Baptists and Quakers

Discussion in '2003 Archive' started by stubbornkelly, Feb 18, 2003.

  1. stubbornkelly

    stubbornkelly
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    I was recently asked to start a topic about the similarities and differences of Baptists and Quakers. I'm Baptist, but I attend a Friends (Quaker) meeting. I'll tell you straight away, there are probably more overt differences than similarities! It may be easiest to give a general overview of my understanding of Quakerism, and let the similarities and differences be drawn out in the text.

    One overt difference is the difference in worship style. But even that takes a bit of explaining.

    There are 3 styles of Friends worship:

    "Programmed" meetings are most like your typical protestant service. Scripture is read, hymns are sung, and a speaker (most often the clerk, but not always) speaks. There's also a period of silence, usually around 15 or 20 minutes, used as a time for congregants to be open and receptive to the spirit of God. More on silent worship later.

    "Unprogrammed" meetings are completely silent, save for the spoken ministry of various congregants.

    "Semi-programmed" meetings are a mix of both. There's a longer period of silence than in a programmed meeting, but not the entire hour. There will be a speaker, but it isn't likely that there will be any hymns.

    Friends' silence is not without activity, and really isn't always silent. It's an expectant silence. Friends will speak or sing as they are led to do so, in what is called "spoken ministry." It isn't generally impulsive, rather it is the result of prayer and outside study, and comes from a member's conviction that it must be shared. I've been in meetings during which no one spoke, and others in which people were up and down speaking for nearly the entire hour. There is, by custom, a period of silence after someone speaks and before someone else speaks, so that the message of the speaker can be fully heard and understood. Many people use the silence for prayer, or to sit meditatively, pondering something they've read or experienced. The purpose is to discern spiritual significance, and share its relevance to the meeting.

    It is more complicated than that, but it could take pages to go further. May it suffice, for now, to say that meeting for worship happens when two or more people feel the need to be still together and seek God's presence.

    Quakers have no doctrine. There are, though, thoughts and beliefs collected in each Yearly Meeting's Faith and Practice. There are also some main Quaker principles, put forward by George Fox:

    *There is that of God in everyone. This is often referred to as the Inner Light, which is a relatively new way of thinking about this principle. Early Friends referred to this as the Inward Light, which was their way of talking about the light of Christ that is reflected through us. As Quakerism as changed form over the years, "Inner Light" has come to mean different things to different people. But the idea is that if people will only heed the spirit, it will guide them and shape their lives according to the will of God. (comes from John 1:9)

    *God is directly accessible to all persons. Essentially, "priesthood of the believer."

    *Religion comes not from books and set prayers ("empty forms") but from direct experience of God.

    *Scriptures can only be understood as one enters into the spirit

    *Love and light flows over darkness and death, which together reveal the infinite love and justice of God.

    The Quaker principles lead to five basic Quaker testimonies (witness to the living truth):

    Equality - If every person has access to God, then every person can be used as a channel for te revelation of His truth

    Simplicity - this doesn't mean dressing in black with no buttons or anything. [​IMG] It does, however, mean that focus should be on the eternal and essential, not on that which is transient and trivial

    Community - again, partly having to do with equality, but also because Friends see all persons as potential parts of God's community, and strive to keep that sense of community alive here within our society

    Peace - going back to "that of God in every one," the peace testimony may best be expressed as a question: "how is it possible to kill one of God, no matter how misguided that child may be at the moment?" Further, the peace testimony is the driving force behind Quaker efforts at reconciliation. It isn't a blind "turn the other cheek," but rather a way to keep focus on what should be the goal of any conflict - reconciliation.

    Truth - complex. But this testimony is why Friends don't swear oaths, and is very similar to the Biblical idea of separation. Many Friends were imprisoned and some put to death for their refusal to back down from the truth.

    On community - Quakers govern by consensus. No one's voice is considered more valuable than another's, and everyone must agree to a particular piece of business for it to pass. There is no vote. Often, a person will "stand aside," on a decision, if they don't particularly like the way a decision seems to be coming, but will go along with it. This is noted in the minutes, which is primarily the reason for doing so in the first place. But, if a significant number of people stand aside, the clerk may decide that the decision is not satisfactory, and call on everyone to keep working.

    And every now and then, a person will block consensus. This happens when one or two people are very strongly opposed to the decision the group is coming to, and this pretty much stops the process. A clerk may decide that the person's objections have no merit (that he or she is just blocking to make a statement or to be ornery) and go around them, but that's rare, too. Blocking consensus is a big deal, so it's not often discounted.

    At a business meeting, the clerk (many meetings have a clerk instead of a minister or pastor) will hear what people have to say and try to get a "sense of the meeting." Often, a meeting will start with two "sides," and then both sides will work to come up with a solution agreeable to everyone. One idea here is that everyone will work better together of the solution is one that everyone can support. Another is that voting one side or the other discounts the voices and opinions of a good portion of the members. To say, "what you think doesn't matter - this is what we're doing" directly violates the equality testimony.

    There are other issues having to do with consensus, but that's the gist of it. Some big decisions can take months or years to make. Business meetings are often referred to as "meeting for worship with a focus on business" as a way to emphasize that even in business, the focus should be on God and His will.

    Okay, I also want to go back to the kinds of meetings for a moment. The difference between meetings isn't just style. There are orthodox Friends (generally identified with Friends United Meeting - FUM) and liberal Friends (generall identified with Friends General Conference - FGC). Most orthodox Friends are Christian, and so are many liberal Friends, but liberal meetings tend to be less Christocentric. And, as you may figure, orthodox Friends tend to have programmed meetings, whereas liberal Friends tend toward unprogrammed meetings. There are other groups of friends, but FUM and FGC are the two largest groups.

    You'll hear about Yearly Meeting, Monthly Meeting and Weekly Meeting a lot, and that's basically the governance structure. Yearly Meeting is a group of Monthly Meetings from a region (Philadelphia Yearly Meeting; Baltimore Yearly Meeting), and Monthly Meeting refers to the local congregation (which have Weekly Meetings for worship). Whew.

    It's somewhat easier to talk about the differences, because they're more specific. As I've said, most Quakers are Christian (it is an offshoot from Protestantism, after all), and as such, most follow the Bible. But, Friends don't make the Bible the final test of doctrine and conduct - this goes back to the belief that religion is not found in "empty forms" like books or set prayers. Communion and baptism are not done ritualistically; rather, they refer to communication with the Divine and inward experience of rebirth, respectively.

    Like some Baptists, Quakers do not regard holidays are more or less holy than any other day, and many do not celebrate them. Due to the simplicity testimony, many Friends refer to "First Day," "Second Day," and so on (same with months) in order to get away from the pagan naming. Combine simplicity with equality, and you get the disregard for titles. I can count on one hand the number of people at school I called by their last name combined with a title. Actually, I can tell you exactly - there were two people, one-class professors from another campus who didn't get it and kinda thought we were weird. [​IMG]

    As some of you know, I went to a Quaker college, and there learned a lot about Quaker culture and society, as well as the principles and testimonies. I attended campus meeting for worship several times before I started attending a semi-programmed meeting near campus. I currently attend an unprogrammed Friends meeting here in Maryland, and find that I get more fed, spiritually, there than I have at any Baptist church I've attended in recent years. Most of that has to do with the way I operate, which is fairly quiet and contemplative.

    Friends are very welcoming to those of other religions, liberal Friends incredibly so (to the point that some meetings accept non-Christians as members). Because there is no doctrine, some people consider Quakerism a philosophy, not a religion, which is what leads to people saying they're "Buddhist Quakers" or "Pagan Quakers." Personally, I'd say that a Buddhist Quaker is a Buddhist who also happens to ascribe to the Quaker principles and testimonies.

    I know that's just the tip of the Friendly iceberg, and I've remained fairly general. But I welcome questions, and am sure I can expand on what I've written here.

    [ February 18, 2003, 04:11 PM: Message edited by: stubbornkelly ]
     
  2. rsr

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  3. Speedpass

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    Interesting testimony. Do the Quakers ordain clergy, like other Protestant denominations do? I imagine that if they do then alot of their clergy probably attended Guilford College.
     
  4. stubbornkelly

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    D'oh! I knew I left out something! Links!!!

    The aforementioned EFI . . .

    www.fgcquaker.org -- Friends General Conference
    www.fum.org - Friends United Meeting

    EFI Quakers, in my experience, are the most like Baptists. The follow much more closely the evangelical Christian tradition. I'll be honest - I haven't run across too many. It seems like FUM Quakers combine the beliefs of Christianity and the tenets of Quakerism the most closely, with EFI Quakers being much more conservative and FGC Quakers being much more liberal.

    In the US, EFI has a larger membership than FUM, and EFI is, indeed, one of the "big three," but I don't have nearly as much personal experience with EFI Friends. The EFI statement of belief isn't as close to George Fox's original as that of FUM or FGC. In fact, a lot of the Quakers I know would go so far as to say that EFI Friends aren't really Friends at all. But that may be an inaccurate judgement call.
     
  5. stubbornkelly

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    Generally, Friends believe that God, not man, ordains ministers, and draw little distinction between laity and clergy. Some meetings do hire pastors (typically the more conservative meetings of FUM and EFI), though I haven't heard of any that were ordained (no "religious authorities" and such). There are some recorded ministers, which is a pat way of talking about the recording of a person's gift of ministry, for a person who devotes a large portion of their life to more structured ministry. But recorded ministers are largely unpaid, and tend to be bi-vocational.

    Many semi-programmed meetings have recorded ministers, but based on my experience, it's about 50/50. Unprogrammed meetings generally have a clerk (facilitator, duties are most often relegated to consensus building), but not necessarily a recorded minister.

    Like I said, though, it's generally against Quaker principles to ordain a minister. That's not to say, though, that some ministers don't go to seminary, although it's probably more likely they'd just go for an M.Div.

    I know a few recorded ministers who went to Guilford, but probably more who went to Earlham, which has a divinity school.
     
  6. rlvaughn

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    Wow, very interesting and enlightening. Thanks, Kelly. As you might imagine, we don't have many Quakers in rural east Texas. Concerning the hymns sung in Quaker services - what hymn books are used? do they use musical instruments? what is the style of the tunes? Anything else you might think of concerning the hymns/music would be interesting to me.
     
  7. Johnv

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    In Southern California, we do, believe it or not, have a fair number of Quaker meeting houses. SOme of that may be due to the fact that Richard Nixon was born into a quaker family, and I believe the meeting house that Nixon and his family attended still stand. Nixon's birthplace and burial site are about a 10 minute drive from me, so I pass it frequently.
     
  8. stubbornkelly

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    I sang in our college choir, and spent a fair amount of time in semi-programmed meetings (usually as the message for the day), and that's where my exposure to organized music in meeting comes from.

    The hymns sung when I've been in a meeting that does them have been pretty much what you'd find in a Baptist hymnal (though I never saw an actual hymnal), though this particular meeting picked some of the more obscure ones. Piano is the common instrument, although one meeting I was at had a harp (and a harpist to go along with it [​IMG] ).

    I can't really speak too much to music other than that, mainly because I haven't been exposed to much organized music in a meeting. There have been more times that a person has chosen to sing as their spoken ministry, and it's sometimes a verse from a hymn, or a spiritual, or one of the songs from Free to be . . . you and me. LOL

    In the choir, we sang a lot of sacred music, but it was varied in style. Some of the old slave spirituals are still popular, given the Quaker involvement in the abolition movement. But generally, the music is up to the members, who will either sing as they are led, or a committee might decide what's going to be an organized song. I've never run into a meeting choir, though. My Dad likes to say that Quakers could never have a marching band, because everyone marches to their own drummer, and he's not far off. [​IMG]
     
  9. Ben W

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    I was keen on going to the Quaker church in Adelaide, until I discovered that they were the first denomination in Australia to do Homosexual Marriage sealings, which I feel is wrong. Yet I am led to believe that there are two types of groups, Evangelical Quakers and Quakers.

    The Adelaide Church fellowship alot with other religions like the Ba-Hi. They promote Pacifism which is not so bad.

    Originally the Quakers had alot in Common with the Seventh Day Baptist Church. I am not sure what the future is for the Quakers in Australia though. Yet I love the way they structure their meetings, that is probably closer to the Early Church, than most formal churches.
     
  10. stubbornkelly

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    I just wanted to add to what I said about ordination and education when it came to recorded ministers. I might have made it seem as though div school or even college is a requirement. To my knowledge, it is not. EFI may require it, and some programmed meetings tht hire pastors may, but generally, it isn't. Many recorded ministers have gone to college, sure, but that has more to do with Quaker emphasis on the importance of education more than any requirement. I've never heard a Quaker say, "I'm going to school to be a minister," because that really doesn't make much sense. Relatively few meetings actually have what Baptists would recognize as a pastor, and even of those that do, it's not generally a vocation.

    Also, there are some meetings that do same-sex marriages, but it's not really a denominational thing. It's a meeting-by-meeting thing. Anecdotally, there was a meeting that couldn't come to consensus on the same-sex marriage issue, and ultimately decided not to do marriages at all. Regardless, all potential marriages are approved by a Clearness Committee, and all members of a meeting (as well as the attenders) sign the certificate of marriage (not the legal one, clearly). But still, there are some meetings that will perform marriages, but the couple may not necessarily want to be legally married.
     
  11. Alcott

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    Quakerism began, and apparently still is, a social movement disguised as a religious movement. It was a form of passive resistance to a tyrranical church and a government with cruel policies and a rigidly fixed class system. Within the teachings of Jesus and the NT are to be found many of their foundational principles-- 'turn the other cheek,' do not swear, 'if you have 2 coats, give one to the poor,' 'there is neither Greek nor Jew, slave nor free...", "go out and bring in the poor, the lame, the blind..."

    The Quakers were useful in progressing the often-neglected humantiarian aspects of the gospel. Baptists are definitely better known for the evangelistic aspect of gospel message. I don't think either side can condemn the other for their approach.

    But why am I an evangelical [Baptist], and not a liberal [Quaker, Unitarian]? Because I believe the Bible. God desires justice and mercy more than sacrifice; true. But God did not create us, Jesus did not die for us, and the Holy Spirit does not empower us-- all for to say 'just live and let live and be sweet to one another.' God is an awesome, strict Father; not a laughing, story-telling grandfather. And especially He is one who will not tolerate debasing the importance of the redemptive work of his Son, as by saying 'all' have access to Him apart from that redemptive work.
     
  12. Shqippy

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    I've found this site useful for understanding my Friends:
    http://www.religioustolerance.org/quaker.htm

    I also found this a scintillating read; if you're interested, try an interlibrary loan:
    Fager, Chuck. Without Apology: The Heroes, the Heritage and the Hope of Liberal Quakerism. Kimo Press, 1996.

    Great words, Kelly! You speak my mind. I've been greatly blessed and inspired by my relationships with Friends.
     
  13. Ben W

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    It would bring up an interesting question. Is it o.k to be a member of a church, where other fellowships in the same denomination promote Homosexuality?
     
  14. Author

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    As to Quakers and Baptists; in the research I've done on my ancestors here in North Carolina, I found that my 4th great grandfather, George Roberts (he fought in the Revolutionary War), got kicked out of the Quakers in the 18th century. He immediately became a Baptist.

    I've been unable to determine WHY he got expelled (would love ta know&lt;g&gt;), but my folks have been Baptists ever since.

    Of course, with all the drift to fundamentalism in the SBC, I fully expect to be kicked out of the Baptists any time now but... that's tradition. Like old George, I've taken a stand for religious liberty as well.

    --Ralph
     
  15. WonderingOne

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    I think there must have been some widespread shunning going on in North Carolina back then. I'm here too, and have found out the same thing about my family through geneologic research. Back then the Quakers would shun a young person, along with their parents, if they married someone that the church considered out of bounds. I think my relative may have married a second cousin, and this was cause for excommunication.
     

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