On Terry Wallace’s “Misunderstanding Quaker Faith and Practice” (FJ, Jan 2007)

Michael Shell bright_crow at mindspring.com
Sun Jan 7 15:22:29 EST 2007


Gerry Rudolph of Columbia (SC) Meeting has posted on PalmettoFriends.org a
response to Terry Wallace's article in the Jan 2007 issue of Friends
Journal.  What follows is my reply to Gerry.

I would invite SAYMA F/friends to join in the discussion, either here on
this listserv or on the PalmettoFriends.org site.

bright_crow at mindspring.com

I appreciate your calling my attention to Terry Wallace’s "Misunderstanding
Quaker Faith and Practice" (Friends Journal, Jan 2007, pp.6-8, 44
http://www.friendsjournal.org/contents/2007/0107/index.html).  Furthermore,
I share some of the broader concerns expressed in your online response
http://palmettofriends.org/content/view/29/1/.  For example:

•	that explicit, formal creeds can distract us from attending to continuing
•	that such creeds can be abused as tests for who does or does not belong;
•	that credal differences about the nature of God ought not to prevent us
from affirming and sharing our experience of God;
•	that valuing the unique revelations of the Bible is not the same as
attributing to it final authority on doctrinal matters; or
•	that (as Jim  Wallis points out in God’s Politics URL), American culture
has falsely polarized theological discussion into emotionally hostile
ideological camps, thereby suppressing genuine prophetic dialog.

Nonetheless, Friend Wallace in fact speaks my mind, and I find nothing to
disagree with in his article.  He voices with articulate objectivity most
aspects of a deep concern with which I have struggled for two decades.

Many of us “1960s-70s liberals” came to Quakerism first as a refuge from
the abuses we had experienced and/or witnessed, done in the name of the
religious orthodoxies under which we were raised.  We welcomed the
opportunity Quakerism seems to offer us, both to speak our individual
“heretical” leadings without risking condemnation, and to extend what we
though of as a universal inclusiveness to our friends and acquaintance of
other races, cultures and religions.

However, Quakerism is not merely a refuge, a place for seekers to wait.  It
is a specific spiritual discipline of centering down in silence and making
oneself vulnerable precisely where one feels least comfortable with regard
to faith and practice.  How else can either an individual or a meeting be
open to receive a greater measure of the Light than to give public voice to
one’s own convictions and then listen tenderly to the heartfelt testimonies
of those with whom one most disagrees?

The finest recent demonstration I have seen of this process is also found
in FJ: Kate Griffith’s "Conversations from the Heartland" (Oct 2006,
pp.9-12, 50 http://www.friendsjournal.org/contents/2006/1006/feature1.html).

I encourage all of us Friends to read these two articles side by side, and
then to let them lie fallow together, without acting on the urge to defend
our own present convictions.

Blessed Be,

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