From Quaker Ranter, 15 August 2007
Martin Kelley's blog, Quaker Ranter, is a good place to keep up with the Convergent conversation. This piece is lifted from a recent page so that we can keep it static here for a bit longer than it might on his fast-moving blog. Go look at the real thing for the comments, threads, and a lot more insight than I have here.
Robin Ms recent post on a Convergent Friends definition has garnered a number of fascinating commenters. The latest comes from Scott Savage, a well-known Conservative Friend (author of A Plain Live, publisher of the defunct Plain Magazine and lightening rod for a recent culture war skirmish over homosexuality at Ohio State University). Savages comment on Robins blog follows what we could call the Cranky Conservative template: gratuitous swipes at Conservatives in Iowa and North Carolina, wholesale dismissal of other Friends, multiple affirmations of Christ, digs at the issue of homosexuality, a recitation of past failures of cross-branch communication, then a shrug that seems to ask why he should stoop to our level for dialogue.
What makes my sleepy response especially strange is that except for the homosexuality issue (yay for FLGBTQC!) Im pretty close to Scotts positions. I worry about the liberalization of Conservative Friends, I get cranky about Christian Friends who deny Christ in public, and I think a lot of Friends are missing the boat on some core essentials. When I open my copy of Ohios 1968 discipline and read its statement of faith (oops, sorry, Introduction) I nod my head. As far as Im aware Im in unity with all of Ohio Conservatives principles of faith and practice and if I signed up for their distance membership I certainly wouldnt be the most liberal member of the yearly meeting.
Im actually not sure about Scotts yearly meeting membership, Im simply answering his question of why he and the other Conservatives who hold a strong concern for the hedge (a separation of Conservative Friends from other branches) might want to think about Convergence. Of all the remaining Conservative bodies, the hedge is arguably strongest in Ohio Yearly Meeting and while parts of this apply to Conservatives elsewhereIowa, North Carolina and individuals embedded in non-Conservative yearly meetingsthe snares and opportunies are different for them than they are for Ohioans.
Why Ohio Conservative should engage with Convergence:
If you have all the answers and dont mind keeping them hidden under the nearest bushel then Convergence means nothing.
But if youre interested in following Jesus and being a fisher of men and women by sharing the good news Well, then its useful to learn that theres a growing movement of Friends from outside Conservative circles (however defined) who are sensing theres something missing and looking to traditional Quakerism for answers.
Ohio Conservatives have answers and this Convergence movement is providing a fresh opportunity to share them with the apostate Friends and with Christians in other denominations seeking out a more authentic relationship with Christ. Engaging with Convergence doesnt mean Ohio Friends have to change anything of their faith or practice and it neednt be about dialogue: simply sharing the truth as you understand it is ministry.
Yes, there are snares involved in any true gospel ministry; striking the right balance is always difficult. As the carpenter said, narrow is the way which leadeth unto life. We are beset on all sides by roadblocks that threaten to lead us away from Christs leadership. Ohio Friends will need to be on guard that ministers dont succumb to the temptation to water down their theology for any fleeting popularity. This is a real danger and it frequently occurs but while I could tell eight years of great insider stories from the halls of Philadelphia, is that what were here to do?
Let me put my cards on the table: I dont see much of Ohio effectively ministering now. Theres too much of a kind of pride that borders on obnoxiousness, that loves endlessly reciting why Iowa and North Carolina arent Conservative and why no other Friends are Friends, blah blah blah. It can get tiresome and legalistic. I could point to plenty of online forums where it crosses the line into detraction. Charity and love are Christian qualities too. Humility and a sense of humor are compatible with traditional Quakerism. How do we find a way to continue safeguarding Ohios pearls while sharing them widely with the world. There are Ohio Friends doing this and while I differ with Scott Savage on some social issues I consider tangential (and he probably doesnt), I very much appreciate his hard work advancing the understanding of Quakerism and agree on more than I disagree.
But how do we find a way to be both Conservative and Evangelical? To marry Truth with Love? To not only understand the truth but to know how, when and where to share it? I think Convergence can help Ohio think about delivery of Truth and it can help bring seekers into the doors. When I rhetorically asked last month what Convergent Friends might be converging toward, the first answer that popped in my head was Ohio Friends with a sense of humor. Im not sure its the most accurate definition but it reveals my own sympathies and I find it tempting to think about what that would look like (hint: kraken might be involved).
A reminder to everyone that Ill be at Ohio Yearly Meeting Conservative sessions in a few weeks to talk more about the opportunities for Ohio engagement with Convergence. Come round if youre in the area.
Also check out Robins own response to Scott, up there on her own blog. Its a moving personal testimony to the power and joy of cross-Quaker fellowship and the spiritual growth that can result.