Category Archives: Cross-Generational Conversation: YAFS & OFFs

Making (Quaker) History: the Roundtable Is Now on Video!

Lots of questions! (Plus videos.)

By the end of the Quaker History Roundtable last weekend, there were lots of questions; several flip chart sheets worth.

We wrapped up the gathering on Sunday morning June 11, after fourteen lively presentations, with a brainstorming session on research we’d like to see about American Quakerism in the last century. 

We had already accumulated two flip chart pages of suggestions. And in two more hours, we filled several more sheets. Only the fact that it was time to head home brought the intellectual jam session to a close.

This should not be surprising. Both the energy and the curiosity had been running high since . We had learned a lot in the fourteen formal presentations since Thursday evening. But there was so much more to explore.

Presenters Isaac May (left) and Guy Aiken (left center) listen as ESR’s Lonnie Valentine (hands raised) pursues an idea, as Jeff Dudiak from Canada (right) listens in.

Back home after this extraordinary long  weekend, the ideas are still echoing,  and calling.

There was a lot to like at the Quaker History Roundtable,, at least for me. Here are several things in particular:

  1. The mix of elders and rising talent. Our lineup included some of the most distinguished senior Quaker historians still active, and several young researchers and archivists who are just entering the field.
  2. In addition, we did pretty well elsewhere on the diversity front: there were participants of color, LGBTQ, close to parity male/female; various branches were represented, and at least one was a registered Republican.
    Group photo of presenters. Back row (left to right): Doug Gwyn, Dick Nurse, Tom Hamm, Guy Aiken, Chuck Fager, Celia Caust-Ellenbogen; Middle row: Janet Gardner, Betsy Cazden, Steve McNeil, Gwen osney Erickson, Emma Lapsansky, Mary Craudereuff; Seated, front: Greg Hinshaw, Larry Ingle, Isaac May & Steve Angell. Thanks to all!
  3. This variety was not the result of a planning committee checking off boxes. Presenters stepped up, and brought papers as their ticket of admission. So active interest in what has happened among American Friends of late is found on numerous points of the spectrum.
  4. There was a sense of immediacy and connection. Many events that presenters wrote about, some of us had lived through, or had personally felt the reverberations. And in some cases, though the “history” goes back many decades, it is far from over yet.
    Larry Ingle, retired author of a landmark study of the Separation of 1827 and the leading biography of George Fox, describes the ambiguous response of Quaker officials to the famous Alger Hiss-Whittaker Chambers Communist spy scandals of the late 1940s and early 1950s — a case that launched a young Quaker Congressman, Richard Nixon, onto the national stage. Beside hm is Isaac May, a doctoral student from the University of Virginia. Isaac examined the 1928 presidential election, which pitted a world-famous Friend, Herbert Hoover, against Catholic Al Smith. The contest, he showed, brought out much that was not very uplifting about Friends.
  5. Willingness to open up tough questions: Does FUM have a future? Was there militant segregation, war fever & homophobia in a large southern yearly meeting? (And how much still lingers?)  Communists working with AFSC?
    Other socialist influence among Friends then?
  6. Gwen Gosney Erickson (left) from Guilford listens to Mary Craudereuff, from Haverford, describing plans to renovate and expand their archival collection and facility. They also grappled with questions such as: who gets remembered and documented in Quaker archives? How do these collections find ways to broaden their work to better include communities and persons whose voices are marginalized or silenced?

     Archives are exciting! Staff from four major collections (Lilly Library at Earlham, Haverford, Guilford College’s Quaker Historical Collection & Swarthmore’s Friends Historical Library) showed that their stacks and vaults are not only rich treasure troves of insight and answers for seekers, but also arenas for some of today’s most contested questions, and magnets for talented younger Friends.
    It was no accident that the Roundtable was opened by two very articulate archivists, focusing on such issues. They voiced plenty to ponder & work on here, both in and out of the stacks.
  7. A supportive setting. Major kudos are due to to the Earlham School of Religion, from Dean Jay Marshall to its office staff, for unstinted support and active hospitality to the Roundtable project.
    ESR Dean Jay Marshall, welcoming us to Indiana. Backing him up were staffers Miriam Bunner, Mandy Ford, videographer Ryan Frame, students Eva Abbott, Anne Hutchinson & John & Elizabeth Edminster, and faculty Steve Angell. My apologies to the kitchen staff & other volunteers who helped out in various sessions, and whose names I did not record.

    The facilities were comfortable and compact (no need to wander a sprawling campus, unless one wanted to). Meals were ready on time; and staff & volunteers were ready to help ease the many details; the video cameras ran quietly and continuously.
  8.  Media to share the event: by autumn, there will be a book of papers, which will include the Research Agenda notes as well.
    And in the meantime, videos of the presentation have just been uploaded by ESR’s intrepid videographer,  Ryan Frame, You can find them, in nine segments, by clicking here.

Watching is free and no registration or other data sharing is required. (But comments are welcome!)

What can become of  a venture like this? My hope is that it stimulates & encourages more research and reflective presentations on these and the many other remarkable events, personalities, troubles and accomplishments that marked Quakerism’s 20th century in the U. S. These can show up in many venues; keep an eye out.

 

For those skeptics who doubted the existence of the Quaker History Roundtable.

 

 

Ringing Spring’s Bell for Continued Quaker Resistance

When Friends pulled the rope on the bell atop Spring Friends Meeting, the ringing convened the Carolina Friends Emergency Consultation on March 25. And its session began with cheers & applause.

Pull the rope, ring the bell for victory over the AHCA, and to call for continued resistance.

That’s because there was a major success to celebrate: the abrupt, inglorious end of the so-called “American Health Care Act” the day before. Continue reading Ringing Spring’s Bell for Continued Quaker Resistance

A Letter to Students at Friends Central School: Resist!

NOTE: This report has been updated as of late Feb. 14. The update is here.

News background:

Wynnewood (Philadelphia) PA, February 13, 2017: “Two Friends’ Central School teachers who supervised a club that invited a Palestinian speaker to the Wynnewood campus — an appearance the school canceled after some parents and students complained — were placed on administrative leave Monday morning.

Sa’ed Atshan, Swarthmore College Peace & Conflict Studies Assistant Professor.
 

English teacher Ariel Eure, 25, and history teacher Layla Helwa, 26, were called to an off-campus meeting with Craig Sellers, the head of school, and a human resources manager, and informed they were suspended indefinitely, said Mark D. Schwartz, a lawyer and former parent at the school who is representing the women.

Schwartz said that he tried to attend the 7:30 a.m. meeting at the Llanerch Diner in Upper Darby, but that school officials turned him away. The teachers were told they were being suspended for disobeying a supervisor and for having a “single-minded approach to a complicated issue for the community,” he said.

“This was done in a non-Quaker fashion,” Schwartz said. “It was more like storm trooper fashion.”

Late Monday afternoon, the administration released a statement: “As a Quaker school, we have long-standing expectations for all members of our community – especially for our teachers, who have the responsibility of guiding young minds. There are very real concerns about the conduct of Ariel Eure and Layla Helwa for their disregard of our guiding testimonies, which include community, peace, and integrity. As of today, Ariel Eure and Layla Helwa are on indefinite paid administrative leave while a more extensive review is conducted.”

The controversy has stirred passions at the school and shone a light on a thorny issue for many Quaker schools: While the American Friends Service Committee supports putting economic pressure on Israel to end the occupation of Palestinian territories, many students at Quaker schools are Jewish.

Sa’ed Atshan, a Swarthmore College professor and a Quaker, had been invited to speak Friday by the school’s Peace and Equality in Palestine Club, which formed last April. After parents complained about Atshan’s ties to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, which advocates punitive measures against Israel, the school rescinded the invitation.

About 65 students walked out of a weekly Meeting for Sharing on Wednesday to protest the cancellation, while others stood and read a statement. Eure and Helwa walked out with the students. . . .”

Cathy Bocella, Staff Reporter, phillynews.com

Continue reading A Letter to Students at Friends Central School: Resist!

The Spirit of the Klan Haunts the 2016 Election

The Spirit of the Klan Haunts the 2016 Election

Let’s talk about building a wall to keep out immigrants; it’s a thing in the current campaign. But it’s not a new idea. How about this earlier version?

kkk-wall-vs-immigration

The image is from 1928, and a bit fuzzy. Note the three faces peeking over the wall: the “Red” is for eastern Europeans & Jews; “Rum” is for Irish, as deemed to be all drunkards, and stupid; and at left, the one with the big pointed hat is the Catholic church, as the force behind immigrants from Italy and other predominantly Catholic countries (especially Irish again).

Today the wall would be on the Mexican border, and focus on keeping out Latinos and Muslims. But the image is, to me, eerily familiar. Continue reading The Spirit of the Klan Haunts the 2016 Election

Northwest Update: The Expulsion Plot Thickens

Northwest Update: The Expulsion Plot Thickens

Three brief items for those following the fallout from the decision by Northwest YM to West Hills Friends in Portland for becoming a  welcoming place for LGBT persons.

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A graphic from the West Hills website.

First,  I’m advised that the question has been set for the called NWYM representative meeting on December 9-10. It comes at the  end of this excerpt from a “tentative agenda” that came to hand: Continue reading Northwest Update: The Expulsion Plot Thickens

Update-Northwest YM Gay Expulsion: The Power In Posing The Question

Update-Northwest YM Gay Expulsion: The Power In Posing The Question

How does a group in power get what it wants from a divided Quaker body, given the practice of seeking “unity” or a near-unanimous “consensus” for action?

It’s not hard, and we’ll get to how it can be done in a moment. First, some background:

As reported in our October 22 post, there’s movement in Northwest Yearly Meeting (NWYM), on the case of the expulsion of West Hills Friends (WHF) in Portland OR, by the NWYM Elders, in July 2015. West Hills is a LGBT-welcoming meeting.

West-Hills-Expulsion-YES

The NWYM Administrative Council recently proposed that a joint statement be issued by both West Hills and NWYM, in which West Hills would agree to accept its expulsion. (Full text of the proposed statement is here.) Continue reading Update-Northwest YM Gay Expulsion: The Power In Posing The Question

Madea on Halloween–Boo!

Madea on Halloween–Boo!

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Went to see this movie at the Tuesday bargain matinee. The film was the surprise box office winner for films that opened last weekend.

My goal for it was twofold:

1. Pig out on popcorn (no added “butter,” free refill); and

2. Be distracted from the fearful foolishness outside.

I’m aware that there are some black sophisticates who sneer at producer/writer/actor Tyler Perry & his famed drag character Madea as retrograde & politically incorrect.

Personally, I’m in awe of both: Perry is no puppet of white moviemakers: he built an empire by creating a strong, original character who combines many of the paradoxes of the culture and makes them tolerable through broad comedy. And he gathered his following from the ground up with black audiences. Many of Perry’s films seem clumsily assembled, yet Madea outshines them and survives.

“Boo!” involves the standard Perry ingredients: sassy but vulnerable youth; elders who are hilariously obnoxious, often off-color, pot-smoking (mostly legal this time) & foul-mouthed. The plot is far-fetched & mainly irrelevant, with a dollop of throwback piety to reassure the nervous churchgoers tittering in the back.

Never mind the story; it rolls along. The point is, I came out two hours later, still chuckling. And not til the car radio went on did I realize I hadn’t thought about the damn election & all that, not even for a second, for more than two hours:

That’s worth five stars & a bushel of rotten tomatoes. Money’s worth, totally.

Here’s the trailer.

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Tyler Perry. While some scoff, he & his characters (above) are laughing all the way to the bank.

A Marker for her Mother: A Survivor’s Journey

A Marker for her Mother: A Survivor’s Journey

On October 1, 2007, several news shows in eastern North Carolina ran a story about a remarkable ceremony that was held in Fayetteville. It was a memorial for an army wife from Fort Bragg who was murdered by her husband.

The case itself was old news – 33 years old, from 1974. But only in 2007 was a marker to be placed on the victim’s grave, by her daughter.

christine-horne-n-display-10-2008
Christine Horne and a display at Quaker House, Fayetteville/Ft. Bragg NC, 2007.

The victim was Beryl Mitchell, killed by her Army Green Beret husband on December 1, 1974: stabbed, strangled, and dumped nude in a wooded area of Ft. Bragg. Mitchell was buried in the cemetery across from Fayetteville’s VA hospital, but without a marker. Her husband was convicted of murder and spent several years in an Army prison. Continue reading A Marker for her Mother: A Survivor’s Journey

The Northwest Gay Expulsion Impasse: Is A Break In Sight?

The Northwest Gay Expulsion Impasse: Is A Break In Sight?

At its September business meeting, West Hills Friends (WHF) in Portland Oregon considered a statement accepting its expulsion from Northwest Yearly Meeting (NWYM) for having become a LGBT-welcoming congregation. If approved, the statement would be issued jointly with NWYM.

WHF-Logo-Expelled

The decision to expel West Hills was made public by Northwest YM’s elders on July 24, 2015, at the conclusion of the YM’s annual sessions. (More details here.)

However, like a death sentence, pronouncing the expulsion did not

Continue reading The Northwest Gay Expulsion Impasse: Is A Break In Sight?

Was George Fox A Liar? (Alas, The Answer Is Yes.)

Was George Fox A Liar? (Alas, The Answer Is Yes.)

For enthusiastic new Friends, it’s something of a sobering rite of passage to learn that many of the great names among the founders are not reliable witnesses in their own cause. However, careful historians have long since proven this to be the case.
One of them was H. Larry Ingle.

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H. Larry Ingle, who summer & winter was usually first in line at the local store in Chattanooga where the Sunday New York Times was delivered.

    Larry is now retired from a long career teaching history, mainly at the University of Tennessee – Chattanooga. Sometime before 1994, he went to London, and padded down the stone steps of the large Library at Friends House (an imposing structure sometimes dubbed the Quaker Vatican), into the half-lit depths where the earliest Quaker manuscripts and publications were stored. Then he began looking at many of the pamphlets and broadsides from the first generation of Friends. And soon he had made a remarkable discovery. Continue reading Was George Fox A Liar? (Alas, The Answer Is Yes.)