23 September 2010

Why did the testimonies weaken among orthodox and evangelical Friends?

This is a six-year-old post from my Woodbrooke-generated forum on evangelism and the Friends testimonies. I'm reposting it here because I think the topic is still fresh, and I also suspect that six more years of Quaker convergent experience might shed some new light.



The exchange that follows (crossposted with permission of Kent Walkemeyer and Joe Ginder from the friends theology list) raises the question of why the feminism and pacifism of earlier generations of Friends in the Orthodox stream grew weaker. As far as the weakening of the testimonies (functionally if not verbally) in the liberal stream, the classic essay by R.W. Tucker, "Revolutionary Faithfulness" (Quaker Religious Thought, Vol. IX, No. 2, Winter 1967-68, pp 3-29) remains an important source of ideas.

Additional observations welcome!

The exchange began when a participant asked, "Do Evangelical Friend's congregations deny women who want it, the opportunity to become clergy, to preach? Can women teach adult men in Sunday School? Maybe it varies from 1 congregation to the next?"

From: Joe Ginder
Sent: Tuesday, June 15, 2004 8:50 AM
To: 'Friends-Theology'
Subject: RE: Questions

Here's the official statement from Evangelical Friends Church Southwest's Faith and Practice:

"We believe the Holy Spirit's calling and gifting of a person are never limited by mere human factors such as sex, ethnicity or social status, that God wants His Church to recognize, affirm, and train all whom He has called, and that we are disobedient to the Holy Spirit if we do otherwise. We want to be especially clear regarding the role of women in leadership. From our very beginnings, we have found no scriptural basis for limiting certain leadership and ministry roles to men. Today, we continue to affirm, not as a concession to modernity but in obedience to the Bible and the Holy Spirit, that the Lord is calling both women and men to serve as leaders and pastors in His church. (Acts 2:17-18;Eph 1:17; 1 Tim 2:4; 1 Cor 7:7; Eph 4:8; Gal 3:28; Rom 16:3,7)"

Within EFCSW, women serve in nearly every position of leadership of which I'm aware. I don't think we've had a yearly meeting superintendent who was a woman, but there is no restriction against it. I know of one EFCSW church that decided at one time in the past not to allow women in some positions of leadership of exactly the sort you ask about. I know of no others, and I do not know if that one church has continued with their policy. It was due primarily to their pastor at the time, who was from outside of Friends circles. He is no longer pastoring within EFCSW. Things may have changed after his departure. I don't know.

K.D. [another friends-theology participant] is correct that Friends historically do not make a distinction between laity and clergy. Regretfully, I've seen that distinction creep into practice in recent years even among EFCSW leaders, though there are still many who resist it - with good reason. But more to your question, women can be elders or pastors and women can teach adult men in Sunday School in every Friends group of which I am aware (except those who do not have pastors at all, where it is not an issue of gender) with the one exception I mentioned.

--Joe Ginder

Subject: RE: Questions
Date: Thu, 17 Jun 2004 15:59:20 -0700
From: "Kenton Walkemeyer"
To: "Joe Ginder" "Friends-Theology"

Joe,
Though we have a pretty strong statement here in EFCSW, the percent of recorded ministers who are women has been steadily dropping since the early twentieth century. (I've been compiling statistics on this from our yearly meeting minutes.) This decline mirrors many of the other evangelical movements which began with convictions of egalitarian (Free Methodist, CMA, Brethren, Missionary, Salvation Army, Church of God, many Pentecostal groups). While these groups have seen a decline in women leaders, the mainline denominations have begun to ordain women. It's as if we're moving in opposite directions on this issue.

I'm interested in theories explaining why we have shifted.

Any ideas?

Kent Walkemeyer

From: "Joe Ginder"
To: "'Kenton Walkemeyer'" "'Friends-Theology'"
Subject: RE: Questions
Date: Thu, 17 Jun 2004 16:28:11 -0700

Kent Walkemeyer writes:
Though we have a pretty strong statement here in EFCSW, the percent of recorded ministers who are women has been steadily dropping since the early twentieth century. (I've been compiling statistics on this from our yearly meeting minutes.) This decline mirrors many of the other evangelical movements which began with convictions of egalitarian (Free Methodist, CMA, Brethren, Missionary, Salvation Army, Church of God, many Pentecostal groups). While these groups have seen a decline in women leaders, the mainline denominations have begun to ordain women. It's as if we're moving in opposite directions on this issue.

I'm interested in theories explaining why we have shifted.
I wonder if it has to do with the widespread perception of the issue of women in leadership as a modernist women's liberation issue. As I recall, women's rights movements were originally Christian, with roots in the movements you mention - quite "evangelical". Sometime in the 20th century, the women's rights movement was co-opted into "women's liberation" and associated with religious and political ideology that was not compatible with the biblical Christianity of evangelicals. Perhaps biblical Christians have developed a conscious or unconscious allergy or over-reaction to this?

--Joe Ginder

Subject: RE: Questions
Date: Thu, 17 Jun 2004 20:42:23 -0700
From: "Kenton Walkemeyer"
To: "Joe Ginder", "Friends-Theology"

I do think this is at least part of the reason. It is similar to what has happened to the peace testimony. Several of the same 'evangelical' movements began with fairly strong peace convictions -- though Friends have been one of the most outspoken groups for both peace and gender equality. As the peace issue and women's equality issue began to be associated with political agendas instead of Christian convictions, many of our more conservative movements, including evangelical Friends, lost their earlier moorings.

Kent Walkemeyer

Additional factors that were brought up later in this exchange included the eclipse of specifically Quaker discipleship concerns by exciting developments in missions and church-planting, and (in at least the case of Ohio Yearly Meeting (Damascus) - later Evangelical Friends Church Eastern Region - the "hogging" of leadership in the peace committee by one person or a small group.



On the original site, there are several comments, which you can read here. They mainly concern baptism, but I'll repost the first comment here. It concerns an article on "The Decline of Pacifism in the Twentieth Century" in the specific case of Indiana Yearly Meeting.

Johan
Forum Owner
Peace: the Case Study of Indiana Yearly Meeting
July 13 2004, 4:34 PM

In a later message, Kent Walkemeyer pointed me to an article in the Indiana Magazine of History: "The Decline of Pacifism in the Twentieth Century: Indiana Yearly Meeting of Friends as a Case Study," by Thomas D. Hamm, Margaret Marconi, Gretchen Kleinhen Salinas, and Benjamin Whitman (XCVI/1, March 2000). The fascinating documentation in that article, covering World War I (with some Civil War era background) to the Viet Nam war, indicates that a major immediate cause of the weakening of the testimonies was a failure of leadership and of testimony in the basic communication sense. This poignant paragraph from the period between World War II and Viet Nam says a lot:
Throughout this period, local meetings and the yearly meeting were frank in acknowledging the limits of their peace witness. Some meetings admitted that they had no members capable of counseling young men about conscientious objection. "As we look over the last year's work we realize very little has been done in the name of Peace," Walnut Ridge Friends recorded in 1949. "We are still weak in our Peace Testimony," was the conclusion of Portland Friends six years later. That same year Friends at New Garden noted that the only activity of its Peace Committee had been to collect a free will offering to be sent to AFSC for clothing and for refugees. "It is with grave concern that we note the indifference and in many meetings the complete disregard of some members to the basic teachings of the Society of Friends," the yearly meeting told members in 1948. "We deplore the trust our members put in military preparedness and use of force as a substitute for Christ's teaching of Love and Brotherhood among all men." In 1952 the Peace Committee reported that it found little interest in its activities because "the Peace Testimony of Friends is neglected in all too many of our monthly meetings."
As the article shows, there were also remarkable exceptions to this general weakness, but much of the vacuum left by a lack of teaching was filled with such remarks as these, quoted by the article from prominent Friend D. Elton Trueblood: "The Quaker, providing he is sincere about wanting peace, will not try to undermine the deterrent power of the West, as a few misguided ones do now."



I continue to be very interested in the connection between evangelism and discipleship. I plan to crosspost more items from that older forum, in the hopes of restarting some of the conversations connected with my Woodbrook work of 2003-04.



Back to the present day:

Lauren Winner reviews a new edition of Ernesto Cardenal's The Gospel in Solentiname.

An "examination of conscience" for ministers praying together.

"Excerpt from The Next Evangelicalism on the topic of immigration"

Helena Cobban on Afghanistan's election.

"Google Transparency Report"--government requests and Google's responses. Guess what country of interest to me made fewer than ten requests?

"Is nuclear power necessary? Is it sufficient?"

"Where do good ideas come from?" So: if in the past, hunches collided in coffeehouses and salons, did they also collide in places we'd more directly associate with the church? What about now?



Today's Elektrostal news: The New Humanities Institute's design faculty (ul. Zhulyabina 9, fourth floor) opened its new exhibition hall this evening with paintings by faculty dean Tatiana Vilde. Installations will change frequently and will include established artists and Institute students. In this photo, poet Leonid Biryukov salutes her and the new facility:





Chicago comes to Denmark; don't you want to go?

2 comments:

RantWoman said...

Has anyone done any systematic historical study of the assertions here either about ordination of women among mainline denominations or about any asserted relationship among political agendas and testimonies on equality and pacifism among Orthodox and Conservative Friends?

I would be interested in some historical situations to hang the conversation on. I would also be interested in thoughts about Quaker women of all flavors participation in some of these wider movements. It seems at least possible that as women's roles expanded in political terms that made space for women from broader Quaker traditions and left only the most tolerant of the positions you describe among more conservative Friends.

I am really only posing questions because I am assuredly not a great historian.

Johan said...

I know that scholarly work has been done in this area, and over the years I've heard of specific studies--I'd love to track them down again. I'll keep checking around--and hope that others might know more.

It was interesting to come across this gallery. Note how they've classified Lucretia Mott.