Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Awakening to the Prophetic Call of Quakerism at Pacific Yearly Meeting

David Hartsough and A
With the election of Trump and the corporate take-over of our federal government by the most dangerous elements in our country, if not the world, the need for Quaker prophetic witness has never been greater. That's why I was thrilled to see signs of an awakening of the prophetic spirit in Pacific Yearly Meeting. It is becoming more and more clear to me that Spirit is bubbling up from the grass roots, a spring of living water, but this reawakening is still not yet evident in our epistle or in our public statements as a body. That's one reason
George Fox the Visionary Prophet
I have decided to write this blog to testify to what I witnessed. I also want to let Friends know that I am eager to travel among you to see how this emerging Spirit is at work, and to nurture those who are called to prophetic witness. 
During our annual session, there were excellent interest groups sponsored by Peace and Social Order. I attended all but one of them. Joelly Mejia spoke about her experiences as a member of the FCNL Advocacy team, and quoted from the Bible to explain the spiritual basis of her work (she was raised Catholic, in the Dominican Republic, had a spiritual awakening, and now considers herself a Christian). Janet Gastil, who has held public office much of her adult life, gave a workshop urging Friends to become involved in electoral politics. Shannon Frediani gave a workshop on countering Islamophobia, using material developed by the AFSC. David Breitzman and Linea Hanson gave a workshop on Quaker service and are eager to reach out to Friends seeking to end homelessness and poverty.
There were also testimonies of prophetic witness in the reports of our Quaker peace and justice organizations like the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), Friends Committee on Legislation of California (FCLCA), and the American Friends Service Committee (FCNL). All of these groups gave reports and workshops, helping us to understand better how we can heed Spirit's call to make a difference in the world. 
I was surprised and pleased by the enthusiastic response of Friends when I spoke about the "prophetic awakening" of George Fox, the founder of our Quaker movement. Even though my session was late on Sunday night, not exactly prime time, around 35 Friends showed up and a lively discussion ensued. It is clear from Fox's Journal that he saw himself not as a mystic, but as someone who lived in the same Spirit that inspired the "prophets and apostles."  I felt the presence of that Spirit as I shared about how Fox challenged the conventional ideas of his time and advocated for a radical new society based on equality and justice for all. Fox was not a quietist or a reformer; he was a radical activist who helped to launch a movement that has transformed society in many significant ways, though not as profoundly as early Friends would have wished. Afterwards, several Friends invited me to come to their meeting to give a presentation and others suggested that I facilitate a weekend workshop at Ben Lomond Quaker center. 
When the time came for me to present a report  as clerk of the Peace and Social Order Committee, instead of reading from the report, I asked Friends to stand up if they had ever attended a demonstration, written or visited an elected officials, refused to pay war taxes, been
arrested in a demonstration, etc. I was surprised and deeply moved to see that several dozen Friends had been arrested or refused to pay taxes, and virtually all had done something for peace and justice. Even more encouraging was the response when I asked, "If you intend to do something a little extra for peace and justice this year, please stand up." When everyone in the tent stood up, I was moved almost to tears.
I also had the privilege of co-facilitating a workshop with David Hartsough on "How to Wage Peace in the Age of Trump." We offered some of our ideas (see http://laquaker.blogspot.com/2017/07/waging-peace-in-trump-era-what-are-some.html
During our session Friends broke up in small groups and shared their ideas, which were written up for the entire Yearly Meeting to ponder. (See below.) I was thrilled to see that many Friends are waking up to the need to be more active in our social witness. 
 During our times of worship several Friends gave messages that were prophetic and heart-felt. Eric Moon, a longtime AFSC staff person and former clerk of PYM, spoke movingly about his decision not to pay war taxes, and several Friends spoke to me later saying that they would like to follow his example. 
I was led to give a message in which I said that one of the characteristics of a prophet was a feeling of inadequacy. 
This message was based on my own experience of being humbled by the Spirit. During this Yearly Meeting session, I became keenly aware of my own failings. It has grieved me deeply that there have been no minutes of concern brought to Yearly Meeting for the past two years, and no agreed upon procedures on how to present them.  In my zeal over this issue I have hurt some Friends and am very sorry. I tried my best to reconcile and make amends by meeting with those whom I have offended. I am deeply grateful to Shayne Lightener, who served as my spiritual Friend and elder and helped me to see myself and others more clearly, and facilitated a reconciliation process.
Many prophets offended others in their zeal and were keenly aware of their inadequacy. The prophet Isaiah said he was a "man of unclean lips, who lived among a people of unclean lips" (Isaiah 6:5). He testifies that the process of being "cleansed" can be very painful, like having hot coals placed on one's tongue!
 A true prophet is humble. During meeting for worship I shared that I had asked David Hartsough if he would be interested in being the keynote speaker at PYM. His life has testified to his profound faith and courage: he has been arrested countless times and risked his life on several occasion in the cause of peace and justice. No one from our Yearly Meeting, or in the entire Society of Friends, has done more for peace and justice than this Friend, yet he replied modestly, "I'm not a very good speaker, I'm more of a doer."
I told Friends that David's response reminded me of Moses, who was one of the greatest prophets in the Bible. When Moses fled Egypt and went into hiding among the Hebrews in Midian, God called him out of a burning bush and told him to go back to Egypt and confront the Pharaoh and speak truth to power. Moses' response was a lot like David's: "I'm not a very good speaker."
God responded, in effect: "No worries. I'll give you words to speak."

[Actually, what the Bible says is more eloquent: The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind?Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” --Exodus 4]

Joelly Mejia, a young woman who became part of the FCNL advocacy team, quoted these words when she gave a presentation on Sunday night. Led by the Spirit to apply for a position with FCNL, Joelly was given the words she needed to be an effective advocate for immigrant rights. 
My message to Friends who want to make a difference is simply this: No matter how inadequate we may feel, God will give us the words we need to say if we put our confidence in the One who calls us from the depths of our souls. My prayer is that we will do our best to be faithful to that inward call.
David Hartsough was favored with the following message which makes clear how much Friends need to speak out loudly and clearly against the injustices of our time, just as early Friends and prophets did during their time. I'd like to close with what he shared. The question he ends with is worth pondering: What are we led to do?

Crimes against humanity are being committed by our government in our name and with our tax dollars:
We are bombing people in seven primarily Muslim countries.
We are killing tens of thousands of people in the middle east (most of them civilians) and creating millions of refugees who have had to flee their homes because of the American led and funded wars and we do not allow them to come to our country.
We are spending one trillion dollars a year on wars and preparations for wars while cutting funds for almost everything else including schools, health care, food stamps, housing for low income people, social security and medicare, diplomacy, etc.
We are spending one trillion dollars for modernizing our nuclear weapons and the missiles which carry them.
We are threatening nuclear war with Russia with our troops, tanks, bombers, naval ships and missiles on Russia’s borders. A full scale nuclear war could kill hundreds of millions of God’s children and end life on our planet as we know it
We live in the American empire which is organized to bring resources from the rest of the world to the US to feed our addiction to consumerism allowing the American people - about four and a half percent of the world’s people - to continue consuming seven times our share of the world’s resources while hundreds of millions of people are hungry
When a frog is placed in cold water and the temperature of the water is gradually increased til it boils, the frog boils to death. Like the frog, we have become numbed and accustomed to all this madness being committed by our government in our name and with our tax dollars.
This is a crime against humanity! What is needed is a RADICAL Transformation of our society and relation to the rest of the world.
We cannot remain silent. We must speak out and act to stop this madness..
This is certainly NOT the way God would have us live. What are we led to do to help stop this insanity and help move our world from greed, war and empire to a peaceful, just and humane world for ALL of God’s children?help move our world from greed, war and empire to a peaceful, just and humane world for ALL of God’s children?


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  2. I understand the meeting this year was truly inspiring.

    "Prophetic", however, would have been if anyone could have spoken a word from God, explaining the divine purpose in abandoning this country to befuddlement and misrule all these many years -- bringing us, at last, to this year's ultimate embarrassment, which some of us still imagine could be fixed by bringing more Quakers into electoral politics.

    Knowing the mind of God is the _only_ defining characteristic of a prophet. God writes the job description, without consultations as to what kind of prophet we'd like to hear from today.

    Many Friends do speak messages from God in Meeting, suitable to the occasion when they're given -- but a message as to the meaning of our current collective condition? I believe we'll all need to ask within ourselves for that clarification, rather than trusting in any external witness.

    But what comes to my mind, for some long time now, is that we're being pressed to the limit of all our well-thought well-meant human resources for 'repairing the world' on our merely-human own. In AA terms, we are well overdue for a truly humble call to that Higher Power. Nothing else can save us; but that still can.