Conservative Friend

    An Outreach of Stillwater Monthly Meeting of Ohio Yearly Meeting of Friends

An FGC Friend Describes How She Encounters the Living Christ

The Friends General Conference (FGC) is a North American Friends umbrella organization uniting member Yearly and Monthly meetings who share in the Hicksite Friends tradition.  The FGC meetings are very diverse, but are generally unprogrammed and situated in eastern North America.  Probably all meetings would describe themselves as "liberal,", but there are Christian Friends in most, and some meetings would describe themselves as strongly Christian.  Others would choose different terms.  This note was taken from an online message board, with permission, as a testimony to the Christian witness many FGC Friends are led to offer.

Q:  How do you experience the living Christ in your life from day to day?

A: I have had two unmistakable first-hand encounters with Jesus Christ, in person, one-on-one, in which Jesus Christ unmistakably appeared visibly to me and spoke to me audibly and gave me a clear specific message or directive. I also had a third experience in which I got an explicit verbal directive/message which I am confident to have been from Jesus Christ but I did not see or hear him with my senses. It's almost like this third message showed up in my spiritual "inbox" without my having noticed the "you have mail" popup, if y'all will forgive a computer metaphor for an experience without direct outward correlate.

These experiences are precious to me, and they account for my having come to call myself a Christian. In fact, in conversations with Christians who speak in terms of well-defined datable conversion events, I'm comfortable calling the first of these my own "conversion experience" -- although I generally try to tell the actual story of the vision/audition and my response, just so they don't assume that my experience is identical to their own, or to whatever specific experience their Christian community counts as authentic.

On a day-to-day basis, I do NOT experience such minute-by-minute unmistakable Jesus Christ front and center verbal and visual guidance -- so far at least. I get nudges and have to discern whether they seem to be godly or not, temptations, distractions, or what. The Bible as well as my own experience tells me that Satan/the Tempter does deceive and tempt. I rely on prayer, the Bible, fellow Christians including my husband, and sometimes just the passage of time for help in discerning what to do or say. On occasion I ask for a clearness committee, but only when the matter in some way involves the Meeting, e.g. marriage under the Meeting's care, or travel under a Meeting minute.

I certainly believe in the possibility of humans receiving far more minute-by-minute explicit guidance than I myself get, but I also know that that's not how the Lord has been working with me, at least so far. It's my impression that, for whatever reason, many or perhaps most Friends, including those who believe in God's continuing guidance and revelation, have NOT so far had as vivid and unmistakable experiences as my few. I connect this situation to John 20:29, when Jesus says to Thomas (and me), "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."

I remember once after a long Meeting for Business discussion of a controversial matter, one wise Friend rising and saying, "Friends, sometimes we have to admit to ourselves that we do not KNOW God's will for this group at this time, and just do the best we can." That is my situation most of the time, and it seems to be the situation of the Friends Meetings I know best (liberal FGC meetings).

I'm pretty confident about the broad contours of what living according to God's will looks like, summed up in loving God with all my being and loving other people as myself (especially the other people who bug me or threaten me). However when it comes down to specific issues and controversies, about all I feel led to do is pray for guidance in the moment as to what to do and say. There are some issues where I feel fairly confident stating a position (e.g. I believe abortion is a gravely wrong action, and sometimes feel led to witness to individual women about it; however I have never felt led to get involved in political activities to make abortion legal or illegal or safe or difficult or easy). There are other issues, e.g. homosexuality, where all I've so far felt led to, is working to be a loving friend to the gay and lesbian people I meet and be a one-on-one conversation partner with anyone who wants to talk to me; my main one-on-one message being that I believe God leads people, and the foremost moral imperative for a person who wants to be faithful to God about sexuality or anything else is for the person to be willing to do or not do whatever God commands or wants of us -- in other words, yieldedness.

I'd better stop now. I use the phrase "feeling led" for my best judgment in the moment as to what the nudges and inclinations I'm experiencing add up to -- what seems to be the most likely most God-led thing to do or not do.

Thank you all again for your many posts -- I experience you as a very precious community of Friends --

Grace and peace of the Lord to you all,

An FGC Friend