Quaker Universalist Conversations

Universalism at the FGC Gathering

Last year I attended the FGC Gathering in Bowling Green University, OH, as a representative of QUF and CIRC. I plan to do the same thing again this year when the FGC gathering takes place at Grinnell College in Iowa. To give you a flavor of what happens at the FGC, I am including a summary of my report in this blog.

Last year’s FGC gathering had a strong interfaith/universalist component, even apart from what I was led to contribute. Before I describe what happened in my sessions, let me mention other significant interfaith activities at the Gathering.

Phil Gulley, the popular Quaker pastor and author from Indiana, gave a wise, folksy talk about Christian Universalism to several hundred Friends at the Elizabeth Watson lecture sponsored by QUF. This talk was well received by liberal Friends, even those who have issues with Christianity. Gulley’s warmth and inclusivity won hearts as well as minds and helped Friends to realize that Christians can indeed be enthusiastic Univeralists. As Phil made clear, “everyone is invited to God’s party,” including gays, atheists, humanists, and those of other faiths. This was of course music to liberal ears….all the more so since it came from a Friends United Meeting (FUM) pastor (see http://www.philipgulley.org/). This talk was published in the January issue of Friends Journal and will soon be published as a QUF pamphlet and available at our website

Around 50-60 Friends went on a field trip to a famous mosque near Toledo. This mosque (which dates back to the 1950s) was the 3rd to be built in the USA and has been described as the “largest and grandest” (according to its website: http://www.toledomuslims.com/). I didn’t have a chance to go on this field trip, but I heard positive reports from those who went. When I drove by the mosque, I was astonished to see this beautiful place of worship rising up from the corn fields of Ohio. Who would have imagined?

Friends of Jewish background met and made their presence known and felt at the Gathering in many positive ways. I felt especially enriched by my conversations with two Friends of Jewish background, Stanley Zarowin and David Bush. Stanley grew up as a Jew in Palestine (before it became Israel), and a few years ago published an interesting article in Friends Journal about a trip he took to Israel/Palestine with Fellowship of Reconciliation (see http://www.friendsjournal.org/visit-israel-quaker-jew-born-palestine). David recently went to Israel/Palestine with the Compassionate Listening Project and has written a report well worth reading. (He also wrote a pamphlet on non-theist Friends which was published by QUF.) I am pleased that Jews in our Quaker community are helping us to have a more balanced view of what is happening in Israel/Palestine. We have recently posted a couple of entries about Jewish Friends on our blog.

In tomorrow’s blog, I’ll talk about my work at the Gathering.—Anthony Manousos