7.17.2007

Two convergent events in California

I think I finally have a short explanation of what I mean by convergent Friends:
people who are engaged in the renewal movement within the Religious Society of Friends, across all the branches of Friends.
What do you think?

In any case, here are two events that might be of interest to these people:

1) Extended meeting for worship at SF Monthly Meeting, July 29, 2007, 9:30 am - 12:00 pm

The first half hour will be reading from the Bible or other holy writings, modeled after Bible reading in the manner of Conservative Friends. This has been regularly practiced upstairs in our meetinghouse on fifth Sundays by members of the Christian Friends Conference. This is the first time it has been incorporated into our regular weekly meeting for worship. The next two hours will be our usual mode of waiting worship. For the full announcement, see Chris M.'s reprint of the handout. All are welcome to attend all or any portion of the extended meeting.

2) Convergent dinner at a Friend's home in Torrance, CA: August 4, 2007. This is timed to start after the last session of Pacific Yearly Meeting in Redlands, CA. If you would like to come, send me an email to the address listed in my profile and I'll send you the exact address, a contact phone number and directions.

Last year, a post-PYM convergent Friends dinner was held at the home of Wess and Emily Daniels. You can read more here and here. We had a good time and interesting conversations with Friends from Evangelical Friends Church - Southwest Region (EFI), Pacific Yearly Meeting, and the Western Association of Friends (FUM), and some Anabaptist friends of Friends. The formerly Quaker blogger Joe G. did a series of funny podcast interviews that night that are unfortunately no longer available online, however, I have the downloads, and I would be willing to send them to you if you ask, and you can help me figure out exactly how to do that, not being so tech-savvy myself.

Labels: , , ,

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

30 Comments:

Blogger Gregg Koskela said...

I really like the brief description!

7/18/2007 7:25 PM  
Blogger Zach A said...

You'll have to be sure to update on the extended worship -- something I've been a fan of ever since reading Marcelle Martin's "Towards a deeper communion" (Pendle Hill), but not had a chance to participate in yet. Will T did that for a workshop once at New England YM, but I think I was only there for the weekend.

Peace,
Zach Alexander

7/18/2007 9:37 PM  
Anonymous John Helding said...

Robin,

I too like the brief description. In large part because it is action oriented, "renewal" and because instead of excluding it is inclusive of Friends across all branches of Friends." Of course now what is it you mean by "the renewal movement?"

7/20/2007 1:22 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Thanks guys.

I will write more after these two events and the even sooner looming household move this week. It may be a couple of weeks before I regain internet access.

7/23/2007 1:56 AM  
Blogger Bill Samuel said...

That definition could be helpful. It does beg the question of whether it is Christian in orientation.

I think the convergent movement started among Christian renewal folks in various branches. But I think there are non-theists and others outside of the Christian orientation who might think of themselves as being involved in renewal among Friends. Albeit there may be some things in common, overall I don't think these are very compatible.

Would EFI Friends attracted to the Convergent Friends idea feel they were enough on the same wavelength as nontheist Friends who might see themselves as fostering renewal to be able to productively work together?

7/23/2007 3:21 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Last night at 12:20 am, I had to turn the light back on because I thought of a response to Bill.

My main point is that neither non-theist nor evangelical are monolithic categories. There are probably some who could work together and some on either edge that wouldn't want to.

As to whether convergent equals Christian or not:

First, I am trying not to define convergent as "whatever is like me", but it's hard to resist the temptation.

I would currently label myself as Christ-curious. In the last couple of years, I am more aware that God is speaking to me more through God's Jesus-face, than God's Buddha-face or Nature-face.

Last night I had the image of a computer interface. It would be another post to explore whether my hardware was built for the Jesus interface or if that was an accident of my earliest programming or a concerted effort by the engineer(s).

Okay, back to packing the curtains and kid's toys. Please hold us in the Light - we are still waiting to see if we will actually have the keys to the new place before the moving truck arrives or not.

7/24/2007 12:44 PM  
Blogger MartinK said...

Hi Robin,
I started a comment that started getting all out of hand and ended up being a post all in itself, written over days and days. It's going up now over on Convergent Friends, a long definition. It's ended up addressing some of the comments here, though I probably step over the bounds of some convergent definitions (oh well!).

Hope the packing and unpacking is going well. Sorry I'm not closer to be able to help with the heavy lifting.
Your Friend, Martin @ Quaker Ranter

7/25/2007 6:20 PM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

I am ever so slowly, with fits and starts getting back into blogging...

I've made a brief comment on Martin's post already but I realize I wanted to respond here as well.

I'm not sure this "short explanation" goes far enough or is specific enough. I'm thinking back to the "components" of the word convergent that you offered originally: emergent and conservative--as in, conservation of the faith and its practice.

Is there a way to include these in even a broad explanation? For example:

Convergent Friends are those who (1) are engaged in the emergence of the renewal movement that is occurring across the branches of the RSoF; (2) have a concern for exploring, conserving, and restoring what contributes to a vibrant, cohesive, intergenerational Quakerism; (3) are dedicated to re-examining and wrestling with our faith tradition's roots and practices; and (4) are not Christophobic, anti-Universalism, etc.

Okay, so it's a mouthful but it was a helpful exercise for ME, anyway, to pull out some of the threads, as Martin had done in an earlier post on Quaker Ranter.

Blessings,
Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

8/04/2007 9:33 AM  
Anonymous Scott Savage, Richland-Ashland Friends said...

Well, I hate to rain on the parade, but...for Conservative Friends -- and I guess I am no longer counting NC or IA in our number, (and even within our number there are a few FGC-oriented exceptions who are sure to jump on the band wagon, but trust me, most of us are fleeing away, not moving toward FGC and Pacific) -- "non-Christian" is a deal breaker.

It really is that simple. Jesus is either the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no man cometh unto the Father but by Him ... or He isn't.

And truly, having spent the '80s and '90s "dialogging" with Liberal Friends about homosexuality, universalism, "non-theism" paganism, and who knows what else, most Christian Friends just want to get on with the (already occurring) resurgence of ... Conservative, Christian Quakerism!

No convergence necessary.

Sorry to be so blunt, but I just don't think it will help us to be mixing it up again.

And I have no faith whatsoever in the explanation of Convergent Quakerism's necessity as being that each of the three divergent strands must come together to experience revival. The syllogism lacks a middle term.

Why exactly would converging cause any consequence in particular? What is the magical power of religious groups getting together because they share the same name, but not the same faith?

And what would "revival" look like to a Christian if it didn't include -- wasn't completely centered on -- our Lord, Christ Jesus.

To me, it would look like absolutely nothing.

Again, sorry to be so blunt, but I thought you might want to think about a different perspective.

8/07/2007 7:35 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Hurrah! We have internet access again! And we're back from PYM. But we're still unpacking boxes. So this will be short. Sort of.

Martin, Chris brought me home a printed copy of your post, and once again you wrote something that I'd like to have written, only more clearly than I would have. Thanks.

Liz: good work! I have been struggling to find a definition in less than three paragraphs, but this one was probably going too far. I have a new short version: Friends who are interested in experimenting with traditional Quaker practices and exploring how they have relevance and transforming power for us today.

Scott, welcome to my blog. You are welcome to rain on my parade any day - that is an important part of the conversation on Quaker blogs, in my opinion. And I have been blunt myself, from time to time.

One of the questions I have is how to consider my Friends who will say their life is about following Jesus, but that the word Christian has been too tainted by some who would claim the name without actually following their Lord's example.

I, personally, have been much helped by Friends who were willing to speak to me even in my uncertainty, my Christ-curious phase. If we are unwilling to talk to others who are not fully in agreement with us, then we miss great chances for evangelism. At the same time, I think that it is not we, but God who converts people. We are not the Light, but we can either be a lantern or a lampshade. But I digress.

For me, the point of convergence isn't that all the branches have to come together. I'm not sure who said that, but it wasn't me. My point is usually that there is overlap already. None of our Quaker institutions are monolithic. There ARE Friends in Pacific Yearly Meeting who are Christian Friends who would not be out of place among Ohio Yearly Meeting (Conservative). Perhaps you will disagree with this, but I believe there are Conservative Friends who believe that they have Light to bring to the world, and don't want to simply die a faithful remnant. There are Friends in Evangelical Friends Churches who are interested in exploring how their Quaker distinctives are helpful to being better Christians. We can learn from others who are looking at Quakerism from a slightly different vantage point to overcome our own blindness.

And this brings me to the main point of my work under this heading of convergent Friends (which may not be the same for anyone else) is that it has been helpful to me. As I follow the little nudges, I have found strength and light to reach a deeper stage of faithful obedience. Meeting actual Conservative and Evangelical Friends (online and in person) has brought me closer to Jesus, as I think I said above.

The "magical power" is the grace of God when we are humble enough to admit that we are not perfect. It is the trembling in my body when I read one of Gregg Koskela's sermons. It is the peace in my breath when I read Liz Oppenheimer's accounts of being yoked on the bench at Iowa YM(C) sessions. It is the inspiration I have received in hearing of other Friend's experiments with traditional Quaker practices, like plain dress, and renewed spiritual practices, like sustainable agriculture. And it is the joy in knowing I am not the only one interested in these things.

Okay, this is a very individualist list. There are implications for our monthly and yearly meetings, and the wider world, concomitant with our faithfulness, but that would be an even longer post, and I have other work to do tonight. And the hope of turning off the electric lights before too long.

Before I go, the extended meeting for worship at SF Meeting was wonderful. I think we may do it every fifth Sunday for a while. And the convergent dinner after PYM was small but blessed. I do have more to write but I must stop now.

8/07/2007 11:56 PM  
Anonymous Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...

May I respond just a little to Scott Savage?

As many readers of this blog already know, I am a member — a grateful member — of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative), one of the two Conservative yearly meetings that Scott dismisses as not countably Conservative.

Being deeply immersed in Iowa (Conservative), I find no evidence that it regards itself as "not Christian". A small minority of its members do regard themselves as "not Christian", but the majority — and the yearly meeting as a whole — are quite clear that Christian is what they are.

On the other hand, my personal impression is that Iowa (Conservative) does not define the term "Christian" in the same way Scott's Ohio Yearly Meeting does. And maybe this difference needs to be talked about.

I have never been fortunate enough to attend Scott's yearly meeting. That is something I deeply regret, since everything I've heard about it makes it sound special. But from various reports, it sounds to me as if in Scott's yearly meeting, you cannot really be regarded as "Christian" unless you are constantly waving a flag, making a show of it.

For the huge majority of Iowa (Conservative) Friends, on the other hand, I get the impression that making a show of your Christianity would be something like praying on street-corners — a practice that Christ himself forbade in the Sermon on the Mount. There is no expectation that you need to constantly announce and flaunt your piety, and in fact, there is considerable expectation that simple practice would be a better course.

Iowa (Conservative) is a place where the primary stress is laid, not on the name of "Jesus Christ", but on the reality of the inward Guide. Liz Opp's latest blog entry reproduces the quotation, from the opening paragraph of William Penn's Primitive Christianity Revived, that opened our Iowa (Conservative) Yearly Meeting sessions last month:

"That which the people called Quakers lay down as a main fundamental in religion is this — That God, through Christ, hath placed a principle in every man, to inform him of his duty, and to enable him to do it; and that those that live up to this principle are the people of God, and those that live in disobedience to it, are not God's people, whatever name they may bear, or profession they may make of religion. This is their ancient, first, and standing testimony: with this they began, and this they bore, and do bear to the world."

That passage was written in 1696, which makes it even older, and more conservative, than Ohio Yearly Meeting. And the more seasoned Friends in Iowa (Conservative) still live, today, in accordance with what it says: they bear daily testimony, in their conduct and conversation, to the fact that it is obedience to this principle, this Guide, that makes a person a true Christian, and not just the mouthing of the name of Jesus Christ. I might note, too, that this practice is in keeping with Christ's own words, again in the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 7:21-23.

I have never, ever, heard an Iowa (Conservative) Friend accuse Ohio Friends of only mouthing the name of Jesus Christ, and not actually obeying the promptings of the Guide. Iowa (Conservative) Friends are uniformly respectful of the faithful practice of their Ohio sisters and brothers. But the approach in Iowa (Conservative) is definitely more focused on quiet substance without show. And whether this difference makes Iowa (Conservative) Friends, not true Conservatives, I will leave to the reader to decide for her- or himself.

8/08/2007 2:28 PM  
Anonymous Scott Savage said...

Robin,

Your gracious reply may help me to be less blunt -- without being less to the point -- and more civil in return. But frankness is my usual mode.

By way of introduction, I anticipate people assuming that luddites like me are technologically ignorant, but nothing could be farther from the truth.

I prefer not to write on the Internet, but since I caught wind of the convergent conversation I have tried to track it back to its source. Having found that the Internet is "where" this conversation began and that it began in part "here" on this blog, I have jumped down the rabbit hole to read up and make a few comments.

My reason for making the effort is that a wave of the Holy Spirit is passing through Christian Friends, creating renewal and growth. And for every action there is a reaction. The way to stop a wave is to dilute its effect.

"Convergence" sounds a lot like "dilution."

I could be wrong about that. But nothing I have read so far or experienced has given me any cause to think so.

To give an example, I cringe at the thought of this actually taking place:

The first half hour will be reading from the Bible or other holy writings, modeled after Bible reading in the manner of Conservative Friends.

Problem is, Conservative Friends Bible reading isn't some generic practice/idea that should be cargo-culted by Liberal Friends. It is offensive and blasphemous to take a Christian Friends practice and syncretize it.

And, again, Christians who remain in liberal meetings already experience this. Not only do they tell me so, but I know because, to use an example close to home, I gave a Christian testimony in your SF meeting and got that old "If yooo seee the Buddha on the road -- Keel heem!" bit of ministry flung back at me before I could even sit down. Christians who stay in non-Christian meetings all have their own versions of this kind of experience.

If "convergence" can mean, say, Wiccan "holy writings" mixing it up with the Bible, (not too far-fetched in the SF meeting, where I met a woman who introduced herself as a "witch") then what is really happening is syncretism.

And syncretism, in the context of my Christian faith, is something less -- much less! -- than what I already have through faith in the Lord. I guess I can't escape bluntness, so let me express it this way: Add a tablespoon of garbage to a barrel of honey and you have garbage. Add as much honey as you want to a tablespoon of garbage and...you still have garbage.

Because...Jesus is either the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no man cometh unto the Father but by Him ... or He isn't. Can't have it both (or many) ways.

Please know that I, too am glad that there are patient Christians willing to walk gently with questioning souls such as yourself. I serve my Master in a different role, and with a different gift. And I am concerned for the renewal, the re-blooming of Christian Friends that is occurring. We aren't a dying faithful remnant. You need to know that.

A proponent of Convergent Friends stood in the Conservative Friends gathering in 2006 and cried out: "O, why are you all so unhappy, why are you all so in despair!" I happened to be looking out at everyone from the facing bench and was just then noticing all the peaceful, happy, inspired faces. But he was seeking advantage for his point of view in reading from an old script; telling us we needed Hicksite vitality, crying out about dying meetings, puckered faces. Poor old tuckered out, dusty Conservatives!

At this year's Conservative gathering -- the best attended gathering in decades -- half the old, dying remnant were ... children.

When he has brought out his own sheep--all of them--he walks at the head of them; and the sheep follow him, because they know his voice. ...

8/08/2007 2:28 PM  
Anonymous Scott Savage Richland-Ashland Friends, Friends in Christ, Christian Friends Conference said...

Hello Marshall,

A point to clarify: I was not speaking only - or even primarily - of Ohio Yearly Meeting as Christian Friends. There have been many worship groups and meetings popping up (and managing to stick - always a problem in the past) here and in England and Europe.

Although the whole identification issue is well chewed, and has become uninteresting to me, I beg your sufferance to note that non-Christian meetings always tout their unity-in-diversity, and non-Christian meetings always tell Christians that they should, like the movie house audience when Elmer Fudd is hunting wabbits, "be vewy vewy qwiet!"

George Fox made rather "a show of it" and Christians are of course going to proclaim the name of Jesus Christ, the name before all others, and I have no doubt, many (as many already have) will happily bear the (merely temporal) consequences.

Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

8/08/2007 3:23 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

I should know better than to check my email right before I need to make dinner. I look forward to writing more after the kids are in bed. For now, I want to make clear for everyone the level of civility that I expect on my blog. (Each blogger may have different criteria.)

I expect that all commenters will choose their words as if we were having this conversation face to face, in MY living room. Now, I like to argue about religion and politics at my parties, but there are limits. Blunt is not the same as thoughtless or intentionally goading.

I'm a mother, I'm used to setting boundaries in new territory. At my sole discretion, if I feel that anyone has been so rude or offensive that I would have changed the subject at my dinner table, I will say so first, and take away privileges second.

Don't make me stop this car. (Did your mother used to say that too?)

8/08/2007 7:50 PM  
Anonymous wess said...

Robin, a very interesting conversation to say the least and all from a rather short post! I found everyone's comments rather engaging, albeit on the edge of getting a bit testy.

One thing I see a lot of Quakers doing is making generalizations - I wonder if we could give up making generalizations for the new year? A Quaker resolution of sorts...

There are three problems with generalizations: they are almost always (making a generalization here) wrong when speaking about large groups of people and end up being "friendly fire" and people get hurt, often people who are on your side. And finally, we rarely question the basis and formulations of those generalizations. For instance are the categories of "liberal," "evangelical," and "conservative" sacred cows whose boundaries, definitions, and formulations are unable to be called into question, and even laid down if necessary?

I am come from an evangelical background (as well as Catholic and Charismatic) and none of those contain within them the pure essence of Christianity. They are all attempts, and very worthy attempts, at trying to be faithful to the Gospel and they are all helpful inasmuch as they continue to point to the Jesus himself. Trouble happens when these, and other, traditions point back to themselves as the "true way."

This is a starting point for convergent thinking - that the particularities of traditions such as anabaptists, Catholic, Quaker, etc are all responses to the Spirit of God - they are rich accounts of Christianity. They cannot, nor should they be, boiled down into a brown soupy substance that tastes like nothing and looks like nothing.

Robin, I am the one of the ones who has said it, again and again in agreement with what you said:

"For me, the point of convergence isn't that all the branches have to come together... My point is usually that there is overlap already. None of our Quaker institutions are monolithic."

I am not sure where the idea that convergence equals christian mush came from but it wasn't anyone I know. Though I do think people see what they want to see and hear what they want, I think there is a big stretch to come to this conclusion because I know for instance you, Liz, and Martin have never said anything of the sort.

Speaking of Liz -- I agree with what she said about your shorter definition:

"I'm not sure this "short explanation" goes far enough or is specific enough. I'm thinking back to the "components" of the word convergent that you offered originally: emergent and conservative--as in, conservation of the faith and its practice."

She's right on. I think you should refrain from trying to simplify it too much, I understand the temptation but I think the thinner the definition becomes the less chance there is to know if it means anything at all.

In fact, This is one of modernity's main urges - to universalize everything, or in other words, make something with a really deep, thick, context as thin and "translatable" as possible so that all can understand it without having to know the back story. This is my problem with the Jesus Seminar people and the problem with much of religious language today. Pink Dandelion explains in his new book on Quakerism that this happened in Quakerism as well with the switch from "testimony against war" to the "Testimony for peace" and the move away from the "testimony of plainness" to the "testimony of simplicity." In both instances the first testimony is more thick and relies on a historical knowledge of Quakerism to understand what it means, it is also more specific. The second set of testimonies are much "thinner," more broad and ambiguous. Cheney could subscribe to a testimony for peace, he could think that by sending an army to Iraq he could create peace.

All that to say I think we have keep our terms as reliant on context and historical and be as specific as much as possible without necessarily being dogmatic or controlling.

Keep up the awesome work, and yes I heard my mom say she was going to pull the car over quite a bit!

8/08/2007 11:08 PM  
Blogger Chris M. said...

I'm going to follow Wess's advice and be specific.

I remember two visits by Scott Savage to San Francisco Meeting, probably in 1995 or 1996, and 1997. I think in some ways his visits are still having a ripple effect even a decade later. Probably not as much as NCYM-Conservative's Lloyd Lee Wilson's visit in 2000 (I think), nor as much as the sojourn of OYM-Conservative's Susan __ (sorry, I don't remember her last name) in 1994.

Interesting that one person at our meeting told Scott she was a witch. I do know one person in our meeting who was exploring that label -- and perhaps it was the same person, perhaps not -- recently left us after marrying a Muslim.

I also recall that Scott had a very intense conversation with two people from Wired magazine at one of his talks. They were not part of our meeting at all, so their views are not to be confused with those of people from our meeting.

As for Christian renewal among Friends, I also see it happening here in Pacific Yearly Meeting. As someone said about our annual session last week (first week of August 2007), Jesus and Christ were mentioned more this year than they could ever remember, and some people were delighted and some were unhappy.

Overall, it was very powerful in my experience. Things have changed in the past decade. And as I recall, Scott, you started as a Liberal Friend, who then evolved and changed. Can you imagine how you at that time would have reacted to yourself now? Would you have listened to the older you at all and been encouraged to come to Christ?

Finally, Scott, I take some responsibility for the phrase "or other holy writings" appearing in the description of SF Meeting's recent extended meeting for worship. I felt a mild stop to including that phrase when it was brought up on the floor of meeting for business. However, I was clerking for only my second time, and I couldn't "think on my feet" quick enough to figure out how to express myself from the clerk's chair. In retrospect, I wish I had said that Bible-based worship in the manner of Conservative Friends is just that, it's not a matter of any text you want to bring. There were other members who felt that way, too, but didn't say anything either.

Anyway, we did what we did, and it worked fine in my experience. I'll grant that we can't honestly claim it's "in the manner of Conservative Friends" if it's not based solely on the Bible.

-- Chris M.

8/09/2007 12:47 AM  
Blogger Bill Samuel said...

Interesting conversation. . .

Scott, I believe that you have deliberately chosen not to be affiliated with Ohio YM. Is that correct?

We don't know what this loose thing called Convergent Friends will wind up being, and what its effect will be. I think it could be very positive or not. I think Scott is a bit too quick to assume the worst, but yet his fears do have some basis in some of what is being written regarding Convergent Friends.

There is a difference between drawing clear boundary lines and having a clear center. Convergent Friends are definitely not about a focus on defining boundaries to see who is in and who is out. That is healthy, IMHO.

What is not so clear, and seems to be part of various online conversations, is whether Convergent Friends will wind up with anything like a clear center. I'm not talking about a doctrinal formulation. As Len Sweet of George Fox University says, "God sent a person, not a proposition." Can Convergent Friends center around that person, while not boxing in how people describe their relationship with that person?

If it is about renewal, is it renewal of our relationship with and faithfulness to Jesus Christ?

8/09/2007 9:24 AM  
Anonymous Scott Savage said...

Bill,

We have "home meeting" with some attenders and visitors, and travel to worship with any and all Friends who gather in the Name of Jesus. We visit with and worship with OYM meetings but have not been members of OYM since 1999. Mary Ann and I are founding members of the Christian Friends Conference and we affiliate with Friends in Christ, UK. I tried to put that info in the "name" section of my last post, but it didn't all show.

Robin,

I am sorry to have upset your meal.

Reading over my comments, yes, I would say all these things again, face to face, heart to heart, right at the dinner table. I've been through a lot and no longer do much to soften what I am given to say. In that sense what I have said here is thoughtless. But I also protest to you that what stings does not necessarily also intend to provoke. I know we really do live "in this adulterous and sinful generation," and I feel led to cut to the chase.

I probably am at the end of what I "canst say" in this medium at this time. Any one can visit me in the real world to continue the conversation (I'm in the (paper) Conservative Friends Directory, 2007, available from Phil Helms, who can be reached at michiganquakers.org.)

8/09/2007 11:40 AM  
Anonymous wess said...

Bill, your comment is extremely insightful on a number of levels and I think you've given a healthy challenge as well.

Your point that:
"There is a difference between drawing clear boundary lines and having a clear center. Convergent Friends are definitely not about a focus on defining boundaries to see who is in and who is out. That is healthy, IMHO."

I can't agree with more and I also hope beyond hope that we do find and follow the center and person Jesus Christ - which in my mind will include what I quoted you saying above. But that's a dichotomy that's not easy or popular to maintain.

8/09/2007 9:53 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Hi, Wess. That's good advice on how to balance brevity and complexity when people ask for a quick explanation of this convergence thing. Regarding your second comment, one image that has been helpful to me is that of an oasis rather than a fortress - it may not have clear boundaries, but it has a clear center. The key is to find the true Center that is clear and deep and sweet.

Chris, I especially resonate with your point that times have changed, in our Meeting and our Yearly Meeting, and that is much less likely today that anyone would be pseudo-eldered from the floor about their use of Christian language.

Bill, thank you for once again asking a quite clear and clarifying question. I will have to chew on it for a while longer.

Scott, you haven't ruined anything. I was not so offended, personally or on others' behalf as to cut off the discussion, or even change the topic. Not yet, anyway.

In re-reading my earlier comment, I believe I got somewhat carried away with my own cleverness. I knew I shouldn't write anything in such haste. I merely wanted to give everyone clearer guidelines than "anything goes" in order to facilitate this continued conversation. I've heard (although I never participated myself) that other Quaker online forums have fallen apart in acrimony for lack of moderation.

I remember when you visited SF several years ago, perhaps when one of your books was published. Chris and I both came to at least one evening talk you gave at the SF Meetinghouse. I don't think we actually met, though I have read some things you have written.

I'd be interested to know more, perhaps in this forum, perhaps in a different medium, about your journey away from all things electronic and how you've come back. I am personally interested in exploring how and when we know it's time to lay down an experiment. Around me, I see quite a bit of interest in how Friends discern and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, but at some point we also have to learn how to let go of the kite when the wind stops blowing. If this is too personal a question, you can say so. I won't be offended.

8/09/2007 11:21 PM  
Anonymous Shawna Roberts said...

I am a Christian, and a member of OYM (conservative), and a conservative Friend, and a convergent Friend. I do not find that any of these things are mutually exclusive in any way. (Nor do other people apparently... many of the attenders at the recent General Gathering of Conservative Friends were there because their convergent attitudes had drawn them towards conservative Friends.)

Convergence is a conversation, not a Faith and Practice. It is an attitude, not an institution. It is an invitation, not a debate. It is a willingness to grow and to learn from others. Convergence is a willingness to change when I discover that I'm wrong. Convergence is a willingness to see others as works in progress also. When I dismiss someone because of who they are today, I fail to do my part to bring Christ's love into the world. When I am willing to listen to them about what is important to them, and when I share with them what is important to me.... that is convergence. When we both grow in understanding from the exchange, and when both our spiritual lives have been enriched, that is convergence. When we reach out and hold each other, and see each other--not as static objects--but as individuals growing and seeking just like ourselves.... that’s convergence.

I am not afraid of diluting my Lord’s message of Love to the world by sharing it. I trust my Lord more than that. He says He wants the whole world to hear the good news... how can that happen unless we share? In the parable, our Lord RAN to the prodigal son when he was YET A LONG WAY OFF, and embraced him and rejoiced over him while the boy was still covered in pig dung. He didn’t wait until the son had arrived and been all cleaned up, before he greeted him.

Oh, my darlings, my dearest ones... none of us is at the still point of the turning world. None of us should be sitting still waiting for everyone else to converge towards us. We are all journeying. We all have some pig dung to scrape off. Shall we resolve to help each other? I will give you my hand, if you will help me remove the pig dung right there between my shoulder blades..... Those of you who are Christian, trust in the Lord and share your good news... not in a spirit of negativity, but in a spirit of joy. The world has a new smell because you have met and acknowledged your Master. Those of you who are not Christian, trust in your heart and share what gives you strength and joy.... share the best of yourself... not in a spirit of defensiveness, but in a spirit of hope.

If we truly listen to each other and if we truly share what we know of the truth from our hearts, we will not find mushy, lowest-common-denominator compromise. We will find the most amazing hopefulness for a new creation giving greater glory to God than any of us individually is currently capable of. It will be an adventure, and adventures aren’t always safe or comfortable... but our Lord never called us to be safe and comfortable. Listen to God. Be not afraid. Hoist your sail, and catch the Winds of the Spirit. Let the Spirit carry you where you are supposed to go... don’t try to tack against that Wind. As we are faithful, we will see our thousand ships converging towards the same harbor. And we shall hail each other with joy.

8/11/2007 6:53 PM  
Blogger Tony Breda said...

Robin,

Have I told you how much I love your blog lately? What an awesome discussion.

To save time and energy, I'll say that Shawna speaks my mind!

I was moved by Scott's writings and by Marshall's. Scott's Garbage and Honey analogy got my attention. It is a powerful analogy which no doubt works well for him in making his point. I'd like to point out a flaw, not as a way of disrespecting Scott, but instead as a way of lifting him and others up.

While it is true that belief or action that leads us away from God is rightly called garbage, and garbage is a fact of life, calling God's truth honey falls short. Honey, while sweet and the near perfect food, is natural, corruptable and temporal.

God's Love and Truth is supernatural, incorruptable and eternal. Add garbage to honey and you spoil the honey. Add garbage to God's truth, God's love and God's love and truth overcome it in time and make it whole.

That is not to gloss over some of the truely horrid things done by people, clothed in their own garbage, in God's name. Yet in the end, God's power, time and again remains.

It is easy to reject the world, go into the desert (or even reteart from one's community, meeting...)to try to live closer to God. But that's not what is asked of us. We are asked to help each other find the light. I was many things before I came to know God and am grateful for the people in my life who saw past the garbage I was covered in.

Somebody find a stick and scrape the pig dung off my back too please. Every Christian needs a dung stick.

Tony

8/12/2007 8:47 AM  
Anonymous Scott Savage said...

Robin,

I have dropped back in on the virtual world to leave this too-long message, due to the nudging of Mary Ann, my wife. At her request I brought home a print out of the comments in this thread and at Martin's web site. Her responses to the back and forth were consistent with my own, but she noted with concern that you (and Martin) had asked about my "journey away from all things electronic and how you've come back," as if I had turned back on my leadings about modernity and its spiffy technological accouterments.

"You know how the Internet is," said my bride, "if you don't give a clear answer, you'll soon hear that people are saying you live in a computer and technology-filled home. Remember the book reviewer at BeliefNet who claimed you drove a car across America on your tour to promote a book about giving up driving a car."

Of course she wasn't saying that you or anyone else in particular would gossip, just that the Internet is handy for the "telephone" game-player in all of us, and especially handy for those special cases.

Like the guy who dropped in on us in Barnesville (a lot of people dropped in on us!). I greeted him where he parked his car up at the barn, and on the way down to the house he launched into a tale of how he had visited a Christian community that eschewed engine-powered machines, "but I saw the bulldozer tracks!" Then he told me about the Christian community where everyone supposedly shared everything, "but one of 'em has a job in town and eats in restaurants!"

We were at the house now, and I noticed he was looking up at the television aerial tower we had never bothered to take down, and following the wires to where they still connected to the house. Um hmmm, yep, I knew what he was going to say at the next stop on his itinerary.

Anyway, I tought I had left the conversation for good or ill, but now have returned for a moment, just to be clear: We don't have a TV, or Internet access, or a computer, or electric lights, or the grid. We do have an electric washing machine which can run on solar but which currently runs on a small generator. We do not own a car. I have never driven a car since I turned in my license 10 years ago this April. For long distance trips we hire a van. (It cost us more than $600 to attend the Conservative Gathering in eastern PA this June, not small change for a family of 10 living on the US median income for a single adult.)

I have been on two job tracks the past six years - farming and making money. (Of course I am working toward getting those two tracks to merge together!) Working for myself at farming doesn't require computers - although my Whole Foods account is insisting on email/spreadsheets/etc. while I am still handing them carbon copy invoices.

But in order to work out in the world I have to use employers' or clients' computers to write, look things up on the Internet, and occasionally communicate by email - because that's the only way some things are done now. I don't blog, I don't have a web page, and I don't use email for any non-job-required correspondence, period.

But I also don't "abstain" from these things. I just want to spend all of my time, as much as is humanly possible, in the real world - talking to, living with, and loving the real, live people in my life. (Whenever my other half reads about blogs, etc. she asks, "where do they find the time? When are they writing all this stuff?"

Your question and Martin's indicate that for you it is as if an Orthodox rabbi just sat down next to you at the lunch counter and ordered a bacon sandwich, but that Rabbi isn't me, and avoiding technology was never been the point (or at least the intentional point) of anything I said or wrote back in the days when I said and wrote.

In fact, the reality that I don't say or write much these days is itself tied up with the point that I want to do instead of just talk. And the Internet has turned out to be great for just talking.

As I said earlier here, these posts are a special case. I popped up in cyberspace because that is the "place" where this (implicitly destabilizing to me) idea of convergent Friends has originated, so I went to the source in order to be heard.

In a recent case of persecution for my faith I similarly had to use the web, in that case to track down loads of TIS - Toxic Internet Slander - and try to set the facts straight for the sake of my reputation.

I try to understand technology and its uses - and how it uses us - but ritual purity isn't what I'm after. On the contrary, I try to keep in mind the penultimate scene in Ralph Bakshi's Wizards where the evil, technology-using wizard Blackwolf battles the good Wizard Avatar. Avatar, the advocate of wizardry and opponent of brute technology, suddenly pulls a gun out of his sleeve and shoots Blackwolf dead, certainly the last thing Blackwolf was prepared for.

After saying way too much for what this fernsprecher medium canst say, I will now rematerialize at, oh, say, my picnic table on the front lawn, in the beautiful Mohican Valley, where you may speak to me for as long as you like before we go in to supper. If, that is, you can make yourself heard over the other, voluble sounds of our real, living, breathing life.

8/14/2007 2:11 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Shawna and Tony, thanks for the encouragement.

Scott, if you come back to check for a response, I will have to look at what you and Martin have written, I assume on his blog. When I'm busy, reading other people's blogs is one of the first things to go in my schedule. My question to you was really not intended to be about catching inconsistencies but about exploring how we each follow the Lord.

I'm glad that you had a chance to see a little of what is going on here. I hope you've seen some of the breadth of communication that goes on in the blogosphere. For me, it is a way of keeping up with old and new Friends who live far away.

The other thing I'd say about writing here is that some of it is like letter writing and some of it is like essay writing. How does anyone find time to write letters? How does anyone find time to compose essays? These are both spiritual and social practices that I enjoy and that make use of gifts that have been given to me. Like any kind of passion, it takes up time and yet seems to never get enough time.

8/14/2007 7:30 PM  
Blogger MartinK said...

Hi Scott, thanks for sharing the stories about how you're relating to technology. One of the values in reading the best of the classic journals is that we get a glimpse not only into how Friends lived but also how they discerned that right order and balanced the temptations toward assimilation on one side and unnecessary legalism on the other. Seeing you pop up on computer confounded those of us who might look for unused antennae on the rooftop; hearing the story behind it helps the rest of us think about just where we're drawing the lines in our own life witness.

I would echo Robin that I see my own blogging being most akin to the venerable Friends practice of letter-writing. The internet just lets these letters be open. It's also something you can do at 12:30am when the kids are asleep, a topic which I could go on and on and ON about but won't here or now.

Martin@ Quaker Ranter

8/15/2007 12:29 AM  
Anonymous Nate Swift said...

Relating Bill's question about centering on Christ to Scott's point concerning the scripture "It really is that simple. Jesus is either the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no man cometh unto the Father but by Him ... or He isn't" it has been pointed out to me that there are two quite different perceptions of what Jesus meant (assuming that the quote IS accurate in essence) by coming "to the Father through me." The one we have historically seen is a sort of "you have to get on board a religion about Jesus" and the second is that Jesus embodied the Way, Truth and Light necessary to come to the Father so that anyone who DOES so come will have done so through the Christ Spirit embodied and demonstrated by Jesus. The first is exclusionary and to some extent denies the idea of early Quakers explained by Barclay that the Light may be received by people in the world without ever hearing the name of Jesus. I'd have to say that much of what is reported as hostility to references to Jesus in more liberal Meetings must be reaction to more extreme versions of the first interpretation. If our Christ-centered message is that you have to share our religion to be in the Light, then there will be such hostility. If our message is that we see Jesus' life and ministry as the best embodiment of that light and that the message and demonstration of God's love is what is important and not devotion to a historical person there should be no such reaction other than holdovers from having been browbeaten in the past. I think my message would be that Jesus pretty much said it all, and I'd be interested to see how else and who else has given the same messages.

In His Love,
Nate

8/17/2007 10:46 AM  
Blogger Laurie Kruczek said...

Christ is love. To learn or teach about that love takes patience, tolerance, love, and more love. There is never a reason to argue that out. As Quakers, we all believe in the Light within, and though some may not relate that Light to Christ, it is still a Light of love. Christ is love. To learn or teach about that love takes patience, tolerance, love, and more love....

11/29/2007 10:03 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Nate and Laurie, thank you both for adding your light to this discussion. It goes on, in one form or another, all around us. Like in business meeting, pieces of the truth are given to different people, and putting them together helps us see the larger Truth, the way you can see the picture on a jigsaw puzzle, even before you have all the pieces.

Liz Opp wrote a great post about jigsaw puzzles once, I should look for it again. I commend it to my readers as well.

11/30/2007 1:52 AM  
Blogger Yvonne said...

I am a Wiccan (have been one since 1991) and am in the process of joining the Unitarians here in the UK. One of the reasons for this is that recently I had an - ahem - encounter with Jesus - but cannot accept that He is the only way to the Divine Source. He may be my way, but there are other ways. (And the exclusivist claims and evangelical agenda of Christian language did not help at all when trying to communicate about this experience with Pagan friends.)

The Unitarians frequently have readings from many different spiritual traditions (including Quaker and Wiccan writings), and this is something I appreciate greatly. As Aristotle once said, "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." -- so even if you don't like or agree with a reading, it may provoke other useful thoughts. I like the Quaker question, "Are you open to new light, from whatever source it may come?" Advices and Queries which my blog-friend Kathy puts into practice here.

I still don't really understand what the convergent thing is about, though it sounds like a way of being open to new light.

I also wanted to comment on the "I am the Way, the Truth and Life" quote. If you read the entirety of John ch 14, in which that quote occurs, Thomas asks Jesus who he is; Jesus says he is the Way, Truth, Life etc; so Judas (not Iscariot) asks, then why aren't you spreading your message over the whole world? And Jesus replies that God loves those who keep his commandments ( v 23-24 - go read it on BibleGateway.com)
Elsewhere Jesus says that he came not to replace the Law but to fulfill it. So this suggests to me that the Divine has communicated the Way to different peoples in different ways, and that we can learn from each other's traditions.

I loved Shawna's comment, by the way!

Blessed be
Yvonne

1/23/2008 10:04 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Yvonne, thanks for chiming in on this old thread. Come back anytime!

I too had to figure out what to do after an unexpected encounter with Jesus. I'm still working on that one.

And Shawna is amazing. Loving, clear and funny.

1/28/2008 3:25 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home