Among other reflections, he wrote:
Outside the shadows of the evening are falling upon the quiet, friendly garden where a few moments ago three of us, two Fathers of the Catholic tradition and a Friend, were speaking of the sacraments. There was much talk of the "covenanted channels," of the seven to which Catholics hold, of the two which Protestants practice. So long as questions of theological mathematics were upper, of seven or of two, there was a danger which we tacitly avoided. It became evident that I, an "unbaptized" Quaker, was not a Christian, except for the saving provision which allowed one to be a "Christian by desire."The phrase that struck me forcefully: theological mathematics. Kelly is gently putting the question of sacramental observances in perspective, but I sat there wrestling with a different arithmetic: subtraction. We serve such an amazing God, we are led by such a luminous Saviour, the world is so demonstrably in need of authentic Christian hope, that I'm having a hard time with all the public Christians who seem intent on telling us (whether crassly or with endless theological subtlety) why this person or that should have the church's door slammed in their face.
Yet as the conversation moved to the love of God, to the need of Christ being formed in us, to the outgoing love of the Nazarene, to the blind and lame and wounded in body and soul in these days, the conversation became a sacrament where the Presence was as truly in our midst as He is in the Mass within the chapel walls. For the time being, Sacramentalist and Quaker were one, in the fellowship of the Church Universal.
It's not that we shouldn't have boundaries. Apparently many people are, at any given moment, not attracted by the Light we ourselves have found irresistible; they are entitled to their choices. But our invitation must remain honest and real and the door must remain open, fully lit. What we can't tolerate is a false welcome, an ostensible invitation with hidden screens to be sure nobody we're uncomfortable with stumbles in. Yes, we will have healing work to do; wounded people are not entitled to remodel the household of faith to suit their allergies and addictions. We will have to struggle, together with newcomers, over different understandings of the ethical consequences of conversion, whether the sharp edge of the struggle is sex or money or the obligations of citizenship. God knows, we're dealing with all this ourselves. But, the point is, when people come to us and say that they're ready to embrace Jesus, we then face these problems, even these conflicts, together.
The conflicts between theological conservatives and theological liberals in our evangelical corner of the Quaker world are not to be dismissed or taken lightly. At our best, we challenge each other's pretensions and false heroism, and keep each other honest. But I fear that when we let those conflicts take up too much space, we lose our perspective and our priorities. It's not that we need to conceal these conflicts in order to avoid scandalizing potential converts. People aren't stupid, they won't be surprised that we "mature" Christians are just as human and fractious as they are. But woe unto us if we diminish Christ's ability to create unity where the world would predict, even encourage, division.
If I begin to tell my Quaker brothers and sisters that Jesus is not the Christ, that the Bible is not what it says it is, that evangelism and social justice are unimportant, and that the processes of group discernment don't apply to me, I expect them to approach me kindly and suggest that I might be in the wrong community. Short of that, I hope they understand ... they're stuck with me. And I with them.
A few years ago, a group of young Friends was visiting Moscow. At the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, one of the members of the group was not allowed to enter because he was wearing shorts. The sensible-tourist side of me understood that places that have been invested with sacred significance often impose traditional ways of defining reverence, and we have no choice but to bend courteously to these traditions. But another part of me was shaking with outrage: if this place represents itself as the LORD's, then it must also represent the LORD's welcome! I was shaken with a visceral empathy for George Fox's inability to reconcile himself with "official" Christianity.
A few more words from Thomas Kelly, from the very end of his book: "Our fellowship groups are small, but they can be glorious colonies of heaven, cities set on a hill. It is a great message which is given to us -- good news indeed -- that the Light overcomes the darkness. But to give the message we must also be the message."
"Loose Canon" Giles Fraser ... Christian politicians won't say it, but the Bible is clear: Let the refugees in, every one of them.
... and the Quaker Council for European Affairs, Andrew Lane: We CAN choose loving and effective responses.
Thomas Edison's recordings of Leo Tolstoy.
Dessert: from London's Los Pacaminos, a delightful reworking of the garage-rock classic "Wooly Bully."