Monday, March 27, 2017

The Work of Friends World Committee for Consultation

When we come back from FWCC gatherings, we are often asked, “What did you do there?” During a worship session, Friends had a chance to respond briefly to this question. Here’s a sampling of responses from the FWCC gathering that took place at Stony Point, NY, in March 2017:

  • Tuve la oportunidad de participar por segunda vez en una actividad del mundo entero y en ambas recibió la alegria. De conocer nuevos hermonaos quienes forman parte de otras Juntas Anuales en todo el mundo, eso fortecio mi ministerio eso impulso mi compromiso y me hizo saber que peudo ser tan útil n mi Junta Anual y en otros lugares . [I had the opportunity to participate for a second time in an activity of the entire world and both times I felt happiness. To know new brothers and sisters who form part of other yearly meeting, fortifies my ministry, moves forward my commitment, and makes me realize how I can be useful in my Yearly Meeting and other places.]
  • Esta reunion me ayudo en analizar cómo se encuentra mi salud espiritual, cómo esta mi relación con Dios. [This meeting helped me to analyze how my spiritual health is, and how my relationship with God is.]
  • El comité me mostró que la guía del Espíritu Santo puede eschucharse en silencio y entirse en el Corazón. [This committee showed me that the guidance of the Holy Spirit can be heard in silence and enter into the heart.]
  • FWCC made me do the work of engaging with my Yearly Meeting, which has transformed my life, giving me important work of peacemaking among Friends.
  • My journey with FWCC was the finding of my Quaker “home”…. Experiencing the diversity of Friends and [hearing] personal stories/testimonies, sharing the excitement of World Quaker Day, the smiles of friendship, giving and receiving…..
  • For me it’s not about the work, it’s about love—that’s where the transformation happens.
  • Working with Blythe on the budget subcommittee, I made a new friend and I learned more about how to modulate my intensity so as to be more welcoming and less putting others on the defensive.
  • The messages during worship on both days [offered] the vision of peace….as well as how to break away from systems of oppression….
  • Meeting and communicating with people from diverse cultures and languages….[to to] see about a two-way exchange with Cuba, ask about future pilgrimage plans, connect with others about international peace/justice/FWCC activities….
  • Home groups are always powerful….
  • Spending time with Friends across the branches has helped me feel more complete. Quakerism is a spectrum and no one branches has all the answers or connections with God….We need to come together to find and experience them.
  • FWCC has given me a place to be myself within the wider family of Friends, a perspective on Quakerism beyond the limits of my own meeting and tradition.
  • What I am called to do: raise awareness of the riches to which I am exposed so that others may come to know them, make connections, use my translation and interpretation abilities in the service of communicating things that can deepen our communities.
  • I led a workshop in which Friends taught each other and I had the joy of seeing their transformation. I also formed relationships that have transformed my life for the better.
  • I did work on eco-justice/climate change, caring for the earth and its inhabitants. The Kabarak call is a powerful statement of this work, which I have used on several occasions as an example of a Quaker statement on climate change.
  • The FWCC section meetings have become my new “home church,” and I want to spread the word among Friends I see regularly and those I have yet to meet. It’s been very spiritually nourishing and has inspired me to try to inspire my home meeting and neighboring meetings to come join the work and fellowship of FWCC.
  • Sharing ideas and music, encouragement in developing areas of particular ministry, meeting Friends across Quaker boundaries.
  • Godly play, morning circle in meditation room, Thursday worship in Spanish, eating and worshipping together.
  • Holding the presence of Spirit in a group—eldering.
  • In Pisac I became an elder for a group of young adults. After a long afternoon of spiritual accompaniment, I looked around for an elder so I could debrief. Then I realized the elder was me. 
To learn more about FWCC, check out: Friends World Committee for Consultation

Report on Sustainability Group Meeting at FWCC, Section of the Americas, in March 2017

Anthony with Chuck and Geeta
One of the highlights of the 2017 FWCC, Section of the Americas, gathering at Stony Point, NY, was working with Chuck Kleymeyer, Geeta Jyothi McGathey and other Friends to craft an "addendum" to the Living Sustainably minute approved in Pisac, Peru. FWCC is an organization that brings together Quakers from diverse theological and geographical backgrounds, from "Alaska to the Andes," according to our executive secretary Robin Mohr. While FWCC cannot make decisions on behalf of its constituent yearly meetings, it can and does reflect how Spirit is at work among Friends world-wide. In March, 2007, 127 Friends, including 18 from Latin America, at Stony Point, NY, to worship, listen to speakers, and consult together. There were numerous interest groups, including two dealing with Sustainability.
From its statements in Kenya and Piac, it has become  clear that climate disruption and living sustainably have become priority concerns for Friends around the globe--in many ways, a testimony as important as our traditional Peace Testimony. 
I posted the following report about what led up to the Pisac minute:

During the 2012 Friends World Conference in Kabarak, Kenya, FWCC produced a powerful statement calling for "peace and eco-justice." This statement emerged from a deeply felt sense that Spirit is calling us to recognize the urgency of the climate crisis. "We must change, we must become careful stewards of all life," insists this statement. It evokes biblical language as well as Quaker tradition to remind us "we are called to be patterns and examples of peace and eco-justice, as difficult and decisive as the 18th and 19th century drive to abolish slavery." Powerful as this call is, it lacks specific advice on how Friends can become the change we so urgently need.

Since the 2012 consultation, there has been a growing sense that FWCC needs to offer concrete recommendations on what Friends can do to make a difference. During our 2016 gathering in the Sacred Valley of Peru, the spiritual heart of the Inca civilization, we became aware that local rivers are polluted, insecticides and pesticides are poisoning the farmland, and indigenous people are protesting the mining that is desecrating their sacred mountains. I was told that some of the spiritual leaders of the local indigenous community have placed their hands to the ground and feel the sadness of mother Earth.

Feeling this deep pain in the midst of a breathtakingly beautiful Andean landscape, we wrote: "Our hearts are crying out for our beloved mother Earth, who is sick and in need of our care." As a starting point, we came up with 27 specific actions that individuals, monthly meetings and yearly meetings can take to foster sustainability. They range from "grow your own food and plant trees" to "support Quakers in politics and international work."

Chuck helped us to see that the Pisac statement didn't include important elements like restoring the earth, supporting the resiliency and resistance of communities adversely affected by climate disruption, and deepening the spiritual basis of our work.

Here's a report about our meeting at Stony Point:

On Friday, March 24, 2017 seventeen Friends met at the Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) gathering in Stony Point, NY, to discuss the sustainabilty minute approved at Pisac.  We had three working groups and here is a report on what transpired. We’d like to begin with a quote from Isaac Penington:

“Sink down to the Seed… and thou shalt find by sweet experience that the Lord knows.… and will lead….to the inheritance of Life.”

Powerful though it was in many ways, we felt the Sustainability minute at Pisac dealt mainly with mitigating anticipated climate disruption. We strongly feel Friends need to go further. Since climate disruption is already adversely affecting the earth as well as the lives of people and other living beings, we need to consider how we can act in solidarity with communities affected by climate disruption as they strive to respond, resist or adapt. We also need to consider ways in which we can help to restore the damage caused to the Earth.
We see a need for a collective as well as personal spiritual awakening leading to transformative spirit-led action. To be effective, we need to express joy in the changes we have made in our lives and share our joy with others. To be spiritually grounded, we need to deepen our relationship with nature and connect with God’s creation. We suggest that Friends traveling in the ministry through FWCC share FWCC’s material on sustainability and collect stories about the effects of climate disruption on local communities and how they are responding. We urge each one of us to carry out our Quaker testimony on earth care and lift it up to all the bodies we are part of.


 How are we as Quakers living our lives as if climate disruption is real and really matters?
How are we showing solidarity with indigenous and marginalized peoples affected by climate disruption?

Here's the Spanish version:

Milena Villca
El viernes por la noche, Marto 26, 2017, se reunieron diecisiete Amigos para discutir la minuta aprobada en Pisac acerca de la sostenibilidad. Nos dividimos en tres grupos de trabajo y a continuación les doy un informe de lo que ocurrió. Quisiéramos empezar con un extracto de Isaac Penington:

“Húndete hasta la Semilla… y encontrarás por dulce experiencia que el Señor [la] conoce …y [la] ha de guiar hasta la heredad de la vida.”

Aun cuando fuese poderosa en muchas maneras la minuta sobre la Sostenibilidad de Pisac, ésta tuvo que ver más que nada con reducir el impacto esperado de la disrupción climática. Tenemos la fuerte opinión que los Amigos tienen que ir más allá. Ya que la disrupción del clima está afectando de forma nociva tanto a la tierra como a las vidas de las personas y otros seres vivos, debemos considerar cómo podemos actuar de forma solidaria con las comunidades afectadas por la disrupción climática mientras que éstas luchan por responder, resistir o adaptarse. También nos toca considerar formas en las cuales podemos prestar apoyo en el proceso de restauración de los daños de la Tierra.

Vemos la necesidad de un despertar espiritual al nivel colectivo así como al nivel personal, el cual nos pueda guiar hasta la acción transformadora dirigida por el Espíritu. Para ser mayormente eficaces, tenemos que expresar el gozo en los cambios que hemos hecho en nuestras vidas y compartirlo con los demás. Para estar arraigados espiritualmente, tenemos que profundizar nuestra relación con la naturaleza y conectarnos con la creación de Dios. Sugerimos que los Amigos líderes que están viajando en el ministerio a través del CMCA compartan los materiales del CMCA sobre la sostenibilidad, y que reúnan historias acerca de los efectos de la disrupción climática sobre las comunidades locales y las maneras en que las mismas están respondiendo. Animamos a cada uno de nosotros que lleve consigo nuestro testimonio cuáquero sobre el cuidado de la Tierra y que llame la atención de todos los entes de los cuales forma parte, a este tema.


¿Cómo estamos viviendo nuestras vidas nosotros como cuáqueros a la luz de la realidad y la verdadera importancia de la disrupción climática?

¿Cómo estamos expresando solidaridad para con los pueblos indígenas y marginados que se encuentran afectados por la disrupción climática?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Quakerism's debt to heretics

Rufus Jones wrote a wonderful book called "The Church's Debt to Heretics," describing how "heretical" sects from the Gnostics to the Quakers made important contributions to the spiritual life of the Church; and that's where I got the title for this blog entry about how Quaker "elders" have tried to silence "heretical" Quakers who have stood up for justice and our core Quaker values. It is important to remember that Quaker elders have not always been friendly towards prophets and those who hold who challenge Quaker orthodoxy. Just as the Pharisees and Scribes tried to silence Jesus, some Quaker elders have done their best to silence those who speak out for justice or independent thought. This was true of Elias Hicks, a 19th century Quaker ostracized by Philadelphia Friends. His followers, called Hicksites, founded Orange Grove Meeting, of which I am currently a member. 

The first American Quaker "heretic" to be disowned by Friends was Hannah Barnard, according to Margaret Hope Bacon. "The disownment [Quaker equivalent of excommunication] of Hannah Barnard in 1802 for her liberal interpretation of the Bible was a foretaste of things to come" ("Mothers of Feminism," p. 91). In addition to questioning the Bible, she was fearless in defending our Quaker peace testimony. For find out more about this remarkable woman, see Chuck Fager's essay:

Her disownment was indeed a foretaste of things to come. Throughout the 19th (and 20th) century, Friends who stood up for justice or challenged Quaker orthodoxy often faced opposition from Quaker elders who tried to silence them.

Perhaps best known was Elias Hicks, a charismatic Long Island Quaker who was passionately anti-slavery and deeply admired by Walt Whitman. Hicks felt that the Inward Light was more important and authoritative than the Bible. This did not sit well with some conservative Philadelphia Friends, even though this was also the view of Quaker founder George Fox.  "The elders of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting feared  Hick's heresy and tried to prevent him from speaking." (p. 92). This led to the first great schism among American Quakers. 

Lucretia Mott is celebrated as one of the leading feminists and abolitionists of 19th century Quakerism, but she also faced strong opposition from elders. "The prohibition against women speaking in public was universally enforced and accepted in the early 19th century. Thus when the Scottish radical Frances Wright toured the eastern United States in 1829 and addressed mixed audiences, the shock was great. Some Wilmington Friends were disciplined and threatened with disownment for allowing their children to hear "that woman." The case was appealed to Philadelphia Yearly Meeting where Lucretia Mott, then a young mother and recently recognized minister, campaigned for the rights of families of the families being thus criticized. She herself was spoken to by the elders of her meeting for this intervention--the first, but by no means the last time she felt the weight of Quaker displeasure for her liberal views." (p. 102)

    The Grimke sisters, Southern belles who became advocates of women's rights as well as abolitionists (and the protagonists in that wonderful novel "Invention of Wings" by Sue Monk Kidd), were rebuked by Quaker elders for speaking out publicly. They were also criticized for taking up the cause of women's rights by no less a Friend than John Greenleaf Whittier. He felt it was wrong to mix up women's rights and abolitionism. (p. 106). The Grimke sisters eventually had to leave the Society of Friends when one of them married a non-Quaker, which was then considered grounds for disownment. 

Joel and Hannah Bean, weighty Quakers who moved to Iowa and became clerks of Iowa Yearly Meeting,  were stripped of their recorded minister status by Iowa YM when it became Evangelical. The Beans were later disowned for heresy. They became founders of the Independent Quaker movement that birthed Pacific Yearly Meeting.

It is helpful to remember that elders have tried to silence prophets and independent thinkers since time immemorial, and that prophets are generally not much appreciated in their home meetings. Those who don't know this history are more likely to repeat it. And those who experience the critical response of elders to their prophetic ministry can take comfort in the fact that they are in good company.

It is also worth recalling the words of Jesus, who said, "Blessed are those who are reviled and persecuted for the sake of justice [or My sake, in other versions] for your reward in God's divine order will be great."

In her wonderful pamphlet on eldering, Marge Larrabee tells the story of a Friend who gave vocal ministry during meeting for worship and was later approached by another Friend who said, "Thy message made me uncomfortable."

The Friend who gave vocal ministry paused to reflect on this and then replied, "Perhaps you need to feel uncomfortable."

When we feel tempted to criticize those whose vocal ministry makes us uncomfortable, I suggest we consider asking ourselves these queries:

  1. Are we listening compassionately to where the words are coming from when a Friends give vocal ministry that challenges us? 
  2. Are we willing to find loving ways to help Friends who feel led to give vocal ministry to become better channels of the Spirit?
  3. If we hear a message that makes us uncomfortable, are we willing to examine ourselves to see where is this discomfort coming from? How can we best respond to these feelings in a compassionate way?

Monday, March 6, 2017

Latest report from my wife on making disciples wherever she goes...

I am always pleased to read, and also share, my wife's reports on her amazing ministry. As I write this, she is traveling to Colorado to speak to a gathering of over 100 people interested in housing justice and policies to help end homelessness and promote affordable housing. Underlying all of Jill's work is a deep love for Jesus, for people,  and for God's incredibly Good News: God loves the poor and wants everyone to be decently housed, as well as fed and cared for. That's God's intention, and it's beautiful to serve such a God. Jill reminds me of an old saying attributed to St Francis: "Always preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words." Or as the Quakers say, "Let your life preach." That's what this report is all about.

Discipling and Authority.

At a recent Bible study I attended, it hit me how consistently Mathew and Luke portray Jesus as giving away authority. He sends out his disciples and gives them authority to heal (Matthew 10) He send out 72 other disciples and gives them authority to over the enemy (Luke 10:19) and Matthew ends his book with Jesus parting words: “All authority has been given to me, therefore go and make disciples.”

Making disciples….wherever we go. On the ministry report that Missions Door asked us to submit, they ask how many disciples we are pouring our lives into. I struggle with this question.

Do I list my students in my Housing Justice course this semester at APU? Do I count those who
Jill with her APU class 
attend the housing justice workshops I led in Denver last year, and again this March? Do I include my neighbors and those I work with in the community, with all those I have conversvations with about Jesus, justice and faith? Or those on the Palm Sunday Peace Parade planning team or the Bible study that Anthony and I help lead? Or those in local affordable housing group I’ve been part of for 20 years? Or the N. Fair Oaks Empowerment team committed to transforming that street? If we are truly following Christ, is there a time when we as Christians are not making disciples?

Discipling a young woman in transition. Jesus poured his life out not only for the whole world but also for a few key people in his inner circle, namely Peter, James and John. Similarly, God also gives us certain people with whom we have a special, more intimate relationship.  For me that has been Maria. This young Latina woman has struggled with many personal challenges, including finding housing that she can afford. Thanks to an African American pastor named Juanita Edwards, I was able to get Maria into a women’s discipleship home.  We have become very close. Please pray for Maria and me, as we grow together to become more Christ-like. Pray for all those “disciples” being touched with my unique ministry as an Urban Catalyst.

Making rents stable and affordable: teaching a Gospel perspective. I was shocked to learn recently that the rent was raised by $575 per month in an apartment building down the street from our home. Such arbitrary and outrageous rent increases are happening more frequently in our city, and there is no ordinance to prevent it. That’s why I’m so grateful that God has brought Nicole Hodgson to Pasadena to spear-head a rent stabilization initiative. I do all I can to nurture Nicole,  meeting one-on-one, and sharing my contacts and faith in Christ.

"Marv's Place": Affordable housing for formerly
homeless families that just opened up in Pasadena
Discipling Churches on How to End Homelessness. Thanks in part to the Pasadena Affordable Housing Group that I have been part of for the last twenty years, Pasadena has made significantly strides in ending homelessness. Our group advocated for a Housing Department for our city that has been very effective. Under the leadership of its stellar director, Bill Huang, Pasadena has won a number of state and national awards and recently recognized across the country for reducing our homeless count by 54%. We’ve housed 220 of the chronically homeless people and virtually ended homelessness for families. But to end homelessness, churches need to play a more active and effective role. That’s why I am helping to organize a Homeless to Housed Bus Tour. This tour will help church leaders learn what the city is doing to end homelessness and how the city and churches can work more closely together. God has given me a fabulous planning team, representing the major churches, to plan this Homeless to Housed bus tour for faith leaders of our city, as well as adjacent cities. We plan to initiate an ongoing learning lab to explore what it will take to house our most vulnerable. Please pray for us as we plan.

Jill with pastors and community leaders in North Fair Oaks.
Janet Randolf is the woman with the bright pink blouse.
Discipling through service to the community. One way that we learn how to become more Christ-like is through service. The Damascus Road College Church from Tucson, AZ will be coming March 13-15 to bless the N. Fair Oaks Empowerment Initiative. They will be tutoring children at the Harambee Christian Center, painting an unsightly building, cleaning gum off the streets and in the gym floor of the Boys and Girls Club, sharing meals with homeless folk at the Pasadena Church, visiting the infirm at convalescent homes, picking up trash, and gathering signatures for the city to allocate to slow traffic and beautify this forgotten corner of Pasadena. Pray for Janet Randolf as she plans for their coming—her first time to plan for a team. In additional to prayer, please consider giving to support her efforts. See:

Janet is a gifted leader and learner, truly a teachable disciple of Christ, always quoting the Bible and keenly aware of her need and dependence on the God.

I can’t thank you enough for your part in this work of vision casting, developing leaders equipped to house and transform our community. Recently one new donor began contributing $100 per month. It is encouraging to see how God is raising up partners like you to keep this important work going. Please consider giving if you are not already.  See: