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Quaker Theology #12 Fall-Winter 2005-2006

Editor’s Introduction

We admit it – we’re proud of this issue. It centers on two of the most substantive and challenging essays we have published in a long time.

To lead off, we have heard many mediocre efforts to relate environmental concerns and theology; but Keith Helmuth’s presentation to Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting & Association in Sixth Month of 2005, was head and shoulders beyond that.

His piece raises many issues which call out for further discussion. Watch our next issue for a beginning in this direction.

Next up is an excerpt from a doctoral dissertation by Paul Alexander, a historian of pentecostalism and the Assemblies of God. Alexander has plumbed the origins of his movement, and come up with two important pieces of information and insight, which are startling only because they had been so thoroughly forgotten:

First, that the Pentecostal movement had many Quaker connections at its founding, and its ethos is indeed closely related to that of Quakerism. And second, that with this Quaker spiritual influence came a strong pacifist orientation, including firm rejections of war and military service.

But whereas the Quaker roots have been merely forgotten, Alexander shows how the movement’s peace heritage has been nothing less than abandoned, sold out, and turned into its opposite.

Alexander is a careful scholar, but he is not neutral about his story: he would like to see Pentecostals reclaim their peace heritage, and he has put his convictions into action, helping revive the Pentecostal Peace Fellowship (more on this at:

http://www.pentecostalpeace.org/ ). We hope his full dissertation will be published soon; it deserves to be widely read and discussed.

Both these pieces, in very different ways, call for drastic change, even transformation, in the world. Our reviews likewise speak of works that aim at radical transformation, though of fundamentally different kinds. The first subject is a text widely used in the conservative Christian homeschooling movement. It purports to show how God has chosen the United States as His (sic) agent, dictated its proper form of government, and expects the nation and His people to collaborate in doing what needs to be done to ensure that all people hear the gospel.

It is self-evident that this is theology. But is it also history? Or education? Does it lay a foundation for reliable pedagogy? What does it mean if the views this text advances are finding their way to the top political circles? Quaker historian H. Larry Ingle takes a critical look.

And in the second volume under review, a prophecy is delivered which, if fulfilled, would make all the hand-wringing and agonizing in all the above pieces irrelevant, and even a bit silly. Will the New Jerusalem appear in an actual Maine town late this spring? Has Christ been speaking to a woman Friend since 1988? Will war and other human plagues (such as mosquitoes) simply fade away?

Read on and find out.

– Chuck Fager, Editor

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