Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly)

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An Email Newsletter & Blog from Martin Kelley
Updated: 19 hours 35 min ago

Sam Walton: Putting the protest back in Protestant

Fri, 08/17/2018 - 7:46am

From the Peace and Disarmament Programme Manger for British Friends comes a plea for us not to be afraid of going back to Quaker roots and challenge the abuse of power.

Society’s values are so often in opposition to God’s purposes. Slavery used to be legal. Love between two people of the same sex was illegal in our lifetimes. Our economic system is based on greed and pays no heed to God’s creation. Nation states exist and act for their own enrichment rather than loyalties lying with the Kingdom of Heaven and working for the enrichment of all humanity. When being loyal to God’s purposes runs counter to what society expects it can get pretty rough. There may be persecution, though it varies a lot: from tutting, telling you off for being vegetarian, being given white feathers, right through to imprisonment, jails and the lions of the Colosseum.

Putting the protest back in Protestant — Greenbelt

A blog from Sam Walton of our associate Quakers in Britain As a person of faith, my first…

Categories: Blogs

A New Creation Story

Thu, 08/16/2018 - 8:02pm

A nice piece on Philadelphia Friend O:

For O., a member of Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting, carrying this query for pastoral ministry awakens joy in her heart. It raises important questions: Are we transformed by the power of love, during our biological conception as human beings? Might our lives be a measureless love story about creation?

It’s hard to capture O’s personality in ASCII characters. She’s been in a few QuakerSpeak videos.

A New Creation Story: Embracing Love — Philadelphia Yearly Meeting

As Friends, we understand that scripture uses stories about the natural world to describe the spiritual life. But, do…

Philadelphia Yearly Meeting
Categories: Blogs

Becoming a Quaker Minister

Thu, 08/16/2018 - 8:01pm

I love the gentle, deliberate way Stephanie talks in her QuakerSpeak videos. In this week’s she talks about Quake ministry:

Joining up in that includes making my particular gifts and skills available and not needing it to be about me or accomplishment, but about seeking to really be a part of what God is trying to make happen with and through me and others, and to rejoice in that.

Becoming a Quaker Minister

Stephanie Crumley-Effinger was “recorded” as a minister in Indiana Yearly Meeting in 1982. We talked with her about…

Categories: Blogs

“I Guess I’ll Read My Bible Elsewhere”

Thu, 08/16/2018 - 7:59pm

Mike Bevel with a funny/sad account of a kind of pathetic series of incidents.

The help we want to give — the showy, busy, selfless work — is rarely the help that is needed. And the help that is needed is often boring, with no glamour to it. So, what is to be done? I don’t know. I want to continue my spiritual journey towards/with God; however, I am worried that maybe the Quakers aren’t the home for me that I want.

The post’s title is a response Mike gave in which he channeled his mother’s voice. It’s so spot-on that I can almost hear her say it (I have never met Mike or any of his family but have friends who could deliver that kind of a line with such under-the-radar nuance that more clueless listeners might miss the acres of shade in the tone.

“I Guess I’ll Read My Bible Elsewhere”

A few weeks ago, at the Meeting House in Bethesda, Zach was breathing too loudly while he was…

Small | Wire
Categories: Blogs

Civility Can Be Dangerous

Wed, 08/15/2018 - 12:07pm

From the AFSC’s Lucy Duncan, a look back at Henry Cadbury’s now-infamous 1934 speech to American rabbis and a look at the civility debate in modern America.

Standing up for peace means standing on the side of the oppressed, not throwing them into the lion’s mouth in the name of civility. And interrupting racist violence takes more than civil discourse: active disruption is needed in order for racism to be revealed and dismantled. What good is ineffective pacifism? My commitment to nonviolence is about saving lives.

I gave my take on Cadbury’s speech back in June. I was a little easier on Cadbury, mostly because I think we need to understand the Quaker worldview out of which he was speaking. It’s never good to lecture the oppressed on their oppression, but the classic Quaker idea of speaking truth to all sides still holds value and is something I think we miss sometimes nowadays.

Civility Can Be Dangerous

In 1934, AFSC co-founder Henry Cadbury advised Jewish rabbis to be gentler on Hitler. Is civility a substitute…

Friends Journal
Categories: Blogs

What gifts of the Spirit are we marginalizing?

Wed, 08/15/2018 - 7:49am

Powerful warnings from Adria Gulizia about what happens when a faith community doesn’t exercise all of its gifts :

Even worse, when we routinely marginalize certain gifts, we begin to see their exercise as dysfunctional and their absence as normative, rather than the reverse. When the prophet challenges us with uncomfortable truths, rather than using our discomfort as an opportunity for reflection and discernment, we tell her to tone it down, complain that she is “unwelcoming” and, if she doesn’t get the message, we run her off.

Welcoming the Gifts God Sends Us

In order to remain healthy and faithful, we must nurture all spiritual gifts, not just the ones that…

In the Shadow of Babylon
Categories: Blogs

Is this what people want?

Mon, 08/13/2018 - 9:05am

Don McCormick is back with this week’s Friends Journal feature. His February article, “Can Quakerism Survive,” sparked all sorts of conversations and is now at 110 comments. Now he’s back with specific suggestions for Quaker growth, inspired by megachurch church growth research and models.

When I read this, I asked myself if we Quakers are providing the equivalent of this type of spiritual guidance. Do newcomers and others see us as meeting their spiritual needs? If they do, do they see this right away, or does it take a while? To answer these questions, I had to learn more about the “clear pathway” that the Reveal literature described. Although Quakerism has great wisdom in the area of spiritual guidance, at first it seemed that it was inconsistent with the spiritual guidance described in the survey.

When I’ve taught Quakerism 101 classes, I’ve try to explain the branches of Friends—and the schisms—not just as theological or cultural phenomenon but as problem-solving preferences. What tools do we reach for in crisis? Do we go inward and recommit ourselves to distinctive practices that we’ve been slacking off on? Do we start reading groups and spiritual friendship programs to train each member to carry the work? Do we blame our Quaker oddities and start using the language and liturgical models of the more successful churches near us? Do we set up committees and produce curricula to support local efforts? Do we look to experts and craft nationwide programs and hire staff and problem solve? I’m not sure these tools need to be mutually exclusive, but in practice I see most Quaker bodies tend to reach for only one or two of these tools. And of course, the tools we chose largely determine both the problems we solve and the unintended ones we create.

What People Really Want from Church and Quaker Meeting

Looking at successful church growth models for ideas to grow our fellowship.

Friends Journal
Categories: Blogs

Cool historical find of the day

Thu, 08/09/2018 - 6:29am

This is totally cool. The Historic Charleston Foundation in South Carolina is restoring the Nathanial Russell House, a remarkable example of neoclassical architecture on the National Historic Register, and found a fragment what they list as 1868 Friends Intelligencer above the kitchen firebox.

More fascinating discoveries from the walls of the #russellhousekitchen – new artifacts were extracted from cavities above the kitchen firebox on the first floor! This latest batch of artifacts dates to the 1850’s and 1860’s, which I think we can agree is an interesting and… fractious time in Charleston’s history. The most intriguing scrap of paper recovered from the walls is pictured here: a page ripped from a Quaker periodical entitled “Friends’ Intelligencer,” published in Philadelphia in 1868.

Who were the Friends in Charleston in the years right after the Civil War? Was the Intelligencer hidden or just recycled to plug up a draft? I wonder if this could be related to Quaker relief work in South Carolina. The most well-known example was the Penn School on St Helena Island, founded by northern Unitarians and Quakers in 1862 to educate freed Gullah after the slaveowners fled Union troops.

Curious about the fragment, I typed a few of its legible words into Google and sure enough, they’ve scanned that volume of the Intelligencer (hattip to my FJ colleague Gail, who found this link). It shows a date of Fourth Month 20, 1868, though curiously FI also republished it in 1874, which I first found. The poem is credited to Bessie Charles, the English poet also credited as Elizabeth Bundle Charles; it seems to have been published in various collections around that time. The Intelligencer continues today of course.

Historic Charleston Foundation on Instagram: “More fascinating discoveries from the walls of the #russellhousekitchen – new artifacts were extracted from cavities above the kitchen…”

1,003 Likes, 31 Comments — Historic Charleston Foundation (@historiccharlestonfoundation) on Instagram: “More fascinating discoveries from the walls of…

Categories: Blogs

Friends Journal seeking articles on Quakers and Christianity

Tue, 08/07/2018 - 10:38am

The December theme of Friends Journal will look at the juicy topic of Friends’ relationship with Christianity. I wrote up an “Editor’s Desk” post about the kinds of articles we might expect. Here’s an excerpt:

It’s a series of questions that has dogged Friends since we did away with clergy and started calling baptism a “sprinkling,” and it has been an issue of contention in every Quaker schism: Are we Christian? Are we really Christian? Does it matter if we’re Christian? What does it even mean to be Christian in the world?

One reason we began publishing more themed issues beginning in 2012 was so we use the topics to invite fresh voices to write for us. While we’ve long had regulars who will send us a few articles a year on miscellaneous topics, themes allow us to tempt people with specific interests and ministries: reconciliation from war, climate activism, workplace reform, mentorship, ecumenical relationships, the wider family of Friends, etc.

More recently I’ve started these “Editor’s Desk” posts as a way of sharing some of the ideas we have around particular upcoming issues. The post also gives us a URL that we can share on social media to drum up submissions. I also hope that others will share the URL via email.

The absolute best way of reaching new people is when someone we know shares an upcoming theme with someone we don’t know. There are many people who by chance or inclination seem to straddle Quaker worlds. They are invaluable in amplifying our calls for submissions. Question: would it help if we started an email list just for writers or for people who want to be reminded of upcoming themes so they can share them with Friends?

Writing Opp: Quakers and Christianity

It’s a series of questions that has dogged Friends since we did away with clergy and started calling…

Friends Journal
Categories: Blogs

Worship Sharing and Vocal Ministry

Mon, 07/09/2018 - 1:37pm

Worship Sharing and Vocal Ministry

Very often, if we had just heard the lesson without its personal and often anecdotal preamble, it would have felt much more like Spirit-led vocal ministry. So why quibble about it? Because, by the time we get the lesson, it is so saturated with “I” that it has trouble lifting off the ground to transform the We. Our consciousness has been so deeply drawn into personality that it hinders the transpersonal character we hope for in vocal ministry.

Worship Sharing and Vocal Ministry

Yesterday, my meeting got a lot of personal sharing and basically no vocal ministry. My judgment, of course,…

Through the Flaming Sword
Categories: Blogs

A Quaker Response to this Moral Crisis

Tue, 07/03/2018 - 3:58pm

A Quaker Response to this Moral Crisis

Friends are seeking ways to respond to the current refugee crisis. One example is a minute of concern recently approved by Santa Monica Meeting. Other Friends are taking action by visiting detainees in the Adelanto Detention Center. Some are accompanying refugees in the courts. Quaker organizations like FCNL and AFSC are calling for comprehensive immigration reform and an end to ICE. I am including this letter in hopes of stimulating more discussion among Friends (and others) about what we can do to respond to this latest moral crisis.

Reunite Refugee Families Separated at the Border: A Quaker Response to this Moral Crisis

  Friends at a demo in Pasadena: Kim and Alex Hopkins, Chris and Elizabeth and their baby Max,…

Categories: Blogs

Money and the things we really value

Tue, 07/03/2018 - 12:29pm

I think I’ve already shared that Friends Journal is doing an issue on “Meetings and Money” in the fall. While I’ve heard from some potential authors that they’re writing something, we haven’t actually gotten anything in-hand yet. We’re extending the deadline to Friday, 7/20. This is a good opportunity to write for FJ.

How we spend money is often a telling indicator of what values we really value. Money is not just a matter of financial statements and investment strategies. It’s children program. It’s local soup kitchens. It’s the town peace fair. It’s the accessible bathroom or hearing aid system. And how we discuss and discern and fight over money is often a test of our commitment to Quaker values.

Here’s some of the specific issues we’ve brainstormed for the issue.

Where does our money come from? A lot of Quaker wealth is locked up in endowments started by “dead Quaker money”—wealth bequeathed by Quakers of centuries past.

Much of our American Quaker fortunes trace back to a large land grant given in payment for war debt. For the first century or so, this wealth was augmented by slave labor. Later Quaker enterprises were augmented by capital from these initial wealth sources.

In times past, there were well-known Quaker family businesses and wealthy Quaker industrialists. But American capitalism has changed: families rarely own medium- or large-scale businesses; they own stocks in firms run by a professional managers. If the ability to run businesses based on Quaker values is over, is shareholder activism our closest analogue?

Many Friends now work in service fields. Family life has also changed, and the (largely female) free labor of one-income households is no longer available to support Quaker endeavors as readily. How have all of these changes affected the finances of our denomination and the ability to live out our values in the workplace?

How do we support our members? A personal anecdote: some years ago I unexpectedly lost my job. It was touch and go for awhile whether we’d be able to keep up with mortgage payments; losing our house was a real possibility. Members of a nearby non-Quaker church heard that there was a family in need and a few days later a stranger showed up on our back porch with a dozen bags of groceries and new winter coats for each of us. When my Friends meeting heard, I was told there was a committee that I could apply to that would consider whether it might help.

Where does the money go? A activist Friend of mine use to point to the nice furnishings in our meetinghouse and chuckle about how many good things we could fund in the community if we sold some of it off. Has your meeting liquidated any of its property for community service?

When we do find ourselves with extra funds from a bequest or windfall, where do we spend it? How do we balance our needs (such as meetinghouse renovations, scholarships for Quaker students), and when and how do we give it to others in our community?

What can we let go of? There are a lot of meetinghouses in more rural areas that are mostly empty these days, even on First Day. Could we ever decide we don’t need all of these spaces? Could we consolidate? Or could we go further and sell our properties and start meeting at a rented space like a firehall or library once a week?

Who gets the meetinghouse after a break-up? In the last few years we’ve seen three major yearly meetings split apart, prompting a whole mess of financial disentanglement. What happens to the properties and summer camps and endowments when this happens? How fiercely are we willing to fight fellow Friends over money?

What conversations aren’t we having? Where do we invest our corporate savings? Who decides how we spend money in our meetings?

Please feel free to share this with any Friend who might have interesting observations about Friends’ attitudes toward finances!

Writing Opp: Meetings and Money (due 7/9)

How do we spend money on ourselves? What is the role of money in our meetings? How do…

Friends Journal
Categories: Blogs

Red Hens, resistance, and love

Fri, 06/29/2018 - 6:02am

Johan Maurer weighs in on the civility-in-politics questions happening now. He makes useful distinctions between mass behavior and spontaneous protest and then lays out the situation for those of us who follow the Prince of Peace.

I’m convinced that the USA is in a kind of danger that is new to most of us. But even if our worst fears turn out to be exaggerated, the scale of pain and despair among some (and wicked glee among others) is something that demands a prophetic and pastoral response from all who claim to represent Good News.

Also check out his list of eight options for responding to the current political crisis.

Sowing in tears, part two: Red Hens, resistance, and love

Political and cultural observations in light of Quaker discipleship. Recurring themes: Russia, peace, evangelism, blues.

Categories: Blogs

Henry Cadbury’s 1934 speech and us

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 6:15am

In 1934, Philadelphia Friend and co-founder of the American Friends Service Committee Henry Cadbury gave a speech to a conference of American rabbis in which he urged them to call off a boycott of Nazi Germany. A New York Times report about the speech was tweeted out last week and has gone viral over the internet. The 1930s doesn’t look so far away in an era when authoritarians are on the rise and liberals worry about the lines of civility and fairness.

Make no mistake: Cadbury’s speech is cringeworthy. Some of the quotes as reported by the Times:

You can prove to your oppressors that their objectives and methods are not only wrong, but unavailing in the face of the world’s protests and universal disapproval of the injustices the Hitler program entails.

By hating Hitler and trying to fight back, Jews are only increasing the severity of his policies against them.

If Jews throughout the world try to instill into the minds of Hitler and his supporters recognition of the ideals for which the race stands, and if Jews appeal to the German sense of justice and the German national conscience, I am sure the problem will be solved more effectively and earlier than otherwise.

The idea that we might be able to appease Hitler was obviously wrong-headed. To tell Jews that they should do this is patronizing to the extreme.

But in many ways, all this is also vintage Quaker. It is in line with how many Friends saw themselves in the world. To understand Cadbury’s reaction, you have to know that Quakers of the era were very suspicious of collective action. He described any boycott of Nazi Germany as a kind of warfare. They felt this way too about unionization–workers getting together on strike were warring against the factory owners.

When John Woolman spoke out about slavery in the 1700s, he went one-on-one as a minister to fellow Quakers. During the Civil War, Friends wrote letters one-on-one with Abraham Lincoln urging him to seek peace (they got some return letters too!). Cadbury naively thought that these sorts of personal tactics could yield results against authoritarian twentieth-century states.

Missing in Cadbury’s account was an appreciation of how much the concentration of power in industrializing societies and the growth of a managerial class between owners and workers had changed things. Workers negotiating one-on-one with an owner/operator in a factory with twenty workers is very different than negotiating in a factory of thousands run by a CEO on behalf of hundreds of stockholders. Germany as a unified state was only a dozen years old when Cadbury was born. The era of total war was still relatively new and many people naively thought a rule of law could prevail after the First World War. The idea of industrializing pogroms and killing Jews by the millions must have seen fantastical.

Some of this worldview also came from theology: if we have direct access to the divine, then we can appeal to that of God in our adversary and win his or her heart and soul without resort to coercion. It’s a nice sentiment and it even sometimes work.

I won’t claim that all Friends have abandoned this worldview, but I would say it’s a political minority, especially with more activist Friends. We understand the world better and routinely use boycotts as a strategic lever. Cadbury’s American Friends Service Committee itself pivoted away from the kind of direct aid work that had exemplified its early years. For half a century it has been working in strategic advocacy.

Friends still have problems. We’re still way more stuck on racial issues among ourselves than one would think we would be given our participation in Civil Rights activism. Like many in the U.S., we’re struggling with the limitation of civility in a political system where rules have broken down. No AFSC head would give a lecture like Cadbury’s today. But I think it’s good to know where we come from. Some of Cadbury’s cautions might still hold lessons for us; understanding his blind spots could help expose ours.

Categories: Blogs

This Blog Begins – An Early Quaker Online Archive

Tue, 06/26/2018 - 8:01am

This Blog Begins – An Early Quaker Online Archive

I intend this informational blog to help others explore the thought and experience of early Quakers, chiefly before 1700, who knew, preached, and reflected on lives transformed and guided by God, who gathered them into a covenanted people.

This Blog Begins

I intend this informational blog to help others explore the thought and experience of early Quakers, chiefly before…

An Early Quaker Online Archive
Categories: Blogs

Meeting as Covenant Community

Sun, 06/24/2018 - 8:26am

Steven Davison, writing in his blog, Through the Flaming Sword:

The purpose of a covenant community is to provide a home for this transforming work. That means that joining a meeting that is a covenant community invites radical engagement with our spiritual lives on the part of our fellow members, who are to be the vehicles for God’s transforming work.

Meeting as Covenant Community

My meeting is reconsidering what it means to be a member and I’ve been working with a committee…

Through the Flaming Sword
Categories: Blogs

Review: Sacred Signposts

Sat, 06/23/2018 - 8:12am

Review: Sacred Signposts

Talk of “holy possessions” might also lead Quakers to think of those things which have set us apart from the rest of Christianity and may well preserve our tradition in the 21st century.

Review: Sacred Signposts

THOMASINA: Oh, Septimus! — can you bear it? All the lost plays of the Athenians! Two hundred at…

The Anarchy of the Ranters
Categories: Blogs