[saymaListserv] Quaker Sweat Lodge Reflections by Chuck Fager

Steve Livingston nc_stereoman at charter.net
Sun Oct 3 08:41:55 JEST 2004

Dear Friends,

While the events surrounding the cancellation of the 2004 FGC 
Gathering's Quaker Sweat Lodge may indeed be unfortunate, we 
Quakers are blessed with the ability to continue our discernment 
around the matter, with the possibility of coming to a new and more 
spiritually grounded conclusion.

We are wise to consider Chuck's ruminations, but let us not wring 
our hands for too long lest the soreness distract us from the 
valuable work of improving our process. As Chuck points out, we 
may benefit from listening more thoroughly as we seek clearness on 
this and other matters. But we also may benefit from trusting one 
another on a deeper level, and seek not only to clarify what appears 
to have been an error in judgment, but also to understand how our 
brothers and sisters in the Spirit arrived at this judgment despite 
seemingly overwhelming evidence of its error.

As I see it, there is no more value in arriving at the next Gathering 
with sweat lodge reinstated at the expense of alienating some 
several Friends than there is in arriving at the next Gathering with 
sweat lodge prohibited at the expense of alienating some several 
Friends. Neither of these two choices resonates with me.

What do we know about the process that resulted in the withdrawal 
of the 2004 workshop? I have found only one phrase in Chuck's 
essay adddressing it, and it sounds most unFriendly. Can we hear 
from those who were involved? Perhaps they already feel that an 
error in judgment was made. Perhaps they have more information 
to offer that is germane to their discernment.

I found Chuck's references to Nazi's and Southern Baptists to be 
inflammatory and inappropriate comparisons in the context of 
discerning the presence of institutional bigotry, flying in the face of 
what I understand to be the definition of this practice. Perhaps I am 
completely misguided on this issue, or perhaps these examples  
were intended to be almost comedic. In either case, I am reluctant 
to rush to judgment.

For me there are two central questions. First, how did the planning 
committee examine the question of cultural appropriation in the 
matter of the Sweat Lodge offering? Secondly, why was their 
discernment so suddenly overturned by the intervention of Alice 


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