The purpose of the Quaker Theological Discussion Group is to explore the meaning and implications of our Quaker faith and religious experience through discussion and publication. This search for unity in the claim of truth upon us concerns both the content and application of our faith.
The Quaker Theological Discussion Group (QTDG) met as an auxiliary meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) on Friday, November 22, 2019, in San Diego, CA. We held two panels on Friday afternoon and evening. On Saturday, a closely related organization, the Quaker Studies Program Unit, held one session at AAR, jointly sponsored with the Pentecostal–Charismatic Movements Unit. A number of these papers will appear in 2020 editions of Quaker Religious Thought, so subscribe to QRT today if you haven’t already!
The Friday panels began with a group from George Fox University and Portland Seminary sharing on the topic: “Quaker Youth Ministry and Theopraxis in a Multicultural Context.” Presenters included Roger Nam, Trisha Welstad, Steve Sherwood, Leah Payne, Joel Mayward, and Hannah Souter. Nim Njunga joined us via video chat from London, England as an excellent respondent to the panel (you can see him pictured on the wall behind the panelists in the above photos). The panelists shared about a theology conference for high school youth they have been holding at George Fox University for the last several summers called Theologia, funded by the Lily Endowment. They shared about the facets of Quakerism that help shape the way they run the week-long institute, including seeing the high school-aged participants as scholars through whom God can and will speak, and who can and do have important theological insights.
The second Friday panel was entitled: “Quakers Reading Scripture,” and included the following papers:
- Michael Birkel of Earlham School of Religion, “‘Read Within’: Margaret Fell and Scripture”
- Carole Dale Spencer of Portland Seminary, “The ‘Mystic Sense’ of Scripture as taught by Hannah Whitall Smith: Nineteenth Century Quaker Bible Teacher”
- Paul Anderson of George Fox University, “Inspiring Readings of the Inspired Text—Taking the Bible Personally, After the Manner of Friends”
- David Hahn of Luther Seminary, “‘Hearing to Speech’: A Participatory Theology of Word-Dwelling as Congregational Formation in God’s Mission”
Each paper offered an entry point into the hermeneutical style preferred by Friends, in which the Spirit inspires each encounter with the holy writ. We appreciate each paper, and are particularly grateful to David Hahn for offering a Quakerly perspective on reading scripture in groups, from outside the Quaker community.
Saturday’s panel of the Quaker Studies Program Unit of the American Academy of Religion centered on the topic “Quakers and Pentecostals in a Colonized World,” and in addition to two papers relating more closely to Pentecostal topics, Cherice Bock, a Quaker who teaches at Portland Seminary of George Fox University, presented a paper entitled: “Friends and Watershed Discipleship: reconciling with people and the land in light of the Doctrine of Discovery.” She offered a re-reading of Quaker history with attention to the benefits many European and European American or Canadian Friends have received due to colonialism, offering an alternative interpretation of Christianity in light of climate change and current awareness of the intersecting justice issues of racism, classism, sexism, and the wedding of Western Christianity and empire. Ekaputra Tupamahu, also of Portland Seminary, offered an insightful response to the panel.
At the close of the QTDG panels on Friday night, a business meeting was held, and we discussed upcoming topics and locations for QTDG gatherings. More information will be released shortly.
We also approved new members for the QRT advisory panel and editorial team. New and existing members include:
- Cherice Bock is QRT’s new social media manager, joining C. Wess Daniels, the QTDG and QRT website manager.
- Carole Dale Spencer and Jeffrey Dudiak joined the group of associate editors. Both previously served on the advisory panel, and Spencer is co-chair of the QTDG. They join existing associate editors, Paul Anderson and Gayle Beebe.
- Christy Randazzo (co-chair of the QTDG), Howard Macy, David Johns, and Madeleine Ward join the advisory panel, alongside existing members Ben Pink Dandelion, Ruth Pitman, Max Carter, Stephen Angell, Corwynn Beals, and Susan Jeffers.
- Jon Kershner continues as the QRT editor, and Phil Smith continues as the business manager.
Photos of the QRT editorial team and advisory panel can be viewed in the following slideshow. (Not pictured: Ruth Pitman.)
We had a great time in San Diego a couple weeks back for the annual Quaker Theological Discussion Group meeting at the American Academy of Religion. There were a number of great papers given and stimulating discussions that followed. One of the highlights (this is Wess writing) was Cherice Bocks’ paper “Friends and Watershed Discipleship: Reconciling With People and the Land in Light of the Doctrine of Discovery.” Bock delivered this for the Quaker Studies Unit on Saturday morning and did an incredible job. Once it is published we will share a link here, you are going to want to read this. Finally, we want to welcome new members to the QTDG steering committee, all who were approved during our QTDG business meeting.
These photos are a throwback to last year’s Quaker Theological Discussion Group sessions and Quaker Studies Unit panel in Denver, CO at the American Academy of Religion! We heard papers by those whose work was published in the 2019 QRT issues, #132 and #133, and enjoyed times of scholarly fellowship around our shared Quaker nerdiness. We look forward to seeing everyone again tomorrow in San Diego!
Cherice Bock reviewed Gospel of the Absurd: Assemblies of Interpretation, Embodiment, and Faithfulness by R. Scot Miller for QRT Issue #133. A Friend and Earlham School of Religion grad (now ministering among Brethren), Miller does not write to a specifically Quaker audience, but “presents a Christian ethic based in the Bible and that belies his Friends perspective,” according to Bock. The review describes Miller’s Messianic care ethic, and discusses how Miller’s suggestion of faithful absurdity may be received by Friends today in both liberal and evangelical wings, intimating that neither may like what he has to say but it may be the kind of call all Friends need to hear. Order a copy of the review to learn more about this book and how it might speak to Friends.
The 20th anniversary edition of “Heaven on Earth: Quakers and the Second Coming,” by Ben Pink Dandelion, Douglas Gwyn, and Timothy Peat, was reviewed in the last QRT volume by Jay Miller. This post also includes a photo of the authors from ca. 1997 and ca. 2017!
Miller describes the book’s grounding in Peat’s biblical scholarship, along with analyses by Gwyn and Dandelion of the apocalyptic Quakerism and realising eschatology espoused by early Friends, and shifts in eschatological hermeneutics in subsequent centuries. Check out his review by purchasing your copy of QRT #133 here.
Jon Kershner wrote a review of William Penn, A Life, by Andrew R. Murphy (Oxford University Press, 2018), a book which marked the 300th anniversary of Penn’s death and focuses primarily on his political career. The text also “carefully corrects some of the previous mischaracterizations of the nature of the relationship between Lenape and the early Quaker settlers,” according to Kershner. Check out the rest of the review by purchasing a copy of QRT’s Fall 2019 issue here. Have you read William Penn, A Life? What did you think of it?
Oscar Lugusa Malande wrote “The Concept of Hierarchy and Doing Ministry in the Church: Evaluating the Roles of Leaders and the Use of Authority in Quakerism” for the Fall 2019 issue of QRT. With experience as a pastor and chaplain in Vihiga Yearly Meeting in Kenya, as well as teaching and serving as academic dean of Friends Theological College Kaimosi, he provides insight into the challenges and opportunities of the Friends understanding of authority and ministry leadership in general, and particularly how it is being received and interpreted in an African context. He interviewed Friends from several East Africa countries, and shares some of their opinions and insights. He also offers thoughts about the differences between pastors’ and clerks’ leadership, and the need for close collaboration.