Philadelphia YM’s Racial Turmoil Continues: Ambushed by URG

No wonder issues of race in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting are in a mess.

Spring ferns at Pendle Hill, in the calm before the . . .

I’d read and interviewed and blogged about this on March 23, 2017; but it was brought home to me directly in early June.

That’s a restrained way to put it.

More plainly, I was set upon, ambushed by two persons claiming to be part of the self-styled Philadelphia “Undoing Racism Group,” or URG, as they called it for short.

It began at Pendle Hill in early June, where I was visiting their Young Adult Friends conference, as a specimen Geezer Quaker, before  moving on to the Quaker History Roundtable later in the week. It came as a request to hear some “concerns” about my March blog post; I agreed.

It turned out, though, that the two URGers, a white male and female, wanted rather more than to “express concerns” about the post. In a session that stretched to three hours, they declared it was full of racist lies, had damaged their cause, and that it and I were thereby shown to be enablers, even pillars of racist white supremacy.

To set things right, they insisted I must retract the post, publicly apologize for both the text and its headline, and as a sign of real repentance, become a booster of their agenda.

I was unable to meet their demands. For one thing, there are no lies in the post; I stand behind it. For another, URG’s repeated rebuffs in PYM came well before it appeared, as did the turmoil and division that accompanied their efforts. The post may have echoed the questions of some others, for which I am not sorry; it was hardly their source. And I am not moved to become URG’s scapegoat.

While no doubt well-intentioned, I remain doubtful about URG & their work, but won’t repeat the points here, except to note that my own labor on what many call “anti-racism” is continuing, but has developed in other directions, and outside their claimed jurisdiction.

A glimpse of my “anti-racist” work, February 2017. The photobombing was welcome, but only discovered afterward.

I soon began to sense that this acknowledged unorthodoxy might be my gravest infraction: they seemed to have little if any room for “diversity” of thought or approach; there was but one “side” to their issues, only one acceptable form of words to use about it, and dissent (diversity?) was racist treason.

Nevertheless, I suggested they write up their complaints about the post and send them to the blog’s Comment section –which already included several critical responses.

That offer still stands, but as of today has not been taken up.
This is sad, but not a surprise. They had scoffed, asserting it would be of no use, due to my unfair advantages of “power” and “privilege,” shown by the fact that the blog post had been widely read around PYM.

I challenged these terms: I have no “power” in PYM: I can’t hire or fire anyone; no projects depend on my donations; I’m not on any committees. If a blog post should be widely read there (& many are not), it may influence some readers, but this is never guaranteed.

As for “privilege,” which denotes grants of special advantages or immunities, it’s true this blog brings together forty years of study, reporting, and writing about Quakerism.

Such a body of work may be “special”; it is surely unusual. But nobody “granted” it to me, or thereby withheld it from anyone else. It was acquired one day, one page, one inquiry and experience at a time; and has been shared as widely as way opened. This work has been personally satisfying, but has neither brought wealth nor deterred sometimes loud criticism — as this confrontation, not the first, showed clearly enough. But if it has any influence, then good.

So anyway, when we parted I offered to continue the conversation the next day if they wished, before my departure.

There was no response then, and I left Pendle Hill on schedule, headed 400 miles west to convene the Quaker History Roundtable.

As I drove, the thought came that, if this was an  example of how URG dealt with adversity and critique, no wonder it had stirred opposition in PYM, and its prospects seemed cloudy. I also hoped this sad encounter was over.

It wasn’t.

I’d worked on the Roundtable project for almost two years, and now it was to happen, at the Earlham School of Religion. By June 8, all seemed ready: presenters checked in, the meeting room was in order, the opening dinner served on time. But I had butterflies.

That’s too mild: I was actually quite tense. There was trouble in the air.

When I arrived at ESR, a faculty member told me he’d had a strange call from a student, who had spoken about some upsetting talk with me, and saying she was preparing to “confront” me about it. What, he wondered, was going on?

Good grief. The young woman at Pendle Hill was the ESR student.
I filled him in on the background; he had read the blog post.

We considered possibilities: a picket line outside? I could hardly object to that; how many times had I picketed or vigiled? Hundreds.

But what if there was disruption inside, which has been happening often on college campuses (or so I have read)?

And in PYM sessions as well . . . . In that case, I figured I’d just have to wing it.

When Thursday’s dinner was finished; it was showtime for the opening session. I stacked my plate to be washed, and walked into the meeting room.

And there she was, making her move: putting flyers on all the chairs.
I picked one up. Here it is:

To its credit, the indictment was concise. A couple Friends & I collected them for recycling, but she slipped back in when our backs were turned and deposited another set.

There was nothing for it, I figured, but to go on with the program, not rising to the bait, and see what happened.

“UnFriendly Letter” flyers being distributed as the Roundtable opened.

This first panel featured two Quaker archivists, who talked avidly about some of the hot outside issues that have made their way into this field: who gets “remembered” in our collections and research? Who gets forgotten, marginalized or ignored? How do we detect our own biases and bring in the work and memory of those who have been left out?

If this sounds arcane, it was not to us. It was more like what politicians call “red meat” for a group of working historians, be they professional or amateur. As the archivists finished, I could sense lots of questions and comments straining to be voiced,

I carried the microphone and handed it first to Betsy Cazden, whose hand was raised.  Besides doing pioneering history, Betsy has also clerked a large yearly meeting and an international Friends group. One could fairly call her inclined to a “no-nonsense” approach.

She held up the flyer: “Who is doing this?” She asked, scanning the room. “There’s no name on this. That is not appropriate.”

I was standing next to Betsy, waiting to carry the mike. The hair stood up on the back of my neck. Would this be the moment when my long-anticipated Roundtable blew up like a defective rocket on the launching pad?

When the URGer identified herself, Betsy admonished her again, said she would talk to her more later, then turned and asked the archivists a question.

The URGer had misjudged her audience. These were historians, who by training and inclination are devoted to evidence and solid sources as the starting points for serious discussion. But neither were included in the flyer. Asked why not, she said she did not want to help enable anyone unfamiliar with the post to read it. (To denounce it, yes, on  cue; but to read what they were to excoriate, no. Noted.)

Which reduced the flyer to no more than printed gossip — and many in this group would have known how sternly the old Disciplines disapproved of what they called such “Defamation & Detraction”, viz.:

“Friends are every where exhorted to maintain a strict watch over themselves and each other against the subtle and mischievous spirit of tale-bearing and detraction — the manifest tendency of which is to lay waste the unity of the body, by sowing the seeds of disesteem, strife, and discord among brethren and neighbours . . . .”

Betsy did speak to her later. And the URGer did not return after that first session; no more was said of this at the Roundtable.

So that was the end of that.

Well, almost. There was a brief flurry the next morning, when I came into the main building early, and found the rooms we used festooned with another similar flyer, urging unnamed persons to “Write Truth to Power . . . Even on blogs,” evidently her parting shot. By breakfast time, they were about all gone, even the ones taped in the toilet stalls of the Men’s room.

With this, the walk-on moment in the ongoing URG melodrama passed. (As campus disruptions go these days, this was pretty mild. An oldtime elder would have said of it, rightly, “Thee was favored.”)

But it could well resume on PYM’s main stage, as soon as a called meeting this weekend.

I hope that meeting goes well, and hope also that PYM Friends will take care not to let the blinkered attempts at undoing one recognized evil become a tool of yet another, that which can “lay waste the unity of the body . . . .”

It wouldn’t be the first time.

Clematis at Pendle Hill, June 2017

37 thoughts on “Philadelphia YM’s Racial Turmoil Continues: Ambushed by URG”

  1. Chuck, I find it ironic that you are accusing these Friends of precisely what others have said of your blog entry, as wonderfully summarized in the old book of discipline.
    As a member of URG who has been actively involved in the group, I and others believe we are seeking unity of the body. I recognize that others, including yourself, see it differently. Who writes the history?
    http://tinyurl.com/PYMRacismWork

    1. Some comments came in signed with what turned out to be a pseudonym, and the posts had little if anything to do with the OP or its subject. I’m not totally against pseudonyms; I’ve used a nom de plume a few times, and they can help protect whistleblowers & other vulnerable writers. And this Comments section remains open to criticism/complaints about me or my writing (tho I reserve the right to delete stuff I consider abusive). But I’m not at ease posting comments by someone under an unacknowledged name not their own, particularly aimed at a third person or group, about unrelated issues. Whatever such quarrels are about, they belong somewhere else. I’ve removed the comments formerly posted, and will delete similiar derailing items.

  2. I am continually surprised, and saddened, by how little some of these young activists know about the history of Quakers. Do they think they invented the confrontation of racism? Who do they think has been working against racism for the last couple of hundred years? They are attacking the very people they should be trying to learn from.

  3. I was at the conference (and I want to point out that it was a fine mix of early-career scholars and long time established ones). I was embarrassed for the youngish woman from Philadelphia who distributed the unsigned flyer. I’d like to think that if she had consulted with the larger URG, she would have been advised that the anonymous route would wreck her credibility. But I had to laugh to myself when Betsy asked her why she had not been specific about what post she was complaining about, and she replied that she didn’t want to encourage anyone to read it if they hadn’t already. Good grief! She was in a room full of researchers! If she had given the blog a full citation, it might have been forgotten. But by offering them a mystery, I’m pretty sure she guaranteed that most people present looked it up before the weekend was over. I scoured it myself looking for what she claimed were “lies.” I agree that the title was inflammatory (as titles often are), and I found a number of points to argue with, but I could find no lies.

    1. Excellent point. I believe I read the post at the time, but the comment about “not wanting to encourage anyone to read it” is almost as good promotion as banning a book. Are we sure Chuck didn’t set this up to promote his blog?

  4. The people at the heart of the Undoing Racism initiative are hopelessly misguided. Thank you for standing up to them.

    I sent one letter to the clerks early on objecting to the language being used, but my points were so abruptly dismissed that I had no interest in pursuing a conversation. Though hopefully well- meaning, the leaders of this group are causing immense damage at a time when cooler heads are badly needed.

    A major Quaker strength lies in the use of detached language. These Friends should try it.

  5. I’ve noted that titles of groups–Black Lives Matter, Undoing Racism Group–are umbrella terms that incorporate multiple approaches that not everyone agrees with. I know you, Chuck and consider you a personal friend, so–as in my response to the aforesaid blog–I know to engage you directly when I agree, disagree, feel offended, etc. I am sorry that you were unaware that YAFs wished to confront you at their Pendle Hill event, but I’m glad that the agenda of diverse historians will include a look at the progress of URG within PYM and the progress of PYM in working to establish systems that may assist in overcoming white supremacy within and without. It is urgent and it is slow. It inches along with a great deal of worship and prayer and asks for clarity and discussion. I love it and its members even when we make mistakes. I trust them because I work with them and witness their honesty. I loved the discussion at the last sessions and look forward to this Saturday’s called meeting. I wish that historians–you included–could exhibit more uncertainty and ask more questions about organizations as important as URG is.

  6. Keep the faith, Friend Chuck. I appreciate your efforts in the midst of trials. Let us pray that the members of URG will seek to pepper their thoughts and actions with that most precious of Friendly commodities – grace.

  7. One of the advantages of age is noting how often Friends can shoot themselves in the foot – metaphorically speaking. “Nothing does reason more right, than the coolness of those who offer it, for truth often suffers more by the heat of its defenders, than from the arguments of its opposers. ~ William Penn. I believe these actions need to be well-seasoned by patient reliance on the Present Teacher.

  8. Well, Thee was flavored by being labeled. Good to read that the ‘direct action’ had no crop. However, and this sadly, in parts of the Society of Friends – such behavior receives aid and comfort.

    But yes – the Roundtable was a bad choice for raising the troops against thee. Such understand very well the history and tradition of Friends. There is great wisdom there. The type of wisdom such as URG will likely never understand.

  9. Dear Chuck,

    I am so sorry to hear of this situation. This kind of thing really hurts, why you should be the one to be hurt is of interest to sociologists and philosophers alike. But the fear and hurt of this kind of thing is very real and hard.
    I am the real intemperate thing, as you may remember—- and when I see one like you who is —considerate of truth above at least some of your own opinions it brings me to depair. I don’t even try to be nice and fair and balanced. You do, and to face this shit. sigh.
    Of course it goes without saying that your community loves you and respects you and your years and years and years ( ha) of fine work. Without Apology is still my touchstone for some kind of understanding of Quackerism, and thank you again and again for that.
    Love
    Ben Schultz
    The Desert Tower

  10. Chuck Fager,

    I am not part of this Yearly Meeting process, and this response is based on reading your two posts and the comments there. What I am hearing from you is a great deal of defensiveness, an accusatory tone that seems inflamed “riot” and “ambush” seem like much stronger words than anything in your specifics seems to warrant), and no acknowledgment of anything in your own conduct that might have provoked defensiveness in the Friends whom you are describing negatively in this public forum. It seems to me that elements in this post and your earlier linked post could be seen as “laying waste the unity of the body and “sowing the seeds of disesteem, strife, and discord.”

    My first thought was that it didn’t make sense for me to say anything about this because I’m outside the YM. I am writing anyway, because I’ve been stuck in a defensive place around Friends and race myself. A few years back I was part of a different Quaker body in which issues of racial injustice had become prominent and contentious. (Yes, this is vague; the work is ongoing and I don’t know a way to write publicly about the specifics of it without doing more harm than good.) My first response (I’m white) was to become defensive. I kept saying–and thinking I meant–that I just didn’t understand what the problem was. But in the silence of worship the next morning I was unable to keep claiming lack of understanding. i realized that this group I loved had actually been behaving in a way that predictable and unnecessarily excluded and hurt black Friends who were part of the body. I also realized that I could have known that right away if I hadn’t been so bent on believing that we were Good White People and not to blame.

    But the point isn’t to prove our own goodness or blamelessness. The point is to become aware of our blind spots and the ways in which we are harming our brothers and sisters and weakening the unity of the body. The point is to move toward justice, under God’s guidance. The only way I know to get there is to know my own faults.

    The work seems especially urgent at this time when the more overt and egregious forms of racism are becoming more widespread while subtle and systemic racism is deeply entrenched as ever, supported in part by we people who point at the overt and egregious racists and say “The problem isn’t me! I’m not one of Those People!”

    I hope we can work to set this right without letting our egos get in the way too much. And I know that, for me at least, this is much easier said than done. Especially when I think I’ve been accused in terms stronger that what my conduct warrants, and am tempted to retaliate in kind.

    Praying for all of us to see what we need to see.

    Joanna

    1. I appreciate your long and thoughtful comment.
      In my mind, it seems there is a default of defensiveness – because, hey, who is pure?
      This is not a who is right or who is wrong issue. It seems to me an unfortunate distraction from the “existential” issues before us; not as Quakers (we are not the center of anything) but as engaged humans.
      As to “Quakers”, whoever they are, in my long life as individuals they have mainly been found on the godly side. Let’s not eat our young.

      1. Yes, I think there is a default of defensiveness, for all of us. And I do also see (which I should have said before) that there is another problem into which I sometimes fall–a position of excessive guilt which is paralyzing rather than transforming. I know it’s not helpful to respond from that condition, or to try to induce it in other people.
        I hear you, too, about the danger of distraction, and will try to be more mindful of not exacerbating personality conflicts that aren’t the main point. I know I’m grateful for the good work that has been done by Chuck Fager and by URG members whom I know in other capacities. I hope that work may prosper.

  11. Where do people get the idea that the way to make the world better is to pick on a bunch of journalists and scholars? (Oh wait, wait! I just remembered that it’s 2017, and I answered my own question.) Seriously, I think even people who are clearly in the wrong don’t deserve to be treated as you were. In fifty-some years with Quakers, I’ve heard the term “eldering” used with such frequency only recently, and as an old person, I’m troubled that it seems to be on the way to becoming a synonym for bullying. I think you did nothing wrong and that you were very patient. I’m sorry you had to go through “eldering” at all, let alone in those contexts where it’s reasonable to expect better.

  12. I teach at ESR, and I know the student in question well. She has showed great integrity in all my interactions with her. Although her politics are more radical than mine, she listens closely, considers deeply, and generally shows enormous capacity for insight, self-criticism, and compassion. In short, I am able to argue and discuss with her fruitfully, and regularly, even when I disagree. And when I listen, she often helps me reconsider things that I needed to reconsider.

    I will not comment on details of events for which I was not present, but I can say that this is a one-sided version of that story. I can say that because I have heard the other side of the story, which differs in significant ways. I hope the other side will be told, though I can quite easily understand why they wouldn’t want to do so in a comments thread here.

    I am quite happy, however, to say that this is a profoundly ethical person. One small note: she stayed in the room, stood up, and owned her work when attacked — and this before an audience that was at least partially hostile. She was alone, not in a mob. This wasn’t Berkeley or Middlebury. What she did — again, standing by herself – takes guts.

    To see her character attacked – and it does seem to be attacked here – bothers me a great deal.

    1. That she owned her action speaks well. However, this could have been handled some much better, and let us hope this has been a learning experience. Chuck has done much for many years, and was not served well by such behavior. Concern for one needs concern for him as well. And frankly, it isn’t Friends expression, but the expression is true. If you can’t take the heat – not go in the kitchen.

        1. Ben , it sounds as though Ben Brazil is informed about what happened and knows the participant whose actions are being attacked in this post. I acknowledged that I wasn’t present for these events, but am responding to Chuck Fager’s account of them. It is that account which makes me think that he is doing what he accuses other people of doing. The manner of his writing also reminds me strongly of the defensiveness I’ve seen in myself and other white Friends whenever this important and difficult issue is raised.

          If there is something important that you think I a missing that would invalidate the thoughts above, can you be more specific about what that is?

          1. Actually, no.
            I have been on this earth to long to be baited by people who react from their own ignorance. Work to understand as I have before you post.

          2. There goes my intemperance again.
            Let me explain something. Mansplain?
            Heh
            There is teaching and there is learning. We are here to learn. No one has to teach unless they fucking feel like it. You have about accused a very fine person of something he would no doubt find very troubling, and what is the basis. Have you checked, have you learned? No, are just reacting, something like a Trump voter I think, and that is about as nice as I get.
            Love ( really)
            Ben Schultz

      1. I rely on the author of this blog. Further, I believe an person putting themselves in a school for training in the ministry is adult – not a special one needing protection.

        1. Ben Schultz, I am not sure why you are swearing at me. As I said before, the basis of the concern I expressed above is Chuck Fager’s own narrative. If I had read someone else’s narrtive, failed to countercheck it and come over here to excoriate him, I would understand your concern. I have read his own description of his own words and actions and have a concern based on those… a concern which I thought I’d expressed fairly temperately.

          I do hear your concern for Friend Fager’s reputation and/or feelings. I see that’s valid. But I wonder why there doesn’t seem to be a similar concern for the people sharply criticized in his posts.

    2. Ben, thank you for posting from your perspective. I’m grateful to hear your witness of this person. I, too, look forward to their measure of truth on these instances, if and when it is shared. -Viv Hawkins

  13. Hi Chuck,

    As I read this and got to the fliers-on-the-seats moment, the hairs stood up on the back of my neck, just reading it, before Friend Cazden spoke.

    What is amazing is that college-educated people are not, overall, learning the basics of rational discourse. There’s a test given to groups of students at entry and graduation that measures the level of critical thinking abilities.
    http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/careersandeducation/exclusive-test-data-many-colleges-fail-to-improve-critical-thinking-skills/ar-BBC6nBr?pfr=1
    Its the rare college that shifts the needle. The University of Kentucky up the road from me was found to barely nudge it: they dropped out of the testing program.

    So what we’re left with are people who are intelligent and able to form complex sentences that sound good — until examined. This is true on the left and the right.

    As you point out, the very nature of historical research is (these days) dependent on demonstrable support for conclusions. It is, indeed, a group that by the nature of its self-selection and training would expose unsupported hypotheses.

    All of which brings me to my current area of interest: how do we engage those who are at the other end of the spectrum from historians (and scientists)? There are ways that have been demonstrated, references upon request :), and they do not involve (except in the planning stages) the use of rational discourse.

    And in the end it will likely be one of those 3-generation processes. In 1962, my freshman class were the guinea pigs: we were told we were there not to learn facts, which change continuously as knowledge grows, but to learn how to think. It was life-changing.

    Add 75 years to that, and if this change in a basic life process follows others (e.g., cultural assimilation), we as a society will be in a different place, one much closer to the place serious historians are now.

    Quakers have a solution. The URG approach to “agreement” as evidenced at the PYM meeting you describe in the prior post, is not my experience of Quaker Process. We are to “labor” with each other, not on each other. The laboring process builds common understanding because the only outcome can be unity, which mean browbeating can never work. Engaging in laboring broadens one’s perspectives, and reinforces the utility of having support for one’s perspectives or lines of inquiry.

    Thanks for your reporting, as always,

    Hank

  14. Friends,

    I am not uninformed on the ESR incident, because I have spoken to multiple people involved. I am simply trying to avoid weighing in on details of events for which I was not personally present. As I understand it, this begin when Chuck (whom I don’t know personally) reported on an event at PYM for which he was not personally present. I understand URG to have a very different take on those events, and, again, would welcome reading those. It is not surprising that they would choose not to reply in the comments thread of a blog that is openly hostile to them. But, again, I know very few of the people involved, and I was not there, so some level of caution on my part seems wise.

    I am a firm critic of campus protests that aim to shut down discussion. But I am struck that people seem to be associating this tiny ESR incident with events like those at Berkeley or Middlebury. What is not under dispute is that this protest consisted of a fliers on chairs. This is about as aggressive as putting fliers under windshield wipers. You could just throw them away. Nothing was disrupted, no one was shouted down, and the student did not even speak until someone publicly criticized the fliers for being anonymous. Then, appropriately, she owned them. Again, that took guts.

    I believe the student was unsure about the politics of naming herself or Chuck – she did not name either. You can find that wise or not wise, but if the intent was avoiding accountability, she clearly did a poor job by, again, standing up in what sounds like a hostile room. Perhaps some of you are eloquent when having to improvise in front of a critical crowd. I am not.

    Finally, I am struck by the “if you can’t take the heat” and the “browbeating” comments. To put things mildly, it seems like those could cut both ways.

    Also, just as I am a firm critic of campus protests that actually are violent and aggressive, I oppose online shaming as a style of discussion. Ginning up self-righteous anger around events that few people actually witnessed strikes me as a poor model for conversation.

    1. For those people interested in other first-hand records of events related to addressing racism among Friends, I offer the following compilation of accounts (written by people present and many vetted by groups); it does does not include countless hours of laboring lovingly with Friends.

      I ask prayers from all of you for PhYM tomorrow as we continue this work in many courageous, faithful ways.

      http://tinyurl.com/PYMRacismWork

      -Viv Hawkins, URG member

  15. I am the faculty member mentioned in the post. It is true that a student contacted me on Wednesday night prior to the beginning of the Roundtable the next day (Thursday), to inform me as a courtesy that she was going to be protesting the next day at the Roundtable, on behalf of the URG. I was quite surprised by this news, and Chuck and I did confer by phone that night. When she put fliers on chairs at the Roundtable the next day, I did not see that as disruptive. The flyers would have been mystifying to anyone who was not well versed in the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting controversy, but I did not experience them as disruptive. I felt the evening session went fine. I was glad that Betsy Cazden stood and remonstrated about the flyer having no identifying information on it, and I was glad also that my student stood at that point and owned her work. I was glad also that Betsy and my student (and I) were able to have a constructive talk immediately after the evening session, which was a fine one — the presenters all gave their papers as planned, and there was a good discussion afterwards.

    What can be said about the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting controversy as it relates to the URG especially? Whatever one thinks about Chuck Fager’s March 23 blogpost, and I’m not going to enter into the pros and cons here, at the very least it leaves a lot of room for more journalism on the URG and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and the relationship of Friends to systemic racism. Perhaps my student will be one who can do that important work. I have suggested that to my student, and I’m sure that I’m not the only one.

    I was a protester during the 1960s and 1970s, and I’m sure that many of the protests that I engaged in, would have been deemed by others to be disruptive. When I protested among Friends, I was met commendably with mostly patient listening and honest, loving feedback. It’s a good pattern. I would like to follow the example of my elders here.

    It’s important among Friends not only what we say but how we say it. That’s the reason I placed a quotation from Isaac Penington earlier in this thread. Our life is indeed love, and peace, and tenderness, and forgiveness, and not laying accusations against one another, but indeed helping up one another with a helping hand. Can we please show more of this love and tenderness to the young Friends and young adult Friends (like my student) who are trying to be faithful to the leadings of the Spirit, the best they know how, in these trying times?

  16. Calling a person a liar (in various forms) repeatedly in a flier is one example of what I would call browbeating: hit the other person verbally until they yield.

    I contrasted this with laboring to find unity.

    Laboring in the Quaker sense does not mean “making your case,” although I was taught that kind of laboring early in my intellectual life (it works if everyone involved is committed to disinterested inquiry). My understanding of the process of Quaker laboring is that it resembles that of a clearness committee as recommended by Parker Palmer: connecting with the other’s perspective, and then asking spirit-led questions to find unity by seeking additional information to bridge the gap. It is a tender process that brings us together.

    In addition to the hope/suggestion that the student consider working at providing additional journalism on the PYM URG issue (which, well done, I’m pretty sure will make a number of those at the Roundtable happy at having additional historical materials for an important time in Quaker history), I hope that Chuck and she entertain the possibility of laboring together, in the Quaker manner.

  17. Here’s a comment that came via messenger, from a Friend we’ll call Fille Del Phia:

    Hi Chuck — I just finished reading the “Friendly Letter” you posted (and the previous one about URG). Just thought I’d drop you a note and say how much I appreciated your writing about both of these.
    Some things that trouble me about URG, is how much of it seems driven by well-meaning white liberal Quakers and their angst and understanding of racism, how it is always about black and white racism (rarely concerned with Native American, Hispanic, Asian), does not seem to care about classism, feels bullying, and rarely has a significant number of people of color involved.
    It also bothers me that they present their way of undoing racism as the only way — conveniently ignoring the work that others in the past (and present) have found other ways to work for equality.
    It also disturbs me how they surrounded the clerk’s table (shades of 1827-28!) and work in a decidedly — imho — unQuakerly confrontational way.
    I think confrontation is often needed, but there are ways and there are ways…
    Oh well, enough of my rant — just wanted, really, to say thanks for writing on this. And to say sorry you had to deal with unfair (and unChristian, not to mention impolite) backlash.

  18. I agree with you here, Chuck. Perhaps you can understand I browbeaten I have felt when under continuous attack about my views on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. I defend Israel, but the attacks against me over the decades have sometimes seemed like a tsunami: that is, unstoppable.

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