Last week I went to a Friends conference (FWCC) in Rhode Island, and have already talked about it at some length. But the point of this short post was to point out a number of trends, or characteristics that I saw beginning to frame the overall conversation of convergent Friends.
Mission and the Kingdom of God | I think the one major piece of this past week that really got me excited was all the talk about mission and Kingdom of God. Robin spoke a lot about our mission as Friends, and how we must be ready to serve the world. It’s not good enough to just help ourselves, we need to help the world as kingdom people. In fact, I don’t think we can help ourselves out unless we’re living out the mission of God.
The kingdom of God became a focus in at least three different ways. The kingdom of God as a reality and purpose for Friends to live in, is no different than earlier notions of Gospel Order. We are to live as though the kingdom is here now, because it is in part already here.
Next we talked a lot about looking for the Kingdom of God in our culture. There are parts of our culture, the media, the Internet, music, movies, etc, where we can see God; where the kingdom is already at work. We as convergent Friends look to join God there. We wish to join God’s mission in the world as opposed to inviting God to join our mission. We see ways in which the Internet reflects love, inclusion, peace, egalitarianism, etc. We also look for those places where the Kingdom of God is not present, where oppression, domination and coercion are present and there we name the powers. We are in this way a contrast society from our world. We seek to participate in God’s transformation of the world as non-conformed agents within in our culture.
Finally we look for places where the Kingdom of God is reflected in our tradition, and were it isn’t. What parts of our tradition still, in our contemporary world, reflect these values Jesus possessed? These are the things we need to hang on to.
Strength in Various Perspectives | Within the various branches of the Friends Church our particular standpoints are really important and we can learn from the strengths of each other’s positions. We get together to here stories and build relationships in hopes of learning from one another.
Ecumenicism | We are trying to encourage ecumenical relationships and gain ecumenical insights. These kinds of insights don’t seem to be like older ecumenical movements where we try to convince everyone of some lowest common denominator spirituality. We already have plenty of that. Rather, this kind of ecumenicism seems to be more based on a desire to engage one another as friends whether or not we all agree on the issues. We don’t have to agree on everything to be friends, to work together, and to serve the kingdom of God. We know that rival accounts can often challenge and help us to strengthen our own positions as well. We like the hard questions and the difficult answers.
Friendship and Hospitality | Going off the last point there is a growing desire for hospitality and friendship with each other and using whatever means necessary to carry this out. I think that the strength of convergent Friends, and conversations like this in other traditions, will not be in its brute force or persuasive speech but in its relationships and ability to love others.
The use of Technology and Media as Means and Ends |
We are using as many means as possible to help carry out God’s mission, build community and friendships and spread the conversation as we can. Technology for us is both a means and end. It is a means to building face-to-face community, a means to serving the kingdom and means to growing in faithfulness. But it is also an end in that we seek to practice hospitality, peacefulness, and reconciliation in all we do. We also realize that many of our relationships are limited to the web and that is okay. Those are still relationships and friends who we desire to meet and work together with as best as we can.
Tradition and Progress | Tradition is the only grounds from which to innovate. Last week I noticed a strong desire to grow and nourish our tradition all the while being willing to let go of cultural baggage, stuff that just doesn’t work in this culture anymore. Questions about what is old baggage, how we get rid of it, can we let go of some while keeping other things, and a desire to learn new forms and ways of speaking in our culture were all wonderful questions that show we are at a point where people want to move beyond.
A friend pointed out that some of these ideas behind convergent Friends has been shifting some and I was excited not only that he noticed but that this is happening. It means that we’re growing, and learning as a community of friends. I realize also that I may have missed other aspects so this list isn’t meant to be comprehensive just a reflection of what I saw.