The Appeal of Quakerism to the Non-Mystic
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.
Take it away, William!
Quaker Alert! There’s big trouble brewing in North Carolina Yearly Meeting-FUM: talk (and MORE than talk) about purges and schism.
I’ve now uploaded an exclusive hot-off-the-digital-presses report, a Preview from the journal Quaker Theology. The full report is here:
I’m reading a history of Baptists in Alabama, and it’s tough going. After several days, I’m only as far as 1850. Yet the book is well-written, the story often absorbing; so what’s the trouble?
This: almost every paragraph evokes parallels to current events in North Carolina Yearly Meeting of pastoral Quakers.
Continue reading Is A Baptist Style Bust-Up Coming to North Carolina Quakerism?
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.
Continue reading Alone Together: Living With & Writing About Progressive Friends
From the new book, Remaking Friends: How Progressive Friends Changed Quakerism & Helped Save America:
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.
Continue reading Progressive Friends & Spiritualism
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.
Y’all come! Continue reading A Progressive Quaker Sermon – By Lucretia Mott
Where did Progressive Friends come from? How did they get started?
To get at these questions, we have to start by taking down a myth: the myth of the peaceable Quaker liberals of the nineteenth century. They were the ones called Hicksites, who got that name when most American Quaker groups tore themselves into two competing, mutually hostile streams.
Continue reading Progressive Friends Origins – Part 1
Sometimes it can feel like a stretch, but there are at least a few of us who still believe the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, has some useful contribution to make in the world. If this faith is not entirely in vain, that makes the group’s history potentially useful too: where it came from, how it has persisted, what it has and has not accomplished, and what that tale might suggest about its potential. Continue reading Say Hello to Progressive Friends!
Thoughts on the Quaker “Testimony of Equality”
At first I was pleased when told that Quakers had a Testimony on Equality. That idea yielded a substantial chunk of the pride in being a Quaker that I wore, with appropriate humility.
But then I made a big mistake: I read some Quaker history. Even more grave, it began to sink in. And a few aspects of what it taught seem worth mentioning here, as they bear on topics like the role of Quakers in the world.
Continue reading Thoughts on the Quaker “Testimony of Equality”
The Progressive Friends were a group that hasn’t yet got their props from Quaker historians. There isn’t space here for an outline of their fascinating history, except to say you can find out more here and here.
But in sum, they started as liberal rebels in mid-1800s America, who took on a hidebound Hicksite Establishment. And they ended, invisibly but unmistakably, as the seedbed and founders of modern US liberal Quakerism. The fact that almost nobody knows this is a shame, but no surprise given the general ignorance of Quaker history among Quakers. (I’ll rant about that some other time.)
Continue reading Getting Progressive With Sojourner Truth & Friends