An interesting article from an American non-theist? Friend, Jim Cain, can be found here in Friends Journal (USA – strongly associated with Friends General Conference):
The November newsletter with our latest news, book reviews, details of the 2019 conference, short articles as well as news from nontheist Friends in America has now been added to the website.
NFN members and others who have signed up to receive this will have had it in their email a week or so ago.
As with all the other newsletters, please see under ‘Articles – Newsletters’ above.
Members of the Network will have received the April newsletter with reflections on the 2018 Conference by email. After a little delay, the pdf version has now been added here with a slight re-structuring of the articles/newsletters pages.
The Newsletter might be read in conjunction with the 2018 Conference reports in the previous post.
In a post on 27th July (https://nontheist-quakers.org.uk/2017/07/27/meeting-your-maker/) I wrote:
And so, bearing in mind all the excellent (and personal and idiosyncratic) Quaker blogs out there, I thought I’d put a spanner in the works or a cat among the pigeons here by posting something personal in the hope of stimulating (provoking) further non- theist discussion.
As we approach the season of the birth of Jesus and later (in March) our conference considering the future of Quakerism, I felt it was time for another spanner or cat.
In an interesting article in The Young Quaker (magazine of Young Friends General Meeting) for October 2017 (page 7), Laurence Hall writes about the Seeds of a new Quakerism. He says ‘In essence the emerging New Quakerism is deeply aligned with movements that are now reshaping the world around us.’
Being myself blissfully unaware of the ‘New Quakerism’, I turned, as one does, to Google and whilst there were many results related to ‘Quakerism’ and ‘New’, there was only one (the first) which seemed to relate to a ‘New Quakerism’ as such.
That link was to ‘We need a new Quakerism‘ on the blog of Hye Sung Francis who styles himself ‘an anti-capitalist pentecostal quaker’. He writes:’It seems to me that many Friends, even those who consider themselves “convinced,” are hungry for more than what the Society has to offer. We keep coming back to the same point: we desperately need to re-imagine Quakerism.’ and later: ‘Without that conviction that God reigns and that God will reign, only the empty forms of Quakerism persist. That is the way of death.’ Is that what our conference will consider?
On his blog, Hye Sung Francis has a number of other rather interesting posts: ‘Jesus, a Failed Revolutionary‘ reminds me of David Boulton’s ‘Who on Earth was Jesus‘ and the fact that I haven’t yet got round to reading ‘Jesus the Terrorist‘. In that post, Francis writes:
‘There’s another lesson here: the destruction of the systems and authorities on this earth and the realization of God’s kingdom cannot be accomplished by one person. Christ’s ministry wasn’t a one-man show. It can only be realized through his people, through his body. Through us.’
Francis’s most recent post, ‘On Being Friends with Jesus‘, makes many interesting points to ponder including the wonderful “Any theology that values God above people is false.”
I hope non-theist Friends (and others) will follow the hypertext links above, both to the many excellent articles in The Young Quaker and to Hye Sung Francis, and consider how these viewpoints relate to non-theism among Friends, our forthcoming Conference and to ‘God, Words and Us’.
I look forward to your feedback and comments and, I hope, those of younger Friends, whether non-theist, Godly, ‘anti-capitalist pentecostal’ or whatever. We do indeed need to move outside our ‘elderly, white, middle-class’ comfort zone, where that applies to us, and perhaps all other comfort zones too!
God, Words and Us
Quaker Books – November 2017 £8
A review by Hugh Rock
The slight extent of this book, 98 pages, belies its heavyweight testimony. It is a conclusive demonstration of Quaker Faith. But it does not recognise this. It masquerades as an attempt to discover what the unifying principle of Quaker Faith might be, and assumes a starting point of doubt and conflict.
The subtitle ‘Quakers in Conversation about Religious Difference’ is a euphemism for the nagging subject of nontheism, that was identified by the Book of Discipline Revision Preparation Group as top of the list of topics that worried Friends and required more discernment before any revision might proceed. The twenty-four prominent voices gathered in these pages were engaged to discern, and concluded, (Hooray! Hooray!) that the polarising labels are a ‘misrepresentation’ (p79), ‘misleading and unhelpful’ (p80). Nobody identifies themselves as a theist, and the nontheists are themselves a mighty mixed bunch.
The chapter contents need some explanation beyond their headings:
‘Telling our stories’ reads like eighteen miniature Swarthmore Lectures. They are diverse confessions of faith.
‘Bringing our full selves to the conversation’, is a preparatory catechism for dialogue respectful of everyone’s feelings.
‘Sharing experiences of core Quaker practice’, assembles various views on prayer and Meeting for Worship.
‘Exploring the language of “theism and nontheism” ’, turns out to be a decisive rejection of any such simpleton polarity.
‘Reframing the issues: developing some alternative models, seeking new vocabulary, rediscovering Quaker insights’, is an ode to Isaac Penington’s ‘The end of words’ 1, 2. It sings the vain hope that at some deeper level the irreconcilable clash between believing in God and believing that there is no God, can be resolved.
So, what is the paradox of doubt, and conflict with no apparent answer, that this book contradicts? It is, in itself, an exercise of the unifying principle of Quaker Faith. It exercises the simple faith that, out of mutual respect for varied spiritual experiences, we can, and must, distill collective action of love for the world. Twenty-four people of varied persuasions listen hard, respect and validate the significance, for others, of worldviews that they do not hold themselves. That, in these times especially, is a pearl without price.
The Revision Committee have no need to fiddle with the ancient language of Quaker Faith and Practice. ‘God, words and us’ can stand as a supplement: it is definitive testimony to what Friends can say in their twenty first century cultural environment.
The December newsletter has finally found its way onto the website! Thanks David Parlett for another interesting issue.
‘God, words and us‘ is the title of a new 100 page book from Quaker books, edited by Helen Rowlands which summarises the findings of the ‘think-tank’ set up by the Revision Preparation Group (RPG) of Meeting for Sufferings to consider some of the issues prior to any possible revision of Quaker Faith and Practice.
NFN’s David Boulton and Michael Wright were part of the think-tank in a personal capacity (ie. Not representing NFN).
David will be one of our three speakers at our 2018 conference and Michael Wright will lead a discussion of the book at the conference on the Sunday morning.
You may also like to read what Rhiannon Grant, another member of the think-tank, and I believe the ‘RPG’?, has to say about ‘God, words and us‘. (I have used a link which also gives some bonus items from her blog!)
I’m not sure if everyone reads the comments (see below in right hand column) so I’m copying my comment on the Kindle edition as a post here:
It has taken me all of 7 weeks (49 days precisely) to notice James Riemermann’s post on the US Nontheist-Friends site of 6 September 2017 which has popped up at the top of the left-hand column here* – our feed from the US site – to say there is now a Kindle Edition of Godless for God’s Sake.
If you follow James’ links there, it comes up on Amazon UK at £4.64.
The links to ‘customers also bought’ there are quite interesting too!
I’d rather have the paper-back and not buy it from amazon but I suppose a Kindle version has to come from amazon so if you haven’t already read it or want it on your Kindle (or phone) there you go.
*(at the bottom on a small mobile device!)