Why I'm a Quaker…

This is a video I did awhile back at the request of my yearly meeting (NWYM). In it I tell a little of my own story and why I am a Quaker today. I would love it if we could get our Quaker communities doing something like this and posting it online. Letting everyone have a chance to tell their stories!

Published by

Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

7 thoughts on “Why I'm a Quaker…”

  1. If only we could all do this with professional videographers too! This looks great, Wess, and sets a high bar for all of us hoping to do more like this…

  2. Chad – it is true that I had some great help with the video, maybe you’ll all just have to come up here and get Joel to help do all the others too! 😉

  3. Is denouncing LGBT people part of “justice for all people”? I fail to see how NWYM is not just another group of rabid evangelicals out ot convert the “Chinese” and sentence the gays to hell. That bit in the Faith & Practice about “transvestism” reads like something out of the early 1950s. I mean, really, guys.

    1. John – I appreciate your comment. If you know much about Quakers you’ll know that what is stated in a yearly meeting’s Faith and Practice is not necessarily indicative of what the whole group believes. Change is slow and difficult when working by Quaker process. I agree that the language reads like something out of the 50s and there are many others in the NWYM who do as well. I wouldn’t write off a whole group of people for something like this, without knowing that there are more complexities behind it. And you don’t know much about what NYWM missions are doing if you think they’re out there converting the chinese. Maybe back in 1890 they were doing that but not any more.

      1. Thank you for your response. I agree with you and I apologize if my tone is harsh. As to whether I shouldn’t “write off a whole group of people for something like this,” that’s a harder question. Maybe a heterosexual person would have no problem attending (or even becoming a member) of a group that has things like this in its Faith & Practice. But how could an LGBT person be expected to? It would be too painful to sit in room with a book containing that kind of language or, for that matter, with people who think that way of you.

        I see this as one of the problems with the Convergent Friends movement. It’s easy to “transcend” areas of differences if those areas don’t really affect you on a day to day basis. It’s much harder (impossible?) if one of those areas gets to the core of who you are. So while some Friends are out there encouraging all Friends to unite over commonalities, others are pretty much excluded from participating in that because of who they are. This hurts. I can’t explain it in any other way.

        1. I agree with the difficulty it would be for an LGBT person to be a part of a community with a faith and practice such as NWYM currently shares, simply because of that one statement that is in there. I am heartbroken over this too and I think the result is exactly what you assume, we don’t have very many or any LGBT folks worshipping in our communities. Not only do I wish that it was different, but many of us are trying to help bring change along.

          I wouldn’t blame this on a convergent friends thing, though if you don’t want to like it that’s fine. NWYM isn’t convergent friends. Bringing people together around difference is how you get things to start changing, otherwise we’re talking about a bunch of invisible people and telling abstract stories. The reality of ‘convergence’ is based on passages like Acts 2 and Ephesians 3 where difference is not washed away but embraced and unified through the Spirit of Christ. This is much different than the models that both Liberalism and Fundamentalism provide in today’s culture. Both work from a universalizing tendency that does away with difference. Convergence, as with postmodernism, starts with particularity and difference and sees that as a holy thing.

          Without giving names or taking a head count you can trust that many of us believe in the possibility of change and are working towards that in our own backyards. And this is not just with the LGBT question, but on other questions as well. That may not be satisfying for some but it is for me. These are still beautiful and lovely people, they are God’s people, they are people who are from all walks of life, who also need grace and forgiveness and acceptance, many of us wrestle with the difficult realities of survival, recovery, death, and abusive relationships, etc.

          So while I may disagree with a line or two in a faith and practice, I’m not ready to reduce these human beings down to that level either. I believe in grace and hope and the possibility that we are becoming a people that God intends us to be, I would like to think that this is in the direction of actually welcoming not only LGBT people into our communities, but people we disagree at many levels as well.

          And to be frank that level of hospitality is something I don’t see many Liberal Friends practicing very well either.

          Beyond this, there is at least one meeting in the NWYM who is publicly open and affirming and others (meetings and individuals) are wrestling with these issues. People and communities actually can change.

          Every church and every denomination and tradition is facing this stuff. There is a lot of work to do but we can learn how to listen and be faithful to God’s Spirit and make adjustments as we go individually and as a community, we can help people work through those process as leaders, and we can keep telling the stories and make connections for people (“be the change”), while working to have new lenses and perspectives.

          This feels like a faithful way to do it to me, a way very similar to John Woolman’s method, who continued to work with his community who had very hurtful faith and practices about what they thought of the core of certain people and how to treat them. He actually travelled generously and hospitably among those whom disagreed and whose lively-hoods were threatened by what he had to say. When I think of the possibility of change through convergence that’s my model.

          Blessings – Wess

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