Monday, January 6, 2014

Quaker, Christianity, and me, so far. Part 3

I'm gathering more resources and I'm preparing to go to my first Quaker meeting this coming Firstday (A name I find quite nice actually, taking into account my personal religious background).
My search for a religious home started with Mainline denominations. There was the MCC, the ELCA, and most intriguingly, the Episcopalians. My main problem with these churches is the fact that I am a low church Protestant by upbringing. There was something a little too formal about High Church Lutheranism and Anglicanism. And being an Adventist there was always something a bit too "Catholic" about such church life. I wouldn't be comfortable there , nor really comfortable when I finally come out to my family and friends, not only as Gay, but a heretic as well.

I was inspired by the writings of Forrest Church, to explore the Unitarian Universalist faith. But then I realized that Unitarian Universalism isn't a faith at all, but warmed over, ritualized, Secular Humanism.
Things like God and Jesus, and relational theology had no place in their thinking. Not because they were against such things per se, but because they were against offending others. And insisting on being Christian and the importance of Christianity is, by definition, offensive. Even a strong but ambiguous theism is looked down upon. Unitarians seem to be allowed to only believe in a life force, that is wholly encapsulated in the cells of living things. Any insistence on devotion to a divine spirit who is real, personal, and more than a synonym for evolutionary process, is too much supernaturalism for such a religion to handle.
It was a great disappointment to me, especially in light of the theology of Francis David and Faustus Socinus. The Rachovian Catechism. Even William Ellery Channing and the Universalist Church had some promise in them. I did learn something though: If you privilege rationalism, naturalism, and humanism in your faith at the expense of theism, mystery and faith, you'll keep the three above and lose your entire religion in the process.
At best you'll catch the discomfited dregs of the secularists, whose hearts yearn for the spirit they have already rejected, and prolong the inevitable demise of your denomination.

This is part of the reason I have struggled so mightily with engaging Quakerism. The forms of Quakerism aailable seem to be seperated, such that the things I want from each are not present in all. I need a faith that is Gay affirming, Jesus centered, low church open to change/reform as the Holy Spirit leads, committed to mission and ministry in the world, theistic, and Christian (even if it's heterodox). Evangelical Friends are not gay affirming or open to theological change, Friends United Meeting  aren't officially gay affirming, and Friends General Conference and the meetings that are similar to it, seem open to all of these things, but not comitted to any, exceot fpr perhaps the Gay affirming part. The first 2 make me uncomfortable as a gay person, the last one makes me uncomfortable as a Theist and a Christian. In fact, I'm afraid that FGC will follow UU's down the path from Christian Universalism, to Religious Universalism, to de facto Secular Humanism.

The one glimmer of hope in the Quaker universe, the organization that fits all my criteria and that reveals to me the potential that all Quakers have, is Friends of Jesus Fellowship. Its a community that came out of evangelical Quakerism that has all the hall marks of what I've longed to see. If FUM were gay affirming, I think I would also be comfortable with them as well. I'm going to see if my local and yearly meetings are at least tolerable, and explore Quakerism some more. And if I get the opportunity, I'll try to see if I can hookup with Friends Jesus Fellowship. If they prove to be disappointments, I guess I'll just have to swallow my discomfort with the High Church style and get a Heidelberg Catechism or a Book of Common Prayer.

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