Thursday, April 10, 2008

New Kind of Quakerism and Convergent Friends - Mutations of Hope

The following quote is taken a Pendle Hill Pamphlet entitled Rethinking Quaker Principles. It's written by Rufus Jones. I share it because it offers an interesting look at what it means to be "new" and how this connects with the idea of "emergent".

"It is not often that something wholly new comes to our world. We can probably say that something absolutely new never happens. The newest form always bears some marks of the old out of which it sprung."

Quick thought: that's how I envision a "new kind of Quaker". We're not necessarily seeing something "brand new" that is so against what has come before. A new kind of Quaker more or less bears some marks of the old. We are not creating something completely different but springing out of what has come before. Okay, here is some more of Rufus Jones:

"The new, like the new moon, is born in the arms of the old. We have a new word for the breaking in of the new out of the existent old. We call it a mutation. A mutation is a unique and unpredictable variation in the process of life. It is the unexpected appearance of a new type in an old order. It is a leap and not a mere dull recurrence of the past. Something emerges that was not here before. something that is not just the sum of the preceding events."

This previous quote helps me to further understand a "new kind of Quaker" as well as Convergent Friends. I'm not so sure the word "mutation" works for me but the definition certainly does. In fact, if we were to use the term "Convergent Friends" or even "New kind of Quaker" in place of "mutation", we may have something. For example:

A "new kind of Quaker" is a unique and unpredictable variation in the process of life. It is the unexpected appearance of a new type in an old order. It is a leap and not a mere dull recurrence of the past.

Both the "new kind of Quaker" and "Convergent Friends" are "unique and unpredictable" variations in the process of life. We're not sure where they will end up, but they are "in process" and we trust God is leading that process. They are also unexpected appearances of a new type - in an old order! I am reminded of the words of God in the book if Isaiah, "Behold, I am doing a new thing. Do you not perceive it?" We don't just want to remake the past. That's succumbing to romantic nostalgia and turning it into an idol. We want to take a "leap of faith" into the new that God has called us as Quakers - this new order growing out of the old.

If you want to find more on these wonderful pamphlets, just go to www.pendlehill.org

5 comments:

kevin roberts said...

Hi Scott-
That"new kind of Quaker" is something I'm looking for as well. In my own Conservative branch, we began by trying to stop the clock, and still constantly try to turn it back to re-create a more vibrant early witness.

It never works for us, because we forget that our own present-time experience of God is what we should attend to. The more carefully we copy the past, the more faithfully we recreate the same flaws that brought us our dissatisfaction in the first place. A circle that we find hard to break out of.

I don't know what God has in store for us with this Convergence business, but I know that if we don't stand up and walk forward when the Holy Spirit when calls our name, we'll never get where were supposed to go in the way planned for us.

Catherine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
C said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
C said...

(I haven't had my coffee today and have botched two attempts to post this--hope I get it right this time. LOL)

I'm very happy to see this that you posted:

"We don't just want to remake the past. That's succumbing to romantic nostalgia and turning it into an idol. We want to take a "leap of faith" into the new that God has called us as Quakers - this new order growing out of the old."
=====
I am a non-Christian and have been wondering if there is a place in the Convergent conversation for folks like me, and have posted about that on another blog--and then began an email conversation about it.

I know that some people believe that non-Christians do not value the life and ministry of Jesus (some of us do very much) or that we were all non-Christian first before "finding" the Quaker religion (not true in my case--I was raised in a Christian home and in my 30 years as a Friend have discerned my spiritual truth) or that non-Christians are spiritually wounded people looking for a place to nurse that wound (also not true for me).

But so much of the Convergent conversation is discussed with Christian assumptions that I hope to be able to remind people that there are those Friends who want renewal and who aren't going to share the same assumptions as the majority.

And yes, we do understand that George Fox was a Christian. And yes, we do understand that each of us is led by the Spirit to our own sense of who God is and how God works. I, myself, do not want to repudiate anyone's spiritual truth.

As I mentioned to someone in an email, any religion that holds the idea of revelation through a personal connection to God (or Jesus or the Universe--pick the word best suited for you) and avoids trying to make credal statements will eventually lead to a situation in which some people find their spiritual truth to be different than that of others. It was really just a matter of time. :)

When we go about the work of renewal I hope we do so in a way that will be inclusive rather than exclusive. I hope we will continue to hold dear the idea that each of us will receive insight and Light if we wait prayerfully on the Spirit (again, fill in the word that best suits your understanding).

This is me and my straight-talking ways. I am not calling anyone out or trying to criticize the Convergent conversation. I'm want renewal and I want to support it.

My hope is that over time, the renewal of the Quaker faith will be one that tones down the antipathy that various branches of Quakerism have had for each other in the US and will open up space for us to actually glimpse common ground.

Perhaps it's more of a blossoming than a mutation. Now there's a nice springtime metaphor. :)

Peace,

cath

Allison said...

Aha, so I'm a mutant! I knew something was going on with me.

I would like to see Friends move away from monoculture and into the modern multicultural world. Our Meeting for Business model is totally evolutionary, it is the one thing that can truly be a melting pot.

I also wish we could count ourselves as part of this Fellowship:
http://www.radicallyinclusive.net/content.cfm?id=2001