefer obedience to the measures of others; yet other same there are, who have endeavored to bring Friends into conformity to the pretended Dictates of the Spirit through others; or at best through that one man G.F. [George Fox] ... From the Preface, pages 37-40

Source: "The Christian Quaker Distinguished From the Apostate and Innovator in Five Parts, Wherein Religious difference Amongst the People Termed in Derision Quakers, Are Treated on." by William Rogers Published in 1680. 

Once you come face to face with the words of one other those first generation Quakers who was unwilling to conform to the outwardly established forms instituted by George Fox and others, does it become clear that the essence of the disagreement was not really over the outward forms Fox wished to establish. The problem was the Foxonian forces would not tolerate that many of the founders of the Children of Light did not wish to participate in his outward structural framework or new order. These Quakers were already living the new order in the sufficiency of the direct and unmediated inshinging Light itself in itself without regard to outward persons or structures. In the inshinging Light itself in itself, they experience no need for outward structure to "maximize" Christ's  Presence, They testified that the Foxonian imposition of a  "new order" was of the nature of the old order that they had been led out of. 

It is revealing that those who did not conform to the outward Foxonian structures did not begrudge those who testified for the needfulness of outward forms in their lives to maximize Christ's Presence (thought they would share their concern). The essence of their disagree was that the Foxonian establishment forces went about imposing this outward order over against those whose conscience in the inshining Light itself did not value it. It was not so much the order that Fox was establishing, it was the imposition of Foxonian order upon the whole of the Quaker gathering. 

Clearly, a fair reading of William Rogers' words shows that those who did not follow Foxonian form, were not these "free-wheeling religious individualists" or anarchists with no governance. They share the Foxonian witness of and devotion to the inshining Light itself as the only true guide. They were as much under the government of Christ as the Foxonians. They just did not share the need of those, among the Foxonian order, whose experience of Christ's Presence was maximized by the established of and worship within the context of an outward order of set times, places, buildings, practices, etc. 

It is a reality that there are people who find outward forms needful to maximize their experience of the Presence of Christ. It is also a reality that there are people who do not. I am among those who do not. For many of us, an outward structure is a hindrance rather than a help. It is a blessing that I do not live in a time wherein the inshining Light itself anchoring my conscious and informing my conscience could be overshadowed by the violent imposition of other people's outward "Lines' over against that inshining Light that guides me and many others without the imposed mediation of outwardly set times, places, institutions, bureaucracies, etc. 

Comment by Howard Brod on 3rd mo. 26, 2016 at 3:29pm

You are quite the saint, martyr, and judge, Patricia, all at the same time.  You hurl all sorts of accusations and judgements against liberal Friends and any who are not Christians, and then when one responds in order that all may hear both views, you do so even more.  Please don't think everything is about you.  I was responding to your views.  I don't know you personally, but I do feel love towards you.  God bless you. 

Comment by Patricia Dallmann on 3rd mo. 26, 2016 at 4:38pm

Keith: I've skimmed through your writing. When George Fox met with opposing priests, he often reported afterwards that they had tried to weigh him down with many words. Your tendency to repeat your ideas and imply you have a legitimate position by engaging in copious verbiage does, in short, not convince. 

To understand the Church as Friends first understood it, you must realize that unity was essential. Christ was the Head, and the people were the Body of Christ. As a body is integrated through its obedience to the Head, so was the Church, the people of God. The unity that Jesus prays for shortly before his crucifixion is the same unity that was an indispensable tenet of Quaker faith, ecclesiology, and witness to the world.  

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou has sent me (Jn. 17:21).

A petition for unity in himself among those whom God has given him (9) is contained in Jesus's prayer (21), and likewise (as would be expected given Friends were in that unity Jesus had requested) being "in oneness" is essential in their understanding of themselves as a people of God. Benson quotes Fox:

All people must own the light of Christ within them, which Light is but one in all men, and brings into oneness all who believe in it.

"The unity of the church," Benson goes on to write, "is not a unity that excludes the unity of witness for moral truth. God is a God of order and not of confusion, and what he teaches one he teaches all" (The Revolutionary Gospel, 12).

This understanding of unity in Christ has been rejected in today's Liberal meetings where unity in Christ is unknown and unsought. What would have been an impossibility among the people of God called Quakers in the seventeenth century is de rigueur in present-day Liberalism. So, Keith, your argument would've been dismissed very quickly among those stalwart, wise ones, as were those labored with and eventually broken with who didn't hold that unity was a part of being in Christ, and who could not unite with the body of Christ. Benson describes these folks and how the body of tested Friends dealt with them:

There were many within the early Quaker movement who sought to undermine that faith by reducing it to an individualistic morality and assert[ed] obedience can stop short of the Cross. These opposers of truth had a scattering effect upon the new community but their counsels did not prevail (12).

These "opposers of truth" whose "counsels did not prevail" are apparently those whom you're championing over and against the Friends who found them in opposition to the body's leading from their Head, Christ. Fox paraphrases Paul, as I recall, when he says:

We are not our own and are not to live to ourselves, nor to order ourselves, but to live unto him and be ordered, ruled and governed by him...to be counselled by him, and led by him and taught by him, as he is heavenly prophet (14).

I suggest you seek Christ's counsel, Keith, and question if he wants you to continue what seems to be a long-standing obsession to diminish his eminent, faithful, and true servant, George Fox.  

Comment by David McKay on 3rd mo. 26, 2016 at 5:20pm

Because Benson was convinced that Fox had been given a unique revelation he had very little motivation for investigating the writings of those that he disagreed with. It is established that there were clusters of anarchists at the time commonly referred to as "Ranters" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ranter) and Quakers were often disparagingly compared with them and I rather suspect the membership/participation of the two groups intersected frequently. While it would be helpful to have access to some of their writings to get a sense of what Fox and subsequently Benson were talking about I rather think it's enough to accept that they were a line drawn in the sand that Fox was not willing to cross — and this likely informed his intense response to the Naylor controversy. We moderns (especially from the liberal side) rather like James Naylor — especially his deathbed statement. But that we existed all is a debt we owe to Fox to Barclay and others who recognized the importance of other witnesses to the Inward Christ — scripture, the scruples and experience of others, the traditions of process and procedure.

Comment by David McKay on 3rd mo. 26, 2016 at 5:25pm

Howard Brod, I do not trust expressions of "feeling love" in religious contexts. I do not deny the experience only the label. Love as expressed in scripture and other holy writings refers to a commitment or choice not an emotion. As one of my teachers once pointed out, what we mean when we say the word "love" is not itself an emotion but a tendency to feel a range of emotions in regards to another person: when they hurt we feel sad or concerned, when they are happy we rejoice, when they do well we feel pride. Feelings are an important part of my discernment process but they are not the end of it.

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