Editor’s Introduction, #26

This issue is the longest in Quaker Theology’s sixteen-year tenure. It wasn’t intended to be that. But both weighty events and substantive material kept accumulating, and here we are.

It has also been one of the most arduous issues to prepare. When the disturbances in North Carolina Yearly Meeting-FUM erupted in last summer, we knew there would have to be a report, published as an online Preview; and we uploaded it in late September.

Then the drama extended through November, and into the new year. The impending confrontation in early March called for an updated, and more detailed second online Preview. This entailed considerable additional research and was uploaded at the beginning of March. And finally, the arrival of an entirely new yearly meeting – involved in the controversy from its first moment – had to be folded in.

It’s not over yet. Will North Carolina’s ordeal last for three years, as did the forerunner in Indiana, which we covered here in issues #18-#24? Of course, we don’t know that. (We admit it: we hope not.) But we do know we’ll do our best to keep up with it, and pass our findings on to you.

Much of the rest of this issue is devoted to a major new work by Douglas Gwyn, writer, thinker, teacher and pastor. He has taken the nearly 90-year history of Pendle Hill, the Quaker study center near Philadelphia, and turned it into an extended and – to me – compelling reflection of American liberal Quaker history in that period.

As acknowledged in the review, your editor, in reviewing Gwyn’s book, lacks a certain detachment that one often expects of reviewers. But Pendle Hill’s near-pervasive presence in American liberal Quaker life makes such detachment very difficult to find, so we beg your indulgence. (And we recommend you read the excerpts included along with the review, and then the whole absorbing book, and make up your own mind.)

Yet despite our regard for the author, we are not giving Douglas Gwyn a free pass here. Hugh Rock, a British Friend and newcomer to our pages, takes a critical look at Gwyn’s apocalyptic interpretation of early Quaker theology, which should be the basis for a lively discussion.

And not least, as press time was nigh, we learned that a manifesto of the much-discussed “Convergent Friends” initiative had appeared, and we hastened to get it, read it, and jot down some thoughts to aid discussion of this latest incarnation of a “new Quakerism.”

Despite all the labor, we’re confident that you hold in your hands (or see on your screen) a collection of work that is worth the time of thoughtful readers, both Friends, and friends of Friends.

– Chuck Fager

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