Editor’s Introduction, #17

By Chuck Fager

Quaker scholars and academics take note: as we began work on this issue, news came that once again, Quaker Theology has been shown to wield a magical mystery mojo over the careers of some of its contributors.

This phenomenon showed itself early on, after Issue #3 in the autumn of 2000. That was when Stephen Angell, then a professor at Florida A&M University, published his essay, “Rufus Jones and the Laymen’s Foreign Missions Inquiry: How a Quaker Helped to Shape Modern Ecumenical Christianity.”

Bingo – before you know it, he was appointed the Leatherock Professor of Quaker Studies at Earlham School of Religion. (And he soon became an Associate  Editor of this journal.)

Okay, maybe just a coincidence. But then in 2005, Paul Alexander, a Pentecostal historian and peace activist, published “Historical and Theological Origins of Assemblies of God Pacifism,” in Issue #12. Alexander was then seeking a new post, and in short order he was hired by Azusa Pacific University, a big step up from his previous position.

Yet what does a pair prove? Probably nothing. But then, in our most recent issue (#16), Carole Spencer took part in an exchange here with Thomas Hamm about her book, Holiness, The Soul of Quakerism, which was also closely reviewed in the issue. Spencer too was seeking new opportunities; and voilà– early this spring, just a few months later, she was also appointed to the faculty of ESR as well.

They taught me in math that three was the number needed to establish a series. So now the only question is: who will be next to be graced with this career thaumaturgy? We make no predictions; just keep those ambitious, probing essays coming, and we’ll all find out together.

Meanwhile, this issue includes three substantial articles, from very different perspectives:

First up is Anthony Manousos, an independent scholar who served for many years as Editor of Friends Bulletin, the journal of the Western US independent Yearly Meetings. He has also been diligently at work on the first full biography of Howard and Anna Brinton, whose writing and labor on both coasts played crucial shaping roles in twentieth-century American liberal Quakerism.

Here Manousos shares with us a section of this forthcoming work that examines Howard Brinton’s participation in the early days of the World Council of Churches, and through that his encounter –struggle, really–with mid-century theological giants such as Karl Barth.

This is followed by an exercise in analyzing the categories and processes of Quaker discernment, from one of the most mature and thoughtful scholar-thinkers of our time, Douglas Gwyn. Here Gwyn pays particular attention to the past, and possibly future roles played by the use of Queries as both a spiritual discipline and a distinctive Friends method for seeking truth, in our various individual and community settings.

Finally in this section is a new voice, of a Young Adult Friend (a generation we will hear more of below). Joyce Ketterer describes how she had many years of what was regarded as the best available Quaker Religious Education. Yet when she enrolled in a college course on Quakerism, Ketterer had to confront a shocking realization: in all her years at Quaker schools and Yearly Meeting programs, she had been taught virtually nothing of the actual history and convictions of Friends.

Ketterer’s plight is by no means rare, and her cri de couer should be a wake-up call for all those concerned with Quaker formation of the rising generations.

These are substantial pieces; but this issue’s reviews offer more. Associate Editor Steve Angell considers the theological testament of Marge Abbott. Your Editor examines works on the environment and war, two books on the hostage crisis of 2005-2006 involving members of a Christian Peacemakers Team in Baghdad, one of whom, Friend Tom Fox was murdered; and a collection of short works by Young Adult Friends. Finally, Douglas Gwyn reviews a new short work on Quaker peace strategy, Study War Some More (If You Want to Work for Peace).

All in all another full issue, well worth your time and thought.

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