This past week, I had the opportunity to travel to Great Plains Yearly Meeting, gathered in Wichita, KS to speak about the book of Revelation. The yearly meeting itself was a lovely and joyous gathering, they welcomed new meetings into their group, celebrate past members, and besides getting business done, they had a lot of laughter and celebration. It was quite the joy to worship with GPYM this year.
Below are some links for follow up resources for the people who attended this year’s gathering.
This is the third of a three-part series on whether or not Quakers can be “Publishers of Truth” today. In this series I want to talk about how I think early Quakers understood what it meant to be “publishers of truth” in earlier years (Part 1), just a couple challenges we face when it comes to a conversation about “truth” as Friends in 2017 (Part 2), and what it might look like for us to have a new the nursery of truth and be “Publishers of the pert near true” today (Part 3).*
For a quick recap, in the previous post, I suggested that those who consider themselves politically/theologically progressive can get caught in a cycle of thinking of truth as facts stripped of any emotion, narrative, or even joy. If this is anywhere near an accurate assessment then the next step is to invite you, my dear readers, to consider becoming people who utilize ethical and creative storytelling, humor and other similar methods, such as what Stephen Duncombe calls “Ethical Spectacles,” to subvert dominant narratives and to serve social justice. Telling the truth slant and or being purveyors of the “pert near true” (something that is so true that it doesn’t really matter whether it happened or not) is something that can and should be used in service for the good, just as Jesus himself exemplified.
In this final post, I want to suggest a few, very limited, ideas about what we might do to create a new kind of nursery of truth for today, where we could learn these practices together in community.
A New Nursery of Truth
How do we take all of this into account and really begin to re-envision a nursery of truth for today?
Are there ways in which we can respond to polarizations, speak into pluralistic spaces and be far more creative in our approach to truth?
If we are to be publishers of truth today (or the “pert near true” if you like), we need a nursery of truth that takes into account the many challenges we, and the people in our communities face in these times of racial injustice, religious bigotry, class struggle, and attacks on LGBTQ+ people. One that understands that any claims to truth must really be able to account for and be in solidarity with those most vulnerable.
This is the first of a three-part post on whether or not Quakers can be “Publishers of Truth” today. In this series I want to talk about how I think early Quakers understood what it meant to be “publishers of truth” in earlier years (Part 1), just a couple challenges we face when it comes to a conversation about “truth” as Friends in 2017 (Part 2), and what it might look like for us to have a new the nursery of truth and be “Publishers of the pert near true” today (Part 3).*
The following two parts will be posted in the coming week. Therefore, the links are currently “dead.”
Some of you are already familiar with the idea behind the historical “Nursery of Truth” (and here is a link to a more contemporary version). The idea comes from early Quaker history. As Friends were traveling from Britain to the colonies they often stopped off in Barbados where there was a large amount of Quakers at the time. According to Elbert Russell, it was shortly after 1656 that Barbados became a “major distributing point for most Friends.” As early as 1657 Friends there received a letter from George Fox about his concern for the enslavement of people by those living there.
It became a kind of gateway into the colonies for many traveling Quaker ministers. As missionaries, early friends knew the importances of training and preparation in the truth before heading to America to spread Good News and establish more Quaker meetings. By 1661 George Rofe calls it “the nursery of Truth” (Russell 1979: 39). The nursery of truth was a spiritual nursery where Quaker missionaries and ministers went to grow, be nurtured and pruned. Continue reading The Original Nursery of Truth – Part 1
As with many, I have been wrestling to understand where the various new groups forming within Quakerism fit – as with the New Association of Friends in Indiana and the new groups discerning their way forward in North Carolina and the Pacific Northwest. Will they just be replicas of the institutions that kicked them out, or is there space for something truly new to emerge?
In the very broad base of Quaker categories what we have today in the United States are two main theological trends: secular liberalism and conservative Evangelicalism. On the one side, there is a group that now seems to be largely influenced by the secular left. These yearly meetings and meetings may be “spiritual but not religious,” think of themselves as secular or even anti-religious, while still being interested in the “values” of Quakerism or some of its specific practices, like communal silence and consensus building. Not everyone within these groups identifies this way but the larger trend seems to suggest that there is far more emphasis on this “secular liberalism” than the socially aware Christianity that one can find within these groups as well. Continue reading A Radical, Liberation Christian Quakerism
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 truthplay in the ongoing disagreements and fracturing of our faith communities?
Back in February, I had the opportunity to travel back to Portland / Camas to speak at Chris Hall’s “Way of the Spirit” spiritual apprentice retreat program. I go to talk about the Bible, talk about discernment, Quakers and be in conversation with retreat goers. Some of the kinds of things I like to do.
While I was there I was reminded of my little discernment flowchart I created last June for my care committee (it’s like a personal support group for people under a particular ministry or calling). The flowchart is a pretty simple, yet fun activity of reflection one can do alone or in a group. So I thought it’d be worth sharing with others, in hopes that you find it useful as well.
Earlier this week there was a conversation on Twitter that pointed out two realities that we are seeing a lot within Western (and often more “liberal-Liberal”) Quakerism: a) that Quakerism is viewed primarily in the secular West as non-religious; and b) that even within Quaker meetings there is so little religious education that many do not get anything to help in framing the Quaker tradition differently Quakerism in any way other than a morally-based, secular practice.
As someone said on Twitter today, they always thought of it less as a religion and more of a flavor. This is not an uncommon view among many Quakers. I have witnessed the latter problem within Programmed and Evangelical Quaker meetings as well: the lack of Religious education – as it pertains to understanding and framing the Quaker tradition (history, theology and practice) both as it was understood and how it is made manifest within Quaker meetings today, worldwide.
Therefore, I wanted to offer a short reading list with some basic background to the Quaker tradition here in hopes of helping those who are getting started out and want to know more about the history, beliefs, and practice of the Religious Society of Friends. I hope that this list can be of use in folks’ quest to make their understanding and practice of Quakerism more rich, more full, and more critical. I believe that there is a push to make us lose our robust religious language in favor of a very safe religious language that will not challenge the imperial powers, that will not challenge the ego of self, that will not lay us open before Love or call truth to power. We have much to learn from and grow into. I hope what is offered can help give you but a taste.