My sympathy is with my Conservative Quaker friends. And I hope they have some sympathy for their Anglican friends as well. We are all struggling with issues concerning church discipline, and sometimes the debate becomes battle, which is so unChristian.
Issues they are struggling with that we don’t have to address much: modernity and paganism.
Issues we struggle with that they don’t have to address much: Ordained women and new liturgies.
I have a question for Quakers who are not Christian: how does that work? If we are waiting on the Holy Spirit, doesn’t that imply some sort of belief in the Christian trinity – God the Father, Creator; God the Son, Redeemer; God the Holy Spirit, Sustainer. Not three gods, but one God, in three persons. (I won’t venture into that too deeply to avoid the heresy of modalism. Just read the Athanasian Creed, which is the best explanation of what the nature of the Trinity is.)
Still, waiting for the Holy Spirit implies a belief in that Spirit, a Christian doctrine. God sends His Spirit to inform, lead and refresh us. We are strengthened in His Spirit. Jesus told us about the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. How can a Quaker sit in meeting, waiting on the Spirit, when that Quaker doesn’t believe in the Spirit?
I’m going to get pagan arguments, aren’t I? That there is a motivating spirit in the universe, or many spirits that wish to speak through and to humanity, that what Christians call the Holy Spirit, the Spiritus Sanctus, is just the Spiritus Mundi, the Spirit of this world. So why are you in a Christian setting if that is what you believe? There are lots of places for pagans, hundreds of groups that meet and have rituals – why clutter up Quaker meeting, where there are people who are waiting to hear from God? If it is because Quakers are people of peace and have organizations in place for social justice, that doesn’t seem fair, to ride their coattails. Go start your own social justice groups and get away from all that “Do as Christ did” Christian sanctimony.
As for nonbelievers – rational humanists – there’s theosophy societies, and the Unitarians. Unhealthy skepticism and outright, stubborn disbelief have no place in a Christian setting. If a meeting is entirely humanist and/or pagan, why are they still Quaker? Quaker, by definition, is Christian. They were Christians when they broke away from the Anglican church and took some of our theology with them. But as we say, “Lex orendi, lex credendi” – the law of prayer is the law of belief. So Anglicans kept their prayer book, composed almost entirely of scripture, as the law of prayer and belief, so we wouldn’t wander off some side road of non-Christian belief and heresy, and forget our God. It’s not a good thing to forget the God of Abrahahm. We get lost in the world, and then suffer the world’s punishment.
One thing Paul taught us in his letters – don’t argue with nonbelievers. Pray for them instead. Don’t keep them in your fellowship as they will sow doubt and dissent. Perhaps our Quaker brothers and sisters need to split their meetings again, leaving the nonbelievers to their own devices, and call the believers back into discipline. Discipline is not punishment or even correction; it is teaching, and following the right way.