Monday, February 28, 2011

Want Leadership? Develop Followership.

By Lonnie Valentine

I do not see the problem of leadership as one of finding people willing and able to lead.

I see the problem as one of "followership." Those who see themselves or are seen as followers are thought of as less worthy than leaders. So, everyone wants to be a leader and no one wants to follow. If so, thenBrent Bill leading a presentation any talk of leadership needs to talk about followership. How do we be good followers?

Of course, this is not a new problem. Paul talks about these issues, and it is clear he and the congregations he started struggled with this question of who is to lead and who is to follow. However, I did find some of what Paul says to be worth thinking about now:

"There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good...For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ." (1 Corinthians 12: 4-7, 12)

Playing off of Paul's image, I would think that, first, anyone who leads ought not think of themselves as inherently superior to those whoSinging at ESR worship follow, and those who follow ought not think of themselves as inferior in their following. Second, a leader in some situations had better be able to show they can follow in other situations. A leader needs to model following at times. As Paul notes, not all have the same gifts, and so the gifts of others need to be recognized and brought into the lead at certain times. Third, I think there is need for some person or few persons that have a responsibility for paying attention to how the whole body of the group is functioning.

This form of leadership, usually thought of in relation to the role of administrators, is most critical in helping all the other sub-groups and persons of the organization to see what the overall mission and health of the body is. This does not mean they seek to be "the decider" and make all decisions or have all power, but rather they have a gift for holding the various roles and ideas of all those who are members of the body so as to communicate to all what is going on in the body, and seeking toLonnie Valentine delivering a message at ESR worship promote the mission or heal the hurts of the entire group by seeing and calling forth the talents of those in the body.

One final word. Last Spring, John Dominic Crossan lectured at ESR on the vision of the Kingdom of God held by Jesus and Paul. He argued that their vision of such a Kingdom was a direct challenge to the Kingdom of Caesar. Caesar's kingdom was top down, with Caesar as the divine Son of God who ruled as a dictator, using coercion and violence to maintain control. Unfortunately, such a model has many attractions, during the time of Jesus and Paul and in our own time, including within the Church. Such a quest for power led to Empire making which destroyed others and finally was self-destructive.

As Crossan puts it, ancient Greece learned it could have participatory democracy or Empire, but not both; Rome learned is could have a republic or Empire, but not both. Insofar as any body, whether it be Church or State--or educational institution, sees itself as building an Empire, then the health of the body is endangered. The Church or any organization is to be of service to others, not to accrue power and privilege for itself or for some of its "leaders."

Valentine, Lonnie.JPGLonnie Valentine has served as professor of Peace and Justice Studies at Earlham School of Religion since 1989. Originally from California, he lives in Richmond, Indiana.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Quaker Monk?

By John Fitch

I'm a Quaker pastor from Richmond, Indiana and I'm working on a doctorate in Neo-Monastic studies. The new monastic moment is not really all that new. Bonhoeffer coined the term Neo-Monasticism in 1945 and lot of people have been experimenting with the idea of divesting and moving in with the poor to pray with them and serve them as an equal. The idea really comes from the Gospel following Jesus' example of living amongst the poor and outcast and being totally dependent on God for he and his disciples needs.

For me it happened spontaneously. I became a starving student again in 2000 when I chose a mid-life career change from Social Work to ministry and started at the Earlham School of Religion in Richmond,The Renaissance House Neighborhood Indiana. By necessity I moved into the poorest neighborhood in Richmond and I decided to do my ministry internship at the Episcopal church one block away from my house. During my internship I got to know my neighbors who didn't feel right about going to the Episcopal Church because they didn't dress like the Episcopalians who drove in from the suburbs - and some of them didn't smell so good, which was a problem. The neighborhood people did feel comfortable at my little condo and it became a hub for social gatherings, prayer services and meals together. My table was made for six people and when the thirteenth person came I knew we would need a bigger place. I found the right place around the corner form my condo. It was a huge 100 year old house built for entertaining with two gigantic dining rooms and five bedrooms upstairs. I knew right away I was supposed to buy it and start my ministry there.

The only problem was I only had $312.00 in my checking account. The realtor convinced me I could get 100% financing so I put in an offer. It turned out I would need a $10,000.00 down payment and I said to myself, "there's no way." Then the miracles started to happen. Two days later another relator knocked on my door and said she sold a condo in my building and has two other buyers who missed out and wanted to know I would sell mine for $7,500.00 more than I paid for it. I wentRenaissance House back to the bank to see if they would take that for the down payment and I got a resounding, “No, you need $10,000.00, or no loan”. As I left the parking lot I paused for moment with both hands on the steering wheel. I said, “God I think you want me to do this, but your going to have to help me out by finding me another $2,500.00”. Thirty seconds later I got hit by a car. Nobody was seriously hurt and because it was not my fault I got a settlement from the insurance company for $2,500.00. I bought the house and with the help of friends from ESR we named it Renaissance House. We hung our shingle out on the porch and the ministry took off like a shot.

I've had a lot of careers. My first one was trade school when I was teenager. I learned home improvement and repairs and made good living with my hands while I took classes in junior college at night. After competing my general education course work, I transferred to San Diego State and majored in Social Work so I could work as a drug counselor for troubled youth and mentally ill people. My spiritual journey took me to Nicaragua to do peace work during the Contra war and after that I relocated with my wife and kids to Missouri where became a dog trainer. My last job was teaching in Puerto Rico with Catholic nuns who inspired me to be a minister.

I'm now using all the skills I've learned along the way. I use my handyman skills to renovate the houses and I hire out some to helpRenaissance House support us which also give the younger guys some work as I often need a helper. I help Spanish speaking people with translations especially when they go to court. I lead the prayer services and help cook and clean. I'm the neighborhood chaplain. I do weddings and funerals, and I visit people when they are in jail. I provide a safe haven for people being beaten or abused everyone knows if they are in trouble they can run to my house and nobody will follow them in.

The rooms in my house are filled with mentally ill men - couples and women live in the apartments next door. We are sponsored by the Quaker and Episcopal churches and attend services at both. We get some funding for utilities from the Quakers but are primarily self-supporting through the rent payments of those who have and income, as well as some money I raise doing handy work. We do dog training and everyone is given a dog to care for while they are at the house, just like in the New Skete monastic community. We also have morning prayer services and breakfast for everyone as well as a mid week Common Meal and worship.

I am currently spending a year living at the New Skete community, to learn about dog training, but especially about how to be a monk. I want to take the monastic way of being back into the world and be a Quaker monk. People say to me all the time. “I didn't know Quakers have monks”. To which I say, “They do now”.

41490_1779412490_5473_nJohn Fitch is the founder of the Renaissance House community and is an alumnus of ESR. He is currently studying in the Doctor of Ministry program at Southern Methodist University, Perkins School of Theology and is participating in a one year internship with the monks of New Skete training dogs and learning about traditional monasticism. In his spare time he enjoys photography.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

White Christians, Racism and Quakers

by Diane Reynolds
At Thursday’s weekly Peace Forum, held at ESR, Bethany Seminary alumnus Dean J. Johnson discussed religious narratives among white Christians that uphold white power and privilege. Johnson, now an assistant professor of religious studies at Defiance College in Ohio,Worship at ESR interviewed 20 Christians across 12 faith traditions in Fort Wayne, Ind., to discover how being white impacted their theology.
Johnson found that most whites unwittingly aid oppression by misunderstanding how privilege works, perceiving themselves foremost as individuals rather than as part of a powerful group. This perception leads to a cultural narrative of merit, in which many whites believe they have succeeded based solely on their own skills and efforts.
Other attitudes that uphold oppression include an unwillingness to accept racial equality when it comes with a loss of white privilege, and perceiving white cultural norms as “common sense,” thus denigrating the perceptions of other races. Many whites also maintain that our society is colorblind or post-racial while at the same time expressing an acute personal awareness of race. One woman, for example, claimedWorship at ESR that she was racially colorblind but then opined that her daughter probably dated black men because she felt she was not pretty enough to attract white men.
White cultural narratives seep into the white Christian narrative. Some white churches communicate a narrative of just deserts, in which God rewards the deserving (ie, whites), a story reinforced in many churches by the absence of any conversation about the larger social issues that might impede minority achievement. Many whites emphasize accepting Christian salvation rather than living a Christ-like life: they assent to a Christian narrative or creed rather than changing how they live. Many then conflate good feelings towards other races with enlightened racial behavior: If my racial intentions are good, my behavior can do no harm.  Churches, as well, reinforce white paternalism by expecting non-whites to assimilate to their cultural norms, often with little interest in learning about the patterns and behaviors of other groups.
Blacks, in contrast, are likely to see race or larger social forces as significant influences on their achievement and to be distrustful of white efforts to reach out to them as driven by white needs and agendas. Blacks tend to focus on the outcomes of white behavior - are whites acting in non-racist ways? - rather than on white “feelings” about other races that might be contradicted by actions.
As the 2008 book Fit for Freedom, not for Friendship shows, Quakers are not immune to the insidious racism that plagues otherSharing Faith, Sharing Art predominately white religious groups. For all our good work on abolition, we white Quakers, along with the rest of white society, have been slow to embrace blacks as equals. We wish to worship with blacks, but on our terms. We want to “help” blacks, but this desires often carries with it the assumption that “they” will assimilate to white cultural norms. We are often blind to our own racist assumptions, embracing the narrative that good intentions absolve of us of the ability to do harm.
Johnson offered a list of suggestions for white people and congregations wishing to revise their racial worldviews.  For individuals, Johnson advises that whites become more conscious of their own privilege; learn the history of the US and Europe from the vantage point of the oppressed; refuse to let guilt lead to inaction; listen; raise concerns about oppression; and confront white cultural and religious narratives. Further, individuals can use religious language to express how racially sensitive narratives align with Christ-like beliefs.
For congregations, Johnson suggests the following five practices: becoming intentionally and radically inclusive by examining who is absent from the faith community and being willing to change to become more hospitable; developing real and lasting, rather than superficial, relationships with groups facing oppression; visiting other faith traditions to enhance understanding of their cultures; bringing in speakers from other traditions; and developing and posting statements ofDialogue inclusion that reassure people outside the white community that they are welcome.
Now that some of the furor over Fit for Freedom has died down, to what extent do you find Quaker meetings and churches are examining their racial composition and practices? Given the largely white composition of most North American Quaker meetings and churches, how can we become more welcoming?  Is it more important to maintain the Eurocentric roots of our tradition than to become inclusive? Or is our tradition an attachment that impedes our ability to be a light to the world?  Do we display arrogance or are our traditional practices valuable enough for us to resist change?
Are there ways we can hold on to core practices and yet become genuinely open to people of other races and classes? I am trying to sidestep the issue of Christ as I recognize that not all North American Quakers are Christian, but to me the question comes down to this: Do our practices reflect a fundamental expression of Christianity or the values of Christ that we should not compromise? If so, what practices are important to maintain, and how do we do so while at the same time extending a Christ-like welcome to all people?

Diane Reynolds is a student in Earlham School of Religion’s Master of Divinity program. She maintains a personal blog, Emerging Quaker.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Re-examining Friends’ Testimony of Plain Speech in Whittier, California

By Abbey Pratt-Harrington

The weekend of February 5-6 I (along with a few others) went to visit the Quakers in Whittier, California. I think it’s safe to say that we all had a lovely time (and not only because we got a short reprieve from the winter weather). We spent most of our time visiting with people (mostly over meals) and enjoying our surroundings.

One of the most interesting conversations I had while there was with a man of Hispanic descent. He approached me after I led the adult education and we talked about his journey to Quakerism, which he had recently found. What made his story stand out to me was that I had never heard a story like it before. Most convinced Friends seem to come to Quakerism for peace issues. This man had found Quakers while studying languages. In Spanish there still is a formal and informal way Friends walking together - Dan Kasztelanto address people and (from my limited understanding) it has to do with social class. This gentleman did not like this distinction and wondered why it existed, so he started to study languages/the history of languages.

Somehow, he ran across the story of the Quakers who refused to follow this distinction in English. This got him interested in who the Quakers were and eventually brought him to this community in Whittier. I found this whole experience interesting because, while I love the story of Friends addressing everyone with thee and thou, I never thought about that principle still being applicable in today’s world. I suppose this just goes to show you that you can learn something new every day.

Abbey Pratt-HarringtonAbbey Pratt-Harrington is a member of Athens Friends Meeting, Lake Erie Yearly Meeting. She is a graduate of Wilmington College and is currently a residential student in Earlham School of Religion’s Master of Divinity program.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Being Patterns and Examples in Indianapolis

By Karla Moran

In starting a church we face many challenges, but we know that we are not alone in this struggle. Jesus Sharing the Good News in Indianapolispromised us that he would not leave us orphans (John 14:15-26). With this promise in mind, we continue with the mission work, obeying Jesus' command in Matthew 28:19, to go and make disciples of all nations. But Jesus also gave us another, perhaps even more difficult charge: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). When Jesus spoke the words in Matthew 28:19, his intention was for us to love one another so that the world would know that we are his followers. We believe this is the core of Jesus' ministry and this is what we are trying to do among the Hispanic community in Indianapolis.

Because the Hispanic community is an immigrant community, there are many opportunities for us to offer a helping hand and at the same time share the good news with them. Our desire for the Hispanic community is to live the Kingdom here and now, not only to have hope for the future. We want them to know and feel in their hearts that even though they have many worries and face many challenges they can still live in the peaceable kingdom because Jesus reigns in our hearts (Luke 17:21).

We don’t have specific programs in the church but we respond to the immediate problems that Latinos in the community might have. For Helping out at the Hospitalexample we go to the hospitals if anyone has an appointment and needs interpreting. We also assist young single mothers and their children; many of these single mothers recently came out of abusive relationships. We have provided our own home to the homeless mothers. There are also many teenagers who are confused and do not know what to do with their lives. Their homes are destroyed and many of them are maintained by single mothers who escaped abusive relationships. Many of them would like to go on to college but are not legal residents in this country and don’t see any solution other then drugs and alcohol. I asked a sixteen year old why she wanted to drop out of high school and she responded “what is the point of me doing good in high school if at the end of it I will have nowhere to go? I might as well start working now”. We see a lot of pain in the people that we minister to; and we feel it ourselves, because we try to get as involved with the community as possible.

Most of the Hispanic community is made up of Mexicans who come from a Catholic background, but many of them are turning to the cult of worshiping “la Santa Muerte” (holy death). It is very noticeable; just by walking into Mexican store you can see prayer candles dedicated to la Santa Muerte. This cult is rapidly growing among the Mexican community, not only in Indianapolis but in Mexico and cities with big Hispanic population such as Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston and many others. It is a big concern because the cult appears to be closely associated with crime, criminals, and those whose lives are directly affected by crime. Criminals seem to identify with Santa Muerte and call upon the saint for protection and power, even when committing crimes. They will adorn themselves with her paraphernalia and render her respect that they do not give to other spiritual entities. This is very surprising for me personally because before living in Indianapolis I did not know of this type of worship.

We are located on the West side of Indianapolis, where eighty percent of the Worship at Second Friends Meeting Housecommunity is Hispanic. We have meeting for worship in the building of Second Friends Meeting, which is part of Western Yearly Meeting, and we have a great relationship with them. Second Friends Meeting has struggled for years to reach out to the Hispanic community in their area with no success. One of the Second Friends members testified to having a dream about them worshiping in silence when he heard a spontaneous worship song in another language; this dream happened the week before we visited their Meeting. Other than Second Friends Meeting we are also being supported by Indiana Yearly Meeting and Western Yearly Meeting. These yearly meetings have harmoniously united to in the effort to begin an Hispanic ministry.

Our vision is to see a true Quaker church that resembles Jesus' teachings. We know that Jesus came to give freedom (Luke 4:18) and Being Salt and Light Togetherlife (John 10:10). We want to be light among darkness and to let the Hispanic community on the West side of Indianapolis know that the Quakers are truly children of the light. Only Jesus can provide hope to this community that does not see any solution to the problems that face them. Historically, Quakers have always been an example of helping the people in most need, and we want to continue George Fox’s advice:

“Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone; whereby in them you may be a blessing, and make the witness of God in them to bless you.”

62376_523592250420_64901368_30921433_6671084_nKarla Moran is a member of Second Friends Meeting in Indianapolis. Born in Guatemala, she grew up as an Evangelical Friend in the United States. She brings her experience in serving God in cross-cultural and bilingual settings to her work among Friends, in the United States and beyond. She was a member of the planning committee for the 2010 Young Adult Friends Gathering in Wichita, Kansas. She presently serves as a full-time church organizer and pastoral caregiver in Indianapolis.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Quakers and the Postmodern Condition: “The Spirit Of Truth Among Friends”

Could it be that we Quakers are behind the times in how we understand truth?
Jeff Dudiak, Quaker and Associate Professors of Philosophy at King’s College in Edmonton, asked that question when he spoke last Thursday at ESR about Quakerism and the postmodern condition.
According to Dudiak, we Quakers suffer our current bitter divisions because we misconceive what truth is. Our problem, as in the wider culture, is adherence to a “withering modernism.”
Quakers of whatever stripe, be it evangelical or liberal, Dudiak says, view the world through an Enlightenment lens, believing that we can standJeff Dudiak presents at Common Meal back and “detach” from the world, observe it and draw conclusions that will lead to truth.  The individual is the knowing subject. The world is her object. This subject/object split is at the heart of the Enlightenment thinking that grips our society. Each of us thus erects a “buffered self” that observes the world from on high, as if we are not part of the world. It’s characteristic of our age, Dudiak says, that we stand back and view the world “as a picture.”
Two strands emerge from this Enlightenment worldview. Orthodox Friends believe they extract truth objectively or empirically, through Scripture and other historic witness or revelation. Liberal Friends, following the Romantic strain of modern thinking, believe they can find the truth within, through subjective personal experience or feeling. The commonality that links both groups is the belief in the power of the individual to reason or feel his or her way to truth.
Dudiak illustrates how each group understands George Fox’s revelation that “there is one, Jesus Christ who can speak to my condition.” The Orthodox  Quaker relies on the objective truth “out there” of Jesus Christ as validating Fox’s vision. Jesus Christ spoke to Fox’s condition because Jesus Christ is Truth. The Liberals, however, focus on the “my” condition in Fox’s statement, the subjective experience of truth that the individual can possess and that does not need to be verified because it is “true for her.”
Postmodernism questions this Enlightenment way of understanding. It’s impossible for a human being living in the world to stand objectively or subjectively “outside” that world as a neutral observer. Quaker truth, says Dudiak, is richer and thicker than what the Enlightenment has led us to believe.
Dudiak  speaks to a larger “spiritual” truth that is, in the Hebrew sense of the word Spirit, the breathJeff Dudiak presents at Common Meal that  brings life to nature and nature to life. This Spirit or Truth is nothing in itself but is that which animates every living thing. This truth has little to do with either facts or feelings. To be aligned with this Spirit (Truth) is to be truly alive and alight.
Thus, to live in Quaker truth is not to engage in the impossible project of discerning the objective reality about religion or to live in the realm of “what I personally believe” but to participate in an on-going objective process of creation that both precedes us and will follow us. 
Dudiak finds it heartbreaking that Quakers parrot the larger culture in their understanding of truth. He paints an alternative picture of truth as dynamic and relational. Truth means developing a conception of God that leads not to static fact but to life. Truth is troth—Quakers agreeing to be faithful one to another. Quakers can find unity around troth, which transcends the need for agreement. Dudiak sees marriage as the model for this Quaker unity. Partners in a marriage don’t expect to always agree, but do pledge to stay faithful and to love one another despite their disagreements. “In marriage,” he says, “the test of unity is not agreement, but hanging in there.”
Should Quaker unity be based on the ability to live in loving community with others, not ignoring disagreement but at the same time not making agreement the ground of unity? Dudiak also noted that Convergent Friends may be on this postmodern path already, choosing to ignore the disagreements that are ripping through Quakerism. Do you agree with this?

Diane Reynolds is a student in Earlham School of Religion’s Master of Divinity program. She maintains a personal blog, Emerging Quaker.

Monday, February 14, 2011

What does leadership mean to you?

“Leadership” is a concept heavy-laden with experiences of mentors, meetings, pastors, employers, and others who have gone awry. In the Religious Society of Friends, with its theology of egalitarian relations, “leadership” is a concept that is often downplayed and reduced to its least intrusive, least offensive manifestations. To me, leadership is a calling in and of itself; a field of study, requiring a hard look at oneself and a penchant for discerning how groups of people and organizations function together. It is a life-long process of paying attention to not only where the Spirit is leading this group or the other, but also paying attention to the direction the Spirit is not leading.

Many times, I have encountered comments and opinions in experiences of group cohesion and group conflict that reduces the groups’ behavior to simplistic psychological explanations for this phenomenon or that. Examples of this include: ¨S/he is just speaking out of fear¨and ¨That is just an angry person with issues¨. Groups, in and of themselves possess their own sense of personality, mission and calling that goes beyond simply that of the individuals of which the group is comprised.

Leadership involves the inclination, proclivity and desire to see beyond the bounds of what the group is discerning in efforts to guide the group beyond its current limitations. It entails the ability to see the group´s personality and tenor as more that the emotions or thoughts of any one individual. This involves being willing to stick one’s neck out, state the obvious, push and pull, gauge what impetus would Students at Common Mealwork and which would not, fall, and yes, be pushed down. It involves surrounding oneself with mentors and friends that can brush one off and help one to stand again.

Much has been written about the integrity and consistency necessary to leadership, but I see these attributes as being necessary of any one involved in the work of God, and as Friends, each of us is about the work of God. Being a leader involves being trustworthy enough for those who feel vulnerable to follow one out onto thin ice anyway. Think about the leaders that surround you in your life. Who would you follow? Who knows the group well and pays attention to the group as a whole and not just smaller constituencies or individuals? Who would stay to pick you up if the plan is a bust and not flee, refusing to leave you behind, refusing to blame you for the bust? Who would celebrate with you or grieve with you? And then who would ask you to do it all over again? And to whom would you say, “Yes, I’ll give it a try again”? Those are the leaders.

vanloapApril Vanlonden is a recorded minister in Western Yearly Meeting, and has served as a pastor in Indiana Yearly Meeting. With over twenty-five years of experience serving in the non-profit sector in a variety of leadership positions, she presently serves as Director of Academic Services at Earlham School of Religion and Bethany Theological Seminary.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sharing the Good News in Spain

I became a Quaker just a few months ago, though I have been a Christian for many years. I am an affiliate member of Rockingham Monthly Meeting, which is part of Ohio Yearly Meeting. I deliberately chose to become a Conservative Quaker because I was certain that I wanted to belong to a distinctively Christian Quaker community. I did not want to have to avoid words such as Jesus, Christ, God, salvation, and so forth, when speaking to Friends. The choice to walk the Conservative path has its consequences, no doubt, and I am fully aware of the difficulties involved in this decision. As a Spaniard, these difficulties are related to the particularities of my country. Spain is a very complex society, due in part to its ancient, rich and multi-cultural history, as well as its present political and social situation.

There are very few Quakers in Spain. Since being a Christian means, in part at least, to be a witness for Christ, I have decided to share my Christian, and in particular my Quaker, faith with my fellow countrymen and countrywomen. I think that, just as both Christ and the Quakers' way of relating to Him have benefited me and improved my life, they can also benefit and improve the lives of many people.

Most of the Spanish people consider themselves to be Catholic, although they are not always practitioners, as people Photo by Luís Pizarrohere put it. Catholicism has a very rich tradition and usually their adherents feel quite happy to belong to its ranks. The Catholic Church has a singular feature that distinguishes it from other Christian Churches, namely, its belief in its uniqueness, in the sense that nobody outside of its fold can attain salvation (of course, many Catholic people have relaxed this rigid belief and have adopted a more open standpoint). I think this rigid belief makes unlikely for many Catholics to leave their Church. Of course, they do not have to abandon their church if they find a relationship with Christ there. However, I do hope to extend the possibility of another Christian way to those who want or need it, as I myself was in need before I encountered the Quaker path. I never felt comfortable inside the Catholic Church for a variety of reasons, and, although I belonged to an Evangelical church for a short time many years ago, I did not feel comfortable there, either.

In Quakerism, I have found my spiritual home, the place I have longed for all my life. And if this has been the case for me, I think it could be also the case for others. In this context, the effort to spread Quakerism in my country makes complete sense.

Besides the deeply rooted sense of being Catholic that most people have in Spain, there are also political and social factors, as I said before. Spain experienced a cruel civil war in the 1930s, and this war has left a mark on our national consciousness that has endured for the last sixty years. The war and its aftereffects have convinced many of my people to embrace a secular worldview; for many others, it has meant a total rejection of religion and, in particular, of Christianity.

Our project to create a Quaker Christian worship group in Seville, Spain, has emerged in this complex context. While I believe that Liberal Quakerism could certainly be successful in Spain, and in Europe in general, I am concerned that Europe presently suffers from an excess of Photo by Luís Pizarroliberalism. I have the strong conviction that Europe, and Spain in particular, needs a new evangelization, a return to its Christian foundations and values. Of course, many people could say that Europe does not need, in this post-modern age, a Christian way of thinking, worldview that revives old concepts such as God, salvation, heaven, and so forth. However, I am convinced that Europe does need Christian values such as compassion, friendship, care of the poor, love, and many others.

Conservative Quakerism has two clearly distinguishable, but inter-related, layers: One is its adherence to the Christian worldview: acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Savior and an embrace of the biblical narrative. The other layer consists of our testimony of integrity, simplicity, equality, peace, and so forth. It is quite probable that many in my country, and in Europe in general, might feel a strong attraction to these testimonies, but not to the Christian foundation of Quakerism.

To share our Quaker vision in a European country could be a real challenge. Does make sense to Photo by Luís Pizarrocreate worship groups where people are more interested in pacifism than in Christ, if they have any interest in Christ at all? I think that we Conservative Quakers must be honest: we must make it clear that Christ is the cornerstone and that everything else comes from Him. Is it not Christ who frees? Does not He bring peace and salvation?

In this secular age is more necessary than ever to hear afresh the good news of the gospel. You, North Americans, and we, Europeans, share a common heritage. Liberating Christian principles lie at the base of our western civilization. We have a profound and rich Christian heritage. Do not we have the right and even the duty to preserve it?

You, North Americans, still retain a sound dose of enthusiasm. We, in Europe, have lost a great part of it. We feel a bit tired. Many centuries have gone by and we are already a bit old. We invite you to inspire us and to give us new strength. Together we can offer our devastated world the good news that Christ is really present among us.

Luís PizarroLuis Pizarro was born in Mérida, an ancient city founded by the Roman Empire in 25 BC and located in southwestern Spain. He has lived in Seville for many years, where he serves as Professor in the Department of Applied Mathematics at the University of Seville. He has a passion for black and white photography. He is an affiliate member of Rockingham Monthly Meeting, Ohio Yearly Meeting. In his efforts to be a witness for Christ he publishes, an outreach site for Quakers in Spain.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Context is Everything

I have 4 signs that I've made that I hang in the classroom where the residential BS101 class meets. These signs are some of my key interpretive principles when it comes to reading the Bible. I hope they become yours as well.

Context is Everything

OK, well maybe not everything, but pretty close. The following contexts are all factors in reading the biblical text.

    •historical context. This itself is complicated. There is the historical context stated by the biblical text (such as “In the days when the judges ruled...” Ruth 1:1), the historical context of when the text was written (such as Ruth may have been composed during David's reign [or not]), and the historical context of when the text was canonized (for Ruth probably the post-exilic period).
    •literary context. Verses occur in within chapters, which are within books, which are within larger collections (e.g., Torah, Former Prophets, Wisdom), which are within the canon
    •personal context. This has to do with who you are as a reader. Some of my contexts are: female, single, white, heterosexual, middle class, US citizen, Christian, United Methodist.
    •other contexts. These include various other contexts than the ones listed above including, but not limited to: later historical contexts, other religious contexts, other geographical contexts, or any context other than one's own. I would also add in here popular culture and the history of biblical interpretation.

All of these context are factors in interpretation. In other words, there is no such thing as a completely objective intepretation. The meaning of a text will be different depending upon which of these contexts one considers since different contexts raise different issues and concerns. One of the things I hope you become aware of is these various contexts and how they matter in interpretation. Just so you know, in general I think it is a good thing to read a text first in its historical context and its meaning for ancient Israel before considering its meaning for today.

Often our theological disagreements arise from the differences in our various contexts and the questions and concerns we are bringing to the text.

This also means that there's not a right reading and a wrong reading. An historical critical and a literary and a postcolonial reading of the same text might look very different, but they are all “correct” readings of the text. In summary, because context is everything, multiple meanings of the text are possible.

Interpretation Matters

This issue is related to what I left off with in “context is everything.” If multiple meanings are possible, then how do we adjudicate between competing interpretations? The traditional answer has been to declare only one type of method (such as historical criticism) or one social location (such as white, male) to be normative. But if one wants to value mutliple methods and social contexts, such an approach is itself unethical.

My approach is to consider ethical interpretation. That is, what matters is how an interpretation functions. Does it function to liberate or to oppress? Interpretations that liberate and give new life to individuals and communities should be viewed as more authoritative than interpretations that oppress or cause harm to individuals and communities – even those interpretations that correctly use a particular methodology or may have been what the author originally meant (even if we could figure out what that was).

We all know how the text can used to harm. Here are some examples from Genesis.

    •Gen 1:28—subduing the earth has been taken to mean that it is OK to use (exploit) the earth in whatever way is good for us. (Anyone seen Avatar?)
    •Gen 2-3—Those who forbid the ordination of women base that in part on their interpretation of Eve's alleged subordination to Adam (2:18, 21-24) and her alleged role in the “fall” (3:1-7, 13, 16).
    •Gen 8:21—The promise that God will never again destroy the earth by water/flood has been interpreted by some that this implies it is OK to increase nuclear weapons. God never promised that the earth would not be destroyed by "fire."
    •Gen 9:25-27—the curse of "Ham" (really Canaan) was used in the US in support of black slavery
    •Gen 10-11—The table of nations in chap. 10 and the confusion of languages at Babel in chap. 11 was interpreted by the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa to show that race differences are included in the Bible and that separation is God's will and therefore apartheid is biblically based.

In other words, what we are doing is not merely an interesting intellectual exercise, nor is it solely about what it means to me. Our interpretations have real impact on the lives of real people.

However, this is complicated (see below). For example, a text that I find liberating, my neighbor might find oppressive and vice versa. This means that I also believe that interpretation is best done in community so that I know how my interpretation affects another.

It's Complicated

One the one hand, reading the Bible isn't rocket science and often the message is self evident. On the other hand, it is a mystery to me why anyone should think reading the Bible is easy or that the meaning of a text is intuitively obvious. Often when I'm asked a question about the text my answer usually is prefaced with, “Well, it's complicated.” Often the answer is complicated because of issues in the text (such as determining the meaning of a word) or there is insufficient or contradictory evidence (such as trying to determine when the exodus would have happened). Sometimes it's complicated because the world of the 21st century is so different from that of the Iron Age (especially in matters of science and knowledge of how the world and human beings work).

My next most frequent response is to questions is, “Well, it is, except when it isn't.” That is, the Bible itself is complicated and full of tensions and contradictions. I follow the wisdom of my mentor James Sanders. One of his favorite sayings is, “For every absolute you will find in the Bible, you will find it's opposite somewhere else.” For example, compare the following:       

        Ps 44:23      Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord?
                           Awake, do not cast us off forever!
        Ps 121:4     He who keeps Israel
                            will neither slumber nor sleep.
        Isa 43:18     Do not remember the former things,
                            or consider the things of old.
        Isa 46:9      remember the former things of old;
                          for I am God, and there is no other;

His second favorite saying is, “No controversial issue has ever been resolved by appeal to the Bible.” Think about it. Both slave holders and emancipators quoted the Bible, as did those who advocated for women's ordination and women's subordination. Which makes me think that we're not going to solve the debates about issues of homosexuality or abortion or global warming or any other issue by appeal to the Bible.

Keep in mind that one of the reasons there is such theological diversity is because “it's complicated.”

Mind the Gap

On the London Tube (underground subway) when the doors open and close this very pleasant British voice says, “Mind the gap, please,” asking you to be mindful of the space between the train and the platform. This sign is about being mindful of the spaces or gaps that are present in the biblical text. These are places in the story where the reader feels the need to supply "missing" information. A couple of examples:

        -Where did the women come from that Cain and Abel married? (Gen 4:17)
        -Why did God have regard for Abel's offering but not Cain? (Gen 4:4)
        -Who were the "sons of the gods" or the "sons of God" in Gen 6:2?

The point is that the text does not supply this information. Our inclination is to fill those gaps.  That's fine to do. But be aware that although you might want to ask the question, you will never be able to answer it by appeal to the text. Sometimes "gaps" can be filled with reasonable and intelligent speculation based upon a variety of other types of evidence, such as appeal to elsewhere in the biblical text, appeal to other Western Asian texts, or appeal to archeological evidence from antiquity. Gaps can also be filled with anything that springs forth from the human imagination. I'm not trying to forbid gap filling, but what I do want is for you to recognize when you're doing it! And when you become aware that you are "gap filling," ask yourself with what you are filling it and why.

This is a way of encouraging you to be aware of what is said and not said in the text.  The absence of something that we might feel is vital may also be a clue as to the concerns of the biblical writers. However we might be concerned with where those wives came from (and that gap has led to all sorts of speculation), it's not a concern of the Bible. And maybe we should take a hint from that.

Another main "gap" in biblical narrative is with characterization. Generally the text does not give information regarding the thoughts, feelings, or emotions of folk in the Bible. People are known by what they do, not what they feel. So we'll be wondering, what was going through Abraham's or Sarah's or Isaac's mind in Gen 22? Note that the text doesn't tell us! In terms of characters, the tendency is to fill the gap by asking ourselves what we might think or feel in such circumstances.

In summary, when it comes to gaps we can make some (un)educated guesses but ultimately we don't know. It's important to come to terms with what we know and what we don't know.

nancy_bowenNancy Bowen is Associate Professor of Old Testament at Earlham School of Religion. She has recently published a commentary on the book of Ezekiel.

Monday, February 7, 2011

ESR Acquires Retreat Center

Sometimes good things come completely out of the blue.

This summer, ESR was offered the chance to take possession of the Lauramoore Home, a former retirement home located near campus.  ESR jumped at the chance to add a 150-year-old 10-bedroom Victorian home to our resources.  Who wouldn’t?  You can read more about the house’s history on the main ESR website.

To start with, it’s hard to even approach to house without picturing Jane Austen or later Victorian novels.  There is a circular drive out front and a big entrance with the original hitching post next to the front door.  To the side of the main house is the original carriage house.  Perhaps the grill on the back porch and the clotheslines ruin the Victorian atmosphere, but you can’t see these from the front!

My first thought when I walked through the door was “wow, look at that crazy Victorian wallpaper.”  Then I realized that the furniture, decorations, and books match.  The first floor, except for the modern kitchen, might have looked exactly the same 120 years ago.  There is glassware, Victorian-era furniture with carved wood backs and arm rests, an old piano, and an ancient bible.  It’s truly lovely, and I adored the huge kitchen and dining room.  I had to be careful, however, not to touch anything, as I am well known in my own house for breaking plates and bowls accidentally (and my plates are merely pottery, not glass).

The upstairs is a maze of interconnected bedrooms and bathrooms.  (Seven bedrooms, four bathrooms, each open onto the main area around the stairs, but also having doors from one room, to a bathroom, to another room … )  I wonder how the walls were built in 1860, as they have clearly been rebuilt.  Were there suites, including a master’s suite?  A nursery?  Servant’s rooms?  How many people lived in the house?  There is a “grand” staircase with a wooden banister, and a back staircase that I would guess was the “servant’s” staircase at one time.  There is a wood-burning fireplace in every room upstairs, and I wonder how much soot and ash was produced as a side effect of keeping this building warm before it had a furnace!

I am imagining Victorian-era novels, imagining large families with many children, widowed aunts joining the household, visitors Lauramoore Home Exteriorcoming through for long periods, guests, perhaps soldiers recovering from war, etc.  The yard, over an acre and shaded by mature trees, brings visions of women in big dresses with bustles, strolling around with parasols while children play.  Perhaps I am on the wrong track in my imaginings, given that Quaker families would not typically have had sons returning from war and likely would not have worn the complicated and ornate Victorian fashions, but the vision is very tempting.

The house is quite clean and well lit, so it certainly doesn’t feel like the set for Casper or The Haunting . . . but if it were double its size and full of cobwebs, we could rent it out for horror films!  We had our ESR employee Christmas dinner there in December, which gave us an opportunity to wander around.  We spent the evening cracking jokes about murder mysteries and haunted house movies: “I’m going to walk around upstairs . . . if I don’t come back in 10 minutes, send up a search party!”  “I think that’s the plot of a horror movie I saw recently: one of us goes upstairs and disappears, and then another goes to look for that person and also disappears, then another  . . .”

A little bit of work updating the bathrooms, and the house is reborn as the Lauramoore Guesthouse and Retreat Center!  We plan to houseLauramoore Friends Home visitors and speakers here, students coming for intensives, host small retreats and meals, and other events.  I am glad that Lauramoore has found a new life; a house this large has very few private uses in 2011, and many older homes like this fall into disrepair.  Lauramoore needed very little work done (I say this somewhat comically, knowing how much effort our Business Manager, Tracy Crowe, put into getting estimates from contractors for a few remodeling projects, as well as snow removal and yard care . . . it’s still a lot of work!) and is looking quite good for its age.  We do not see this as a moneymaker, but rather have set prices for room rental at a level that will hopefully pay Lauramoore’s expenses.  (Plus, any Victorian aficionados out there?  Have I got some crazy wallpaper for you to look at!)  The ESR community can benefit from this house, and Lauramoore can benefit from the care ESR can give it.

If you would like to use Lauramoore for a retreat or meeting, please contact ESR’s Assistant to the Dean, Matthew Mosey ( for more information.

Blessings, Valerie Hurwitz

Friday, February 4, 2011

Experiencing An ESR Cross-cultural Trip to Israel/Palestine

During the first two weeks of January, 2011, I traveled with three students for a cross-cultural trip to Israel/Palestine. Rachel is an MA student at ESR working on her thesis (Her blog is Walking Cheerfully Over the Earth). Sara is an ESR Access M.Div. student. Glenn is a Connections student at Bethany Theological Seminary working toward an M.Div. We had a great time together traveling to various locations within Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. We spoke with Jews, Christians, and Muslims. We met both with Israelis and Palestinians. For several nights we stayed with families in Beit Sahour and experienced daily life in Palestine.Falafael shopWe also had meetings with high ranking officials such as Xavier Abu Eid (Communication Advisor for the PLO Negotiations Team), and also Mark Regev (Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel). It was an incredible two weeks planned out for us by the Siraj Center for Holy Land Studies, thanks to the efforts of George Rishmawi and Michel Awad. We had good guides leading us, the main one being Mohammad Barakat, an exceptional guide, delightful person, and someone who knows all the best restaurants (whose owners always had some connection to East Jerusalem where Mohammad lives).Ramallah Friends Meetinghouse
The Palestinian Christians we met talked with us about the recent Kairos Palestine document, an ecumenical statement calling for Christians to recognize the oppression of the Palestinians and call them to solidarity and action for justice in Palestine. The list of religious organizations and institutions we visited is long: the Jerusalem Interchurch Center, Wi'am (Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center), Bethlehem Bible College, Bethlehem University, Friends International Center in Ramallah. We toured other places like the Ramallah Friends School, the Mossawa Center in Haifa, the Freedom Theatre in Jenin, the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee, theApplied Research Institute in Bethlehem, the Al Kamandjati music center in Ramallah, the Jenin Creative Cultural Center, etc.

Early in our trip we talked with Rabbi Arik Ascherman, the Executive Director of Rabbis for Human Rights. My initial impression was that this handsome, Harvard-trained, Zionist American Jew with Israeli citizenship could play the role of Jesus on the silver screen. I came to think of him more as an Apostle Paul to the Palestinians, someone known to be on the front lines when Palestinian homes are being demolished in Jerusalem or at the Friday demonstration in the village of Bil'in, suffering at the hands of his fellow-Jews on behalf of others.
Not all our conversations were easy ones. On the day we were to visit Hebron, we started out with some humor about the Palestinian equivalent to southerner jokes in the US. It seems that Palestinians tell stories about Hebronites, and we heard a funny example. In fact, while walking through the marketplace, we were witnesses to a couple of guys trying to pull a camel backward into the back of a Renault hatchback. What was difficult is that our day was bookended by visits with people who represented extremes. Not radical extremists, but close enough. To begin the day we met with Ardi Geldman in his pleasant home in the settlement of Efrat. We were uneasy to begin with but we were made more uneasy by his approach to us, putting us on the defensive as though we were among the bigoted people who think Jews have horns. We did want to hear his story and learn of his motivations for settling his family there. He had both religious and economic reasons for wanting to leave the States and live in Israel. The only thing that seemed to matter to him, however, was the justification that God gave the land to the Hebrew people and the Torah was their possession. His pessimism about the possibilities for peace were matched by our visit at the end of the day with Khalid Amayreh, a Muslim journalist living in the Palestinian village of Dura. He was a kind and gentle man who welcomed us into his home office. He used strong language to denounce the Israeli occupation, but eloquently discussed political and social issues. He did not advocate violence. He didpredict that there would not be a peaceful resolution but only major conflict within the next five years.
Demonstration at Bil'in 
There were many cities we visited in Palestine. It seems like in each one we walked through their markets, ate at a sandwich shop (falafel, shawarma, the bread, and the salads – oh, the salads!), and talked with someone at a center for civic and cultural development. The cities of Hebron in the south and Jenin in the north were the most tragic. We got the best taste of the Palestinian struggle by visiting Bil'in at the conclusion of the Friday demonstration at the barrier wall. There was a special call for protest in the wake of the previous week's incident of Jawaher Abu Rahma dying as a result of tear gas inhalation (see the report by IMEMC). Our guide brought us to the village just after 1:00 pm after the Israelis opened the main roads again. On the outskirts of town we began to smell the effect of the Israeli Defense Forces' retaliation against the demonstrators. It became worse when we stood by the side of the road, watching the marchers returning, dripping with the sewer water with which they had been hosed. We slowly walked closer to observe the action in the distant valley. The people lined the dirt road with their signs and flags. Like a Fourth of July celebration gone wrong, tear gas canisters were being lobbed into the air to fall among the crowd. A truck carrying a large tank with brown liquid suddenly surges forward and a water cannon sprays the fleeing people. As we began to walk back to the van with the marchers, the wind shifted. My eyes began to water and my throat burned as the dissipated tear gas came our way. It took ten minutes or more before I could see clearly and swallow normally again. There were many others who suffered worse as they made their way home to clean themselves. Among the people we met there was Mustafa Barghouti and Mairead Corrigan Maguire (I'm not sure if it was her). We heard that Rabbi Ascherman had been there. The man we were supposed to talk with afterwards, Eyad Burnat, the leader of the Popular Committee in Bil'in, had been taken away by ambulance. Even though he had been treated by the EMTs with oxygen and an IV, he called us to meet him in his living room. After he showered and we were welcomed with gracious hospitality, he sat with us and talked about the protests in Bil'in.
In the Judean wilderness overlooking a cavern 
There were some beautiful moments as well. Listening to the Muslim call to prayer throughout the day in various places gave us a holy sense of God's presence among the Palestinian people. But we shared that as well with Jews in a synagogue service the Friday evening after our experience in Bil'in. The churches, synagogues, the Jerusalem western wall, the Samaritans on Mt. Gerizim, the mosques wherever we traveled were all testimony to the many people who seek God in the Holy Land. There were other places as well. After visiting Jericho we headed out into the desert hills until we came to a place where we could look out over the vast landscape beyond an immense cavern as we watched the sunset. In the evening, when we stayed in a beautiful guest house in Nazareth, I watched the sun setting over the city with the dome of the Church of the Annunciation only a few blocks away. HaifaAs beautiful as a postcard was the scene from the side of Carmel Mountain overlooking the Baha'i gardens, the view of the city of Haifa stretching from side to side before us, and the blue waters of the Mediterranean serving as the background with the coast of Lebanon in the distance. The most emotional I felt was calling my wife on my cell phone while riding in a "Jesus boat" on the Sea of Galilee. From the earliest years of our relationship she has heard me talk of my desire to travel to the Holy Land. The beauty of that experience, however, was tarnished by the politics of flying the American flag next to the Israeli flag while playing our national anthem. (I think that was even worse than the series of evangelistic sermons – "can I hear a hallelujah?" – we heard from the guide at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem.)

For me there was a theme running throughout my travels. On the first flight of my journey I encountered a scene in which a passenger was telling a soldier, "Thanks for your service." During the next two weeks I met numerous people who have dedicated their lives to being in dangerous situations for the goal of bringing justice and peace to oppressed people. I was reminded of the saying I've heard from well-meaning Americans, "If you don't back our troops, why don't you get in front of them?" I visited some frontlines of conflict and witnessed people sacrificing their lives for others. As you may know, the member of our group, Rachel, lives with the experience of her Quaker meeting's youth leader, Tom Fox, having been executed in Iraq by his captors in 2006 while working with Christian Peacemaker Teams. She plans to be a part of a CPT delegation to Iraq in April, 2011. At the end of my journey, having been scrutinized by Israeli customs officials at the airport in Tel Aviv and a similar intrusiveness in Amsterdam (full body scan) before the international flight to the US, I was told by the US customs official in the Minneapolis airport after a brief conversation, "Welcome back." I appreciated that and it hit me at an emotional level. Our group went to Israel/Palestine to learn about another multi-cultural context but not to be activists or even to debate with people. It still felt good to be welcomed back to my country. For others who return from traveling to the frontlines of conflict for the work of advocacy and participation in non-violent resistance to injustice, I wish for them not only to hear, "Welcome back," but also, "Thank you for your service."
Tim Seid 
Tim Seid is Associate Dean and Assistant Professor of New Testament Studies at Earlham School of Religion. He has served pastorates in Quaker meetings in New England Yearly Meeting and Indiana Yearly Meeting.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What does "leadership" mean to you?

I sometimes joke that God called me to be a pastor to a group that can’t make its peace with pastoral ministry, to be an Old Testament scholarJay in conversation among a people that is ambivalent about the Bible, and to be a leader within a group that really doesn’t want to be led. One has to be willing to “swim upstream” to find joy in those types of calling. Still, I’ve gladly said “yes” to each of these opportunities and relish the challenges they bring.
The latter call, that of leadership, is very much on my mind these days. From personal, institutional, and communal perspectives, it begs for attention. While it is true that leadership can be a troubling concept for Friends, I have come to believe that we should move beyond our old hesitations. We would benefit from fussing less about the things that can go wrong, instead investing time reflecting upon the topic and developing an understanding of leadership that can function well in our context.
At its most basic level, I have come to hold that leadership is stepping forward in answer to the leading of the Spirit, offering the gifts and skillsESR student speaking at Common Meal with which one has been equipped.  For that to be a legitimate understanding of leadership, it must grow out of one’s ongoing dialogue with God. This means leadership is very much integrated with one’s spirituality, even though most theories of leadership leave no room for spirituality. It also means many of us, perhaps all of us, have moments of moving into and out of leadership roles when, for some duration of time, we have the right offerings to meet the needs of the moment.  From this perspective, leading is a form of faithfulness shared by virtually everyone.
Having said this, I would distance myself from the position of “everyone is a leader” which at some point devolves to mean, “no one is a leader.” I am willing to say that while all people have opportunities to lead, and all leadership is valuable, not all leadership is equal and some is more permanent than others. That statement may not gain wide acceptance among Friends. However, I believe that spiritual equality before God does not translate into positional equality within an organization or topical equality on every subject to be discussed or decided. There are topics I know little or nothing about, and even if a Quaker context means I can contribute to the discussion, and even though it is possible God may speak through me, I do not enter some discussions expecting to carry any weight.
Leadership as a response to call differs from leadership as raw talent in at least two crucial ways: first, its authority is rooted in God’s calling andESR student speaking at Common Meal equipping, not in charisma or skill; and second, it asks early and often, “for what purpose am I leading?” This question helps the leader to remember that the purpose for leading has God’s call and the community’s well being in mind. It is less about imposing one’s own vision on the group or satisfying ego, and more a matter of helping the group discern and respond to its own call as defined by its mission. With that said, leadership is offered in the hope that it contributes to God’s work, as well as to the life and health of the group receiving the leadership.
Leadership almost always presents an opportunity to influence the group that receives it. I could have easily said “an opportunity to serve the group.” There is a service capacity to good leadership, but I am careful about the use of “servant” with regard to leadership among Friends. Friends employ the term often, usually without having ever read Greenleaf’s work on servant leadership. I believe Friends in general have not yet matured enough in our thinking about leadership to use the term “servant” without qualification.
I am aware that the idea of one person influencing another makes some Friends uneasy, but the idea that all influence is bad or that we can live aCarrie Newcomer at ESR life not influenced by others is indefensible. At the core are worries about power and authority that seem to be embedded in Quaker DNA. If Friends are to make progress thinking about how leadership can flourish among us, we are going to have to speak the truth to ourselves about terms like those. It is not that Friends do not have authorities and powers among us. Rather, our tendency is to camouflage them, or perhaps simply fail to recognize them because they we are so immersed in our own assumptions.
I know that I am going to be influenced by others, and many times will even be unaware of those influences. Given that, I’d prefer to be influenced by those who lead with clear objectives and right motives.
6Jay Marshall is Dean of Earlham School of Religion and a native of North Carolina. Before beginning his service at ESR, he was a pastor in Western Yearly Meeting.