I am grateful to Daniel Wilcox for his response to my recent blog asking "Where are the Quakers? Quakers who come to meeting once a week to worship and do little or nothing to promote peace and justice the rest of the week sometimes like to take credit for, or sentimentalize, what prophetic activist Quakers have done in the past, often distorting their message to make it fit their quietist perspective. For example, Woolman is often lifted up as a "compassionate or sympathetic listener." One Friend repeated this claim several times, as if Woolman were a disciple of Carl Rogers instead of Jesus Christ!
But the reality is that Woolman did not hesitate to confront slaveholding Friends on their own turf. He went to his monthly meeting and obtained a certificate so he could travel in the ministry with his concern about abolishing slavery. He then went to the homes of slaveholding Friends, often uninvited, and they were obliged by the custom of hospitality to receive him as a guest and a traveling minister. With patient firmness he "labored" with them about their practice of holding slaves, making it clear he felt this was contrary to the teachings of Christ. Granted, he did not rant and he did listen. But he also made his convictions crystal clear. When he left the home of a slaveholding Friend, he often gave money, saying: "I notice that your black servants fed me and took care of my horse, but are not being paid, so please give them this money."
If the slaveholding Friend refused (no doubt shocked by this audacious request), Woolman often gave the money directly to the black servants.
This would no doubt have mortified some, and infuriated, other slave-holder Friends.
When it came to Truth, as he understood it, Woolman was not afraid to speak his mind and do what Spirit let him to do. This is an example I wish that more Friends (including myself) would follow. We are sometimes so afraid of offending people that we are willing to offend God by not sharing what we really feel and believe.
Here's what Daniel shared with me, which I really appreciate: