Creeds and Quakers

I've just read Creeds and Quakers: What's Belief Got to Do with It? by Robert Griswold of Mountain View Monthly Meeting, Denver. It's Pendle Hill Pamphlet 377.

Griswold is a compelling speaker and writer. He was the Brinton Visitor from Intermountain Yearly Meeting to Pacific Yearly Meeting in 1999-2000. He gave an excellent talk at San Francisco Meeting. One of the unprogramed meetings in Berkeley is having a session one Sunday soon about the pamphlet. (Can't remember if it's Berkeley or Strawberry Creek, and their websites don't seem to have listings.)

I found much to learn from here. Griswold's main point is that Quakers must distinguish between what we know experientially as compared to what we believe, intellectually.

"Faith is 'the spiritual apprehension of divine truth or intangible realities.' It is founded on the experience of Divine reality....

"The key to the faith of Friends from the beginning has always been found in the question: 'What do you know from your own personal spiritual experience?' Only when Friends have let go of this key query have they fallen back on the question, 'What do you believe to be true?'"

It seems to me that resonates with something John Edminster had to say, over on Brooklyn Quaker Rich's blog, about the Inner Voice, and how it doesn't matter what frame or lens each person in meeting uses to explain that sense of a voice or presence or something more. As long as they are experiencing it together...

John E.: I make that assumption when I answer the "voice" (rarely a voice for me, but more often a sense of holy presence) by addressing it as "God" or "Lord Jesus." But the Quaker sitting next to me who makes no such assumptions is not a worse Friend for her scrupulousness about avoiding assumptions; she may be a better one—if she's a better obeyer of that voice. &/John E.

Griswold writes on page 9: "Truth is closer to our present-day use of the word reality. And, as Fox says, truth (reality) is something to be aware of, not something to be believed." I think this is a succinct summary of the integrity testimony, which is after all much broader than factual truth, it's about Truth, akin to "ultimate reality."

Then there's this from Griswold on page 15: "This mistaken ideology [of individualism] has been exacerbated by Friends' overuse of the phrase 'There is that of God in everyone.' While these words seems to be a core creedal statement, that is a grave misunderstanding of Fox's message.... By itself, the contact with the Divine reality inside was not enough unless it shook them out of their devoted attachment to their own belief systems."

Finally, I'll end on a passage that echoes a concern raised up by Liz Opp last year, The Danger of SPICE Testimonies. Griswold scrambles the order in which he lists them so it would PSECI if turned into an acronym: "The danger is real because often Friends do not do well at making it clear to others that their testimonies are the fruits of their spiritual foundation, not the foundation itself."

Nonetheless, I'm unapologetic about having organized the children's program at Pacific Yearly Meeting around the SPICE acronym last year, because it was a really useful framework for teachers who in the recent past had not had much direction from the committee. Plus the children need to learn the rich fabric of Quaker history and identity, and that's a good place to start. Still, such a mnemonic is only a starting point.

I recommend this pamphlet to all and sundry in the Quaker blogosphere!