18 November 2007

Is there a conflict here?

Friends, I posted parts of this comment on Johann Maurer's blog about the BYM/FUM conflict, as it has come to be called. As I wrote, I realized that I wanted to post it here as well, and expand a bit, since I have truly been LABORING with this concern since our summer sessions of BYM.

As a member of BYM who was present as this report (of our BYM representatives to FUM) was read, and who has been laboring under this concern for quite some time, I have read and reread your reports Johann, knowing that I wanted to comment, but not quite being able to state my feelings. I am a liberal Friend, who does believe that we are all one body of Christ, though I admit that we all have many definitions of what that means. It was not until I read that simple sentence in the beginning of sailheaven's comment, "There was no confirmation for me that any of the discussion as brought forward was Spirit led, " that I was able to find words for what is stirring inside of me.

What if the indwelling Spirit IS calling us to join and mend the schism between us, but in that mending we must all call into question the very common habits of our everyday existence as Friends? What if we are called to deep worship with one another, in order to see where God is leading us to a new place? In my own understanding, the main difference between a "liberal" and "conservative" Friend is the question of who is saved. I know I am putting myself out on a limb here, and I welcome comments (I will post this comment on my own blog as well for that purpose).

What if, as Philip Gulley says, God saves all people (See If Grace is True)?

What if it is time to put the biblical tenets that the personnel policies of FUM are founded on, that certain behaviors are sin, to the test of worship as one body?

What if this is truly a matter of where God is leading us to TODAY, which may be very different that what we assume is TRUTH?

Are we open to that test of faith? I have had to ask myself that question. If I ask my Friends of all persuasions to sit in worship with me, seeking direction, can I face that the answer might not be what I THINK is right? I believe so, though I cannot say this with total certainty.

Often when I have felt a leading, I have lead myself off course when my own ego and intellect intercepted my vision before it had time to season. How many of us are prey to that?

This has been the hardest challenge of my spiritual journey as a convinced Friend. Over 25 years I have turned more and more to the indwelling Spirit, and it has truly shaped and molded me. I have been blessed to make major life changes as a result, and to be gifted to be present with others through their own life changes.

At the moment that this issue was first addressed within Baltimore Yearly Meeting, which in my memory was at BYM summer sessions several years ago, when Lamar Matthews and others returned from the Trienniel in Rwanda and informed us that he had been disallowed to lead a worship group because of his relationship status, I began to feel a deep rumbling.

This rumbling has not gone away. How could Friends who encountered the loving spirit of a Friend like Lamar possibly deny the workings of the indwelling Christ in his life? The only way, my mind told me, was if the trappings of our religion were followed at the expense of the leading of Spirit. I had unfortunately just had my own experience with this frailty of our human condition, having let a leading I had in another issue be overrun by my own "knowledge" of how a situation should be handled.

The parallels were undeniable. Therefore, I had no choice but to return to silence, knowing that were I to proceed too quickly, I would most likely fall into the same trap of my ego. I have talked to others, attended information sessions, listened with great curiousity to the reports of our intervisitation program and our FUM representatives, and then continued to return to the silence.

It was not until this summer, when I sat listening to the FUM rep. report, that I felt a leading to step forward and volunteer as an alternative rep. to FUM to fill the void left by Rachel Stacy's resignation. This was purely based on one phrase, "Call them to worship," that I kept and still keep hearing in my deepest parts. I'm not sure I know how to do that, except for myself. I know only too well what happens when I don't listen deeply. And I know that I do not hear enough calls to silence in this process.

Please Friends, return to silence and the indwelling Spirit. Consider the possibility of something new, that may be different than we all can see with our limited minds.


  1. Linda: Happy Thanksgiving, and thank you for your post. (And for the prior version on my blog.) I'm putting together a few comments as a reply in my own blog.

  2. I appreciate the vision of different types of Friends worshipping together and listening to what God has to say to them. What are the conditions for this to work?

    Obviously, all being truly open and willing to be shown a way that is different from their own inclinations. That in itself is very difficult (although it is basic to the Quaker business process). Within a structure like FUM where Friends are coming as representatives of bodies, it would also mean setting aside the views and minutes of their appointing body, an extremely difficult task. I tried to do that when I was a BYM representative to FUM, and one not unsurprising result was that I was not reappointed.

    And even if this were able to happen at an FUM Board meeting or Triennial session, would it work? Would all those Friends back home who weren't at the session accept the result? Frankly, I think the likelihood is that YMs with a different inclination than the unity in that session would not accept it.

    Now when I started this comment, I had something even different in mind that what I've written above. It is a question of the basis of unity among Friends. Don't all need to be looking to the same source for guidance? One of the key questions in the current divisions among Friends is whether all groups are looking to the same source - God, the Spirit of Christ, whatever you call it. I'm not certain of the answer, but the answer is critical.

  3. I will hold thee and this concern in the Light. I am not within the FUM or BYM, but I take the issues very seriously.

    Mary M

  4. Thank you Friend. I come from New York Yearly Meeting which is right now laboring with our relationship with FUM. My feelings on the subject are very similar to yours but we have a long road to travel. May God be with us, and bless you.

    Peace and Joy,

  5. Hi,

    I am contemplating membership, and what you wrote has come up from an outsider observing Quakers and studying Quakerism.

    My first Meeting was amazing. I was enveloped in the Light. I have since been trying to explain to people what I saw there. Quakerism as it exists right now is not in sync with that vision, which is why I am skeptical about identifying as a Quaker. In the Light, every one and every thing was there. I came out of the experience seeing the world in a different way. I am now reading the Gospel of Mary Magdalene and it is eerily similar to what I felt in the Light. That there is no such thing as sin and division, except those that we make ourselves. That the only rule we have to follow is the way of Love, and since sin is a man-made construction, we are not to judge who is a sinner and who is not.