From Christian spirituality to discipleship
On finally deciding, some years ago, to apply for full membership, it was with the conviction that I was joining a Religious Society, with an honourable record of social concern and action, all firmly rooted in a broadly Christian experiential spirituality. The historian of many spiritual traditions, Evelyn Underhill, described the beginnings of Quakerism as ‘that great spiritual experiment in corporate mysticism’, placing it within the wider spectrum of spiritual ‘awakenings’ reaching back down the centuries and still continuing to the present.
I was and am reassured by the subtitle on Quaker faith & practice: ‘The book of Christian discipline of the Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.’ Were the crucial essence of that definition to be lost, I would feel my own membership to be impoverished. Moreover, I am unaware of any consideration being given to the impact such a radical change would have on our respected place within the wider ecumenical scene, nationally and locally. As the recently appointed representative of my Area Meeting to Churches Together in Gloucestershire, would my place on that body still be tenable?
How did it come about that in the days leading up to Yearly Meeting the national newspapers were able to come out with headlines implying that Quakers are thinking of doing away with God?
The truth is that although some of us are nontheists (including myself) this is still a minority view. As we move towards a revision of Quaker faith & practice there are encouraging signs of a creative consensus in which theist and nontheist attitudes are held together. It is sad that the press reports may tend to damage this process among Friends, and also our public image.
G Gordon Steel
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