Notes from Convergent Friends interest group

Notes from the Convergent Friends Interest Group at the Friends General Conference Gathering, 7/2/08
with ~ in 30-35attendance

(Note: Liz has already posted her more thoughtful reflections here, so consider this a backup source. I haven't had a chance to process the experience, merely time to post the notes I typed while in Johnstown while the wifi was down...)

Liz Opp: Heard about blogs @ FGC Gathering ~5 years ago from Martin Kelley. Found his blog through a Google search. He was exploring going deeper in Q faith tradition, a concern Liz shares. Some traditions endangered. Left long comments on his blog. Found she had a unique voice and started her own blog. Found there were conversations happening across schisms. Holding concern for Quaker faith. How to name it? “convergent” – Vibrant.

Robin M.: Defined convergent Friends. Quaker practices that bring transformation and life. It’s not a precise term. Fuzzy understanding. What does it mean to be a Quaker today? Not just in her monthly or yearly meeting. Many Friends are exploring this. Evangelical Friends in Newberg are interested in the Quaker distinctives. Quaker institutions are developing vision statements, often in conjunction with fundraising campaigns. Her experience meeting Friends in FUM meetings this last year confirms winds of the Spirit are blowing across different branches of Friends.

Participants were invited to write down questions on index cards. They then read them in turn with a (very) brief silence between.
  • How can we bridge the growing divide around sexuality?
  • Where can a universalist or nontheist Friend find common ground with a Christian Friend?
  • If you don’t blog, how can you engage in this exciting conversation more than once a year at the FGC Gathering?
  • Will the conversation become more?
  • Where is the movement on the continuum between formal institutions and informal conversations?
  • Is convergence reforming, renewing, or revolutionary? (Paul)
  • You use terms like “renewal” and “reclaim.” Do you think Quakerism is degenerating?
  • How can we bring this to our monthly, quarterly, and yearly meetings?
  • What roles if any can existing institutions play? How does the involvement of those institutions change the conversation?
  • Does the convergent church expect the Kingdom of God? What’s it mean?
  • Is this a process that requires unity in meeting?
  • You mentioned commonalities about renewal among different faiths, including Judaism and Islam. What are the possibilities for an emergent interfaith conversation?
  • You mentioned people being enriched by practices that their meetings don’t embrace. What are they?
  • What will convergent Friends look like in 50 years? Will the convergence be complete? Or is it a process, like seeking, that is never complete?
  • What are some of the topics you discuss? Is there consensus, especially on issues that are controversial among Friends more widely?
  • What would convergence look like in my meeting?
  • Are inclusive Friends the same as convergent Friends?
  • How is it specifically, “mechanically,” you find common ground?
  • Is it good or bad, helpful or prohibitive to institutionalize convergent Friends?
  • What queries have you used at your “convergent Friends meetups”?
  • How much interest is there about this in EFI?
Robin and Liz offered some responses to particular questions, then we moved into worship sharing. At this point, I was aiming to provide a worshipful center and did not take notes. It felt centered, as people spoke their truth and were able to listen to different points of view.

What’s next?
  • See the book Quakerism: A Spirituality for Our Time
  • Friends World Committee for Consultation
  • Worship sharing
  • Don’t be afraid to speak of our spiritual experiences. Let’s hear them!
  • Organize times or series at meeting for Friends to share about their spiritual journeys
  • Quaker Quest
  • Convene a discussion at your meeting or QM or YM. Doesn’t have to be about convergent Friends. Could be about Quaker practices that help renew or transform you.
  • Small support groups among people you know. Take care for it not to compete with the meeting.
  • Spiritual formation groups through the Yearly Meeting level.
The conversation continued past the formal closing worship, as several Friends stayed behind to process the session together.

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