If there’s a keyword for this issue. It’s “Release.” As Stephen Angell points out in his report here, “release” has had an honorable heritage in the Quasker glossary, mainly referring either to the sending of a Friend (or Friends) on some mission on behalf of their home monthly or yearly meeting; or since the introduction of pastors in many yearly meetings, the “release” of a Friend to do fulltime pastoral/ministerial work.
The unprogrammed Friend’s “release” is usually project or goal-oriented, and concludes when complete. The pastor’s “release” is more like a “regular” job, with a salary, and can become a career. Either way, it denotes an honorable role in Quaker service.
But this past summer, “release” suddenly came to mean something else: the involuntary departure of a meeting from a yearly meeting; more plainly, expulsion which dare not speak its name.
Meetings were abruptly “released”/expelled in yearly meet-ings at both ends of the U. S. And not silently either. There was pushback in both places, in one case with a definite result; in the other, the outcome is still unsettled as we go to press.
And as these and similar situations play themselves out, we want to lodge a protest with the committees of Elders and other weighties who feel the Reputation of Truth rests in their hands: Cut it Out.
We don’t mean quit doing your job. We mean STOP corrupting perfectly good Quaker words to try to hide the hard parts of it. If you have a tough situation to sort out, eat your bowls of Big Quaker oatmeal, then get up and go do it: But leave “Release” alone. Don’t turn it into some tacky euphemism for unpleasant deeds that sometimes have to be done. “Disownment,” for instance, is still available, right there on the shelf where somebody hid it a couple generations ago. Pick it up and dust it off if you have to. It still works.
As we have said before, these substantial, journalistic-seeming reports are not our usual fare. But in both situations, theological issues and disputes are directly at stake, even preeminently so from some perspectives. And that is our field. Also in both cases, no other publication is tracking them incomparable detail. So even these limited efforts are more than nothing.
Fortunately, our more familiar haunts are also visited here: intriguing essays, like Isaac May’s examination of the Friends Committee on Outworld Relations; and reviews, dealing with publications from an original look at Quakerism’s lost “Zion tradition” to a novel about Mary Dyer, plus a guide to finding balance as Friends undertake to build sustainable personal and community life.
And one more thing: a correction: In our last Introductory note, we declared Quaker Theology #26 the longest in our sixteen-year history.
Not so. Issue #24, Winter-Spring 2014, was several pages longer.
We regret the error.
– Chuck Fager