Thursday, December 30, 2004

An Old Article on Christian Community

I've just been rereading an article called Proposal for a Radical Discipleship Community that I wrote back in the 1970's. At the time, I typed it up on a mimeograph master sheet, ran off a couple of hundred copies or so, and passed it out to all kinds of people I thought might be interested. The community I envisioned never came off, but I pursued other versions of it from time to time over the years. Well before I even wrote this article I had lived with a group of draft resisters and their supporters in Albany called The Community of Loving Resistance [I know, I know, a really corny name, but we were children of the sixties, what can I say.] Then I had been part of the New Swarthmoor Quaker community that then had a house in Clinton, New York. After this article, I also participated in a quasi-ecumenical attempt at Christian community called Morningstar. It included some Quakers, some Mennonites, and some Roman Catholics (including Janet Accetta, who is now my wife). Morningstar had a communal house owned by the Mennonite Church (the same building is now called Menno House and is located on East 19th Street in NYC), but most of us who considered ourselves the Morningstar community didn't actually live in the house. We just went there two or three evenings a week for worship, Bible Study, and business meetings (!). The latter were sort of Quakerish in form. As I recall them they were also largely dominated by two or three talkative men (one of whom was me).

Looking back on the Proposal I wrote, I find that it still expresses pretty well some of the longings I have for Christian community, but that I wince a little now at some of the rhetoric and some of the details in the proposal.

Here's what I would change if I were writing this proposal today:
1) I would talk a little more bluntly about Jesus and not go on about Christ having all those different "names" in Christian/Quaker tradition.
2) I would propose that Quaker Meetings become radical discipleship communities, rather than that they have such communities within them.
3) I would abandon the whole concept that this would mean people had to share housing.
4) I would radically de-emphasize the whole section on disownment.
5) I don't think I would talk about refusal of jury service as some kind of radical witness. I have come to think that jury service is actually a good thing.

Maybe that sounds like I'm repudiating the whole article. But I don't feel I am. I think there's still a core there that I want to hold onto. I hope some of my blog-readers will read the article then come back here and comment. Eventually I may write an updated version.


Blogger Closed said...


Your proposals from the year I was born met my heart naming some of my deep longings, especially for communities of discipleship. I'm finding my values and deepest sense of Christianity shifting the more I sit with Christ and reflect on my own place in life--toward non-violence, non-cooperation, non-domination. I'm also realizing that these are best practiced in community. I wouldn't necessarily lose the many names by which we experience Christ, but a bit more grounding these in Jesus' person and story might work? Afterall each of these names is found in the Gospels or Epistles or later Christian teachers.


10:55 PM, December 30, 2004  
Blogger Lorcan said...

Ah the zeal of youth! And oh the sweet tempering of age, and ain't it nice to try and live in both skins at once!?

I find many young Friends today trying to do just that, pushing ahead with youth's zeal while trying to reclaim our old tradition of an elder based society, young Friends like Ryan and Amanda, spending time with the gray ghosts of our meeting (thee and me being among the younger of these phantoms...)

We have been speaking together, some plain Friends and (a little less plain without being gaudy?) Friends about a cooperative effort, to make those plain clothes which speak to our plain witness - those things which are more expensive or not made by our plain sisters and brothers who are Amish, Mennonite, Adventist etc.

Shirts, to put it simply, the three button collarless shirts thee often (unless I am wearing the button down collarless shirts) sees me wearing (what would I do without parenthesis, you wonder about now...) .



Well, I think the nexus between our spiritual life and communal work is valuable, and as I get older, I agree, that less is often more when it comes to the whole communal thing (though it is nice to know that so many of us come from this whole communal background thing that the Feds think we are a bunch or reds, and to some degree we are, but I would not go so far as to say Karl is another name for Christ, though I did wish a dear old red friend of mine a Merry Karlmarx day this 12/25... but I digress)

There is, of course, that wonderful Raja, i believe they are called, Rajapate, a song of spiritual praise that was one of Gandhi's fav's which, in one verse names many names for Ram including Allah and says, "why do we fight about what we call the one God?"

I recall often with a warm sense of yes, the story told by Joseph Campbell, about God walking between two fields with a hat that is green on one side and red on the other, he walks out of sight and turns the hat around, and walks back the other way between the fields again, and the workers in the two fields begin to argue about the color of God's hat, each sure that God wears a green or a red hat. How foolish we are. God tries to teach us, in every language, God is God in any hat. If we all sat down, and came to unity on one story of Christ, one name for all, tomorrow God would reveal another story and face to one or two of us, just to remind us to temper the zeal of our youth with the wisdom of elders. (i think)

thyne in the light and with a Kore Stulzfus made hat...


6:38 AM, December 31, 2004  
Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

Response to Christopher: I'm glad that the article spoke to you. The 1970's seem recent enough to me that it's startling to realize that someone born in the year I wrote my proposal can already be an adult today!

My comment about "losing" the various "names" of Christ was not meant to imply that Christ is not the Light, the Word, and so on. But I have become sensitized over the years to a tendency among some theologically liberal Friends to assume that if I talk about Jesus and they don't or won't then we are only differing in our names for the same "thing" or in our "language". I fear that my list of "synonyms" for Christ might perpetuate that misunderstanding. I have heard it said, for example, that I use "Christian language" in describing the Quaker faith. Sometimes this is said gratefully, sometimes tolerantly, and sometimes in a slight tone of exasperation. But the implication is plain that this is a linguisitic peculiarity.

In fact, however, I do not view myself as speaking "Christian language". I view myself as speaking English. And the word "Jesus" in English is the name of a certain First century rabbi who was crucified, died and was buried, and rose again.

Perhaps this conversation is not taking place in the same terms among Anglican or Roman Catholic Christians as it is among Friends. I do value your suggestion that in any rewrite I could supplement what is already said with more material that speaks directly about Jesus and His teaching.

12:14 PM, December 31, 2004  
Blogger Lorcan said...

Dear Friend Richard:
This is not to convince thee, but to remind thee of conversations we had, with Arthur, and Johns Edminister and Maynard, thee and me... towards unity in God expressed in messages.
History and theology need not run afoul of each other. In his day, as in this, Jewish people, in deed that amazing Rabbi, were very cautious of the reference to God, especially in worship, referring to God as I am that is in writing, though sometimes referring to God as lord or father, but there was true concern that Jewish people not make an idol of the human name, the abstraction of God. In fact, the historical record shows a major change with Paul, whose rhetorical constructions and logical constructions show familiarity with Pharaseean teaching, but prove to talmudic scholars that he was not a Pharisee, but likely a Greek living in Judea. This change is completely different from the attitude of the decipels and is rejected by the ebionites, their immediate descendants, on the nature of Jesus' divinity.

So when I speak of linguistic differences, I mean this very important element we inherit from Jesus' people, that we strive to worship God in totality, not an image of God in a word or human construction. Some Friends, who see divinity in Jesus' teaching cannot find unity in a message which speaks of God being born on earth in a man, finding this to be an injection of Greek paganism into Jesus' ministry. So, rather than limit what thy messages are, that is between God and thee, I think the question becomes, do I have to point out the color of God's hat to point to my understanding of the unity of God. I fear that if we must find unity in the nature of Jesus as Christ, then the years of finding common ground between Hicksites and Wilberites, is set back. In that discernment that forces me to my feet, I find myself rejecting messages that deny to Wilberites their light, and I have seen several Wilberite Friends doing the same, and have seen much more unity in the meeting.
I agree that there are some Friends openly antagonistic to the mention of Jesus at all, and I find this to be another way of arguing the color of God's hat. To quote a professor of science at a "Christian" university, (speaking about evolution but I find it applicable to so much more, " ... reminds me that God is bigger than the box in which I place him." That is a mouthful.

Thy friend and Friend in the light and at Joe's, and here and there...

ps can't find me specks so i can't reread this so read it with an open heart... i have no idea what i wrote here...

pps, it is a good time to reread Job these days, and think on how small is our understanding, and look for God in volcanos and floods.

5:20 PM, December 31, 2004  
Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

In Response to Lorcan (sometimes referred to on this blog as "Larry"): I very much respect your position and beliefs about these matters...and recognize some of them as different from my own.

I think we all do pretty well at listening to each other most of the time. I like your statement that you are not trying to convince me. I have become increasingly serene as the years go by abou the fact that I will never "convince" anyone of any deep truths about God or the spirit. All I can do is witness as honestly as I can to what I have seen and tasted. Others will do the same with their experience. And God will do whatever convincing has to be done. Not us.

Sometimes you lose me when you start talking about the Hicksites and Wilberites in Meeting. If I had to choose sides among the 19th century factions I might choose the followers of Wilber, but it wouldn't be a comfortable choice. I don't necessarily think Wilber would accept me as a Wilberite (or Hicks accept Larry as a Hicksite for that matter). Fortunately, I don't have to have a dog in that fight. We have new issues now.

- - Rich

12:59 AM, January 01, 2005  
Blogger Lorcan said...

Right your are Richard...

And further... Einstein as a young man would have been surprised at the understanding of the older Einstein and the older Einstein would've appreciated being proved completely wrong about a thing or two after his death. Time moves on, and we learn. For me, static faith in the face of changing scholarship may be the opposite of light.

Thyne in the light


4:36 AM, January 01, 2005  
Blogger Lorcan said...

PS and joyous new year... richie, lor

4:38 AM, January 01, 2005  
Blogger Larry Clayton said...

Rich, I found your post very refreshing and want to thank you and the commenters. I orginally look you up because I just discovered a comment defining heresy, which you make re a comment I made at R.W Spryszak's blog (As Way Opens) of Dec. 8. I had expressed surprise at finding the word in the Bible. You remarked that according to the dictionary definition we're all heretics.

So true! I've been studying church history rather intensively for the last couple of years; I came to the conclusion that the pure gospel of Jesus was transmitted by the large number of heretics throughout two centuries, culminating with the Quakers (and some other such groups).

The gnostics and other 'heretics' gave their own experience of God (Christ) priority over any man made or traditional forms of authority.

As a Quaker for the past 20 years, and 47 years as a Methodist minister (all my life a Methodist), I learned painfully through the years that the personal experience was truer than the conventional traditions. That of course makes me (and perhaps you) heretics in the conventional Christian sense of the word as well as the dictionary sense.

Blessings to you and yours. I speak English, too, but find some Friends perceiving it as 'Christian language'. Glory be!

8:59 PM, January 02, 2005  
Blogger Lorcan said...

Dear Friends Larry and Richard... I think from Larry's comment... "Blessings to you and yours. I speak English, too, but find some Friends perceiving it as 'Christian language'. Glory be!" that I may be falling short of explaining what I mean about linguistic differences. I don't meant the classic "Christian Language" phrase, which I did not use, nor do I mean. Let me try, as the intent is to show that we have much more common ground and grounding than differences.

Grounding: In Job we are reminded not to even try and think we understand God in totality.

Grounding: Throughout the old testament we are presented with examples of our Jewish root of Christianity saying worship God not the golden idol.

The Golden Idol: We Friends keep trying to see what that idol is. Wilburites and Gurnyites fall out over wither or not the bible is a the golden idol. Hicksites go a bit further, our Friend John Maynard rejects almost all words to describe God as a golden idol. "I'd love to say I am a universalist, but, FRANKLY, I don't believe anything..." a pause long enough for a Quaker 101 one class to look befuddled and one to ask me... " is HE REALLY a Quaker!?" then John says. "But, for some reason it works."
My guess is that John is in a state of complete acceptance of God, not needing to define God (even as Him)... and in so doing has set the very abstraction of any word as golden idol not to worship before God.

This is very different from liberal Quakerism, or New Age Quakerism or many others, but I find this Quaker minimalism grows out of the Hicksite tradition in the same way Hillel makes so much sense to every Hicksite I know... (and yes Richard, I think there are some of us left... I try and explain this a bit more on my blog - plaininthecity in thy links.)

You see, the fact that Wilber's theological children, and Gurney's called themselves orthodox begins to explain. Those of us raised in the Hicksite tradition never bothered with that, as we did not need to claim all of original Quakerism. Orthodox implies that Wilber and Gurney were fully correct. Hicks said, I may not see evidence of that, for example, evidence of the virgin birth, but I see why thee can draw that conclusion from the evidence as thee reads it. Therefore, as human knowledge grows, so does the Hicksite tradition - unbound by orthodoxy. This does not mean anything goes.
I think we to really be Hicksites, attempt to disavow myth as true in fact, but can accept it as true in spirit.

This brings us back to "Christian Language" Once we open our mouth we deal in abstraction ... and to a degree myth as our words paint pictures of the silent perfection inside, yet do not present the reality of that silent perfection, the still small voice being beyond words in perfection and we struggle to understand in words what we know in spirit. Therefore, once one says anything, lines are drawn. We are so closer to knowing often before any ministry in meeting.

Gee... I don't know if I have really said it ... all these words, imperfect pictures. There was a Greek fellow who when asked a question merely moved his hand up and down to represent the flow of the river. We never step in the same river twice being his silent answer, that as we use words the meanings change.

There we are ... even more abstractions
Thyne in the light

3:57 AM, January 03, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

to Lorcan and others:

I too, see a gentle change that is coming among
our group here, made up of mostly deeply Hicksite types.
We are more than ever amenable to 'naming the name.'
At the same time we are attempting, carefully, to come
to a better understanding of what it means to stop
worshiping language. We're definitely stealing from
Wilber and Gurney, unconsciously, more than before.

As I read other internet accounts, I continue to be
surprised that more are not experiencing this path.
It appears that NYYM and our little region in particular
is far from usual, and that the experiences of other
meetings with these tensions has not resulted in
much light. To be sure, we don't ourselves always
result in much light on it either! But it does seem
that NYC/LI Quakers are trying.

David Myers
Westbury MM, Long Island

10:09 PM, January 04, 2005  
Blogger Lorcan said...

Hi David... there is more on this on my blog, in Richard's links... plaininthecity... cheers lor

10:59 PM, January 08, 2005  
Blogger TS said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:36 AM, October 02, 2005  
Blogger Jack Naka said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:23 PM, October 05, 2005  
Blogger Tom Naka said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:42 AM, October 10, 2005  
Blogger Steve Finnell said...


The prevailing thought of many is that since the Bible was not canonized until sometime between 300 and 400 A.D. that the church of Christ did not have New Covenant Scriptures as their guide for faith and practice. That is simply factually incorrect.

The Lord's church of the first 400 years did not rely on the man-made traditions of men for New Testament guidance.

Jesus gave the terms for pardon 33 A.D. after His death and resurrecting. (Mark 16:16) All the words of Jesus were Scripture.Jesus did not have to wait for canonization of the New Testament in order for His word to be authorized.

The terms for pardon were repeated by the apostle Peter 33 A.D. on the Day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:22-42) The teachings of the apostles were Scripture. The words of the apostles were Scripture before they were canonized.

The apostle Peter said the apostle Paul's words were Scripture. (2 Peter 3:15-16...just as also our beloved brother Paul , according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand,which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures...

The apostle Paul's letters and words were Scriptures when he wrote and spoke them. Paul did not have to wait for canonization to authorize his doctrine.

John 14:25-26 'These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to you remembrance all that I said to you.

The words and writings of the apostles were Scripture and they did not have to wait for canonization to be deemed authoritative. The apostle did not use man-made creed books of the church or man-made oral traditions to teach the gospel of the New Covenant.

Did the early church have written New testament Scriptures? Yes, and they were shared among the different congregations. (Colossians 4:16 When the letter is read among you, have it read in the church of the Laodiceans and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodica.) Paul's letters were Scripture and they were read in different churches.

They were New Testament Scriptures long before they were canonized.


Matthew A.D. 70
Mark A.D. 55
Luke between A.D. 59 and 63
John A.D. 85
Acts A.D. 63
Romans A.D. 57
1 Corinthians A.D. 55
2 Corinthians A.D. 55
Galatians A.D. 50
Ephesians A.D. 60
Philippians A.D. 61
Colossians A. D. 60
1 Thessalonians A.D. 51
2 Thessalonians A.D. 51 or 52
1 Timothy A.D. 64
2 Timothy A.D. 66
Titus A.D. 64
Philemon A.D. 64
Hebrews A.D. 70
James A.D. 50
1 Peter A.D. 64
2 Peter A.D. 66
1 John A.D. 90
2 John A.d. 90
3 John A.D. 90
Jude A.D. 65
Revelation A.D. 95

All 27 books of the New Testament were Scripture when they were written. They did not have wait until they were canonized before they became God's word to mankind.

Jesus told the eleven disciples make disciples and teach them all that He commanded. (Matthew 28:16-19) That was A.D. 33, They were teaching New Covenant Scripture from A.D. 33 forward. The apostles did not wait to preach the gospel until canonization occurred 300 to 400 years later.




6:14 AM, May 19, 2014  

Post a Comment

<< Home