Book Review: Doug Gwyn’s Startling New Look At Liberal Quakerism
Personality and Place, the Life & Times of Pendle Hill. Douglas Gwyn., Plain Press, 500 pages, Paperback. $20.00. Available online here.
Reviewed by Chuck Fager
“Sometimes I look around and think, Pendle Hill is God’s little joke on the Society of Friends.” – Janet Shepherd, former Dean
[NOTE: From one perspective, it’s a conflict of interest for me to review this book. After all, I’m described in it, because I was on staff at Pendle Hill for three years (1994-1997); more recently I spent nine months in residence there as a research scholar. Furthermore, the author is a friend of mine.
By C. Wess Daniels. Wipf & Stock. Reviewed by Chuck Fager
A Convergent Model of Renewal: Remixing the Quaker Tradition in a Participatory Culture. C. Wess Daniels. Pickwick/Wipf & Stock Publishers. 224 pages. Paper, $21.60.
There’s more than little déjà vu about Wess Daniels’ book project. Quakerism, his book argues, will be renewed by the coming together of Friends from the fringes of the various branches, particularly younger members and seekers. Or as he puts it: “It could be said that convergent Friends signal the emergence of a new Quakerism that transgresses the boundaries of any one Quaker group.” (D 16f)
Why déjà vu? Such a sentence could have been written in the 1920s, either for young Friends in the Northeast, or the “All-Friends Conference” of 1928. Then again in the late 1940s through the 1950s for gatherings of Young Friends of North America (YFNA). Or in 1977 for the all-branch Friends gathering in Wichita. Or in 1985 and 2005, for the two World Gatherings of Young Friends, in Greensboro, North Carolina and Lancaster, England. Nor let us forget the YouthQuakes of the ’80s & ’90s. (And there were more.) Continue reading Review: “A Convergent Model of Renewal” (for Quakers)→
A Preview of the forthcoming issue of “Quaker Theology is now online It features “Thunder In Carolina,” a major report on the situation in NCYM-FUM, in which an evangelical faction is attempting to force a purge of “liberal/universalist” meetings, and a showdown is imminent. The report was written by Chuck Fager, Editor of the journal “Quaker Theology.” This journal has been reporting on various controversies in Friends yearly meetings almost since its inception in 1999.
Can you be a Quaker in the 21st century (especially a Liberal one), and not be a mystic?
Yes. And that’s been true for a LONG time. A century ago, in 1916, a noted British Friend made this case (but he was not the first or the last) in a striking pamphlet that unfortunately is little-known today.
To help relieve this work’s obscurity, we present it here; just click on the title below.
Researching and writing about Progressive Friends took up most of my time from the autumn of 2013 through the spring of 2014. Often this was a paradoxical experience: from one angle, it was a very solitary effort: from another, very crowded.
I did this research at Pendle Hill in Pennsylvania, as the Cadbury research scholar in Quaker History. Most of my time at Pendle Hill was spent solo: in the Friends Historical Library at nearby Swarthmore College, poring over old letters, minutes, pamphlets and books; in my room, reading more old documents; then lots of staring into my computer screen, at the ever-growing store of texts available there.
Many, maybe most, early Progressive Friends were involved in spiritualism. It was not a church; one did not need to join. Two features of spiritualism’s appeal in the mid-nineteenth century deserve mention here: perhaps above all, it gave solace to the bereaved, assured them that dead loved ones were at ease, and not beyond the love of the living. And in that era, when deaths from illness were much more common than now, especially among the young, this was no small thing.
Lucretia Mott, considered at the time of her death in 1880 to be the “greatest American woman of the nineteenth century” by many of her contemporaries, was a Quaker abolitionist, women’s rights activist and social reformer. She was a key figure in an insurgent movement of Progressive Friends. Her messages and actions are very pertinent today – and laid much of the foundation for the current women’s movement.
On Sunday March 5, 2017, at 1 PM, Chuck Fager, will give a presentation on “Lucretia Mott: What Would She Say If She Were Here Today? HINT: She’d tell us we’re in deep trouble and should get up and get busy. (She’d say it very nicely, but urgently).”
The talk will be at the Orange County NC Main Library, 137 West Margaret Lane, Hillsborough NC. The talk will focus on Lucretia’s wide range of activism on many concerns, her pioneering & unforgettable voice for women, and radical views on numerous other public matters. Free & open to the public.