Update: I have made an attempt to “tone down” most of my blogs about Evangelical Friends/Quakers, to not be so hurtful to my many friends in the EFCI (and EFC-ER). Yet when I see what is going on, I still feel compelled to speak out. Read on.
Since the St. Louis Conference of Friends in 1970, the EFCI has unfortunately become more and more open to associating with non-evangelical Quaker denominations. Needless to say, much has been written on both sides of the fence about tensions, in past years, between various Quaker denominations. I stumbled across this very insightful article by Emerging/Convergent Quaker Doug Winn, describing these tensions. The entire article can be found at:
I have added comments by bolding and [bracketing].
Doug Winn writes:
“[I am speaking] of the evangelical renewal of the nineteenth century and the liberal renewal of [the twentieth century]… These evangelical and liberal revisions have often been anathema to one another… in the current American “culture wars,” we orthodox and progressive Quakers wage conflict in our own understated ways (usually genteel acts of loving passive aggression). This conflict is waged not only between our evangelical and liberal traditions, but within them as well. [In this article, the terms “orthodox” and “evangelical” refer to the Evangelical Friends Church International (EFCI) – particularly the EFC-ER (Evangelical Friends Church-Eastern Region, previously called the Ohio Yearly Meeting). The terms “progressive” and “liberal” refer to all other Quaker denominations and groups – including “Conservative Friends”. I know, I know – it’s very confusing, LOL.] …
Having spent considerable time among Friends in both major streams, I am often struck by the way each portrays itself as part of the “righteous remnant” of true faith. Evangelical Friends see themselves among the Christian holdouts against rampant secular humanism. Liberal Friends feel besieged by the juggernaut of the Religious Right. But most of all, I find many of our intra-Quaker conflicts … to be the clash of incommensurate sensibilities. We talk right past each other, not really understanding one another’s outlook.
I will try to illustrate briefly these differences in sensibility. For example, progressive Friends are offended by walls, impermeable boundaries. We are often scandalized at the orthodox desire to “close the circle” of Quaker faith and practice, to protect something by excluding something else. In contrast, orthodoxy (especially its evangelical version) is given to a “contagion” sensibility, in which a sense of moral and theological “purity” must be defined and protected at all costs… I was in Southwest Yearly Meeting during the final phases of its withdrawal from Friends United Meeting, from 1991 to 1993. I know this sensibility first-hand. The rhetoric of purity was often striking to me.
But I am also rooted enough in the pastoral tradition of Friends to share some of the discomfort evangelicals feel at liberal Quaker rhetoric. The twentieth-century liberal revision of Quaker faith and practice of course does not attempt to conquer the bastions of the nineteenth-century evangelical revision. But liberal Friends have regularly claimed to supersede all previous Quakerisms. This rhetoric is inherent to the ideology of progress. And in the logic of “culture war,” such language is the language of conquest, a conquest of history and moral authority. To be told by a smiling liberal Friend that our theological and moral distinctions don’t matter any more, that we’re really all the same, or that Carl Jung has made everything perfectly clear, is offensive to evangelical Friends — and I would include myself here. It amounts to paving over a world that still makes sense to some of us, making “liberal use” of the same stones of Quaker tradition evangelicals have constructed, or construed, very differently. This only makes evangelicals want to build the walls even higher — walls too high to be paved over.
The predominant progressive sensibility is one of extension, a desire to break down barriers, create an evenness and equality, an equivalence and exchange among all peoples, religions, and cultures. However benign the motives of this program, it strikes preliberal religious sensibilities, from evangelical to Native American, as the pillaging of an entire cultural terrain. Hence, the clash of incommensurate sensibilities between evangelical and liberal Friends. These two sensibilities are in fact interwoven through the entire biblical tradition… They can be identified within the Quaker tradition as well. Family values and radical social critique inform one other in Quaker writings from Fox to Woolman and beyond. Actually, both sensibilities exist within liberal and evangelical Quaker streams, but purity dominates the evangelical outlook while extension dominates the liberal…
QUESTION: Do tensions still exist between evangelical Friends (EFCI) and non-evangelical Friends? It depends on who you ask. Those who favor Spiritual Formation, Emerging/Emergent teachings, and Quaker ecumenism would say they have no problem “having a conversation” with non-evangelical Friends. I believe that ultimately, the “conversation” between all Friends denominations will result in a merger called the Convergent Friends movement. [I have covered this in another blog.]
Those in the EFCI who oppose Spiritual Formation, Emerging/Emergent teachings, and Quaker ecumenism would say they still feel tensions between themselves and non-evangelical Friends. Unfortunately, the pendulum seems to be swinging strongly towards the EFCI denomination becoming at one with Convergent Friends. Tragic.