Letters - 01 June 2018

From a moment of blessing to fake news

A moment of blessing

Although we had already heard variations of the question numerous times over Yearly Meeting 2018, when our clerk finally asked us: ‘Friends, is it time to revise Quaker faith & practice?’ the words still came as something of a shock.

The question before us was stark and simple, and there could be no going back.

It was clear the Yearly Meeting was broadly ready to accept that the time was now right to begin a revision. Nevertheless, on each occasion when we were presented with a minute to that effect, Friends stood to offer suggestions. The clerks listened with patience, carefully altering or adding to the minute as they felt led. They then asked us to uphold them as they laboured under the weight of their task.

At this point I felt a shift. A quiet descended upon the Meeting, a prayerful gatheredness such as I had been yearning for all weekend. It was as though we could together breathe the minute into being.

Marilynne Robinson has written about the capacity any moment might have for ‘onward’ blessing. A sense of this came to me as we waited, poised on the stillness of that turning point. Sadness about what may be lost and trepidation about what might lie ahead faded – at least for the time being. In their place was the realisation that this was such a moment of blessing. It could bless the time to come, revealing potential as yet unknown, in a world still unfolding, to live richly and faithfully.

Barbara Davey

God, words and us

A plea to revisers of Quaker faith & practice: please do not deprive Friends of the traditional use of the word ‘God’. God is light, but light is not God. God is spirit, love and justice, but none of these is God.

The Revision Preparation Group has come to the view that the theist-nontheist dichotomy is a deeply unhelpful way of talking about our religious differences. But if we have to take into account every individual’s unique views on every detail of thought and practice we cannot present any picture of what Quakers stand for. All we could say then is that in Quakerism anything goes. That would be the end of the Quaker contribution to the spiritual life of the world.

Quakers started as a corporate body based on collectively discerned and tested principles, not a collection of individuals. We now have to look at the common ground that exists between large numbers of Friends on important issues.

We may no longer find all that original common ground, but I feel we could pick out two bodies of Friends who could use a common language among themselves and understand what the words meant in their context.

A group of Friends call themselves ‘nontheist’. In order to so classify themselves, they must have a fairly clear idea of what the word ‘God’ means (the ‘theos’ they define themselves against).

There is a large group of Friends who say they believe in God.

To try to get these two groups to unite around ambiguous language is a deceptive mistake.

Rachel Britton

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