Saturday, 7 July 2007

So which Quaker writers are Prophets without honour in their own land?

I came across Paul's blog on He was wondering after seeing Marcus Borg speak
Perhaps there is something about a prophet being without honour in his own land that makes an outsider look more attractive, but we do have thinkers and writers and dare I say theologians within our own family that have something to say to us.
I read many of the liberal protestant thinkers and those on the edges of faiths such as Marcus and many others of the Weststar institute, Karen Armstrong, John Shelby Spong, Don Cupitt, Bart D. Ehrman, Richard Holloway and many of the Sea of Faith writers such as Don Cupitt.

Like you Paul I am struck how many of these writers articulate and expand themes that Quakers are or have explored in our history. The common thread is that many of these writers and explores are trying to share a faith/practice lived by experience which plays to Quakers core practice.

However, this has cost them and they are by no means welcome in main stream Christian circles. Witness the fallout in the Anglican community of John's legacy of an inclusive church, or Karen's relationship with the Catholic church. Or the perhaps the most extreme was Lloyd Geering. In 1967 the Presbyterian Church charged him with heresy for his radical beliefs.

I do read various Quaker writers such as David Boulton, John Punshon and Ben Pink Dandelion and will be reading Consider The Blackbird Reflections On Spirituality And Language BY HARVEY GILLMAN and want to read Light To Live By:An Exploration In Quaker Spirituality BY REX AMBLER and Truth Of The Heart An Anthology Of George Fox EDITED BY REX AMBLER.

However, I am struck that the non Quaker writers are grappling with big issues of what God, the church, Jesus, morality etc means if we want to embrace the modern world

Yet this list of 2oth Century Quaker writings
explores inspirational individuals dealing with many issues of extreme injustice or devotional insights but would a non-Quaker be drawn to them?

So who are our writers and thinkers that challenge us and explain to the world the spiritual riches that could be a beacon for so many who reject a empty formula Christianity and a lets be nice to the neighbours secularism?


Brent Bill said...

I think there are a number of Friends writers besides those on the Amazon list that you mentioned who are writing challenging books and offering spiritual riches -- especially to a non-Quaker audience. Philip Gulley comes to mind, with his Harmony series and his short essay books -- the lastest being "Porch Talk: Stories of Decency, Common Sense, and Other Endangered Species."

Phil and Jim Mullholland also did a series on grace and God's love.

David Yount, a Quaker and syndicated columnist, has a new book due out soon titled "How the Quakers Invented America."

And I'd humbly offer my own recent works -- "Holy Silence: The Gift of Quaker Spirituality" and "Mind the Light: Learning to See with Spiritual Eyes." While Quakers have supported my writing, the vast majority of my readers are non-Friends.

Gulley, Mulholland, Yount and I also publish with trade publishers, so are books are sold in independent book stores large and small, as well as Barne & Noble, Borders, Amazon and so forth.

Alan Paxton said...


The writers you list seem to be mainly sceptical liberals at odds with the
conservative orthodoxy of their various denominations.

Their Quaker counterparts would be pushing at an open door, at least in liberal yearly meetings such as Britain Yearly Meeting, where those kinds
of sceptical, liberal, universalist and post-Christian positions are the
conservative orthodoxy to a large extent.

I wonder too how much they would have much to say to the great mass of
people who, in Britain at least, are also largely sceptical, liberal and

Maybe we - Quakers, attenders and people who might potentially be attracted
to Friends - need to be challenged from another direction.

What does the Quaker tradition have to offer to a non-Quaker like me,
attending Meeting for Worship more or less frequently?

The sceptical tolerance and openness of liberal Quaker Meetings are
certainly attractive to some people fleeing oppressive and intolerant
churches but still wanting some kind of common spiritual life.

But do they risk reproducing the babel of views, voices and spiritual paths
that characterise the wider liberal society, within the Meeting itself?
What then does such a Meeting have to offer the rest of us, or its own
members for that matter?

I have certainly found John Punshon's writings very thought-provoking in
this respect; I would recommend his Swarthmore Lecture "Testimony &
Tradition", which really spoke to my condition, as a seeker trying to find
his way out of the anomie and indifference that characterises so much of
modern liberal life.

Anonymous said...

I tried reading that Blackbird book and it was complete yawn-fest. So plodding and academic - reminded me of books I had to read at loony-versity.
I much prefer books that withhold a bit of information, rather than laying it all out so painstakingly dully.
I couldn't get on with Harvey's other Light that is Shining book either. It just didn't flow for me - I was think 'yeah - I know - that much is obvious, isn't it?' He really labours his points, and there's no sense of poetry in his writing.