Why I left [Liberal] Quakers
By: Greg Mansell *
Several years ago I went to the Quaker group in Hobart, Tasmania eventually I had to part company with them because my Christianity made them feel uncomfortable. So I was delighted to find that there are not only Quakers who still call themselves Christians but ones who also teach Entire Sanctification, something which seems to be dead in every so called Church in Australia. I have a blog at www.dissuaded.info where I write on various aspects of Christian life in an attempt to provoke some deeper thought on what it means to be a Christian. For your education I include the letter I wrote to the members of the Hobart meeting when I left.
WHY I LEFT QUAKERS
I thought that if anyone was wondering why I was no longer attending meeting it would be right to let them know, hence the following.
I originally came to Quakers as a result of my reading some of the Journal of George Fox. I was so taken with his honesty and authority and the real depth of both his knowledge and love of Christ that I felt to go to a meeting of Quakers to see what of the reality of the power of his vision remained among them, and I was disappointed.
Fox had arrived at his knowledge of God partially because he knew from experience that the doctors of religion spoke words without power and performed rituals that lead both them and their congregations no closer to a real living knowledge of Christ. While he came to realize that the experience of Christ was of more importance than ritual and doctrine he remained throughout his life faithful to scripture. For although his experience of Christ was arrived at independent of doctrine, he found that this experience rather than being denied through scripture was, in fact, confirmed in it. In other words the Holy Spirit opened scripture to him and he comprehended it, as it were, afresh and hence he came to see scripture not as a vessel for doctrine but as a living record of God’s dealing with men and that what was true for the disciples and the prophets ought also to be our experience.
I was amazed to find among modern Quakers both an ignorance of Fox’s life and teaching and arrogant assumptions concerning what little they did know. Typical of this ignorance were words that went something like this, “I’ve been a Quaker all my life but I have never got around to reading Fox.” The arrogance was more subtle; it followed these lines – “If George Fox was alive today and knew what we know, of other religions, he would believe as we do.”
While ignorance can be tackled, for it is a simple matter to begin to read, arrogance is a much more difficult foe, because it does not matter how deeply or widely you read, all of your deep seated prejudices read along with you. If you believe that Fox would have benefited from your greater education and superior knowledge then reading his Journal will most likely only confirm you in your opinion.
The whole strength of George Fox lies in his integrity. The witness of his life bears witness to a spiritual dimension that few find and hence emulate. For us to say that he was the product of his times and his education is to deny him his integrity and to belittle his work, his suffering and the very essence of his being. We are in fact saying, “George you were a good bloke but I’m sorry you were so wrong about Christ.”
While these might be our heart-felt sentiments what kind of hypocrite does it make me to believe this of someone and yet to remain in the society he founded? Aren’t I a snake in the grass, a besmircher of memory and up to no good in the cause that he poured out his life to form?
“We aren’t Foxites,” I’ve been told, yet you treasure his peace testimony, but not the power by which he found peace, namely Christ!
Truth is truth today, tomorrow and forever. What attracted me to George Fox was that my own struggle to find rest for my soul found resonance in the answer to his struggle when he heard a voice, which said: “There is one, even Jesus Christ, that can speak to thy condition.” I felt a kinship with him and an admiration for his deeds that spanned the centuries. I felt no need to rewrite his understanding or to apologize for his beliefs, for I found in him a man who knew what he was talking about concerning Christ, the established church, and the path to salvation. Obviously many of his contemporaries felt the same way and that is why the Society of Friends exists at all.
I find it a shame then that I feel an outcast in your meeting. I have been told that I have made many people uncomfortable with my contributions to meeting, in the outpourings of the life that fills my spirit. I know that there have been those who have appreciated some of my contributions and have told me so, but there have been others who have, not to my face, but through the Ministry for Worship expressed their discomfort.
Since the Elders of your group have singled me out regarding this matter I feel it would be wrong for me to remain in the meeting.
* Friend Greg Mansell sent us this in an email, and we are publishing it with permission.