Study of Quakers – Some Personal Thoughts (con’t)

April 5, 2010 — 2 Comments

Ok now on to some of the few things where I feel Quakers beliefs fall a little short .  

The core of Quakerism is as solid a foundation as I think I have ever come across in Christianity. But, much of it seems to eroded especially during the period between 1800 and 1900. I’m sure there are many meetings that still stick to the core tenets but there appears to be many that also have drifted to other beliefs. This saddens me.

I do lament Quakers apparent marginalizing of some of the words of Jesus. Jesus clearly taught that all should be baptized. His great commission

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”–  

Matthew 28 as shown here very much emphasized this practice. Whereas most Christian sects greatly play down the “do as I have commanded” part the Quakers play down the physical aspects of baptism. If I understand them correctly most Quakers believe that this should be a personal process and no public ceremony is necessary. I will have to study their history more to see how they think this aligns with the words of Jesus. While a public ceremony may not be necessary I think it help to re-enforce other Christians.  

The other practice is communion. I understand again that Quakers believe that their communion with Jesus is a personal thing but I think the public ceremony does strengthen the corporate bond with our fellow believers. I think they claim that the quiet time is where they experience Jesus and that the ceremonial act of the Eucharist is unnecessary. Maybe my life long liturgical upbringing is just getting in the way here.  I just don’t know at this point.

One other area that troubles me a about Quakers is that since they don’t align with any creeds  or confessions so their congregations, or meetings as they call them, are across a wide spectrum. They seem to go all the way from Unitarian to very fundamentalist evangelicals. If I were to choose to join a Quaker meeting, and I may someday do just that, I will have to do a lot of research as to just what that particular meeting practices. This lack of uniformity is troublesome to me. The messages of their founders is so strong it is really a shame that they can’t seem to coalesce around some central tenets in order to be a more united group. I know Quakers, following George Fox’s lead, veer away from creedal documents but I think they would be better off if they were not quite so shy of more forcibly demonstrating their core convictions. This variation within the movement is certainly regrettable but I guess this is pretty common to all Christian denominations so it is not unique to them. By their lack of conformity they seem to reflect a lack of conviction and that is indeed regrettable to me.

Some areas that I have touched upon during my study warrant further investigation. One of those areas is Quakers being shunned for marrying outside of their sect and shunning in general. I think these are things of the past but I am not sure. Shunning seems to be the exact opposite of showing our love for the God within each person? At first glance these issues are a little troubling to me. But, before I pass personal opinions on them I need to study them some more.

So to close out this rather lengthy discussion on Quakers I believe that the core tenets of Quakerism follow the words of Jesus more than any other version of Christianity I have studied to date. They are certainly an action group whereas many other forms of Christianity are more words than deeds. So, to summarize more than a month of postings, I think I have finally found a religious movement that lives by the words of Jesus in both thoughts and action. At least as I understand them. Are they perfect? Certainly not but are any of us? Just because this series of posts are complete does not mean that my study of Friends is finished; in reality it is likely just beginning. There is MUCH more I want to learn about this group of Christians and especially how they put the Lord’s words into actions.

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2 responses to Study of Quakers – Some Personal Thoughts (con’t)

  1. 

    I am very interested in your thoughts about Quakerism. I have been attending Meeting since 1995 and find it meets my needs very well.

    I found a piece that spoke to your question about why Quakers do not perform Baptism, and it makes a lot of sense to me, so I hope you will find something in it. It is from whittierfirstfriend.org:
    Meaning of Sacrament

    One of the distinguishing features of the Society of Friends from most other Christian bodies is the absence of the observance of the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper from its religious practices. To many of our fellow Christians, the Quaker understanding of the Sacraments is worrisome and appears to disregard what has long been perceived as the plain command of Christ to “do this in remembrance of Me”.

    Our purpose here is to briefly interpret the Quaker vision with regard to the sacraments not only for the benefit of the visitor or seeker, but to remind Friends in this generation of the historic roots of the testimony and to inquire if the testimony rings true to our own experience today.

    A Sacrament has been described as the intersection where God and human beings meet. Sacrament has to do with the sacred. Through the centuries, even in the mystery religions, primitive peoples believed in the possibility of participating in the life of the divine by eating or drinking something clearly associated with or representing their god in likeness or symbol. The extent to which pagan religions had a direct influence on the development of Christian sacraments during the early stages of the Christian era, is unclear. However, there is historical evidence that the sacramental idea was practically universal in the religious habits and practices of those who became Christians from pagan religions represented throughout the extensive Roman Empire.

    The Quaker Emphasis

    The Quaker movement was founded on the conviction that the whole of life is sacramental. The founders refused to designate any particular observance or practice as being more sacred than another. They assumed the same position with respect to time or to special days. Sunday was regarded as no more holy than Saturday or Monday. All days are the Lord’s days, all are holy. In this sense, it was a positive witness, emphasizing what Friends were for rather than what they were against.

    While both Catholic and Protestant traditions in mid-seventeenth century required the observance of certain rites as a prerequisite for membership, Friends were persuaded that although to be a member of Christ’s body involved no outward rite, it does inescapably require an inward transformation of one’s whole life.

    Friends do not consider the observance of the sacraments to be wrong, but they do regard participation in such an outward rite as unnecessary to genuine Christian discipleship or entry into the community of Christ’s people.

    Friends use the words “baptism” and “communion” to describe the experience of Christ’s presence and his ministry in worship. John the Baptist was pointing to this when he said: “I have baptized with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Worship reaches its goal when those who worship feel the baptism of the Spirit. Communion occurs when the worshiper communes with God and with those who are gathered in the Lord’s name.

    The presence of Christ with his church does not occur by symbol or representation, but in the real communication of his Spirit: “I will pray the Father and He shall give you another Comforter, who shall abide with you forever.” John 14:18. Christ needs no rite or priestly intervention to make that real communion or baptism possible.

    We believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit and in communion with that Spirit. If the believer experiences such spiritual baptism and communion, then no rite or ritual is necessary; whereas, if the rite or ritual is observed without the inward transformation which these outward sacraments are intended to symbolize, then the observances become meaningless and hypocritical.

    Communion after the Manner of Friends

    The Quaker ideal is to make every meal at every table a Lord’s Supper. Again, the reality lies, not in the nature of the material substance, but in the way it stirs the heart of every partaker. The Quakers, and all Christians, are called upon to remember Christ every time bread is broken.

    Friends understand and appreciate the fact that other Christians feel the need of ceremonial observances. In fact, we may share this with them, when invited to do so. However, the life to which we are called is one which is deeper than all ceremonies and outward observance.

    Friends use the words “baptism” and “communion” to describe the experience of Christ’s presence and his ministry in worship. John the Baptist was pointing to this when he said: “I have baptized with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Worship reaches its goal when those who worship feel the baptism of the Spirit. Communion occurs when the worshiper communes with God and with those who are gathered in the Lord’s name.

    The presence of Christ with his church does not occur by symbol or representation, but in the real communication of his Spirit. If the believer experiences such spiritual baptism and communion, then no rite or ritual is necessary; whereas, if the rite or ritual is observed without the inward transformation which these outward sacraments are intended to symbolize, then the observances become meaningless and hypocritical.

    For Further Information Read

    An Introduction to Quakers by D. Elton Trueblood
    Friends View of the Sacraments by Jack Kirk
    The People Called Quakers by D. Elton Trueblood

  2. 

    eriu49,
    Thanks for the post. It means a lot to me to hear from a convinced Quaker on my postings. I hope I have not misrepresented Quakers with these posts. I welcome any future input you might provide. This is one of the clearer statements on the sacraments I have seen. It is nice to know that Quakers don’t believe that the observance of the sacraments to be wrong; just unnecessary. I think I agree with that but my liturgical background is holding me back from total agreement. One thing I could use some help on is how Quakers strengthen fellowship between members? In my mind the celebration of the sacraments helps strengthen fellowship and that is the primary reason I still hold to it. Do Quakers have weekly Bible Studies? I know there is a wide range of meetings so I imagine there is also a wide range of fellowship events. I see from the website you provided that you attend a planned meeting; have you had any experience with an unplanned meeting? Thanks again for helping us understand Friends.

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