Quakers and Christians

Should British Quakers engage with the World Council of Churches?

The Quaker Committee for Christian and Interfaith Relations is to consult Meeting for Sufferings about whether we should engage with the WCC document “The Church: towards a common vision“. It asks, do we still regard ourselves as a church, and have we anything to learn from the wider church? A better question would be, is this where our energies could fruitfully be employed?

Some Christianity is a curse. If someone backs up his homophobia with bible verses, and accounts it virtue- “I’m Biblical, and you’re not”- he has nothing to teach me. The long slow struggle of the Church of England to have women bishops– well, I am glad they have, now, but we had women leaders in the seventeenth century. The CofE still persecutes its gay clergy.

I have heard of parents disowning and refusing contact with their children, because the children left their faith group. This, going against the parent’s deepest instinct, denying the child’s path or judgment any value, repels me.

Karen Armstrong writes that a personal God can validate our prejudices and make us judgmental of others, as we create “him” in our self-satisfied image. This is not a Quaker view of God: can we reach maturity without rejecting this conclusively, following the leadings of the Spirit and leaving behind silly human-made dogma such as the Virgin Birth?

Then she writes, The World religions all seem to have recognised this danger and have sought to transcend the personal conception of supreme reality.

We could unite with those in other churches transcending simplistic views of God. We could find value in their struggle, and perhaps even in the personal God which they still value.

A lot of the WCC document concerns matters of order. Could one church recognise another’s ordination? Can we share the Eucharist together? I wonder if we could accept the pastoral care of an ordained minister, even her/his pastoral guidance, or authority. We do have authority in our equal society: my experience of weighty Quakers speaking wisdom gives them that authority.

What if the other churches could seek us out with open hearts, find what we value and what sustains us? In blessing them, we could find how they bless us.

The end of the Quaker response is beautiful. We are willing to recognise and form closer relationships with other churches, not so much because they acknowledge any particular account of the Church, but because they represent a visible sign of God at work in the world. We hope other churches could go forward in mutual recognition on this basis. That is, we believe God is in relationship with others beside ourselves. The humble, meek, merciful, just, pious, and devout souls are everywhere of one religion, said William Penn.

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