The Right Mix of Gifts

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Dear Editor: Thanks to Friend Kirby Urner for throwing light on the sometimes troubled relations between Meetings, their Nominating Committees, and their Peace and Social Concerns Committees (“Sticking Out Like Sore Thumbs,” July/August 2015). My Meeting has felt this tension, and I’ve talked to other Meetings that have as well.

But can the situation be blamed on young “power nester” families? My experience is that many families are attracted to Meeting at least partly because of the Quaker social witness. They are not afraid of “sticking out,” and the level of Quaker activism in Meetings remains quite high.

So what gives? Friend Kirby says that these new families would like to keep the meeting away from public “ranting” about divisive issues. This is a curious accusation given Quaker history, since the earliest Quakers, no matter how outspoken, did not want to be mistaken for Ranters. The Ranters were a different non-conformist group whom the Quakers found to be spiritually ungrounded and lacking in discipline. In significant ways, Quaker process came into being to guard against ranting.

Taking this long view of Quaker history, I don’t hear new members “shelving” social witness. I do hear a concern that our Meetings lack the spiritual footing and balance that empowers such witness. If, as Friend Kirby notes, AFSC is ending support for peace work in Portland, is it because they or we care less about peace concerns? Or does it reflect, at least partially, that we don’t have a diverse base of members, including “power nesters,” able to fund the kind of work we’re called to do?

As St. Paul once pointed out, a body made all of one part – even if it is all willing hands – is useless [1 Cor 12]. We should not expect to all be activists. We need the right mix of gifts to inspire and balance our life in community . . . and in committees. So, does our current tension really express a desire to “euthanize” Peace and Social Concerns? Or a desire to rebalance and revitalize our entire spiritual body? Time will tell.

– Rob Pierson, Albuquerque Monthly Meeting (IMYM)