Letters - 21 June 2019

From 'this other Eden' to Jacob Rees-Mogg

This other Eden

Rex Ambler’s response to the Swarthmore Lecture (7 June) illustrates the difficulty many Friends have with diversity and with an understanding of different Friends’ traditions.

Eden Grace is a member of New England Yearly Meeting, which is not an evangelical Yearly Meeting. She holds her membership in an Unprogrammed Meeting.

Eden’s use of ‘God’ and ‘Jesus’, however frequent, does not put her in the evangelical part of our Quaker family. There is far more differentiation, and more iterations, of Quaker expression among Friends, as one sees perhaps most clearly in the United States and Africa.

Diversity and inclusion, a big part of our consideration at Yearly Meeting, brings us face-to-face with our own challenges to be open to difference. When we hear language that is difficult for us, it is incumbent upon us, the listeners, to adjust how we hear the message, rather than for us to ask the speaker to change what is uncomfortable for us.

Do we really want to restrict people’s authentic voice in a spiritual context? I don’t believe so.

I have the privilege of worshipping with Friends around the world, and the many ways of worship spring from the same source. We are united in our love of the Indescribable, the Holy Spirit, the Seed, God. By whatever name, I fully appreciate the words that came to us through Eden, and I would hope that, as Friends, we can open ourselves to be vulnerable, appreciative, and faithful to God, who makes all things new.

Gretchen Castle
Friends World Committee for Consultation general secretary

Signs of the times

Recent letters have lamented the fact that some Friends have felt led to become involved in the Extinction Rebellion protests and broken the law. Comments have been made about the inconvenience caused and the possibility and desirability of effecting change by writing to MPs. These letters ignore some inconvenient truths.

We are in the middle of a human-made climate emergency. If we don’t act soon and succeed in reversing and stopping it, the whole world will suffer far greater inconvenience.

Droughts, extreme heat, floods and food shortages will become the norm. The signs are already there and time is running out.

In 2018 the UN secretary general warned that humanity and life on earth now faces a ‘direct existential threat’ and that we must act swiftly and robustly to avoid utterly catastrophic impacts to life on earth. That is not going to happen by itself nor solely by us making important but individual changes.

Throughout history, including that of Quakers, we know that nonviolent direct action works. It has had a huge impact in affecting positive social and political change. Writing to MPs and others in positions to help effect change has its place. But by itself it is rarely enough.

Jesus was a radical preacher. He allowed his disciples to break the Sabbath law by plucking ears of corn. Not out of wilfulness but because it was needful.

I commend Advices & queries 35 and 36 to all who question the action of Friends involved in peaceful protest.

Helen Carter-Shaw

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