I was asked to speak at Quakers United in Publications earlier this month at the beautiful Penn Center on St. Helena’s Island in South Carolina. It was a lovely road-trip south and a nice time seeing friendly faces. I was glad for the opportunity to spend some time thinking and writing on the question they posed:
Are Quakers Still Publishers of Truth?
I took the challenge because I have been thinking about this subject since Peggy Morrison, Kathy Hyzy and I put on a weekend retreat we called “The Nursery of Truth” a few years back.
Initially, the question brought up more questions:
- What is an obligation to publish truth when others are disinterested or don’t care?
- What does it mean to publish truth when we do not lay claim to another’s theological tradition or practice?
- And of course, what does it mean to speak of truth? How is it anchored in a community of practice? How is truth experienced? What does it look like? Who gets to decide what truth is?
- How does truth get understood in today’s political and cultural climate where we easily turn a blind-eye to “alternative facts,” and outright lies from leaders in every arena?
- Are there ways in which we might apprentice people within our faith tradition(s) to the truth? Are there ways in which we can learn from the past in rebuilding some kind of “nursery of truth?”
- Finally – What role does our understanding of truth play in the ongoing disagreements and fracturing of our faith communities?
The process of wrestling with these questions has been good for me. I believe that if our understanding of truth and our ability to communicate it doesn’t change in ways that can account for the needs and tensions within our meetings, the needs and make-up of our communities, and the changing cultural and political context of our time, then the short answer will be no, Quakers are no longer publishers of truth. On the other hand, if our conceptions change too much, or become too individualized that no one can speak with any authority how will we have any real sense that this is truth we are communicating at all?
I will it here for today, but stay tuned. There is more to come on this topic.
In the meantime: What do you think? Are Quakers still publishers of truth?