Letters – 9 April 2010

From diversity to death and dying

Diversity

Friend Gerard Guiton (26 March) contrasts ‘unity in diversity’ with ‘a coherent theology’. A Friends Meeting in Melbourne that ‘applauds’ diversity is ‘atrophying and seen as irrelevant’, he tells us, while ‘an emergent church group’ with a coherent theology is ‘expanding, exciting and meaningful’. No contest, then! Abandon Quaker diversity and embrace emergent church coherence!

Or are we missing something? After all, the opposite of diversity is not coherence but uniformity. Is that what Gerard really wants? A Society of Friends that returns to doctrinal uniformity, credal affirmations, neatly defined theological boundaries – all the clutter of received religious opinion policed by the great and good of the church, and enforced by exclusions and expulsions? I don’t think so.

The theological diversity that has increasingly marked liberal Friends throughout the world over the last 120 years is the result of our growing discernment that unity is not dependent on someone’s notion of doctrinal orthodoxy. That’s a liberating experience – and a humbling one! It has freed us up to think and rethink everything, to challenge ourselves and each other. There’s nothing incoherent about accepting that we don’t know it all, about living the questions rather than insisting that we have all the answers. It means recognising that Quakers are still seekers on a continuing journey, not finders at the end of the road. There’s no going back.

David Boulton

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