Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Reluctant Convergent

Some Friends choose to be Convergent, others have convergence thrust upon them.

For those of you who follow the Quaker blogosphere, you are probably well aware that we are about halfway through Convergent October. For those of you who are saying to yourself "Quaker blogo-what?", you may want to skip this post altogether. It's going to get awfully Quakery very quickly. If you are torn, you may want to read Robin M's excellent description of Convergent Friends, a phrase she coined.

This demonstrates my first problem in trying to talk about convergence. While my blog is unabashedly Quaker, I always hope that my writing will have some value for friends who are not also Friends. As soon as I wade into discussions about different kinds of Quakers, I feel like it is a little too insider, and less meaningful.

A few weeks ago, I attended the local arrangements committee meeting for the FWCC Section of the Americas Annual Meeting. I wasn't really that surprised that I ended up as the Young Adult Friend on the committee. It's not a role I am particularly fond of, but it is one that has at least become familiar. I was surprised that I was also put in charge of gathering information for a potential Convergent Friends gathering at the meeting.

Since then, I have been trying to sort out my conflicting feelings about convergence.

I am a young Friend. I have a blog. I am a member of Freedom Friends Church. I feel called to bring different kinds of Quakers together to at least talk about their differences, if not resolve them. I believe that Quaker values are worthwhile and that many people would be interested in the Religious Society of Friends if they knew more about us.

But do these things make me Convergent? Does it really matter what I think? If I write potentially negative things about Convergent Friends, will I hurt people I respect and admire? Will I be shunned by a group I am interested in, though do not necessarily fully identify with? If so, does that mean I am off the hook with FWCC?

I am drawn to the concept of combining Conservative Quaker faith and practice with the Emerging Church. I like imagining boundaries blurring as Quakers converge. The popularity of Convergent ideas suggests that there are many Friends who are willing to challenge their assumptions as they seek God, and are trying to build the kind of community they want to be a part of, and I find that exciting.

And yet, I worry that we are wasting time and getting distracted by definitions and labels, arguing about what convergence means and who is in or out. I also get frustrated when Friends seem to see me as Convergent by default because I do not fit into any of the neat Quaker categories.

Maybe all of this talk about Convergent Friends is a sign that we need to reexamine what it means to be a modern Quaker and put more effort into figuring out how we are going to relate to all those other folks who are not like us, but are still Quakers.

Thoughts, anyone?


  1. I quite agree that we should be talking about what it means to be a Quaker in the modern, some would say postmodern, world. This is part of a broader discussion that is taking place outside the Society of Friends: what does it mean to be a Christian in the modern world. The emerging church movement is asking the latter question.

    Christianity is an old and living tradition because it constantly reinvents itself. Every generation of Christians must ask themselves what is the essence of Jesus' message and what is the inessential and even harmful baggage that past generations of Christians have mistakenly added to it. The Protestant Reformation decided that stained glass windows and Popes were part of the baggage better tossed out. In the process they probably added new and different baggage.

    There is no utopian time in the past when all Christians really knew what was essential and what was not. Fox carried some baggage. Even Paul carried some baggage. But I do think that both Fox and Paul were generally more perceptive as to what the essence of Christianity was than their contemporaries. But when it comes right down to it we need to answer these questions for ourselves.

  2. I am relatively new to the "Quaker blogosphere" having just started seekerquaker.blogspot. I too am ambivalent about "convergent" and have a rather extensive background with the various "branches of Quakerism" ( I use that term as an "ISM" which I believe Friends should avoid) I have been a member of a NWPYM meeting in Portland, had/have a "quaker buddy" (not capitalized on purpose, not out of "electronic" laziness/rapidity) who is a Northwest Yearly Meeting pastor. I was raised in the home of a FUM, nee FYM, minister who would have been an ambivalent Convergent Friend who listened to others very carefully and respectfully but had a very clear vision of what he believed as a Friend. I became a "convinced(?)" unprogrammed Friend although it did not seem to conflict with my "birthright" (raised in a home that acted in the manner of Friends) membership in a FYM meeting.

    Although I certainly do not identify myself as a Young Friend, looking 65 in the face, I clearly understand the reluctance of any adult, >18?, Friend to be called a "youth." Didn't the young early Friends take over much responsibility among Friends when the "older" Friends were serving time in jails.

    I know I have rambled (apology to Martin K) a great deal, but my basic response is meant to be "Keep up the 'ministry.'" By the way (not abbreviated) I have been "recorded" as a minister in an FGC/FUM Yearly Meeting, for what that is worth.

    I am looking forward to sharing in your blogging!


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