(revised 10/22/11)[blog under construction]
I stumbled across this fascinating article by Quaker universalist Chuck Fager. In spite of his heretical views, Fager has been very helpful in confirming what I have said all along: various Gurneyite Quakers (aka Evangelical Friends) were on opposite sides of Quaker ecumenism.
Specifically, Edward Mott (along with J. Walter Malone) strongly opposed Quaker ecumenism. Dr. Everett L. Cattell (as well as Walter R. Williams and Byron L. Osborne) favored Quaker ecumenism. I knew Dr. Cattell and his two cohorts personally; I deeply respected and admired all three men in the past. But upon learning of their ecumenical stance, I feel deeply betrayed. I stand squarely in Edward Mott’s corner, opposing Quaker ecumenism.
Chuck Fager’s article shows remarkable insight by a man who strongly rejects the born again message of salvation (“Christ as Lord and Saviour”, not just “Christ as Teacher and Lord”). I find it equally remarkable today that many Evangelical Friends cannot discern the dangers of ecumenism in general, and Quaker ecumenism specifically.
Click here for the original text of Fager’s article. I am emphasizing certain points by bolding, and inserting comments in [brackets].
QUAKERS OF THE YEAR: EVERETT CATTELL AND EDWARD MOTT
(Chuck Fager, A Friendly Letter, January 1985)
Forty months ago, in Issue #6 of this letter, I wrote optimistically that the spirit of divisiveness [this shows Fager’s bias – it is not “divisive” to stand up for the biblically sound doctrines of separatist, fundamentalist, born again Gurneyite Quakerism; also, Fager knows full well that where Quaker ecumenism has crept in, doctrinal compromise has always followed] seemed definitely on the wane among Friends, substantially replaced by that of ecumenical dialogue [“dialogue” always means compromise, as David Cloud points out here] and cooperation. Yet in the past year, it has become clear that a struggle between these conflicting attitudes is continuing and may well be intensifying, and that its outcome is by no means clear.
Two men in particular, Edward Mott and Everett Cattell, seem to me to epitomize these contrasting attitudes. While both are deceased, their statements and attitudes still sum up best the forces at work among us. Indeed, repeatedly in 1984 it almost seemed as if I were witnessing a clash between these two eminences, which has led me to nominate them as Quakers of the Year. Both were evangelicals, Mott from Oregon(now Northwest) YM [actually Mott served in New York Yearly Meeting (Gurneyite), then in Ohio YM (Gurneyite), then in Oregon YM (Gurneyite)], Cattell from Ohio YM, now the Evangelical Friends Church-Eastern Region. Mott was prominent in the 1920s through the 1940s, as clerk of Oregon YM and a well-known preacher; Cattell spent most of these years as a missionary in India, returning as president of Malone College in Ohio. Both were active in Quaker ecumenical relations, but from almost exactly opposite directions, and to opposite effect. [Interestingly, Mott and Cattell both were connected with Cleveland Bible College, which later became Malone College- now Malone University. Yet Mott and Cattell held opposite views regarding Quaker ecumenism.]
Does Continuing the Conversation spell Death?
Everett Cattell, while a lifelong, committed evangelical, was also a pioneer of
recent Quaker ecumenical contacts. Two of his most memorable statements in this regard came out of the 1970 St. Louis Conference of Friends leaders, the first when he admitted candidly, “I struggle in my heart to define what a Quaker is today. I do not know the answer.” The second remark came later, when as conference chair he gravely recommended, “Let the conversation continue.” [I would not say Cattell “gravely” recommended this; on the contrary he seemed thrilled to recommend this over the protests from some other Evangelical Friends at the Conference.]
Cattell’s remarks and attitudes contrast starkly with those of Edward Mott. As he [Mott] stated plainly in his memoirs,
“Orthodoxy and heterodoxy cannot coalesce… The attempt to fellowship and work with unbelievers (which is what he considered other varieties of Friends –Ed. [Fager]) spells death. Any conclusion to the contrary is ruinous to all concerned.” [Mott was right – events since 1970 have shown that, as stated above, ecumenical ventures with non-evangelical Quakers has always been followed by doctrinal compromise.]
At an All-Friends Conference in 1928, he [Mott] delivered a speech intended, he said, “To thwart the very purpose for which the conference was held, the promotion of fellowship among the groups.” (It [Mott’s intent] largely succeeded, too.) As Clerk of Oregon YM he led it out of the Five Years Meeting (later renamed Friends United Meeting), and pushed successfully to cut its ties with the AFSC [American Friends Service Committee]. He railed repeatedly against the moves toward yearly meeting reunification then underway in Philadelphia, New England and elsewhere. Mott’s sentiments were sincere and consistent, and not unusual among fundamentalists of his generation, Quaker and otherwise.
Dealing With a Born-Again Separatist Movement
For his part, Everett Cattell did not minimize his differences with liberal Friends. Yet his was an evangelicalism which, contrary to Mott, was able to conclude at St. Louis that “There are good reasons for continuing dialogue with such folk… ” Again, like Mott, Cattell practiced what he preached, both among Friends and other denominations. [What Fager failed to mention here, is that Dr. Cattell was a New Evangelical. New Evangelicals have no problem “dialoguing” with non-evangelical denominations and establishing ecumenical ties.]
If Cattell’s attitude was in the ascendant only three years ago, what has happened to put these sentiments in eclipse? Much of the answer, I believe, can be found in a recently-published, widely-read book by a very influential non-Quaker fundamentalist: The Great Evangelical Disaster, by the late Francis Schaeffer. It is a clarion call to action by conservative Christians in denominations which are, in Schaeffer’s view, fatally infected with notions of “the pluralistic church.” Such a body is one in which there is room for more than his brand of theology, based on his view of the Bible as “objective, absolute truth in all the areas it touches upon,” and the interpretations he draws from it. Most Friends groups would fall in to this category [of pluralistic churches], even many of the evangelical ones [I’m assuming Fager was referring to “progressive evangelical” churches here, such as those in NWYM. Remember, Fager wrote this in 1985 – and Evangelical Friends heretic Richard Foster, for example, had been active in NWYM since before 1978]. Schaeffer’s manifesto is not only widely-read; the outlook it expresses is also being heeded by many, , as a platform for action. [“Some” is the key word here. By 1985, many Evangelical Friends had become “brainwashed” as New Evangelicals, increasingly accepting the concept of pluralism to one degree or another. Many of these “New Evangelical” Friends did not take Schaeffer’s manifesto to heart. Granted, they may have stayed away from denominations belonging to the ecumenical National Council of Churches. Yet they saw little danger in ecumenical ties with heretical non-evangelical Quaker denominations.]
Schaeffer calls on his adherents to “stand clearly for the principle of the purity of the visible church… ” To do this will require “discipline of those who do not take a proper position in regard to the teaching of Scripture.” This discipline is to be imposed at all levels and in all settings of church activity, because “the church belongs to those who by the grace of God are faithful to the Scriptures.” However, if “a denomination comes to a place where such discipline cannot operate,” then the orthodox members must prepare “to step out.” (Quotes from Schaeffer, pp. 55, 74, 82, 85, 87.)
In the light of these passages, both the rationale of many recent events and the
echoes of Edward Mott’s broadsides against association with “Hicksite modernistic Friends” of half a century ago are unmistakable. For that matter, Schaeffer also hears echoes of the 1920s and 1930s here. He insists that “we must recognize that there is a direct parallel between what happened in the early decades of this century and what we are facing today…” (p. 88)
Have we really been treated to such rhetoric as this among Friends in 1984? My answer is yes, repeatedly: in the pages of Quaker Life; at the FUM Triennial; in the flap over Elizabeth Watson and the Friends Ministers Conference (see Issues #35 and #44)[of Chuck Fager’s A Friendly Newsletter]; and in other incidents. [Unlike Fager, to all these protests against Quaker ecumenism I give a hearty “Amen!”] As these have accumulated, I have attempted to maintain the earlier optimistic attitude about the overall trend of events: I still thought I heard more of Everett Cattell in the air than of Edward Mott and Francis Schaeffer.
Riding the Wave of History Onto the Rocks of Division
But no more. In the political arena, supporters of the Schaeffer-Mott perspective [technically, Schaeffer became a New Evangelical in the 1940s or 1950s, while Mott remained a separatist fundamentalist his entire life – click here for an article providing hints of Schaeffer’s drift away from J. Gresham Machen and separatist fundamentalism] won a smashing victory in the 1984 presidential election; they feel confident they are riding the wave of history. And events show that they are determined to press ahead with their vision of a purified Christianity, in Quaker circles as elsewhere. Indeed, they can hardly do otherwise: as Schaeffer and Mott repeatedly pointed out, their basic principles are at stake; this is a matter of conscience for them.
What will be the outcome of such efforts? If the parallels with 50 years ago hold true, they will likely yield a melancholy harvest of separations, bitterness and recriminations, even among the orthodox. That is due not least to the fact that their Number One targets for “discipline” are not liberals–who are considered already lost–as much as other evangelicals, particularly those who are prepared to tolerate liberals in an “unpurified,” pluralistic Quakerism. Schaeffer admits and laments this unhappy record, and urges the church’s “true owners” to exercise their discipline over heretics in a loving spirit, rare as such a process may have been in church history, Quaker and other.
Everett Cattell On Coping With Such Campaigns
The arena in which this struggle among Friends should become most intense is
likely to be, as it long has been, Friends United Meeting. Yet it is clearly not limited to FUM. There are also several yearly meetings, spanning the continent, whose unity seems to me to be at risk from such drives to establish the “purity of the visible church” against the infiltration of pluralism. Everett Cattell understood the divisive potential of these trends, even in 1970. He called for Friends to consider some form of organizational “realignment” which would “set each other free to be himself,” and make dialogue and cooperation possible within a symbiotic relationship qf mutual respect without compromise. He argued this might be the only real alternative to eventual acrimonious ruptures.
Here as elsewhere, Everett Cattell now seems to have spoken wisely to our condition. And the question can fairly be asked: Is it now time for some Quaker bodies, faced with the likelihood of a rerun of the upheavals of the 1920s and 1930s, to explore the idea of Cattell’s realignment? And is it time for those Christian Friends who are comfortable with the diversity among Friends today to consider how best to preserve and defend their conviction in the face of this intensifying challenge?
A year ago I would have considered this whole topic a minor matter, and the names of Cattell and Mott would not have occurred to me as possible Quakers of the Year. It does not seem minor anymore; and these two, while not perhaps the happiest nominations, now seem unquestionably the appropriate ones.
They say hindsight is 20/20. Since Fager wrote this article in 1985, the pendulum has swung away from the “Schaeffer-Mott” scenario. Richard Foster’s Spiritual Formation teachings have continued to spread like wildfire in both evangelical and non-evangelical Quaker denominations. And the Emerging/Emergent/Emergence teachings have also taken deep root in all Quaker denominations, having become popularized around 1990-1995. The EFCI is in a sad state of affairs as far as separatist fundamentalism is concerned. In fact, today EFCI leadership fully supports Dr. Cattell’s ecumenical steps at the 1970 St. Louis Conference. It appears that, if anything, Quaker denominations – evangelical and non-evangelical – are headed not for a “realignment” (aka an agreed-to split) but for an Emergent “Convergent Friends” movement. God help the Evangelical Friends, if they continue to head down this road of ecumenical Quaker apostasy.
Addendum: It would be interesting to see Chuck Fager’s analysis currently regarding the state of Quaker ecumenism – particularly involvement today by Evangelical Friends.