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 Howard Brod on 3rd mo. 26, 2016 at 7:13pm

I agree David that the divine love that Jesus exemplified is a choice one has to consciously make once experiencing that divine love himself.  This is the kind of love I am referencing in my statements, and I apologize if I failed to make that clear.  Thank you for providing me the opportunity to clarify it.

Comment by Forrest Curo on 3rd mo. 26, 2016 at 8:42pm

Fox et al were led to establish organizational forms which helped perpetuate the survival of the group. This was, however, no longer quite the same group which had originally formed, and no longer served the same purposes for its members.

After a few centuries, we are in fact pleased to still have a modified form of their organization... but again, this no longer serves the same purposes for the same members as before.

Hence considerable disatisfaction for those of us who would like to have God manifesting as spectacularly & powerfully among us as among our predecessors.

But I see no reason to doubt that this organization continues to serve certain of God's purposes.

If we yearn to establish a Perfect Church with nobody in it, we can try to return to the original 16th Century ideology -- and fight like cats over whose version of that is most accurate.

If we want to better serve God's purposes, I think we need to bear with the people we have, and are -- and continue in those forms which still bear fruit -- consider changing what seems to be in the way... leaving it open for now what God will lead us to in that regard. It is not our brains that God loves us for :>}

Everyone's personal spiritual development & connection with God is really the point; but if that is to be done right it will frequently, necessarily be intertwined with that of other people.

Some means may further that better than others; meanwhile it is still God doing the work and establishing the choreography thereof...

Comment by Keith Saylor on 3rd mo. 26, 2016 at 9:04pm

Patricia. I understand and acknowledge your position that I am wordy and that my testimony is not legitimate. I am okay with your outward diminishing of me through demeaning characterizations. I am a Child of Light and the power of the inshining Light anchoring my conscience and informing my conscience gives me victory over ridicule and innuendo.  Also, it is important to point out the meetings George Fox had with the priests were live and personal. Certainly, it is a tactic in personal discussion, and under time constraints, to speak on and on so that another can't get a word in edgewise. However, I remind you that this is not a live and personal discussion forum. The reader is able to take as much as is necessary to absorb the text and respond as time permits. I'm in no hurry for your responses, please take as much time as you need. 

I am interested in first person context Patricia and take the time to give  that to the reader. My concern is that you do not wish to hear from those founding Quakers who did not agree with your version of the nature of "early Quakers." I understand completely how essential unity was to the early Quakers. The centrality of this unity is expressed over and over in William Rogers' "The Christian Quaker..." (published in 1680). Rogers documents the personal anguish those who came out against Foxonian outward form struggled with because of their concern over the resulting public and private disunity. They chose to delay and delay the publication of his book in the hope that those who were imposing Foxonian forms over against the conscience of others in the Quaker Gathering would return to the spirit of the founding. Here is some further first person context; a letter written to George Fox from John Wilkinson that expresses the concerns of those founding Quakers who did not follow the Foxonian established forms. Note, I am retyping the whole letter so that any who read it may understand the nuance from the side of those founding Quakers who did not conform the Foxonian. John Wilkinson writes to George Fox:

George Fox,

With the Truth of God in my heart, I have of thee, in whom God appeared in the Beginning of the Day of Life, and reached unto us his word; who gave us faith to believe, and to recieve thy Testimony thou gave of his Light in our hearts: which gathered us unto Unity with him, and one with another, and made us of the Church the first -Born of the first fruits of God; continuing many years in Love and Good Will one to another; But of late days, the concord we once had, seems much to be broken; and many Instruments, whom God hath wrought by, (and in great Love have labored together, but) of late time have greatly Jarred: And the cause God has manifested to me; That it is not in Principles of Truth, nor in Christ's Doctrine, nor in any Practice, which Truth in the Members of the Heavenly Body leadeth into: but about Prescriptions from thee, though the Blind Zeal of the Weak, to promote thy Orders. It may be feared, may do eye the Orders from thee, than they eye the Lord in them; Accusing and Judging all out of truth, that practice not with all [not intelligible] from them, using all Force they can devise, according to the Power they have, to compel all unto them; Censuring all Friends out of Unity, that come not to Practice with them; which is the greatest penalty and Persecution that can inflict , for want of Outward Power: And many friends think it Godliness to Accuse and Condemn Brethren about Outward Things, before the Accused with Truth be led into them. George, for the Love of God, and for his Peoples sake, open thy Mind plainly, what thou intended by them: and make it known unto Friends, if thou intended Counsel unto the Church only, and no Compelling into particular Things and Practice, but commendingto God's WItness, in all Consciences, to be led into the Excercise and Practice thereof, as everyone is inwardly persuaded of God, in each particular, and not before: If thou so do, it would much clear Thee, and Others, from being the Cause of Division; for Ininquity worketh in a Mystery in many, that think it Godliness to Accuse and Condemn their Brethren about outward things, as I said before, which was the Cause of great Strife in former Ages. But it thou open not thy Mind to Friends, and deal Plainly, and testify, Thou never intended, that any who is Faithful inwardly to God, should either be Accused or Condemned about thy Orders; and so let thy prudent Care appear about these Things; the Breach amongst Friends and Brethren , is in great Danger to grow wider; and then, I fear the Cause of Divisions will lye at they Door, which God Almighty, in his Mercy, prevent, and raise Thee up to put a Stop unto; for the Enemy of hath taken accasion from Orders, to work and beget a false Birth in many, even Night-Visions, and False Prophesies, as the Number of Accusations, and angry Proceedings about them of late declare, which was not before in our Age: Niether did heads nor ... [unintelligble] of the Dragon appear, to cast down the holy People, by lying against them, saying, That they oppose Holy Orders: And by approving so such proceedings, is Satan let loss in our Time, to decieve; and all that see his Transformations, he casts floods out of his Mouth against them, to carry them away, and casts such to the Earth; wanting nothing to effect his Design, but the Ooutward Power to carry them on to kill: For his Wirath is against them that keep the Testimony of Jesus Christ; and such he accuseth of Fleahly Liberty and Loose Walking, and of being Separatists and Heretics. George, I desire thee once again, to warn all Friends, that they neither Accuse nor Condemn on another any more, about the aforesaid things: for if that do continue amongst Friends, it will cause a great falling away, and God will visit with with great Judgements that the Profession of Great Power and Church-Authority, will not save from, while the Accuser of the Brethren in such (the is deeply in it) is not cast down. It is not the Transforming of Satan into a Shape ..., and forming Power to fright the Simple into this or that Outward Observation, we have waited for, not laboured after; nor a Feigned Profession of overgaining Love in words, that can decieve us, (Blessed be God, for his Gifts of Light for ever more) when such are bitterly smiting their fellow-Servants, and filling Mens Minds with false Accusations,  that even our Holy Profession is defiled. What I desire of thee, is not for fear of more Accusations, nor False Prophecies; they do not move me from the Hope of the Gospek: But I desire it for Thy Good, and the Churches Prosperity, and Peace. For an Image of the Government of Christ, consisting in Outward Prescriptions, attended with Force over the Inward Man, we never expected in the Gospel Day, to bite and devour one another about; but Inward and Peaceable Government of Christ, to govern the Members of his own Body, (the true Church) into all Practices, according to Godliness.  And we are bound to follow him, our Redeemer, who knits together in the Antient Unity, and breaks not the holy Fellowship amongst Brethren. I have cleared my conscience, (which was concerned in the Remembrance of thee) desiring thour mayst quit they self with Truth in all Things, in thy latter Dayes, the thy End may be crowned with True honor. 

Thy Friend in Truth,

John Wilkinson

Source: William Rogers' "The Christian Quaker ..." 1680, The Fourth Part, pages 77-80. 

This letter makes clear Wilkinson's shared concern over the "Ancient Unity" the founding Quakers had experienced and that the cause of the disunity was George Fox's unwillingness to temper his drive to impose outward forms over the whole of the Gathering. 

Patricia wrote:

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.

While you and many founding Quakers characterize them as opposers of truth I do not and those founding Quakers did not. I do take ownership being in unity with those founding Quakers whose conscience was not in unity with that of Fox concerning the imposition of outward forms. I do not share Fox's conscience on this matter and have found it a great blessing to read from those founding Quakers who questioned the establishment of Foxonian tradition and forms. I am so thankful Rogers' text is still available for all of us to read directly and without the characterizations of those who do not agree with them. 

You are correct to point out that Foxonian form did prevail in this sense that the conscience of others was tempered but not crushed.A conscious anchored in and a conscience informed by the direct and unmediated illumination of the inshining Light itself in itself (without regard to outward persons or forms) did not fail or die away. It has developed amongst and alongside Foxonian established form throughout Quaker history. Many of us today will go forth with in our witness of the inshining Light.

Finally, Everything I have written to you I have written is in the inshining Light and I do so in a pure conscience. George Fox is not my eminent. He has been my colleague for most of my life and I cherish is words and will do so for the rest of my life. He does not take preeminence over the guidance and leadership of the inshining Presence itself in my conscious and conscience. To question and disagree with another on a particular matter, no matter how significant, is not to diminish. While it is yours to characterize my "obsession" and wish to "diminish" Fox it is mine to stand firm knowing the witness of Christ in my conscience is pure. I will continue to give voice to those founding Quakers whose conscience spoke out against the imposition of outward forms.

Comment by Patricia Dallmann on 3rd mo. 26, 2016 at 9:40pm

 It wasn't  the regularization of meeting times that had  William Rogers and the other Separatists attacking Fox, but the possibility that Fox's support for women would lead them "to become rulers over ...men," something William Rogers could not abide. 

The settling of men's and women's meetings began as early as 1653. From early on, Fox advocated women's rightful place in positions of authority within meetings, specifically regarding the right ordering of marriages. There were some "spirits appeared that could not abide admonishing and cried out against it," i.e., some who thought it wasn't appropriate for women to have that authority over men. From the introduction to Fox's sermon "The Lord is Risen," Terry Wallace writes:

...in the hostile world in which early Quakers lived, a faithful witness to the truth in word and deed was utterly necessary, both to convince the world of the presence of Truth and to blunt damaging charges that Friends could not be trusted, because they preached Truth, but their actions denied it. Thus, Quakers had to maintain general discipline in the face of persecution and those who compromised the witness under duress had to be admonished, disciplined, and if they continued to fail in faithfulness, disowned. Wilkinson and Story denied the necessity of such discipline and, in so doing, cut at one of the most powerful elements of the early Quaker witness: its ability to demonstrate the presence and ordering of Christ Jesus not only in the lives of individuals, but in the united life of the Meeting. The controversy, Fox well understood, was not about power and prestige of place in Friends Meetings, but faithfulness, obedience, to Jesus Christ and His will. [Italics are mine.]

The corporate testimony to Christ the Head ruling over his body, the Church, is one that has little or no meaning for the individualist of contemporary Quakerism. But it was an essential component of the early faith; it convinced people that there was an order to be found and practiced that was not maintained by human force or coercion or guile or corruption, but by the perfect orderer from heaven guiding his people himself, and the people responsive to him.

So these men who wanted to relegate women to second-class participants in Quaker meetings were wrong on two counts: 1) choosing cultural chauvinism (biblically speaking: they rebelled against God by being "respecters of persons" (Rom. 2:11), and 2) undermining the movement's credibility in the eyes of the larger society by denying Christ's rule bringing all into unity of his body, the Church. 

 Here is an excerpt from Phyllis Mack's Visionary Women: Ecstatic Prophecy in Seventeenth-century England, the section on "Women and Politics," which I am copying because it is important to see that William Rogers attacked George Fox's support for women having authority in the Church, which William Rogers and other Separatists would not accept, wanting women to not have authority over men. Here's the excerpt from Mack's book:

 To the degree that the religious discourse of Friends had become politicized during the 1660s, so did the terms of women's authority. In many arguments for female preaching and leadership that were published during the period, Fox and others endlessly reiterated the principle that women's authority to preach was above the law. Separatists, however, rightly perceived that while religious ecstasy might still exist inside the meeting system, the new women's meeting was unquestionably a political institution. So, William Mather, a former supporter of John Perrot, assaulted Fox:

Can there be a greater imposters in the world, than those that judge all people, not to be of God, for not submitting to a female government in marriage? A thing never heard of...except the government of the Amazons... And whether such women-judges ever did any good, who come into the seat of counsel rustling in gaudy flowered stuff, or silks, from top to toe, mincing with their feet...[We are not] against a women's declaring in a religious meeting, what God has done for her soul. Nor are we against women meeting by themselves, upon a particular occasion, but not monthly for government. (Wm. Mather)

[Others such Separatists include Richard, Smith, Thomas Curtis, and William Rogers.]

As the argument progressed, the note of hysteria among Separatists became even higher-pitched; some even accused Fox of a conspiracy to lead unsuspecting Friends into a nightmare ruled by himself and his fanatic female disciples...In The Christian Quaker, an angry, extremely diffuse polemic by the Separatist William Rogers, Fox was accused of succumbing to the same appetite for female adulation that had doomed James Nayler. "Has thou forgotten," wrote Rogers, "how thou hast testified against James Nayler's spirit, whose great fall was his owning, or at least not reproving the women, when they cried with a carnal tongue Hosanna to him? Rogers also accused Fox of foisting women's rule on unsuspecting Friends under cover of a simple meeting for the care of the poor.

And therefore Friends, who in simplicity assented to the meetings, as supposing women in some cases fitter to pry into the necessities of the poor that men...did at length begin to be jealous, that the words of the prophet Isaiah...were again fulfilled in our age. As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them...[Friends are worried] lest instead of being servants to the poor for truth's sake, and taking the weight and burden of that care from the men, they [women] should become rulers over both men and women (William Rogers, The First Part of the Christian Quaker Distinguished from the Apostate and Innovator (London, 1680), 96.

Fox supported women's right to exercise authority within the Church; William Rogers and the Separatists found women's authority unacceptable. 

 

 

Comment by Forrest Curo on 3rd mo. 27, 2016 at 12:15am

It seems clear that those particular 17th Century English people who first rediscovered that Christ remained available to all people as an ongoing source of guidance and teaching... were like the first disciples, as prone to misunderstandings and unworthy motives as any typical human beings.

Many of them underwent truly amazing ordeals for the truth they'd received -- but God chose them, as God chooses us, not for superior virtues or wisdom, but because they were ripe and willing (to some extent) to let God's internal influences override the ideas they had formed themselves and/or accepted from their surrounding culture.

This was evidently not a perfect willingness. They were teachable, but like us, only barely so.

It is not their wisdom nor their authority we should be trying to enlist to support our beliefs or hopes. We should put our faith, not in them or their institutions, but in God, to follow their best example.

Comment by Keith Saylor on 3rd mo. 27, 2016 at 2:21am

Patricia. 

Just for the sake of clarity in case others are interested in referencing Rogers text directly to gain further context, I have corrected the sourcing of the first quotation from Rogers and located and sourced the other quotation that was not sourced by Mack or that you did not supply. 

Mack's quotation below is from Rogers' "The Christian Quaker is found in The Fourth Part pg. 96. Not the First Part.

"Has thou forgotten, ... how thou hast testified against James Nayler's spirit, whose great fall was his owning, or at least not reproving the women, when they cried with a carnal tongue Hosanna to him?

Also, her quotation below is from the First Part of Rogers' book pg. 65:

"... and therefore Friends, who in simplicity assented to the meetings, as supposing women in some cases fitter to pry into the necessities of the poor that men...did at length begin to be jealous, that the words of the prophet Isaiah...were again fulfilled in our age. As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them...[Friends are worried] lest instead of being servants to the poor for truth's sake, and taking the weight and burden of that care from the men, they [women] should become rulers over both men and women ..."

I am currently composing a response to your current accusations against Rogers and will supply further context from the words and letters of Rogers and Wilkinson.

Comment by Howard Brod on 3rd mo. 27, 2016 at 7:48am

Forrest,

I see all of this similarly to you.  After reading the words of any who claim an inward experience with the divine, ultimately we must have our own experience with the divine unadulterated by another's experience.

In the case of Fox and Rogers, both had wisdom to share that might be helpful to the 21st century seeker.  But neither were perfect in my mind and experience, and consequently there are aspects of their teachings that do not resonate with my experience of God as I live in this 21st century.  I see the Bible writers similarly

I am grateful that for the most part so many Friends in our meetings experience our Quaker faith anew in ways that God uses to make our 21st century world a better place; at least a place where I can concentrate on the Light and Love that surrounds me. 

Comment by David McKay on 3rd mo. 27, 2016 at 9:42am

I was about to chime in. But instead I see that this conversation is being fed by more than just the words I see on the surface. As one Old Friend once remarked during a meeting for worship for business, "There seems a little more heat and smoke then Light here". And like that Friend I'm going to suggest a period of waiting worship prior to continuing the conversation. In that spirit I am going to "stop following" this discussion thread. Perhaps I'll check in a few days to see where things have gone.

Comment by Forrest Curo on 3rd mo. 27, 2016 at 10:23am

People do the best we can, and God helps make us increasingly sinless so far as we are willing & attentive...

but 'sin' and 'salvation' are more complex matters than going to church and taking a Christ-pill.

Buddhists describe 'sins' as 'afflictions', attribute them to 'ignorance' -- and such an orientation is closer to the attitude that contributed to Jesus' cures, farther from the attitude that since then contributes so much to his followers' malpractice.

John said the Spirit would lead Jesus' followers "into all truth". Did that mean 'instantly'? -- that God would zap them into a finished state of Knowing-all?

Truth, for human minds, is more dynamic than static,  comes from a receptive state of mind in which God can lead people from one partial truth to one more accurate, as the foundation is laid for larger structures, and obstacles are progressively cleared away.

'Freedom from sin', for 17th Century Puritans and for anyone with mindset formed in that culture, would mean straightforward removal of the inclination to do anything wrong...

but learning to do anything 'right' is learned through a divinely-led process, not zapped down from Heaven. Fox's direction was set towards perfection; and he rightfully denied that anyone need resign himself to lifelong wrong-doing -- but human foibles are still visible in him, at least to my human-level vision.

People are neither sheep nor goats; if Rogers had prejudices typical of his time, as did Jesus' followers -- and Fox had prejudices typical of his time as well --

They were both quite capable of being powerfully right.

My ex-wife said she did not make mistakes; and this trait is valuable in her vocation of nursing. It is not a helpful condition for learning anything a person doesn't already know.

Fox evidently thought of 'salvation from sin' as like 'not making mistakes,' but that's a pretty narrow view of what 'loving the light' can come to mean.

Comment by Forrest Curo on 3rd mo. 27, 2016 at 11:19am

There are literally-blind people with functional eyes, who can walk safely between obstacles with no idea of how they do that. Vision is more than not bumping into things.

And to love the light is more than to have an eye for people's flaws. That's not always even useful for correcting one's own flaws.

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