Letters - 28 April 2023

From Membership to Tony award


I admire those attenders who are devoted to our Religious Society, who serve it in many ways, but who refrain from applying for membership because in all honesty they cannot accede to our God-centred religious basis. I deplore the fact that our procedures are such that avowed and even evangelical atheists can be and are admitted into membership.

That which I see as commonality would be the place of the Meeting for Worship in Quakerism, a space of spirituality and tolerance of each other, where Christian Quakers and atheist Quakers and every position in between can sit together in the silence of the Meeting, grounded and centred. I consider that far too many attenders are permitted to attend Yearly Meeting. Once there, our decision-making process gives them as much weight as members. This will be particularly incongruous when the subject matter is in effect the fundamental basis of our form of Quakerism, or the basis of our membership. These topics will be inherent when we seek to approve a new version of our book of discipline.

We have gone too far in accommodating ‘refugees from Christianity’. For at least thirty years we have refrained from using religious language for fear of upsetting them. Any expression of our religious basis is now so unusual as to seem almost offensive.

In the 1990s we almost entirely dropped ‘Jesus’ from Quaker faith & practice. If we now drop ‘God’ shall we still be able to present ourselves to Churches Together and to the InterFaith community as ‘Religious’? Must we adhere to our Testimony to Truth by renaming ourselves ‘The Spiritual Society of Friends’?

Stephen Petter

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