Ripley Quaker Meeting

If Quakers were more Christian : My Response to an Open Letter To Christian Friends by a Post-Christian Quaker

Dear Friends,

I’m posting this response because I have been directly quoted in a blog posted at http://leftistquaker.blogspot.com/2010/03/if-christians-were-more-quaker-open.html

The blog was posted as a result of a comment of mine posted on an article in the Guardian by Theo Hobson.

You can read the original article here

As the recipient of direct personal criticism in the blog, I think I deserve a response to it.
In their open letter to Christian Friends, the writer  urges Christian Friends to set the world back on fire like Early Friends did, and I quote,

“And, just to state my priorities here, I desire a vocal, impassioned, inspired revival of Christian Quakerism across the entire world. In a world wracked by warfare, domination, and oppressive banality, a vibrant Christian Quakerism is sorely needed as an alternative to Right-Wing establishment Christianity. That was what George Fox, the most influential early Quaker preacher, fought for his entire adult life”

This is a view I can  certainly unite with. The writer is preaching to the choir, as far as I’m concerned!

There is however,  a problem is with the writer’s point of view. Like most liberal Quakers, they don’t believe the words apply to liberal Quakerism, and that liberal Quakerism is somehow exempt from the need of Christian renewal, so I further quote,

“While I avidly support and encourage the advancement of the ministry of Christian Friends, I just as avidly disapprove of attempts by Christian Friends to undermine the theological diversity that has become normative within both Britain Yearly Meeting and the U.S.A.'s Friends General Conference. I firmly hold that there are multiple valid ways of being a Quaker and it is a waste of resources and source of disharmony to urge any sort of definitively Christian faith stance upon Britain YM and FGC.”

The implication is, of course, is that liberal Quakerism needs nothing or has nothing to learn from Christian Quakerism. Nothing could be further from the truth.

My comments on Theo Hobson’s original article were described as “a seriously wrong-headed comment on liberal Quakerism. It betrays all sorts of ignorance about liberal Quakerism's pedigree and trajectory within the modern world”

The truth is that I’ve had the unfortunate experience of seeing liberal Quakerism up close, (often much too close), for nigh on 30 years. While I’ve met some sound and wonderful people among liberal Quakers, I think I’ve come to conclusion that, as a body, its spiritual fruits are somewhat dubious, if not lacking. While it is true that there are has been a process of liberalisation going on, since the 19th century, I was around in the 1980’s when London YM (Britain Yearly Meeting, as it is now called), revised its Book of Discipline. It officially rejected its Christian basis and produced a red book called ‘Quaker Faith and Practise’, which in reality means whatever you, me or anyone wants it to mean, as long as it’s not Christian. I think this was a key departure point. I’m sure US liberal YM’s had similar and distinct historical points of departure.