Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Messy Faith- Inclusivity Within Friends

I love Quakers, yet they frustrate me endlessly. Regardless, all of them are still part of my religious family. I have traveled among Friends of all types, backgrounds, theological perspectives, ages, etc.... and we are an interesting, diverse community worldwide. We have a lot of room for improvement, for spiritual growth, for outreach. But I do not want to kick any one out, instead Quakerism to me means to be on a journey with God within a community of seekers, not a community of know-it-alls.

If we start saying, "I am a Quaker and you are not." We are setting up Quakerism to be an enclosed community, a gated community, again. Who will have the keys? Who will make up the rules?

I am grateful that Quakers believe in continuing revelations, that God is still speaking to us. In that belief, I feel that we do not need to conform to 1600s Quakerism, but instead ask ourselves, "How is God leading us today?" (See another blog post I wrote: "If I wanted to live by 1600s standards, I would be Amish")

The 1600s Quakers were radicals, then the 1700s US Quakers started to close themselves from the outside world, which continued until the mid 1800s. Especially in the mid 1700s, US Quakers read people out of meeting for a lot of infractions of all kinds, like attending a wedding of another denomination. This was meant to keep the faith pure. For example, meetings would issue traveling minutes as ways of introducing their members to other meetings, but it was also a way to track members, to keep them honest, and make sure that they did not wander off.*

So if we start kicking people out, what will be the list of infractions we will enforce? Who will decide? Do we want to return Quakerism to a pure state? Do we want to isolate ourselves again? Do we want to track each other's movements all the time?

Or, instead, do we want to invest in the spiritual growth of all Quakers and help each other grow? Do we want to struggle and grow together in faith?

I want to keep Quakerism a messy community. I want to invest in my fellow Quakers and to keep challenging them to go deeper in their faith, while they challenge me to go deeper. I do not want to be involved in a faith where everybody follows the rules for fear of being expelled.

There are a lot of conflicts within Quakerism today. They are hard, difficult, and painful. But, if dealt with loving kindness, these conflicts will help all of us to go deeper with our faith.

Lets keep challenging each other and keep Quakerism a messy faith, instead of a pure, exclusive community open only to the members who follow strict rules.

What would the Religious Society of Friends look like, if we challenge each other to go deeper?

*I recommend reading The Reformation of American Quakerism, 1748-1783 by Jack Marietta


  1. The issue to me depends on how we define purity, and who defines purity. Each branch of Friends disagree about that definition. And often individual Friends have their own particular opinion.

    We've always had a difficult relationship trying to draw distinctions between what I believe versus what we believe. That's where I'd begin, personally.

  2. Wonderful post; long live messiness!