Letters - 14 January 2022

From John Macmurray to LDW network

John Macmurray

Philip Waywell (10 December 2021) suggests that Quakers take another look at Plato’s ‘forms’ or ‘ideas’. He seems to suggest seeing God as a pointer to the idea or form of the Good rather than the other way round, which I find confusing.

More helpful to me was the discovery of the British thinker John Macmurray. He, too, gives us a form, the ‘form of the personal’. His rearrangement of our thinking, every bit as profound as Plato’s, sees ‘God’ as the name we give to the universalised concept of the personal (by analogy with ‘matter’ and ‘life’ for the universalised concepts of the material and the living). Persons are active, and ‘Good’ describes actions. This fits with a dynamic and changing universe such as we are facing now.

John Macmurray was of Scottish origins but became a Quaker after his retirement and gave the 1965 Swarthmore Lecture ‘Search for Reality in Religion’. An early book of his, Reason and Emotion, in spite of its title, sets out much of Macmurray’s thinking about religion, stressing in particular that we should not seek certainty but rather integrity, a personal wholeness, embracing both our thinking and our feeling, both as individuals and as a community. It was the first Macmurray book that I read, and it affected my thinking profoundly. In language directed at the lay person (listeners to his BBC radio broadcasts) he delivered a rare combination of rigorous thought and religious insight.

Jeanne Warren

QCEA and values

I was saddened to see Andrew Jameson’s letter in the Friend (24 & 31 December 2021). It contains several inaccurate statements. 

The role of Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA) is not to ‘further relations between Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM) and members of Friends Yearly Meetings in European countries’. That is the role of Friends World Committee for Consultation –Europe and Middle East Section (FWCC-EMES).

QCEA is not financed from London. All European Yearly Meetings (YM), including BYM, contribute financially, some very substantially – especially Netherlands YM.

It is true that the house [in Brussels] is owned by BYM, but QCEA pays an albeit small rent.

It is not true (anymore) that it is staffed by young postgrads. Under the leadership of Andrew Lane, the approach to staffing moved from programme assistants to professionals in the field.

And while QCEA does and has worked in partnership with the Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) it does not resemble it in many ways, not least because politics and diplomacy are done very differently in the EU than in the UN.

It is also not accurate to say that I retired as director of QCEA. I was joint representative/head of office together with my partner Liz Scurfield from 2002 to 2012 and we both retired together.

Quakers are and were known as ‘Friends of the Truth’ and this should certainly include only publishing things we know to be factually correct.

As to the assertion that Timmon Wallis ‘has taken to arguing his case on Facebook’, the reality is that he had no other choice. To say that the cause for his dismissal was a matter of ‘management style’ is obfuscation. Management style manifests itself in specific issues which can – in certain circumstances – lead to grievances. The accusations made against Timmon should have been dealt with under the QCEA grievance procedure; that would have been the only way for him to ‘clear his name’. For QCEA not to make these allegations public is not the same as dealing with them. Timmon had no guarantee that they would not come out at a later date. We know what a gossip mill Brussels is.

QCEA is a Quaker organisation. As such, I think Friends are entitled to hold it to account in terms of its implementation of Quaker values. This is essential to make it a credible voice in the political arena in which it works. If that implementation of Quaker values fails at the first hurdle (and QCEA has form on this even before Liz and I worked there) then it brings Quakers and Quaker agencies the world over into disrepute.

Martina Weitsch
Former joint representative/head of office at QCEA (2002 to 2012)

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