It is well known in the Spiritual Formation movement and Emerging/ Emergent/Emergence movements that Richard Foster has a Quaker background. I’m not sure what denomination he associates himself with now, but he has had close ties throughout his life with the Evangelical Friends denomination (today Evangelical Friends Church International aka EFCI).
In fact, Foster grew up in a Yearly Meeting which eventually joined the EFA (later renamed the EFCI). This makes me very angry – this heretic and I both grew up in Yearly Meetings which became part of today’s EFCI (1). I hope Foster is proud of himself. The Spiritual Formation movement Foster popularized has helped hijack “old fashioned fundamentalist” evangelicalism. Foster has played a huge part in the continuing demise of born again, biblically sound evangelicalism, in countless denominations including the EFCI.
Richard Foster’s classic, Celebration of Discipline, first came out in 1978, popularizing Spiritual Formation with its occultish spiritual discipline of contemplative prayer/contemplative spirituality. Ironically, he did not introduce Celebration of Discipline while in one of the more liberal Quaker denominations (such as Friends United Meeting or, worse, Friends General Conference), but while in the historically born again EFCI.
These close ties with the EFCI may help explain why the Spiritual Formation writings of Foster, Dallas Willard and other such heretics have caused irreparable harm to many EFCI congregations. Specifically, these EFCI churches are increasingly being drawn into the heresies of Spiritual Formation and Emerging/Emergent teachings.
In light of Richard Foster’s numerous close ties with the EFCI, it seems very odd that more has not been written exposing these ties. Amazingly, many Evangelical Friends (particularly in the older generation):
1) Have never heard the terms Spiritual Formation, Emerging Church, or Emergent Church – nor do they recognize these teaching when they arise in their own churches.
2) Have never heard of Richard Foster.
3) If they have heard of Richard Foster, they do not realize Richard Foster was in the EFCI for many years.
Following are several bios of Foster, showing his connections with the EFCI. (I hope to add more details to this blog as I locate them).
Following is a listing of Foster’s “life events”. Note his various connections with Friends churches (I’m assuming all the Friends churches mentioned belong to what is now the EFCI.)
CAREER: Alamitos Friends Church, Garden Grove, CA, minister of youth, 1962-67; ordained clergyman of Society of Friends (Quakers), 1967; Family Counseling and Research Center, Garden Grove, counselor, 1967-68; Arcadia Friends Church, Arcadia, CA, associate pastor, 1968-70; Woodlake Avenue Friends Church, Canoga Park, CA, pastor, 1970-74; Newberg Friends Church, Newberg, OR, pastor, 1974-79; Friends University, Wichita, KS, professor of theology and writer-in-residence, beginning 1979; Renovare, Englewood, CA, founder and director. George Fox College, adjunct professor, 1974-79. Public lecturer. Member of publications board of California Yearly Meeting of Friends.
Click here for a critique of Richard Foster, which includes the following bio:
Quaker and Fuller graduate (holds a doctorate in pastoral counseling), Richard Foster is co-founder of Renovaré, and Professor of Spiritual Formation at Azusa Pacific University in Southern California. Foster became an ordained clergyman for the Society of Friends in 1967. He’s held pastoral positions in ‘Friends’ churches since that time and became Professor of Theology and writer-in-residence, 1979 on, at Friends University in Wichita and adjunct professor at George Fox College, from 1974-1979. He is a member of the publications board of California Yearly Meeting of Friends. He obtained his B.A. in Philosophy and Religion from George Fox College (now University) and D.Th.P, Biblical Studies and Social Ethics in 1970, from Fuller Theological Seminary.
Here is Richard Foster in his own words, in a recent blog (I have emphasized certain points by bolding and [bracketing]. I have rearranged statements from Foster’s blog chronologically:
… In 1964 I received a Bachelor of Arts in Religion & Philosophy at George Fox College [now George Fox University] near Portland, Oregon [this is an EFCI college/university] …
[At some point, Foster also taught at George Fox College.]
Carolynn and I were married in 1967 at Alamitos Friends Church [now known as Garden Grove Friends Church (GGFC)](2) in Garden Grove, California, the church in which I grew up and then served as Minister of Youth [for five years (4)]… [GGFC is in what today is called Southwest Yearly Meeting of EFCI.]
… in 1970 [I] received a Doctor of Pastoral Theology in New Testament & Social Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.
Following graduation from Fuller Theological Seminary I accepted a call to be the Pastor [with Dallas Willard at] Woodlake Avenue Friends Church (3) [from 1970-1974 (4,5)] in Canoga Park, California [I’m trying to find out more about this church – I assume it was renamed; I don’t know whether it was in the EFCI]. Those were years of hammering out the themes that would later emerge in Celebration of Discipline. Next, I served on the Pastoral Team at Newberg Friends Church in Newberg, Oregon where I shared the preaching assignments with Pastor Ron Woodward and the various tasks of ministry with a gifted team of pastors. It was also here that I wrote .
Here another Internet article picks up the story of Foster’s life:
Following the publication of Celebration, Foster wrote [several other books]. His career in writing and speaking was growing. Then, when Foster’s children entered their teenage years, suddenly he stopped writing…
Foster continued working as a professor of Theology at Friends University in Wichita, Kansas and directing The Milton Center, formerly the Center for Christian Writers…
Now back to Foster’s self-bio:
I suppose I am best known for my book Celebration of Discipline. It was a effort to re-introduce the classical Disciplines of the spiritual life to a Christian community largely alienated from this rich tradition. In addition, I have written Freedom of Simplicity, Money, Sex, & Power (now titled The Challenge of the Disciplined Life), PRAYER: Finding the Heart’s True Home, Prayers from the Heart and Streams of Living Water. There is a book length complication of my writings entitled Seeking the Kingdom. In addition, I have co-edited two volumes; Devotional Classics (with James Bryan Smith) and Spiritual Classics (with Emilie Griffin). Perhaps my most ambitious project to date is as Editor of the Renovaré Spiritual Formation Bible. This involved four General Editors and some fifty contributors.
In 1988 I established Renovaré, which includes many gifted leaders in its ministry team. Previously I had been instrumental in the founding of two other organizations – The Academy of Christian Editors [renamed The Milton Center] and The Chrysostom Society, a fellowship of writers of Christian conviction. Renovaré, however, is where I have expended my most strenuous effort and into which I have distilled my most creative thought. Today all three organizations continue to thrive under new and vigorous leadership.
Through the years I have served in a variety of ministry positions: e.g. Minister of Youth, Adolescent and Family Counselor, Coordinator of Inner City Ministries, and Associate Pastor.
I am looking for ties between Foster and the Friends/Quakers later in his life.
Foster does make mention of the EFCI and other Quaker groups – and his ties with them – in his other writings. And here are a few other links alluding to Foster’s connections with Quakers:
1) My blog providing excerpts from a Christianity Today interview. Here Foster talks about his early connections with Evangelical Friends, and the development of his Spiritual Formation teachings.
2) Quakerinfo.com article (note especially the first two paragraphs):
3) Wikipedia article (see especially the first paragraph):
(1) Foster grew up in California Yearly Meeting (CYM); I grew up in Ohio Yearly Meeting (Gurneyite)(OYM). In 1965, CYM, OYM, and several other Yearly Meetings joined to form the Evangelical Friends Alliance (EFA). The EFA was later renamed EFCI (Evangelical Friends Church International).
(2) I was immediately turned off by Garden Grove Friends Church’s website. They have a link as of 05/23/11 entitled “Upcoming Events – Jesus Labyrinth.” I am very much opposed to Spiritual Formation’s use of New Age-ish prayer labyrinths.
(5) Check out this excerpt: An early laboratory for Willard’s theology was a little Quaker church in the San Fernando Valley that the Willards attended in the 1970s. The founder of the Renovaré movement, Richard Foster, was the pastor. Willard led singing, and Jane played the organ. “I was fresh out of seminary and ready to conquer the world,” Foster recalls. “Dallas was so patient with me. He really, in a way, pastored from the pew. … When I would teach, folks might come, but when Dallas taught, they brought their tape recorders. We all did.” Foster recalls sensing that they were “onto something big” when Willard taught through the Book of Matthew.