Editor’s Introduction #5

By Chuck Fager

In this issue of Quaker Theology, matters of peace and war are again in the forefront, due as much to the force of events as to our own inclinations.

We begin with something which would not have occurred to us prior to Ninth Month 11, 2001: a resource list for Friends and meetings grappling with the meaning of the Friends Peace Testimony in the aftermath of terrorism and sudden war. This listing is hardly comprehensive, nor is it a font of easy answers; but we hope it will point interested Friends to materials, many of them as close as your internet browser, that can assist in your seeking.

Another important angle here is historical: Howell John Harris provides a very welcome analysis of the way in which some very conservative Friends in the U.S. at the turn of the last century found their way to surprisingly “liberal” perspectives, not only on issues of peace and war, but many other questions of social concerns. This process was very much a theological one, and Harris is here filling in another important piece of the background of the evolution of liberal Quakerism, which is not well-charted, and is one of our particular interests.

A third perspective is both personal and institutional. Our Co-Editor Ann Riggs was a principal speaker at last summer’s Gathering of Friends General Conference in Seventh Month. Her presentation, on “Stillness: Surrounding, Sustaining, Streng-thening,” is included here. In the Editor’s view, it was a powerful presentation, and its spiritual potency has only increased in the troubled months since.

We also take an international slant, in two pieces. With “Crossroads of Western Quakerism in Africa,” by Robert Juma Wafula, we offer what we believe is an almost unprecedented statement in Western Quakerism: a Kenyan Quaker theologian’s reflections on the indigenous theology of African Friends.

Of course, there have been many published reports from American Quaker missionaries to Africa. There have also been a few histories of the Quaker missions to the continent prepared by the expatriate missionaries or their colleagues. There have even been occasional published sermons and other exhortations by African Friends.

But it is quite rare, perhaps unprecedented, for an Afri-can Quaker theologian to speak to and about this enterprise from an affirmative indigenous African standpoint. As Robert Juma Wafula’s essay makes clear, there is a great deal for American and European Friends to learn and absorb from this perspective. We are grateful to him for opening the door on this long-overdue conversation. It is part of what Quaker Theology is about.

And from the other side of the world, comes news of the public rehabilitation and celebration of the work and life of the Korean Friend Ham Sok Hon. Ham was once known to American Quakers mainly as a despised and frequently-jailed dissenter from the succession of oppressive regimes that ruled his country through most of the twentieth century. After his death in 1989, his image soon receded from our consciousness.

But now the Korean government is headed by another former dissenter, Kim Dae Jung, and in this more democratic atmosphere, Ham Sok Hon has become something of a national hero. The first full-length biography of Ham Sok Hon, by a Korean Friend trained as a historian in Britain, is examined at some length in our review section.

Other reviews consider a new edition of Robert Bar-clay’s Catechism in modern English, and the shocking but almost unknown involvement of many Quakers in the Ku Klux Klan.

Once again, we want to encourage readers who have a theological essay or review in your heads or hard drives to consider sending us a query about them. We’re always looking for good ideas for future issues.

Some non-publication items deserve mention here as well:

First, please note that we are moving: Quaker Theology and QUEST (Quaker Ecumenical Seminars in Theology) have a new address for snail mail:

Quaker Theology/QUEST
P.O. Box 1344
Fayetteville NC 28302

The move was precipitated by your Editor’s acceptance of the position of Director of Quaker House, a Friends’ peace project established there in 1969. Fayetteville is host to Fort Bragg, one of the largest military installations in the U.S. This position, especially in wartime, will be a challenging one, but the work of QUEST and Quaker Theology is expected to continue. Our email and web addresses remain the same.

Another aspect of our work has been interrupted by this move, however. Our plan for a third Quaker Theology Seminar, set for First Month, 2002, has had to be postponed, due to the exigencies of the move. We expect to reschedule. Watch this website for updated information.

Finally, all our projects would be much assisted if Friends meetings and churches would consider subscribing to the print edition of this journal. Print subscriptions are US$20 per year (US$35 for two years). Send payment to the address above.

Leave a comment