"Crisis Evangelism"

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Johan Maurer

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Feb 17, 2013, 9:38:27 AM2/17/13
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July 13 2004 at 1:29 PM Johan   (Login Reedwood)
Forum Owner
As part of a series of adult forum classes on evangelism, we are considering the subject of "crisis evangelism" or, perhaps more positively, "evangelism in the teachable moment" this coming Sunday at Reedwood Friends. This is the third session in a series on evangelism that began with a presentation I made on my work at Woodbrooke, and continued last Sunday with Ron Stansell presenting a "case study" of faith communication from Friends' recent experiences in India.

The most dramatic example of a "teachable moment" on a wide scale for some of us would be the aftermath of September 11, 2001. This had a big effect for a while on our attendance at Reedwood, and on adult education there, and many searching questions were asked. There are still ripples from September 11 evident in the life of Reedwood.

Other examples could be both larger-scale and smaller-scale disasters, but there might be other events or paradigm shifts that open the door for a whole community to consider spiritual reality. Do any of you have examples from your own experience? Do you have observations on the methods and ethics involved with the use of such "teachable moments"?

Rebecca
(no login)
crisis evangelism and carrying the message July 22 2004, 2:44 AM 

my initial reaction to the idea of crisis evangelism is to feel uneasy. Words like exploitation, taking advantage, manipulation, maybe even " brain washing " ( although I don't actually believe in any such thing ) come to mind. - which is ironic because of my direct and positive personal experience as a member of a 12 step community. ( AA's original 12th step runs ' Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry the message to alcoholics, and to practise these principles in all our affairs. ' )

The point in their lives at which a newcomer makes contact with a 12 step group constitutes the ideal teachable moment. In American AA apparently they say [ a lot of things, one of which is ] ' your best thinking got you here. ' It's fair to say of anyone at their first meeting that they're probably not too overjoyed about the way their life is currently going, or has gone to date...

So what it is that keeps 12th stepping within ethical boundaries ? I think it's the fact that not only do we have no material powers of coercion, we have an ethos which runs counter to it. Let God and Let God: we tell our own personal stories and the way in which we have found and continue to find AA helpful but there's nothing we can do to stop the newcomer never coming back ( evidenced by the fact that that's precisely the choice the vast majority of them make. ) 

It's true that there is a tendency within AA, both in the literature and exemplified by some of the more zealous old timers, to put the frighteners on: so AA is not represented as one lifestyle choice among many (I've been scolded in meetings for veering towards this representation) but as a matter of life and death. I don't personally believe that it's a stark choice between AA or an agonising and degrading death for every single newcomer, but having said that I don't think that image is without foundation; so maybe hearing those frighteners employed offers me an occasion of recognising others' gifts for passion versus my own for detachment ?

Johan 
(no login)
Fear July 24 2004, 4:33 PM 

waving Hello Rebecca and Friends!

You brought up the subject of fear, in a way ... "AA is not represented [by some old-timers] as one lifestyle choice among many (I've been scolded in meetings for veering towards this representation) but as a matter of life and death. I don't personally believe that it's a stark choice between AA or an agonising and degrading death for every single newcomer, but having said that I don't think that image is without foundation...."

I want to tie this in to the post-September 11 situation in the USA (you'd be the better one to speak about the UK). The public message of our government veers eerily between "be normal, travel normally, most of all CONSUME normally..." and "trust us as we whittle away your rights and practically criminalize non-citizens - we're in a GLOBAL WAR ON TERRORISM and our enemy HATES FREEDOM." Which are we more afraid of, terrorist attacks or economic collapse? But one way or another, fear seems to be the dominant note. This is precisely where healthy spirituality ought to be providing a very different message - NOT one that denies the stakes involved, just as AA doesn't deny the stakes involved in getting into recovery - but a message of grounding our lives in a reality that is not vulnerable to terror. More accurately, we are invited into a community where we face scary things together, in the context of a relationship with One who has faced them and overcome them on our behalf.

Johan 
(Login Reedwood)
Forum Owner
Earthquake/Tsunami and evangelism January 5 2005, 8:49 AM 

This site -


... touches on discussions I've had with Friends and others on the nature and propriety of crisis evangelism. Evangelical Friends have been among those pointing out the tsunami disaster has opened new doors for evangelism.

Today's news stories from the region are quoting Colin Powell as making the link between disaster relief and the USA's political interests. Here's Reuters via Yahoo:

"We hope that through these (aid) efforts people will see that the United States is committed to helping those who are in poverty," Powell told reporters in Jakarta, capital of Indonesia -- the Muslim world's most populous country.
"Under such circumstances we think it's less likely that the terrorists will find fertile ground. That supports not only our national security interests, but the national security interests of the countries involved."

Is this any more or less legitimate than evangelism in crisis?

In its purest form, holistic evangelism in a crisis situation cannot be exploitation, at least not from the point of view of someone who believes that the content of evangelism is true -- that the help and comfort it brings is rooted in absolute truth. To charge "exploitation" when the evangelists or their employers are not fattening themselves but performing legitimate aid and communication services may require the observer to have a certain degree of separation from those he or she accuses - not to mention some cynicism. 

However, evangelists are human and subject to temptation, and the agencies they may work for have budgets and staffs and salaries. Crises may in fact represent windfalls for them, however distasteful that sounds. (They may also represent financial disasters - causing massive distortions in cash flow, and diverting organizational resources without possibility of reimbursement.) In any case, such individuals and organizations ought to operate with transparency, in full view of skeptical non-Christians as well as equally attentive and discerning brothers and sisters in faith.

Some of the stories in Christianity Today's site include a dimension of evangelism that may be forgotten in the debate about exploitation: the outreach being carried out by local Christians who are themselves suffering. It reminds me of the powerful examples of Christians assisting others during such historical calamities as the sacking of Rome and the medieval plagues.

Licia Kuenning 
(Login KathyLee)
Earthquakes and God February 3 2005, 7:18 AM 

I have seen quite a number of comments on the various Quaker lists to the effect that the tsunami disaster calls in question the benevolence of God, or his power, or both. Not that I think Christians are being shaken in their faith, but non-Christians are making the most of the earthquake, as Voltaire did of the one in Lisbon many years ago.

I have tried pointing out that people usually die one way or another, that dying in an earthquake isn't necessarily worse than dying of a lingering disease, and that we have all seen enough pain, suffering and death in our own experience and that of people close to us that if such things were a reason to doubt the power or goodness of God there wouldn't be any believers. But as with all rational argument, this doesn't make much impression.

There have also been a number of discussions of the Book of Job sparked by such exchanges, but with the usual misunderstandings expressed to the effect that Job was unfairly treated by God.

Then there are those who write about how people can help with the relief efforts for earthquake victims--which is very good but quite off the point of how to understand suffering theologically.

Johan writes, referring to the Christianity Today website:

Today's news stories from the region are quoting 
Colin Powell as making the link between disaster 
relief and the USA's political interests. Here's 
Reuters via Yahoo: 

"We hope that through these (aid) efforts people will 
see that the United States is committed to helping 
those who are in poverty," Powell told reporters in 
Jakarta, capital of Indonesia -- the Muslim world's 
most populous country.

"Under such circumstances we think it's less likely 
that the terrorists will find fertile ground. That 
supports not only our national security interests, but 
the national security interests of the countries 
involved."

Is this any more or less legitimate than evangelism in 
crisis?

Whether it is more or less legitimate, it is an entirely different kind of enterprise. These are human efforts to help the political cause of a nation. Evangelism is God's effort to establish his kingdom through human instruments who put themselves as his disposal.

Johann continues,

evangelists are human and subject to temptation, and 
the agencies they may work for have budgets and staffs 
and salaries.

The only "agency" an evangelist should be working for is the agency of Jesus Christ. He has no budget (or none that he reveals to us), pays no "salaries" in the world's sense (though he takes care of the needs of those he commissions), and his "staff" is simply anyone who gives him their heart.

Some of the stories in Christianity Today's site 
include a dimension of evangelism that may be 
forgotten in the debate about exploitation: the 
outreach being carried out by local Christians who are 
themselves suffering. It reminds me of the powerful 
examples of Christians assisting others during such 
historical calamities as the sacking of Rome and the 
medieval plagues.

These examples are more likely to be instances of genuine evangelism (though of course one cannot be sure without more information or first-hand exposure to the efforts) than are the activities of "professional" evangelists working for "agencies."

I don't mean to deny the good intentions of anyone who is working for such an agency and feels he or she is serving Christ, but I do think they are under an illusion. How can anyone persuade anyone to trust Christ if they themselves are receiving a salary for what they do in His name? The normal presumption, when a person is on salary, is that they wouldn't be doing the work they are doing without that salary. I know many salaried religious workers vehemently deny this, but I don't find them convincing, and if I don't, neither will non-Christians who are used to the world's assumption that anything can be bought.

What are Friends doing to restore what we used to call the "free gospel ministry"?

Licia Kuenning
Friends of Truth

Johan 
(Login Reedwood)
Forum Owner
Sojourners on the tsunami and openings for evangelism February 4 2005, 10:27 AM 

The poisonwood problem
by David Batstone

A front-page story in The New York Times this week raised a red flag about evangelical relief groups in Asia who are mixing tsunami relief work and proselytizing. While many mainstream, faith-based agencies abide by Red Cross guidelines that humanitarian aid not be used to further political or religious ends, some mission groups happily pass along gospel tracts with food and medicine.

Honestly, I don't know where to begin as I lay out a response to this controversy. I did run an economic and social development agency in Central America for more than a decade, and we were explicitly faith-based. A majority of our local partners were Catholic and evangelical churches that offered programs such as community micro-credit, innovative agricultural skills development, literacy (often linked to study of the Bible), and children's nutrition. But then and now, talking about humanitarian aid and spiritual motivation trips land mines for different segments of the general public.

A healthy slice of New York Times readers are appalled, I am sure, that religious groups were leading the charge to provide aid to the victims of the quake/tsunami in South Asia. For some secularists, all religious people who establish a mission for humanitarian aid overseas are typecast into the 1950s characters of Barbara Kingsolver's novel, The Poisonwood Bible. At best, the characters are ignorant of the local culture, and at worst downright manipulative, with the missionary considering charity a foil to convert the needy "natives."

It's time for secularists with these stereotypes in mind to catch up with reality. There's a broad range of spiritually motivated relief agencies - Catholic Charities, Church World Service, Mennonite Central Committee, Jesuit Refugee Services, Lutheran World Relief, just to name a few of the Christian ones - that understand their mission as helping humans in their time of suffering. Period. Their approach is that such acts alone are the expression of love, compassion, and justice to which they feel called.

To be sure, there are some mission organizations - particularly in evangelical churches - that bear out Kingsolver's typecast. I was raised throughout childhood in an evangelical church, so I know well the mentality of her missionary characters. When I was carrying out my work in Latin America, more than a few old family friends asked me why I "was wasting my time" on projects that aimed to effect real social change or stimulate long-term economic development. In their eyes, that was "social welfare" work more properly relegated to secularists. The work of a faith-based agency should be, in their eyes, propagation of the Christian message and winning converts. After all, as one friend reasoned with me, if the Latin Americans you work with are not saved and have to spend an eternity in hell, your projects accomplish nothing.

It is the explicit intent of some evangelical aid groups to view aid as stage one of a longer conversion strategy. Once the recipient experiences the mercy of the organization, they perhaps will be more open to receiving the gospel of Jesus Christ and be baptized into the church.

But, by and large, most evangelical missions organizations have become a bit more cautious in the way they mix evangelization and material assistance. In other words, it is rare to find a group that requires an individual to sit through a sermon in order to get a meal.

Two very different theologies - how God exists in the world, if you will - undergird these distinct approaches to humanitarian assistance.

The Kingsolver-esque "food in exchange for your soul" agencies understand redemption to be a purely spiritual transaction. In their theology, this world has fallen into evil and is beyond redemption. The work of Christians is to preach a personal message that salvation from this fallen world is available to any individual who will make a decision to follow Christ. If people remain Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, or of a more local faith, they are destined for hell. In this worldview, it is easy to judge the sinner and point their way toward salvation.

If you saw the world this way, wouldn't your compassionate choice be to do everything possible to save the people of the world? Providing humanitarian assistance in a time of crisis would be an effective way to gain people's trust so that they would hear your message. This, in essence, is the ethos of the proselytizing aid agency.

That is not how I experience God in the world, or understand God's calling me to a vocation of service. Along with most Christians who are operating in humanitarian assistance internationally, I experience God calling people to act with love and justice wherever we find suffering.

When we stand in those places, we intensely experience God, working with us and through us - and at times in spite of us - to bring moments of redemption where there is brokenness. Spiritual practice so conceived throws us into acts of re-uniting what has been torn apart, confronting evil with goodness, and showing love where there is hatred. We do not judge, lest we be judged. We aim to embrace. We are simply invited to join in God's presence, and where it takes us - or those whom we serve - we rarely know. Our faith is hope in things not yet fully seen, yet we are confident in the path before us.

[From www.sojo.net - see link to Sojomail newsletter. This article appeared in the February 3 issue.]
 
 
Johan 
(Login Reedwood)
Forum Owner
Re: Earthquakes and God February 4 2005, 10:49 AM 

Licia writes: "The only 'agency' an evangelist should be working for is the agency of Jesus Christ. He has no budget (or none that he reveals to us), pays no 'salaries' in the world's sense (though he takes care of the needs of those he commissions), and his 'staff' is simply anyone who gives him their heart."

This reminds me of a long exchange I had in this forum with Teresa Velasquez (under the "Identity and Evangelism" topic).

In theory I agree with both Licia and Teresa, but I somehow find it hard to translate what they say into practice, except as queries or cautions to keep us honest. To me their principles seem like unhelpful spiritualizations: if observed rigidly, they either rule out or don't address at all the actual real-life mechanisms by which the "agency" of Jesus and the "commissioning" of his "staff" are carried out.

All of the activities which we carry out in this world are somehow supported. Either we spend some of our time on unrelated ways to earn bread, in order to subsidize our volunteer ministry (thus reducing the energy available for such work) or we find people who are wiling to compensate us directly for that ministry. The words "salaries," "staff," "agencies," etc., are just convenient names for the social patterns we've adopted to make those exchanges. To me, the issue isn't what pattern have we adopted, but whether we are sufficiently clear and discerning to be aware of the bondages that hide in those patterns.

There will be some among us who are gloriously able to operate as God's freelancers, Christian versions of Peace Pilgrim, patterned after the apostles and the desert mothers and fathers, the Valiant Sixty of the first Quaker generation, and others in their spirit. Many of us find one of the more worldly patterns of organization works the best for us, and maybe we rely on the sharp queries of Licia and Teresa to keep from getting lulled into complacency by the organizations that feed us. At the same time, I will remind the freelance advocates that any organization composed of human beings, no matter how spiritual their claims and no matter how free of secular exchanges and hierarchies, can be dominated by subversive power behaviors, hidden agendas, ego-driven manipulation. Secular organizations are sometimes far more effective at being ethically transparent and holding leaders accountable than Christian congregations.

I have this uncomfortable feeling that I'm slipping into debate mode. Maybe I am, or maybe we're just talking at different levels. There have been times when I've been severely critical of the bondages involved with the salary model. Mostly bluntly: it is very true that "He who pays the piper calls the tune" or at least biases the selection! I just mistrust rules of any kind as a solution to these human limitations. There must be both prayer and transparency in the system to give it a chance of remaining faithful.
 

Licia Kuenning 
(Login LiciaKuenning)
God and money February 5 2005, 7:02 AM 

Johan Maurer writes, quoting me,

   Licia writes: "The only 'agency' an evangelist should 
   be working for is the agency of Jesus Christ...."

   This reminds me of a long exchange I had in this 
   forum with Teresa Velasquez (under the "Identity and 
   Evangelism" topic).

   In theory I agree with both Licia and Teresa, but I 
   somehow find it hard to translate what they say into 
   practice,... To me their principles seem like 
   unhelpful spiritualizations: if observed rigidly, they 
   either rule out or don't address at all the actual 
   real-life mechanisms by which the "agency" of Jesus 
   and the "commissioning" of his "staff" are carried out.

That's because these things aren't carried out by mechanisms. They are carried out in an ad hoc manner, by Christ. Every individual who has been called to the work of Christ can trust Him to provide in a way that takes into account the reality of that individual's situation, which may be different in each case.

   All of the activities which we carry out in this world 
   are somehow supported. Either we spend some of our 
   time on unrelated ways to earn bread, in order to 
   subsidize our volunteer ministry (thus reducing the 
   energy available for such work) or we find people who 
   are wiling to compensate us directly for that ministry.

So far I think I agree with Johan. But it's his next sentence that I would question:

   The words "salaries," "staff," "agencies," etc., are 
   just convenient names for the social patterns we've 
   adopted to make those exchanges.

I don't think they are just convenient names. These names carry with them a great deal of baggage, because they are the same names used in the world's organizations, including huge numbers of companies that make no attempt to follow Jesus. When this kind of terminology is used the natural assumption of those who deal with the organization is that its financial operations are similar to those of McDonald's or JC Penney's, or even the Democratic Party. Not that I think the solution is to change the names. The solution is to change the kind of thinking that has caused those names to be the natural ones to use. (I.e., calling a minister "released," instead of "paid," as some Friends churches do, solves nothing if it's basically a euphemism for what any other organization would call "paid.")

(I once, in another forum, had an Evangelical Friend take offense at me for calling Friends' pastors "salaried." But when I consulted the faith & practice of the EFI yearly meeting under discussion I found that it freely used the term "salary." Which was probably more realistic than some prettier term that might have been used.)

   To me, the issue isn't what pattern have we adopted, 
   but whether we are sufficiently clear and discerning 
   to be aware of the bondages that hide in those patterns.

It seems to me that if there is a bondage hiding in the pattern one has adopted, then it isn't the pattern Christ wants us to adopt.

   There will be some among us who are gloriously able to 
   operate as God's freelancers, Christian versions of 
   Peace Pilgrim, patterned after the apostles and the 
   desert mothers and fathers, the Valiant Sixty of the 
   first Quaker generation, and others in their spirit. 

What's to prevent us all from operating in that spirit?

   Many of us find one of the more worldly patterns of 
   organization works the best for us, and maybe we rely 
   on the sharp queries of Licia and Teresa to keep from 
   getting lulled into complacency by the organizations 
   that feed us.

But why do the worldly patterns "work best" for so many?
Seems to me this claim needs more critical examination.

   At the same time, I will remind the freelance 
   advocates that any organization composed of human 
   beings, no matter how spiritual their claims and no 
   matter how free of secular exchanges and hierarchies, 
   can be dominated by subversive power behaviors, hidden 
   agendas, ego-driven manipulation.

True, but all this proves is that good things can be abused. It doesn't prove that they aren't still the best things available, nor that the abuses are inevitable and uncorrectable.

   Secular organizations are sometimes far more effective 
   at being ethically transparent and holding leaders 
   accountable than Christian congregations.

If this is really true it speaks very poorly for "Christian congregations." Why are we preaching Christ at all, if he can't gather a better kind of community than one would find in a secular organization?

I think my Christian fellowship ("Friends of Truth") is ethically transparent, and that we do a pretty good (which is not to say perfect) job of holding one another accountable. I have never been given what I could see as a good reason why other Christians can't do the same.

Licia Kuenning
Friends of Truth/Glenside Friends Meeting/Quaker Heritage Press 

Bill Samuel
(Login BillSamuel)
Re: God and money February 5 2005, 9:04 AM 

1 Corinthians 9:11-14 
If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? [12] If others have this right of support from you, shouldn't we have it all the more?
But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. [13] Don't you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? [14] In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

Paul generally chose the path of a tentmaking ministry, but he stoutly defended the right of those who minister to receive material payment. Surely the passages about a free ministry must be understood in context with this.

How I understand it is that indeed ministry should be freely given because one is called to that ministry not because one is paid for it. It should not be just a job that one does in order to get the material means for life. But that does not mean there is anything wrong with accepting material resources to allow one to spend the bulk of their time in ministry. Friends have long talked in terms of being released for ministry, with such release including any material needs of the person being released. Such release may take a variety of forms, and the length of it may also vary greatly.

The language generally used by pastoral congregations is that a pastor receives a call to pastor the church. If it is a genuine call from Christ, and the pastor serves no longer than s/he has that particular call, I can not see anything wrong with the pastor receiving a salary from the church for that time period. The same would apply to any ministry.

Is it in fact often treated more like a secular hiring arrangement? Yes, I think we know that it is. We do need to look at ways to keep both those responsible for the payments and those receiving them spiritually grounded so that it doesn't become like a secular hiring situation. The way it is done institutionally is a factor in this, so I would agree with Licia that these things matter. But I think there is a danger in making rules about the arrangements, lest we fall into legalism rather than truly being open to how the Spirit is leading us in each situation.

Bill Samuel, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA
Member, Adelphi MM, Baltimore YM
Affiliate Member, Rockingham MM, Ohio YM
 
Licia Kuenning 
(Login LiciaKuenning)
God and money February 5 2005, 5:30 PM 

Bill Samuel writes,

   Paul generally chose the path of a tentmaking 
   ministry, but he stoutly defended the right of 
   those who minister to receive material payment. 

In money? I ask not having an answer at my fingertips, but I had thought Paul was talking about ministers receiving food and shelter.

   How I understand it is that indeed ministry should 
   be freely given because one is called to that 
   ministry not because one is paid for it.

Initially, if a person ministers because he has been called to do so, then he is not being paid for it: i.e., so far as I know there are no churches that offer someone a salary merely because he or she shows up and says "I feel called to the ministry." Even in the historic Quaker practice of recording ministers (without paying them), the person who had a call would just go ahead and speak as led during meeting for worship; only after he or she had done this several times to the edification of the group would the subject of recording them as a minister come up. Is there a comparable structure within pastoral meetings whereby an individual simply pastors as he feels led until someone suggests, "Let's start paying this person"? I have a hard time envisioning what it would mean to "pastor as one feels led."

   Friends have long talked in terms of being released 
   for ministry, with such release including any 
   material needs of the person being released. Such 
   release may take a variety of forms, and the length 
   of it may also vary greatly.

But doesn't Christ himself release us? No doubt he often does so by moving another person or group of people to help us out, but Bill seems to be speaking here of something more like a contract between an individual who feels called to minister and an established institution. When we start getting into contracts I think we run into the bondage that Johan talked about.

   The language generally used by pastoral 
   congregations is that a pastor receives a call 
   to pastor the church. If it is a genuine call from 
   Christ, and the pastor serves no longer than s/he 
   has that particular call, I can not see anything 
   wrong with the pastor receiving a salary from the 
   church for that time period.

That sounds simple and unencumbered--but is it ever that way in practice in the type of institution that Bill is describing? How can anyone determine exactly when the individual's "call to pastor the church" begins or ends, if the church is the kind of organization that needs a pastor for its ordinary daily or weekly functioning? Again, there are what Johan called "hidden bondages" in the very nature of the setup.

If I frequently refer to traditional Quakerism, that is not because I think the Quakers of former centuries were perfect or that God expects us to imitate them. But they did set a remarkable example of functioning as a coherent, ongoing community, within which gifted individuals provided ministry at Christ's leading, without that ministry ever depending on a contract or a salary, either in its beginning, or its later development, or its ending (if it should end). When I read the journals of the old Quaker ministers I find that their attention was on God's leading and the spiritual needs of their hearers; the kind of institutional "bondages" that the pastoral branch of Friends let themselves in for (even on Johan's account as a Friend from that branch) never show up in these ministers' accounts. Occasionally one does find that they ran into trouble with one or another party or troublesome person in their meetings, over issues other than money, so again I must acknowledge that money isn't the only thing that can lead to conflict between God's call and the opening for service. But it seems to me there were rather few conflicts of that sort, and the problems were not built into the arrangement the way they are in pastored churches.

   Is it in fact often treated more like a secular 
   hiring arrangement? Yes, I think we know that it 
   is. We do need to look at ways to keep both those 
   responsible for the payments and those receiving 
   them spiritually grounded so that it doesn't become 
   like a secular hiring situation.

This assumes that payments are going to be made, and that the organizational structure within which they are made is enough like a "secular hiring arrangement" that there is a constant danger of its being treated as one. I don't see the sense in adopting a system that is intrinsically in certain kinds of danger, and then, once it is in place, looking for ways to counterbalance the dangers; if it is not necessary to use that kind of system to begin with.

   The way it is done institutionally is a factor in 
   this, so I would agree with Licia that these things 
   matter. But I think there is a danger in making 
   rules about the arrangements, lest we fall into 
   legalism rather than truly being open to how the 
   Spirit is leading us in each situation.

Do existing church institutions get the way they are by carefully avoiding all rule-making and being truly open to the leading of the Spirit in each situation? The opposite seems to me more likely to be true. Once an organization starts hiring people (or replace the word "hiring" with whatever word one prefers so long as we don't lose sight of the fact that it is very much like hiring) it is in a situation where it has to encumber itself with lots of rules: conformity to tax laws, provision of fringe benefits, pensions, concerns arising out of secular concepts of justice to minority groups, the old or the young or the male or the female or the sexually nonstandard, etc., etc. (not that secular concepts of justice are worthless but they are not designed to fit a situation where free servants of Jesus Christ act as they are immediately led), and others could probably add to my list. To call it "legalism" for one to say that Friends should not get themselves into intrinsically legalistic arrangements seems odd to me.

Licia Kuenning

Bill Samuel
(Login BillSamuel)
Re: God and money February 6 2005, 10:19 AM 

Let me provide some context for my concerns about legalism based on a real situation with which I have been involved.

For a number of years, a monthly meeting in my area, in cooperation with the yearly meeting, released a Friend for ministry which included workshops and retreat leading. I served for a number of years on the relevant yearly meeting committee. This committee responded to a concern from another monthly meeting about this release by going to that Meeting and sitting down with a number of representatives of the Meeting to consider the concern.

The Meeting felt that the release violated the Friends testimony against a hireling ministry because the Friend released was engaged in "ministry," the Friend was engaged in this ministry under release for a long period of time, and the release arrangements included a monthly payment to cover living expenses. The discussion with the Meeting revealed that this conclusion rested on various assumptions and line drawing, and the committee was not convinced by what the Meeting had to share.

The released Friend's work seemed to many of us not dissimilar to what teachers at Pendle Hill do. But the Meeting drew a distinction between hiring teachers as Pendle Hill does, which they maintained was not ministry regardless of the content of the classes, and the ministry of the released Friend which was not under an educational institution.

This kind of distinction making is what looks to me like legalism. It also fosters a sharp line drawn between ministry and everything else we do, which seems to me to violate the testimony that our whole lives should be subject to God's leadings. It seems to me that separating out so sharply some things we do into something called "ministry" which has a whole different relationship to the sustenance needed for life than everything else pretty much inevitably leads to some sort of legalism. That's got a lot to do with why I, a Friend who has never received compensation for what is generally labeled ministry and one who has never been a member of a programmed meeting, get exercised about it.

Bill Samuel, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA
Member, Adelphi MM, Baltimore YM
Affiliate Member, Rockingham MM, Ohio YM
 

Licia Kuenning 
(Login LiciaKuenning)
Re: God and money February 6 2005, 3:48 PM 

Bill Samuel writes,

   For a number of years, a monthly meeting in my area, 
   in cooperation with the yearly meeting, released a 
   Friend for ministry ... I served for a number of years 
   on the relevant yearly meeting committee. This
   committee responded to a concern from another monthly 
   meeting about this release

   The [other] Meeting felt that the release violated the 
   Friends testimony against a hireling ministry because 
   the Friend released was engaged in "ministry," ... for 
   a long period of time, and the release arrangements 
   included a monthly payment to cover living expenses. 
   ...

   The released Friend's work seemed to many of us not 
   dissimilar to what teachers at Pendle Hill do.

I am inclined to agree that there was probably little difference, in a spiritual/Christian sense, between the paid work of the Pendle Hill teachers and that of the Friend "released" for "ministry" by a meeting that made regular monthly payments to him over a long period.

But to me this only raises the issue of whether the testimony for the free gospel ministry is being violated by Pendle Hill too.

   This kind of distinction making is what looks to me 
   like legalism. It also fosters a sharp line drawn 
   between ministry and everything else we do, which 
   seems to me to violate the testimony that our whole 
   lives should be subject to God's leadings.

I think this is a more serious objection which deserves careful examination. I agree with Bill Samuel that our whole lives should be under God's immediate direction.

Without wanting to put Bill or any individual on the spot, I find myself wanting to ask how many of the Friends discussing this issue (whether on this particular forum or elsewhere) have in fact put their whole lives under God's direction and are experiencing immediate leadings about all manner of things usually thought of as "ordinary" or "creaturely" activities. Does Christ tell you what to put on in the morning, then what to eat for breakfast, then when or whether to check your e-mail, and so on. I don't mean this question at all sarcastically: I have often received leadings about such seemingly minor things, and perhaps many other Friends do too. But I find no evidence in the journals of Quaker ministers of the 17th, 18th, & 19th-C that this was the usual pattern of their lives.

If they received such leadings they didn't report them. What they do report, in abundance, is specific guidance about where to go to minister, what to say when they get there, whom to visit on religious concerns, what to write about such concerns, etc. And they sometimes report guidance about major life decisions, such as what sort of trade to take up (which of course was always a secular trade, like tailoring or farming) or where to take up residence. Sometimes they report a leading about a specific decision that has moral implications, such as what Woolman writes about his use of undyed clothing.

Now I think that if a person was in the practice of not doing even the tiniest thing without a leading, that might interfere with their holding almost any job. Perhaps they could be self-employed. But employers who commit themselves to paying regular stipends to employees (by that or any other name) need to know what they can expect from those they pay.

Those Christians who are more like other people in the way they live the "ordinary" parts of their lives--i.e., those who may be governed by general moral principles but not by immediate guidance for every small step--could I think take any "ordinary" job that the Lord gave them permission to take and proceed to fulfill their job descriptions.

Where we run into problems is when the "job description" involves the kind of activity that Friends have traditionally called "ministry"--not because of any legalism in the way we apply that word, but because the historic Quaker concept of ministry involves precisely the sort of obedience to detailed leadings that doesn't work within an institutional framework. 

Read any Quaker journal of the old type to get an idea of what this kind of life was like. I doubt that I can convey the feeling of it in a few posts on an internet forum. The ministering Friend was constantly waiting on the Lord, speaking only what s/he was given, going only where sent by immediate guidance, being willing to turn around at a moment's notice if so led. I just can't imagine any of these Friends functioning under the kind of institutional arrangements that make contracts and pay salaries.

   That's got a lot to do with why I, a Friend who has 
   never received compensation for what is generally 
   labeled ministry and one who has never been a member 
   of a programmed meeting, get exercised about it.

I have never been to Bill's meeting. I think only he can tell us whether the quality of his ministry there reflects the suspension of his own will and the faithful, minute-by-minute obedience of the best Quaker ministers in our heritage.

Licia Kuenning
Friends of Truth

Kathy Lee 
(Login LiciaKuenning)
Farmington February 9 2005, 2:33 PM 

Hi Friends,

I am the central character in a novel that Licia Kuenning is writing. I live in Farmington, Maine.

The following is the text of a leaflet that I printed out from my computer and gave to a couple of good friends (everyone in Farmington is my friend) to post on every bulletin board and telephone pole that they could find within the borders of the municipality.

                    About the New Dispensation in Farmington

Here in the town of Farmington, Maine, a new state of affairs exists which the world has never seen before. This change occured today, June 6, at daybreak.

Henceforth, there will be no death and no illness (except the remnants of earlier illnesses which will go away in three days or less) within the municipal limits of Farmington. Nor will there be any crime or bad behavior. You are safe in Farmington; nothing will harm you here. The rest of the world is still the way it has been for millennia, so if you go outside the borders of Farmington you will not be protected in this particular way, though you will be no worse off than before.

Farmington is of course as free as any other American town. You may stay or leave as you choose. Nobody will try to make you stay or make you leave. Nor will anyone here try to keep anyone out. Do whatever God leads you to do.

There will be public meetings every Tuesday evening to discuss new questions that may come up because of this drastic change in the nature of Farmington. Anyone may attend them. The first such meeting will take place on Tuesday, June 6, at 7:30 p.m., in Meetinghouse Park.

There will be an information center for visitors and newcomers at Thoughtbridge, 1 Bridge St. New information will also be posted as it becomes available at:
__________

F. A. Q.

Q. How long will the new state of affairs in Farmington last?
A. The abolition of death and other evils will last forever. But this will not be limited to Farmington. Some day the new dispensation will be worldwide. It is not known when that day will be. Until that day, Farmington will be the only place changed.

Q. Won't Farmington become overcrowded and lose its small-town character that we love so much?
A. Farmington will never be overcrowded in the way that many cities are now crowded. The population will increase, but there is plenty of open space in Farmington to accommodate many more citizens. If more space is needed this will be accomplished by annexing another
town to Farmington, though this will not be necessary for the next several years. Also, since people will live in harmony with one another, the problems that attend overcrowded places--crime, filth, etc., will never be problems in Farmington.

Q. What will happen if I leave Farmington? Will old diseases that I have been healed of here come back?
A. Nothing that has been healed in Farmington will come back. I.e., if you had cancer, and it goes away, that cancer will not return when you leave the town. But new diseases can start outside Farmington as has always been the case.

Q. What has caused this amazing change?
A. God has caused it by his own will.

Q. Why has Farmington been chosen?
A. We do not know.

Kathy Lee
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