The QUF blog has “gone dark” for nearly three months—a blackout that requires some explanation. This long lapse was owing partly to a technical glitch, and partly to personal obligations which have taken up vast amounts of my time, and which I will discuss later. I plan to resume this blog, with Divine Assistance, and help from other members of the QUF committee, on a regular, but probably less frequent basis.
This seems like a good opportunity to fill you in on what I have been doing on behalf of QUF and the interfaith movement since our last posting. In July, I took part in the annual FGC Gathering as a representative of both QUF and the Christian and Interfaith Relations Committee of FGC. The Gathering took place at Grinnell College in Iowa. There I gave a workshop on “Friends and the Interfaith Movement,” and also led an interest group on QUF, with help from Rhoda Gilman. I also gave a book store talk about our new QUF-sponsored book “Quakers and the Interfaith Movement.” My presentations were well received, though I was personallyvery challenged, since I lost my voice on the second day and didn’t regain it till the last day of the gathering.
During the summer, I gave talks at Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, the Wayfarer’s Chapel in Palos Verde, and also at the Long Beach Congregational Church. I also led an interest group on “Quakers and the Interfaith Movement” at Pacific Yearly Meeting’s annual session.
The bulk of my time was spent preparing for my wedding and new life, however. On Palm Sunday, I met my fiancée (now wife) Jill Shook at an ecumenical Peace Parade started by the Mennonites in Pasadena. I proposed marriage to this amazing woman three weeks later on my birthday (May 9), and we were married four months later on September 10 (you can read about this on my blog: laquaker.blogspot.com). This whirlwind courtship and mega wedding (which drew almost 500 people) occupied most of my time and attention during the past several months.
After a two-week honeymoon in Hawaii, I have settled down comfortably in my new home in Pasadena with my new wife. And I finally have time to catch my breath and resume my work for QUF.
It is worth noting that my new wife is an Evangelical Christian who defies media stereotypes. She has a progressive outlook and a passionate concern for affordable housing. She has published a book on faith-based affordable housing models (see makinghousinghappen.com) and has worked with non-Christians to promote housing policies that benefit the poor and needy.
Because both of us are bridge-builders, we saw our wedding as an opportunity to reach out to people of different faith traditions. Our wedding was both deeply Christian, and Universalist: it drew together Evangelical Christians, Quakers, Muslims, Jews, Bahais, and others who ordinarily don’t worship under the same roof. We combined Quaker and traditional Protestant elements in our wedding service using a format similar to that used by Quaker churches like the one in Whittier, CA. In our weddding vows we committed our lives to serving “the Prince of Peace who brought us together for a purpose greater than either of us can understand.”
When we honeymooned in Hawaii, we stayed at the Quaker meeting in Honolulu. There we gave a joint presentation to Honolulu Friends about the interfaith movement and affordable housing, which was very well received. (Jill has helped organized multi-faith coalitions to address issues of homelessness and affordable housing at the local level.) We also attended an interfaith peace parade on the Big Island to commemorate the UN Day of Peace (Sept 21).
When we returned to the mainland, we continued our interfaith work by taking part in an anti-war rally on Oct. 7, sponsored by Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (icujp.org). There I was arrested along with 14 other religious leaders from the LA area. To learn more, see my blog at laquaker.blogspot.com. Jill was very proud of my peace witness and shared it with her Evangelical friends.
Jill and I have expanded each other’s spiritual horizons in many ways. She has been stretched by our Quaker peace testimony (which she embraces enthusiastically) and intrigued by our way of worship and our Spirit-centered theology. As a Friend who considers himself a Universalist Christian, I have been challenged by Jill’s Bible-centered Evangelical theology, and inspired by the social witness of Progressive Evangelicals. I am deeply impressed by how members of the Evangelical community have reached out to help the poor and marginalized in ways that we Quakers would do well to emulate. I have come to appreciate deeply the work and witness of progressive Evangelical Christians like Prof. Glen Stassen of Fuller Seminary, Tony Compolo, Shayne Claiborne, etc. This week Jill and I are going to Indianapolis to attend the Christian Community Development Association’s annual gathering—a group that does amazing work to transform communities oppressed by our unjust economic system.
Our marriage raises many interesting questions: Can a Universalist Friend and Evangelical Christian find common ground and learn how to coexist amicably despite theological differences? Can we somehow work together to promote peace and social justice? How can we build bridges and yet remain true to our convictions?
These are questions I am struggling with on a very personal level, yet they have implications for the Religious Society of Friends as a whole since we too are, in many ways, an amalgam of Evangelical Christian, mystical, and Universalist elements.
The reality of our Quaker diversity is becoming increasingly apparent and real to me as I prepare for the World Conference of Friends, which will take place next spring in Kenya, a center for Evangelical Quakers. (Some of Jill’s best friends are Evangelical Quakers from Burundi!)
Again, the question keeps coming to mind: How can Universalist and Evangelical Friends learn not only to get along, but also to work together in the spirit of love and mutual respect?
How can QUF help to foster appreciation and promote cooperation among the different branches of Quakers?
These are questions on which the future of our Religious Society depends. How we respond will have far-reaching implications for the RSOF and beyond.
What canst thou say?