Press Release - Seventh Day, 1st of Fourth Month, 2006
In a long expected move that builds on recent trends toward theological inclusivness in the Religious Society of Friends, an ad hoc group of members, attenders, and non-member non-attenders of several Friends' Meetings announced today the formation of a group tentatively called the NonQuaker Friends Association. Kelly Brinton-Jones, the group's "clerk of the day" (a kind of presiding officer whose tenure is 24 hours) said the group's final name may change since some of its founding members believe that the use of the word "Friends" as an identifier is unduly limiting and exclusionary.
"The Society of people called Friends has a long and sad history of narrowness and exclusiveness," said Brinton-Jones, "but today we take another step in our journey toward universal inclusiveness." The group's potential nationwide constitutency is estimated at 10 - 15 individuals.
Brinton-Jones explained that in the early days of the Society of Friends it included only people who were anti-clerical, anti-war, anti-luxury, anti-pride, anti-vanity and pro-Christian to boot. He said that Puritans, Roman Catholics, Ranters, Baptists and other English groups of the time were not formally prohibited from attending these early Friends' meetings, but they were subtly excluded by the strong stands the Friends took against things that others believed in. "In theory, you could come to Meeting no matter who you were," said Brinton-Jones, "but if you wanted to swear oaths, kill people, or dance around the maypole you were NOT made welcome."
In later times, this trend toward exclusiveness nor only continued, but increased according to Brinton-Jones. "The 'Free Quakers' who supported the American Revolution were unceremoniously expelled because of the Society's rigid insistence on its 'peace testimony'. In the 18th Century, inspired by zealot John Woolman, Friends also purged their ranks of well-to-do citizens who happened to own slaves, even though this practice was then legal and technically a private personal matter."
"In the 19th and 20th centuries," Brinton-Jones continued, "the exclusionary trends began to reverse. Today, in large sections of the United States Meetings no longer exclude people who want pastors like other churches. In the 1970s California Friends warmly embraced a member who had scandalized some traditionalists by becomeing Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, making war against a foreign nation, and covering-up a burglary. In a few isolated pockets, Meetings have opened their doors and hearts to people who embrace ritual practices from other faith-traditions, such as communion with bread and wine, baptism with water, and Wiccan fertility dances. We of the NonQuaker Friends Association welcome these trends, just as we welcome the growth of the Nontheist Friends, Universalist Friends, and other groups who stretch our traditional definitions. Ultimately, however, it is not good enough to just say that no particular beliefs are mandatory. The Society of Friends will remain exclusionary and sectarian as long as its Meetings accept only Quakers as members. It is with this in mind that we call upon all Friends Meetings to topple this final barrier between our beloved Society and the greater Society around us."
It is believed that the group will attempt to hold an informal interest group at upcoming sessions of Friends General Conference.