Category Archives: Uncategorized

Point/Counterpoint: The Country Is Holding Together/ Oh, No It Isn’t

Two excellent articles on May 12,  arguing almost exactly opposite cases, and both (to me) almost equally persuasive.

First, the Optimist: Greg Sargent in the Washington Post: “Trump is badly botching the virus. New polls show Americans know it:

Greg Sargent

In what should be seen as a rebuke of President Trump, Anthony S. Fauci will tell a Senate panel on Tuesday that reopening the country too quickly risks causing “multiple outbreaks” of coronavirus, resulting in “needless suffering and death.”

Majorities of the American people appear to agree with Trump’s most prominent coronavirus task force member. Indeed, two new polls strongly suggest Trump has lost the argument over how to respond to the virus right now on just about every level.

Continue reading Point/Counterpoint: The Country Is Holding Together/ Oh, No It Isn’t

The Church, The Draft-Board & Me – Narrative Theology by George Amoss Jr.

Quaker Theology has published an occasional series of what we call “Narrative Theologies” essays: personal accounts of Friends’ religious pilgrimages, into (and sometimes, out of) the Society of Friends. These reflect, but are not tied to theological currents which regard, for instance, the Bible as a collection of stories rather than any kind of formal structured set of propositions. Their best outcome is more a conversation rather than a system.

However, our goal for them is that they be more than simply autobiography or memoir. The hope is that they also will be vehicles for reflection on the experiences recounted and analyzed– reflection by the author, the reader, and by the wide community of Friends.

For me theology differs from straight storytelling in that it involves, at some level, reflection and analysis of experience. Thinking, in short. (And George Amoss Jr.’s piece in the new issue of Quaker Theology, Issue # 34 is a fine example)

Such work is not exactly the same thing as “intellectual” activity or abstract and systematic reasoning. I don’t think one needs to be “an intellectual” to be a Friend, or even a theologian; but I do think there is an important place for such work in the Quaker community if we are to be a mature religious body.

George Amoss Jr. is well and widely read in theology, in and outside Quakerism, but his story here is as personal as it can get.  The few samples below will, I hope, prompt many Friends to turn to the full story on his website. The fuller story makes for a fine weekend read. And if you’re moved, please join the discussion via the Comments.

Brief excerpts from George Amoss Jr.: Continue reading The Church, The Draft-Board & Me – Narrative Theology by George Amoss Jr.

Politicians Just used to Steal from Us. Now They’re Killing Us Too

Guest Post by Mark D. Schwartz

[NOTE: Submitted as a comment, I thought this piece merited wider discussion. The views expressed here are his own, but I welcome their articulation.]

We’re Used to Politicians Stealing from Us. Now They are Killing Us: So, Where is the Outrage of the 1960s?

Mark Schwartz

​Starting college in the early seventies, I missed out on the campus activism of the 1960’s all in reaction to the indignities foisted on American citizens by their government, whether it be the Vietnam war or racial and economic inequality. I’ve only read about the leaders of the SDS or Weather Underground who populated my alma mater, Swarthmore College, and other colleges. By the time I entered as a freshman, the funders of the school had locked things down

​Five decades later I wonder why, despite all of the inequality, corruption and the outright obliteration of the middle class, and now Covid-19 deaths, such activism has not reignited.

​Motivated by my education and having studied President Franklin Roosevelt’s use of government to combat the Great Depression, I then felt that government, if not the solution to society’s problems, could at least provide a level of opportunity for the disadvantaged. Continue reading Politicians Just used to Steal from Us. Now They’re Killing Us Too

Kent State – May 4, 1970: Part One

May 4 2020 is the 50th anniversary of the Kent State killings of four students by National Guard troops during an anti-Vietnam war protest.

Only two years ago, on a balmy spring Sunday, was I able to visit & pay respects at Kent State, with my good friend Henry Bloom, of Cleveland. The scene was tranquil and idyllic, but like a corner of the fields around Gettysburg, ringed with memorials and monuments. Here are some snapshots.

Henry, at left, is a somewhat retired physician, less retired this spring because of the pandemic.

 

Kent State was a very major event for me, though I was hundreds of miles away in Massachusetts.  I could say a lot about this day and its aftermath, but this tee shirt below does it better.

And the music of the day brings it all back. Read this part of a poem for Allison Krause, one of the victims, and listen to Crosby Stills Nash & Young’s “Four Dead In Ohio:

From a poem Continue reading Kent State – May 4, 1970: Part One

Some “Advices” for Quakers & Others from “Passing the Torch”

The eleven authors in the new book, “Passing the Torch” were invited to draw on their several centuries of living and Quaker experience to offer “Advices,” informal counsel for readers.

A few made lists. Others wove such insights into their texts. Others left this part of the work implicit.

Here are some selections from these “Advices,” presented not as commandments, but more as food for thought and, perhaps, discussion.

Emma Lapsansky two advices:

Emma Lapsansky-Werner

1. Choose your perspective on life, and whenever possible, choose joy. One of my favorite parables is of two men, seated beside each other on a plane when the pilot’s voice was heard issuing news no traveler wants to hear:
“We’ve had engine failure, the plane is going down, and we don’t have enough parachutes for all of you. I suggest that your best chance for survival—and it’s a slim chance—is to kick out your window and jump.” The two passengers looked at each other, then one jumped, covered his eyes, moaned aloud about the terrible fate ahead, and sure-enough, he hit the ground and died. The second passenger—also without a parachute—jumped out of the window. But he decided to hold open his coat, like the wings of a bird, in order to slow his descent. Holding his coat open meant that he couldn’t cover his eyes. So, as he descended, he noticed the rich Fall colors on the trees. He also noticed how cute the children looked from above, as they played in the park. “Hmm,” he thought, “this must be the view that God gets, every day!” But of course, this second passenger also hit the ground, and perished. The moral of this parable is that while we do not always have control over our circumstances or outcomes, we always have a choice about our perspective.

2. Enjoy sugar cookies, cantaloupe, and home-grown tomatoes.

Barbara Berntsen:

Do not bother children when they are skateboarding.
Don’t fool yourself into defining what Quakerism is or how it will look for our spiritual children. You and your generation don’t own the tradition.
Don’t think you know who will pick up the torch and carry the flame into the future, however much you think you have the gift of prophecy. You run the risk of snuffing out the very spark that is the future.

Carter Nash.

Carter Nash: 1. [Since my cancer diagnosis] I have since been in a clinical trial, had radiation therapy, lots of tests on an ongoing basis. I’m up at 2am to take medications. I deal with the symptoms that women do during menopause (hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings) — so men, be nice and try to be understanding, it might be you one day.

2. [As an African-American Friend] One group that I have had to learn to forgive and try to ignore is the white saviors. I’m tired of their being offended for me (if you think I might have been offended ask me before you go complaining, I might be fine with you thinking I should have been offended by something, and if I was I can ask for help dealing with it, if I need any).
I’m tired of hearing them saying what acts are racist. I’m tired of them telling everyone else they have the solution to either racism generally or a problem they perceive. I am tired of hearing from them how people of color should deal with racism (which we do every day). In many ways I find the actions of white saviors to be saying people of color don’t have the ability, the agency to work for their own improvement, to demand their own equality to strategically plan to achieve their goals.

H. Larry Ingle.

H. Larry Ingle, historian:
1. “[The 1827 Hicksite-Orthodox schism left] Quakers so divided that it required a hundred and thirty-five years and many divisions later to overcome all the bitterness that ensued. Indeed, this animosity’s legacy still feeds an obvious distrust among Friends of different persuasions to this very day. It also makes too many Quakers averse to conflict, lest raising fundamental and basic issues among themselves might lead to other schisms. Speaking truth to power, a phrasing coined by Quakers in the 1950s when the AFSC published the seminal pacifist pamphlet Speak Truth to Power, is not something Friends do among themselves even today. They seem fearful of where honesty might lead. They need to get over that assumption.”

2. The lesson I take away from a lifetime of studying Quaker history is the one I articulated at the end of [my book] Quakers in Conflict, one often ignored . . . . True, I described and documented the high-handed unsavory tactics of [the] Orthodox [faction] but I also averred that some body has to have the authority to make judgments within Quakerdom. Authority need not become authoritarian, but neither can individualism be allowed to splinter the group into its constituent members, for then there will be no group. It is a hard path to walk this fine line between these two options, and given Quaker history nearly impossible to make much headway, but treading it is something that is certainly required.”

Chuck Fager: Quakerism is sometimes buffered from the full brunt of our own internal evildoing, not from virtue but rather by its flat decentralist structure. But make no mistake: bad Quaker things happen, and if you’re faithful enough for long enough, some will happen to you. Or maybe you’ll join in with them, if only by complicity. As the late M. Scott Peck put it in, People of the Lie: “Since the primary motive of the evil is disguise, one of the places evil people are most likely to be found is within the church. What better way to conceal one’s evil from oneself as well as from others than to be a deacon or some other highly visible form of Christian within our culture.”

Jennifer Elam

Jennifer Elam (who was allotted four, because they’re very brief):

Tell the Truth (knowing the complexities of Truth).
Honor your parents (and they don’t have to know EVERYTHING you do as an adult); honor your heritage and ancestors.
Listen to your teachers (teachers are everywhere).
Laugh a lot; humor is important.

And don’t forget our Book Launch Party on Saturday Nov. 23, at Providence Friends Meeting, 105 N. Providence Rd. in Media PA, noon to 3PM. Free, with food, readings, authors to mingle with, and music from and about our generation.

You’re invited; (more details here. )

Previous posts featuring Passing The Torch Authors–
1. Barbara Berntsen

  1. Carter Nash
  2. Helena Cobban
  3. Why Passing the Torch? Why Now?
  4. Douglas Gwyn: “I received a distinct calling”

 

 

 

 

Dog Days & Frank McCourt: “Threaten Them with the Quakers!”

Today (August 19) is Frank McCourt’s birthday. McCourt was the great memoirist best known for his book, Angela’s Ashes, which won just about every prize it could get, sold boatloads, and kicked off the rush to write memoirs, which I confess I have even joined in myself a couple of times.

I was reminded of the date by Garrison Keillor, in his Writer’s Almanac, which I get by email.  But Garrison did not remind me of my favorite passage from McCourt’s masterwork; I found that myself some while ago, and have kept it handy for just such an occasion as this. Continue reading Dog Days & Frank McCourt: “Threaten Them with the Quakers!”

Spike Lee vs the Klan; and When (Many) Quakers also Loved the Klan

Watching Spike Lee’s new film BlackkKlansman yesterday, it was evident that the director/provocateur has skillfully exploited a current of widespread cultural anxiety, which the Klan once embodied on a mass scale. The cinematic result is a timely, skillful and often gripping entertainment.

As a call to social action, however, I think it largely misfires. In organizational terms, the KKK in 2018 is not that big a threat: groups are small, and they dissipate much energy in infighting. In December, 2016, for instance, a Klan “victory  rally” was  announced for North Carolina (the “victory” being the outcome of the 2016 presidential election) . The event was dogged by militant protesters and dissolved in confusion before it even started. Yet there was one casualty: a Klan “leader,” Richard Dillon, said he was beaten and stabbed, by two other Klan “leaders” at a post-rally “meeting” that  devolved into a brawl. The attackers were arrested. Continue reading Spike Lee vs the Klan; and When (Many) Quakers also Loved the Klan

Dog Days Reading for Summer Reflection: Wandering With A Divergent Friend

William Bartram: Divergent Friend

I’ve taken a fancy to do some traveling for the dog Days this year. I plan to join William Bartram, an independent-minded Quaker naturalist and artist, in a  journey through much of the southeast U.S.

WilliamBartramThis is not the Southeast of today, but that of 1773, so technically there wasn’t a U.S. yet; whatever. Bartram spent four years wandering the Southeast, drawing plants and animals, maps, and doing sketch portraits of Indians he visited with, and he visited with many.

I first noticed Bartram a few years ago, and prepared a series  of posts about him & his solitary exploring journeys for times of reflection. I call him a “Divergent Friend” because he went his own way, following his own leading.  He was not a “rebel” or a troublemaker; yet he was hardly typical or “normal” either.

Consider: at home, a revolution was brewing; slavery was a spreading plague; many diseases threatened. But Bartram was drawn away from all that, the “activism” and the debates, into the natural world: seeking out creatures without voices, and  territories not yet claimed by his ancestral “civilization.” He’s remembered today (by those who remember him) as a pioneer. Leadings are like that: not always driven by the “news of the day,” with significance that may not  be discernible until many years after they were followed.

Continue reading Dog Days Reading for Summer Reflection: Wandering With A Divergent Friend

The Nashville Declaration Is a Hoot

Many friends of mine are upset about a recent anti-LGBT screed called the Nashville Declaration. I don’t begrudge their anger; yet I wish they would take a break from the issuance of indignant counter-screeds to ponder some of the upside resources offered by this piece.

I urge this because the “Declaration,” and its sponsor, the “Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood” (the Bibs, for short), look way overdue for a new approach: lampooning.

I mean, at the least, the Bibs deserve a Career Achievement Award from LGBT groups.

Continue reading The Nashville Declaration Is a Hoot

Memorandum from NCYM Trustees to Representative Session

M E M O R A N D U M

TO: NCYM Membership

FROM: Thomas E. Terrell, Jr., Chair, NCYM Trustees DATE: November 2, 2016

RE: Status of NCYM Reorganization of Assets

Friends:

I write to provide (I) a status report, in advance of the Representative Body Meeting on November 5, of the Committee’s discussions of the reorganization of NCYM assets; and (2) a brief history of the decisions that form the context of the Committee’s creation and the contours of the Committee’s charge.

The Committee

The Committee has no official name. It is comprised of the NCYM Trustees, the Trustees of NCYM Trust Funds, and the Stewardship-Finance Committee. Don Farlow serves ex-officio, and David Hobson, NCYM Treasurer, serves as recording clerk. We asked Heather Varner, Quaker Lake Director, and Tyler Surratt, Chairperson of the Quaker Lake Board, to attend our meetings because of Quaker Lake’s centrality to our discussions.

Meetings

The full Committee has met three times. Each time close to 100% of members attended. Meetings have been long, focused, respectful, and goal-oriented. Smaller sub-groups have met or discussed matters as needed to prepare for full Committee meetings and to gather large quantities of information.

Commitments

The Committee made several commitments at the outset to guide its decision-making process and recommendation to the Representative Body.

First, we committed to an outcome that is equitable, acknowledging that equity is difficult  to define  and  elusive.  Second,  we decided  that we have a moral  commitment  to the

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Pastor’s Pension Fund that overrides our legal flexibility to do otherwise. Third, we made a commitment to the long-term success and survival of Quaker Lake. Fourth, we committed to transparency. And fifth, we committed to a schedule of review and discussion that is deliberate and practical and not hindered by artificial and unworkable deadlines.

We hope that the process will be trusted by all and the recommendations we make will be accepted by most. The Committee graciously acknowledges that some individuals and some meetings are impatient and want immediate decisions and recommendations . I ask you to recognize that the Committee is working as rapidly as possible to get its arms around millions of dollars of assets and liabilities. The questions we must answer aren’t fully known. Answers to many of the known questions are not easy or clear. But know that we will get there.

Short History of Committee’s Creation/Mission

The Committee’s understanding of its mission is briefly outlined below . I repeat it here only because questions have been asked and alternative understandings have been expressed.

At the June 4, 2016 Representative Body meeting, the Executive Committee acknowledged “the differences among Friends in the North Carolina Yearly Meeting that are continuous and unabating,” and recommended “that the member meetings of North Carolina Yearly Meeting patiently commit to an orderly, deliberate, compassionate, and mutually respectful plan of separation into two yearly meetings  ….”

The Executive Committee also noted : “We further recognize that, if the Committee’s recommendation is approved by the Representative Body, a carefully structured discussion must occur that would consider matters of (1) faith, (2) organization , (3) property, and (4) law, and that this discussion must include multiple voices and viewpoints within the Yearly Meeting.”

It was approved that representatives should report to their respective monthly meetings and come to Annual Sessions in August prepared to respond to the Executive Committee ‘s recommendation.

Representative Body also decided on June 4 to charge the Executive Committee with “the limited task of identifying and organizing the components of the deliberate discussion … and to return to Annual Sessions with recommendations for consideration by the Yearly Meeting that pertain to process only ….” A “Draft Procedural Plan for Separation into Two Yearly Meetings”

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was distributed  to Ministry  and Counsel Clerks, Monthly  Meeting  Clerks and Pastors on   July

20th.

As Annual Session approached, the Executive Committee decided that hearing and listening were critical to this process, and we acknowledged that attempting all discussions in the context of the general assembly was limiting and imperfect. Accordingly, we held smaller breakout groups to provide more effective forums for full expression by more people of their questions, concerns, fears, ideas and expectations. Your feedback was written onto large tablets which were attached to the walls where the Executive Committee met during lunch. They were studied and considered by the full committee.

The consensus of all expressions was that a separation into two yearly meetings was not the sense of the Yearly Meeting. Based upon the Executive Committee ‘s review of your input, a “Minute of Reorganization” was quickly prepared to more accurately reflect members’ positions.

The “Minute of Reorganization” was approved in the afternoon business session on August 13. The “Minute of Reorganization” was distributed on August 15, and a revised “Procedural Plan for Reorganization into Two Groups” with a “Letter of Implementation” was forwarded the week of September 19.

Committee Discussions

Since September 19, the Committee has reviewed several asset division options and, of equal importance, the consequences of each. Although the Pastors’ Pension Fund and Quaker Lake Camp are being treated as priority assets, we are also mindful of the many ministries and missions supported by North Carolina Yearly Meeting.

We continue to explore options for ownership of trust funds and to seek ways to redirect certain funds when legally able. Among other things, we are learning that division and  separation will have consequences , and the loss of some ministries may be among them . At this point the details are not known.

Our second meeting was devoted entirely to Quaker Lake. Heather Varner and Tyler Surratt gave a detailed overview of Quaker Lake’s ministry, capital needs, cash flow, challenges, potential, and the dangers posed by a previously discussed shared use option. After hours of comment and discussion, the Committee unanimously expressed support for proceeding towards

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independent control. Each member was polled and the results ranged from somewhat supportive to strongly supportive, finding that this option gave us the best opportunity to protect Quaker Lake’s ministry, enable it to continue its amazing growth, and set it on a path of self-sufficiency. No one opposed this option.

It is not known what independent control would look like or how it would work. These are details for future Committee meetings. There are numerous details to consider, and the Committee is committed to working with those who know Quaker Lake’s operations to find the most workable solution(s). In the meantime, your input is always welcome.

Effect  of Alignments/Realignments

Realignments of meetings and quarters will not affect the Committee’s discussions or recommendations except as to equity.

Requests for Approval

The Committee will ask the Representative Body for approval of four items.

  1. Allocation of Funds for Legal, Accounting and Actuarial Services

The Committee’s work will not be inexpensive. Future tasks will require that we consult with actuaries for the Pastor’s Pension Fund, and accountants, appraisers and legal counsel for select matters affecting ownership, division and repurposing of trust funds, real estate sales, and other general matters. Our actuaries have given us a general (not binding) estimate of $33,000 to assist with the Pastor’s Pension Fund. We do not know how much it will cost to hire legal counsel, real estate appraisers and accountants.

We will ask the Representative Body to approve the expenditure of funds for these purposes, looking first at investment accounts and only secondarily to trust funds. There is insufficient income from askings to use askings as a funding source.

Except for actuaries, we have not selected any of the necessary consultants, but we will likely interview several candidates. We have decided only to hire professionals who are not affiliated with the NC Yearly Meeting.

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  1. Authority to Sell Property

Spring Garden Meeting and the Hilltop Road offices are the most obvious sources of funds for Quaker Lake and the Pastor’s Pension Fund. The market is strong at the moment, and waiting to sell carries risks.

We will ask the Representative Body for a three-part approval: (1) to initiate the process of selling Spring Garden and the Hilltop Road offices; (2) to delegate to the Executive Committee the authority to negotiate with purchasers, accept commercially acceptable offers, and bind the NCYM in sales to third parties ; and (3) to place the proceeds from sales into temporary accounts until recommendations for their use can been made.

A formal statement of authorization will be presented for approval,

  1. Pastor’s Pension Fund

To protect pastors who are vested under this plan, we join the Benefits and Insurance Committee and Executive Committee in asking the Representative Body for approval to terminate the plan, authorize the Committee to find sufficient sources to make the pension fund whole, and to buy out each vested member at present value.

Terminating the plan in 2017 requires that we start the process now. A detailed statement of authorization will be presented Saturday.

  1. Trust Funds

We will ask the Representative Body for approval to begin the process of reviewing all trust funds and determining where we have authority to repurpose certain trusts and to return to this body with recommendations for uses that are generally consistent with donors’ wishes yet more appropriate to the ministries of a reorganized NCYM . The Committee’s authority to do this was likely implied at its creation, but we will request that the authority be made clear.

Questions/Suggestions

I will make periodic reports so that NCYM members know the status of our discussions.

Ifyou have technical questions, Don Farlow has an outstanding grasp of NCYM finances, and he

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is the best person to contact. I am also pleased to discuss matters with you. Email is my  preferred form of communication. You can reach me at tom.terrell@nullsmithmoorelaw.com. My direct office line is 336-378-5412. You may also wish to contact Dick Coe (Trustee of Trust Funds) or Gwen Taylor, Chair, Stewardship-Finance.

Next Meeting

Our next meeting is November 21.