Four questions - additional responses at Quaker-P

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Johan Maurer

Feb 17, 2013, 11:22:02 AM2/17/13
January 28 2004 at 1:38 AM Johan   (no login)
"Quaker-P" and "Quaker-L" are among the oldest Internet discussion lists for Friends. Quaker-L specializes in Friends spirituality and Quaker-P in Friends and social concerns. I posted the "four questions" of this project on Quaker-P on January 17, 2004. With permission, a couple of the responses have been posted here on this forum, but rather than cross-posting all Quaker-P responses (and responses to responses), it seems more sensible to give you information about Quaker-P. If you sign up, you're welcome both to join in the discussion there, and to read their archives.


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from quaker-p: responding to comments about Quaker linguistics February 11 2004, 3:23 AM 

I've not responded to much that has been posted here at this site, for fear of biasing the contributions during what might be called the "data collection" phase of this project. However, at this point (February 11, 2004, almost three months after setting up the forum), it seems unlikely that I'm going to get statistically meaningful numbers of responses flooding in, and it is time to shift the emphasis to the dialogue phase, which is, after all, what I am trying to kindle in the first place!

As one little piece toward that, I'm posting here what I said at quaker-p in response to Karen Street's contribution to the "Four Questions," posted both in quaker-p and in that category on this site.


I'm very grateful for the messages that several Friends have posted to this list in response to my invitation to consider "evangelism and the Quaker testimonies."

Karen Street has raised an important point, asking for clarification on what I mean by Christ, citing the experience of Pacific Yearly Meeting following the adoption of a christocentric Faith and Practice.

Responding from a slightly different angle than perhaps she intended, I would like to explain that my emphasis in promoting this "evangelism and the Quaker testimonies" dialogue among Friends has been to get a conversation started among specifically evangelical Friends -- broadly speaking, among those Friends who are Christ-centered, understanding the Bible as having important authority for Friends discernment processes, and (claim to) care about evangelism. This takes in nearly all of Evangelical Friends International and most of Friends United Meeting, most of Central Yearly Meeting and its spiritual descendants, most of Ohio Yearly Meeting and perhaps significant sectors of the other conservative yearly meetings, as well as individuals in every other corner of Quakerdom. There are many virtues in holding dialogues across the full diversity of Friends, and I have given many years of my adult life to the advancement of such dialogues. But this particular dialogue is needed primarily among evangelical Friends for at least a couple of reasons:

1) Our supposed unity as evangelical Friends conceals major differences on the subject of evangelism as an activity. For one thing, judging by what I see with my own eyes, evangelism gets more lip service than creative and passionate energy. For another thing, I get tired of some evangelical Friends' leaders' happy-talk and slogans. We need to kindle some honest dialogues and acknowledge the conflicts among us. I could cite a couple of examples from my own Yearly Meeting, Northwest, where we have been wrestling for several years on the (to my mind) highly secondary issue of whether new churches need to have the word "Friends" in their name. Another stupid controversy to my mind is whether it is helpful or dangerous to belong to the Friends World Committee for Consultation. 

Yet another aspect of our divisions is the continued existence of that tired, boring assumption in so many places in the evangelical Quaker world that to be concerned about the Quaker testimonies is to be "liberal" -- real red-blooded evangelicals are concerned about the saving of souls. Generally I hate convenient correlations, but especially in this case, as if you had to choose between caring about spiritual liberation and caring about social/economic/political liberation. I want Christians who are passionate about their faith in Jesus Christ to connect the dots!!! (This "connecting the dots" between faith and practice, between conversion and its ethical consequences in a world of violence and racism and economic exploitation, is how I see the testimonies.) And I want "liberals" in the evangelical community to see that the old stereotypes of evangelism as focused on narrow, individually-interpreted salvation are completely inadequate and usually resorted to out of prejudice.

2) Dialogues between liberals and evangelicals require and deserve an enormous amount of energy, and I can't work on that right now AND remain faithful to this current effort. To be challenged about what I mean by Christ is very appropriate, but I want my main energy to go into getting more energy into communication among Friends who are in unity about who Christ is. We badly need to communicate among each other. 

This does not mean that, in asking these questions about evangelism and the testimonies, I don't want to hear from people outside the so-called evangelical Quaker community. For one thing, the boundaries are not as fixed as some might claim. For another thing, the most useful clarifying questions sometimes come from outside the established conversation. For a third thing, I have never understood evangelical Quaker leaders who claim to be messengers of the Good News, but treat liberals dismissively or rudely. I'm just trying to explain why I personally don't feel like going into yet another defense of Christ-centered Quakerism or the Bible's authority or all the other things that seem to gnaw at some of us. Instead, my plea to all of you reading this is, can you find a way to help us evangelical Friends move forward in kindling a discussion about how we can evangelize with integrity, and what role the testimonies should play in that activity?
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