Introduction to Issue #21

This is a packed issue, full of high-content, substantive thought and reporting. First, there are two updates by Associate Editor Stephen Angell on the continuing conflict in Indiana Yearly Meeting. They continue our detailed coverage of this significant episode, a record not available elsewhere.

Yet a preoccupation with current foibles can easily become a kind of group narcissism. So from Angell’s Indiana, we skip back more than two centuries to Sarah Werner’s illumination of the life and thought of William Bartram, a pioneering Quaker botanist who found, named and drew many native plants. Bartram’s journeys are interesting enough in themselves; but more apt for our purposes, he also reflected on how his travels beyond the “civilized” settlements of colonial America, particularly among the native groups, affected – and reshaped – the received religious ideas of his day. They pointed him in some surprisingly modern directions.

From Bartram’s musings, which included foretastes of the basis of a liberal outlook among some Friends, we next take up Guy Aiken’s examination of two figures often thought of as pillars of twentieth century liberal Quakerism, Rufus Jones and Thomas Kelly. But is this uber-liberal designation accurate? Aiken argues that it is overdrawn, at least somewhat in the case of Jones, and more so for Kelly. Read it and decide for yourself.

Our reviews in this issue likewise range widely. One considers a summary of forty years of sociological research on protestant religion in America; among the findings is a formula for church growth that deserves Friends’ careful attention. The other review takes the measure of an environmentalist call for all-out war on industrial civilization, and the billions of people who live in it. Is such a war in our future? Is it one that Quakers should join, actively or passively?

Thanks for reading our journal. Have you considered making a gift subscription of the print edition to your Meeting or church library?

Chuck Fager, Editor

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