Quaker Universalist Conversations

Reintroducing The Quaker Universalist Reader Number 1

The 1986 collection republished in eBook format

The Quaker Universalist Reader Number 1: A Collection of Essays, Addresses and Lectures, edited by Quaker Universalist Fellowship Editors (1986; republished in eBook Format, 2017).

NOTE: This is the first of three Quaker Universalist Readers now republished in eBook format. All three volumes are downloadable as free eBooks (with donations optional).

In 1977, John Linton1 delivered “Quakerism as Forerunner” before the Seekers Association in London. He “suggested that the Religious Society of Friends is uniquely qualified to serve the many religious seekers who feel unable, or hesitate, to accept a commitment to any specific denomination or creed. The lecture challenged Friends to broaden their outlook and to extend their area of concern” (from the “Introduction” by Winifred Burdick).

Quaker Universalist Reader Number 1 Reader #1 is a collection of essays, addresses, and lectures about Quaker universalist themes originally published by the British Quaker Universalist Group (QUG) as a series of pamphlets.

In 1986, Quaker Universalist Fellowship (QUF) republished the first six essays with permission, adding “Is Coexistence Possible: Christianity & Universalism in the Religious Society of Friends,” a talk given in America by Daniel Seeger2 during the Friends General Conference Gathering of 1984.

In this post we feature three of the seven essays:

John Linton – Chapter I: Quakerism as Forerunner
Download a PDF of Chapter I

  • John Linton First given as a talk to the Seekers’ Association at London Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, 1977. Printed in ‘The Seeker’, Spring 1977 and reprinted in ‘Vedanta for East and West’, Issue 160.
  • Later published as a pamphlet by the Quaker Universalist Group.
  • Published for the first time as an e-Publication by QUG (2004).

John Hick – Chapter III: Christ in a Universe of Faith
Download a PDF of Chapter III

  • John Hick “John Hick (1922-2012): Early in his career, Hick argued that Christian faith is based not on propositional evidence but on religious experience…. In the late 1960s, Hick had another set of experiences that dramatically affected his life and work.

    “While working on civil rights issues in Birmingham, he found himself working and worshiping alongside people of other faiths…. [He] began to believe that sincere adherents of other faiths experience the Transcendent just as Christians do, though with variances due to cultural, historical, and doctrinal factors.” – from The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP).

Dan Seeger – Chapter VII: Is Coexistence Possible: Christianity & Universalism in the Religious Society of Friends
Download a PDF of Chapter VII

  • Dan Seeger The text for this chapter was originally prepared for the session “Variation on the Quaker Message,” which was sponsored by the Advancement Committee of Friends General Conference. The talk was given at the 1984 Gathering at St. Lawrence University, Canton, NY.

Themes and Study Questions from Volume 1

Chapter I: Quakerism is ahead of its time through recognition of religious pluralism

  • Is the Quaker tradition a leader or a follower in expanding the scope of care and engagement with religious pluralism of global reality?
  • Is the Christian tradition of Quakers the exclusive steward of truth among religions or a superior steward of truth among religions or one significant steward of truth among religions?
  • Is Quakerism part of the Christian tradition of religion?
  • How is Jesus special for Quakers?
  • Is the Bible a privileged religious text?

Chapter II: Role of Quakerism as a safe space within the global world of religions

  • Is there essential unity or deep harmony in the truth described by the global religions?
  • Does Quakerism have a special role among global world religions?
  • Is being a seeker sufficient?

Chapter III: The role of Christ in a plural-religions world is non-exclusive and shared if properly understood

  • Do Quakers distinguish usefully between the historical Jesus and the Christ?
  • Is God’s salvation activity restricted or universal?
  • Does salvation require Christ?

Chapter IV: Explaining Quaker universalism in the Christian context

  • Are the Inward Light and that of God in everyone the fundamentals of Quakers?
  • Does the Quaker history include a strong and consistent universalist theme?
  • Are Quakers a part of the Christian tradition?

Chapter V: Summary of historic sources of 17th century Quaker universalist thought as a longer and wider spiritual movement through history

  • What tradition and witness do Quakers claim before the founding of Quakers in 1652?
  • Should Quakers embrace the voices of Denck, Bunderlin, Entfelder, Franck, Scwenckfeld, Castellio, and Coornhert as historic guides to the core ideas in Quaker spirituality?

Chapter VI: A collection of early Quaker writings affirming universalism in the scope of care and engagement with spiritual resources in other religious traditions

  • Do prominent Quakers embrace universalist themes of revelation, inward light, and authority of experience throughout Quaker history?

Chapter VII: The fundamental unity of all religions

  • Are Quakers vulnerable to amiable, tolerant relativism?
  • Is there a unity of kinship, beyond doctrine or worship, among the religions of the world?

Notes

1 For more about John Linton and the history of the Quaker Universalist movement, see “Universalism and Friends: An Interview with John Linton,” by Larry C. Spears (1982; reprinted with permission from Friends Journal), and “25 Years of Quaker Universalism,” by Rhoda R. Gilman (2011).

2 Although educated as a physicist, Dan Seeger has spent most of his working life in the service of Friends organizations, including American Friends Service Committee, Pendle Hill, a Quaker study, retreat, and conference center, and Friends World Committee for Consultation. Dan writes frequently on subjects of interest to Friends.

In 1965, the Supreme Court case of The United States of America vs. Daniel A. Seeger greatly expanded the religious qualifications for allowing pacifists exemption from military service on conscientious grounds.

See United States v. Seeger, 380 U.S. 163 – Primary Holding: “A person can have conscientious objector status based on a belief that has a similar position in that person’s life to the belief in God.”