Quaker Universalist Fellowship

 

Universalist Friends

The Journal of the
Quaker Universalist Fellowship
 
Number 1
Fall 1983
 

"If we are true to the very best, the very deepest within and between us, we will find that, as we proceed in our new beginnings, we do not walk alone."

In This Issue


 

From the Editor

Judith Arness

A Little History

Greetings

John Linton

Greetings

Horace Alexander

Quaker Universalism; what is its message?

What others think; excerpts from here and there.

The Quaker Universalist Fellowship is an informal gathering of persons who cherish the spirit of universality that has always been intrinsic to the Quaker faith.  We acknowledge and respect the diverse spiritual experience of those within our own meetings as well as of the human family worldwide; we are enriched by our conversation with all who search sincerely.   Our mission includes publishing and providing speakers and opportunities for fellowship at regional and national Quaker gatherings.

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From the Editor

Judith Arness


Dear Universalists,
Greetings:

This is the first issue of the Newsletter of the Quaker Universalist Fellowship which we plan now to issue twice a year, in fall and in spring. This is your newsletter and we hope you will use it to express your opinions, not only about published articles but to tell us "what you think" about Quaker Universalism in the Society of Friends thus enriching our knowledge and understanding. We will also use the newsletter to keep you informed of upcoming meetings and other activities.

Your contribution for the spring, 1984 issue of the newsletter should be mailed to the editor not later than February 1st, 1984. Please indicate whether it may be reprinted in whole or in part.


A Little History
how 20th century Quaker Universalism came to the U.S.

In the autumn of 1982, several U.S. Members of the British Quaker Universalist Group invited its founder, John Linton, to tour the United States to tell American Quakers and interested others about this movement. This speaking tour generated so much interest that a first U.S. gathering was held on March 5, 1983. Nearly 100 persons, mostly, but not entirely Quakers, gathered at the Providence Meeting House in Media, Pa. Jim Lenhart's keynote address, of which reprints are available, stimulated so much interest and enthusiasm that an organization meeting was held on May 21, 1983 at London Grove Meeting House near Kendall, Pa.

This business session set up a network committee consisting of the following:

CoordinatorPeter Rabenold
TreasurerSally Rickerman
Newsletter/editorJudy Arness
DistributionBeverly McCauley
GatheringsIrving Hollingshead


Greetings

John Linton; founder of the British Quaker Universalist Group

Glad to hear of the formation of the Quaker Universalist Fellowship in the U.S. and hope it may prosper. QUG will watch its progress with great interest and sympathy. QUF and QUG must keep in close touch. Due to our different perceptions of the Truth, there is bound to be opposition from traditional Friends, but we are all working for the same end, whether we call it "Building the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth" or, as Mahatma Gandhi did, "Ram Radjya". Meanwhile, Quaker Universalists have an important new truth to contribute to the Society of Friends, which, over the years could bring in a great new influx of sincere religious seekers. We are confident that in time the validity of our position will be accepted.


Greetings

Horace Alexander; a Quaker now in his middle 90's and an honorary member of the British Quaker Universalist Group

"May I, from the Friends of Truth background, welcome the formation of the American Quaker Universalist Fellowship? It is clear, I think, from the widespread response that brought so many to the first meeting, that such a fellowship will help meet a widespread need. But in welcoming this new fellowship may I add a word of caution? I should like to be assured that all who join this fellowship make an inward vow that he or she will say and do nothing that might lead to a fresh separatism. It could easily happen. It must not happen. I believe that the true spirit of tolerance that allows all who see the Quaker faith in a different light must allow all others the same full freedom of expression so that today the widespread mutual understanding which has been truly fostered in recent years will be helped, not hindered, by the formation of this fellowship."


What Do Quaker Universalists Believe?

A Universalist attitude within the Society of Friends is not new. The writings of many early Quakers, dating as far back as George Fox, reveal an attitude and point of view not unlike the position of 20th century Universalists. The following several pages are summaries and excerpts of some of both early and current writings,

George Fox spoke of "that of God in every man" - words which now, in the 20th century, are interpreted to include not only thee and me, but Agnostics, Christians, Hindus, and all other persons everywhere. While many people are convinced of the validity of their own religious path, others may find equal validity in their own, and different paths to seeking truth.

Members of our new fellowship believe that, with its Universalist tradition and with its traditional openness to fresh insights, that the Society of Friends is well fitted to answer the needs of many at present outside its membership and afford them encouragement and support in their spiritual search. Such people might find it rewarding to share in Friends' silent meetings where personal differences of creed and belief no longer matter.

Quaker Universalists also believe that such a development in Quaker tradition would enrich the experience of those Friends whose faith is expressed in more explicit Christian terms.


What Others Have Said And Written About Quaker Universalism;

excerpts from here and there.

From Thomas Merton at the "Spiritual Summit Conference" in Calcutta, called to encourage dialogue between the world's religions:
"The deepest level of communication is communion. It is not that we discover a new unity. We discover an older unity. We are already one. But we imagine that we are not. And what we have to recover is our original unity. What we have to be is what we are."

From Erich Fromm in the Sane Society:
"It is not too far-fetched to believe that a new religion will develop within the next few hundred years, a religion which corresponds to the development of the human race. The most important feature of such a religion would be its universal character, corresponding to the unification of mankind which is taking place in this epoch; it would embrace the humanistic teachings common to all great religions....."

From an open letter dated February 4, 1983, to Friends Journal from Francis G. Brown of Uwchlan Monthly meeting:
"I wish to express my disagreement with the direction of the Quaker Universalist Fellowship as portrayed in your February 1st issue. The Society of Friends does come out of the Christian stream. This is our heritage and our root. To recast ourselves outside - or beyond - this rootage, is, of course, possible but to do so and still call ourselves Quaker would seem a contradiction of terms. Even if the goals of the Universalists were adopted, it would seem to me that the end product would be so vague, so vacuous that we would end up with virtually nothing. I have tried to foster greater understanding and rapport within the Society of Friends. It is my conviction that such goals are possible only in the context of-Christianity. At this precarious time in world history, when nuclear annihilation looms, to raise up an issue which goes to the very heart and core of our religious faith would seem not only folly, but, in terms of what the world has come to expect of us, perhaps irresponsibility as well

From Lucretia Mott in a talk given in Boston in 1873 to the Free Religious Association:
"Let it be called the Great Spirit of the Indian, the Quaker 'inward light' of George Fox, the Blessed Mary, mother of Jesus of the Catholics, or Brahma, the Hindu's God - they will all be one and there will come to be such faith and such liberty as shall redeem the world."

From the keynote address of Jim Lenhart, former editor of the Friends Journal:
"It seems to me that the call and the response to form a Quaker Universalist group here in the United States can be seen as an attempt to clean our individual and our collective doors of perception and to help us open up those chinks through which we experience life."

From an unpublished letter from a Quaker:
"Perhaps we could expand our slogan from 'that of God in every person' to 'that of God in every religion'"

From a dialogue between Larry Spears and John Linton of the Friends Journal, 2/1/83"
J.L.: "I define an agnostic as one who holds that in the area of religious belief we do not have knowledge. In this sense there is certainly a place for agnostics within the Society of Friends, since we can have strong religious beliefs without claiming to know that they are true. This is the case even with people who hesitate to use the term "God". In my view, there is a place for all sincere spiritual seekers within the Society of Friends."
 
"We hope to persevere in making the Universalist understanding of religion more widely known among Friends. Revelation is a continuous process. We may have to rock the Quaker boat, but we do not want to sink it!"

From an article entitled Two Wings; The Better To Fly by Marjorie Sykes in the Indian Quaker Journal, "The Friendly Way", #5, March, 1983.
"It is well known that Quakers differ widely from one another in the ways in which they describe their religious experience. Two trends can be described as 'universalist' and 'evangelical ' or 'Christ-centered.'"
 
"These differences have their roots in the very earliest Quaker insights. George Fox and his followers were nurtured in a Christian tradition and spoke the language of Christ-centered devotion. Yet at the same time, these same early Quakers, Fox and Penn and Barclay and Penington were all giving very clear expression to a universalist outlook, - that the humble, meek and merciful are everywhere of one religion no matter what outward livery of religion they may wear. Some evangelical Friends suggested that any notion of an inward light shining outside the Christian tradition was a dangerous illusion."
 
"By the end of the 19th century a fresh insight into the Universalist trend within Quakerism was gaining momentum, but change came only slowly. In India, missionaries recruited from the more evangelical elements in the Society brought up orphans as evangelical Christians. Their descendants, and 20th century Quaker workers of more Universalist sympathies have not always found it easy to understand one another."
 
"Can we now learn to speak openly with one another of the things that divide us, - each seeking the positive contribution the other has to make? Do we not need the strength of both wings in order to fly?"



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