Quaker Universalist Conversations

CIRC-ulating the Light among Friends and beyond

The Christian and Interfaith Relations Committee (CIRC) is the official FGC [Quaker] liaison with the World and National Council of Churches, as well as a supporter of Quaker interfaith efforts, such as the Parliament of the World’s Religions. This is a report of their actitivities in 2010. —Anthony Manousos

CIRC  attempts to promote mutual understanding and to engender closer ties among FGC Friends and the larger family of worldwide Friends, within wider ecumenical (Christian) circles and within the broad interfaith community. Initially founded in 1893, the committee is charged to coordinate FGC’s relations and communication with other religious bodies within and beyond the Religious Society of Friends.

Zachary Moon represented Friends General Confererence as a Commissioner at the World Council of Churches (WCC) Faith and Order Commission Conference held in Crete, Greece in October 2009. One of three Friends present, Eden Grace, member of NEYM and an FUM staff person; and Janet Scott of Britain Yearly Meeting representing FWCC also attended. One of the ways in which Friends’ contributions were significant was the consensus decision-making process for which Eden provided orientation. Three major topics were addressed: Discernment, Authority, and The Nature and Mission of the Church. The Discernment topic was especially interesting, as many discussions tend to focus on doctrine and ecclesial structure, topics of less interest to Friends. Authority had less traction for Friends than Discernment, though Friends had much to learn; the focus was on the patristic fathers. The final topic concerned the on-going work to refine “The Nature and Mission of the Church.” Zach found the draft document to be very interesting insofar as it articulates where the churches can speak together and where there are points of disagreement. The responses requested are intended to give those working on the document a chance to hear the disparate voices in the Church. CIRC continues to contribute to this document.

Anthony Manousos represented FGC at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia, in December and traveled for six weeks among Australian Friends sharing his concern for interfaith peacemaking. Attended by over 6,500 spiritual leaders, the parliament addressed the theme: “Hearing each other, healing the earth.” What is the interfaith movement doing internationally and locally to create a more peaceful and sustainable world?  What part are Friends playing in this movement? How can the interfaith movement open up our hearts and minds to new spiritual possibilities? The Parliament is not a deliberative body, but serves as an educational forum to draw people of diverse religious traditions together and build networks of trust, understanding and mutual cooperation. Anthony wrote an extensive report of his experiences for Friends Journal and also for QUF. (See http://www.universalistfriends.org/uf051.html#Manousos)

Anthony was also busy during this year’s FGC Gathering, co-facilitating a series of afternoon Interest groups, such as “Beyond Belief: the Future of Fundamentalism and Quakerism,“ as part of a series entitled “Expanding Our Spiritual Horizons through Interfaith and Intra-faith Encounters” and actively manning information tables to increase inter-faith awareness. Anthony also presented an overview and presentation of his efforts at the Parliament of the World’s Religion. He drove over 7,000 miles during the summer, visiting yearly and monthly meetings and giving presentations about the Parliament of the World’s Religions and discussing the work of QUF and CIRC.

Charley Earp (whose piece “Unlikely Ecumenist” appeared in this blog) attended a World Council of Churches (WCC) Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV) committee meeting and reported that  there was much discussion of the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation, (scheduled to be held in Kingston, Jamaica, May 17- 25, 2011) including the previous planning session held in Ethiopia. It was noted that Ann Riggs has been invited as presenter for this conference. The Just Peace Declaration, the first draft of which CIRC commented on last year, was being thoroughly rewritten, rather than slightly edited. CIRC continues to labor with this effort. There will be at least one more meeting of the US DOV Committee. There is concern that with the end of the DOV, that new ways be found to insure that DOV concerns may be incorporated into the churches’ on-going agendae and self-definition. The Committee began generating some ideas to address this.

CIRC was hosted by Swarthmore College for its Spring Committee Meeting in April 2010. Members discussed upcoming meetings and recommended continuing FGC participation in the National Council of Churches (NCC) Commissions on Justice and Advocacy, Faith and Order, and Interfaith Relations. Additionally CIRC proposed participation in several upcoming major conferences: “Peace Among the Peoples” (July 2009) , IEPC (May 2010) and the FWCC World Conference of Friends August 2012. Additional discussions regarding social networking and web-site presence were laid over pending clarity on CIRCs role and/or placement in the new FGC structure.

Tim Mullady was appointed and served as a Quaker Chaplain during the 2010 Boy Scouts of America Jamboree, July 26 – Aug 4 at Fort A. P. Hill in Virginia. Tim was the only Quaker chaplain for the more than 45,000 Boy Scouts and adult leaders.

In July of this year Tom Paxson and Dorothy Day represented FGC at “Peace Among the Peoples,” 28-31 July 2010, an ecumenical conference hosted by the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, IN. FGC co-sponsored the conference through the Historic Peace Churches/FOR Consultative Committee, of which Friends General Conference is a member. Seen in part as a follow-up to the January 2009 gathering in Philadelphia, Heeding God’s Call, “Peace Among the Peoples: Overcoming the Spirit, Logic, and Practice of Violence,” drew people from a reported 28 different church traditions. It was designed with two purposes in mind: “to discuss North American perspectives on Christian participation in war” and to contribute to the World Council of Churches’ 2011 International Ecumenical Peace Convocation. Thursday the focus was on theological foundations for peace; Friday, on ecclesiological foundations; and Saturday, ethical foundations. The format included plenary addresses, small group discussions, and working groups planning for future action. Participants ranged from church officials and academicians to activists working at different levels, from local to international. Conference organizers are hopeful that the working sessions will transcend the conference leading to a more permanent establishment of perhaps a Global Ecumenical Peace Network and a North American Peace Center. Sessions also reviewed and provided feedback to NCC and WCC representatives regarding draft ecumenical documents.

CIRC continues to work on reponses to “Called to be One Church,” “The Nature and Mission of the Church” and the Ecumenical Declaration on a Just War.  

Submitted byDot Walizer (dewalizer@msn.com ) and Virginia Driscoll (dachelmama@yahoo.com), Co-Clerks, CIRC

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