Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Quaker revitalization British style

By way of blog as file cabinet, a couple items from the Naylor blog about what British Friends think Quakers specifically have to say to today's spiritually hungry and seeking

Radical welcome about 600,000 potential Quakers in Britain today Paul Barnet, recording Clerk of Britain Yearly Meeting writes

Geoffrey Durham: What it means to be a Quaker today: practice!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Woolman as Blindness Tourism

RantWoman presents yet another fabulous opportunity for blindness tourism, this time disguised as a humble, perfectly ordinary book reading group. Friends in RantWoman's Meeting have been working our way through John Woolman's journal. We are not working quickly. We are meeting once a month and so far we have mostly finished six chapters, taking time to chew through both historical details supplied by people who have various backgrounds and theological details in each turn of phrase.

RantWoman has been grateful that the Friend convening the group has not been in a hurry. RantWoman has mostly felt grateful that people enriching the group with their various supplemental readings have been insightful in their sharing but have not overpowered the likes of RantWoman who basically has neither time nor capacity to try to do anything but read the central text.

Reading the central text is no small task. People in the group are reading more than one print edition. RantWoman is reading from her Kindle. RantWoman has not bothered to look up which edition is on her Kindle. It would not help. The paragraphs are long enough that at RantWoman's preferred font size they take up more than one screen on her Kindle. The screens do not correspond to anyone's page numbers. RantWoman is TRYING to train her reading group members to say what words the paragraphs start or end with. This assuredly is not happening.

Instead members of RantWoman's reading group seem to like to fixate on a small chunk of text described as in such and such paragraph on page such and such of the ... edition. RantWoman keeps the audio to a minimum in her group. Even though RantWoman can actually read with faster speech than her Kindle even does, in places like meetings and reading group, RantWoman keeps the audio to a bare minimum. This means RantWoman gets to try to skim visually. Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha!
Visual skimming is not RantWoman's favorite in the first place. Screaming through with text to speech even at the comparatively pokey pace the Kindle can do is gauche in public anyway. So have the time RantWoman has no idea which nugget of Woolman theology and prosody the rest of the reading group is holding forth about. And aside from saying the start or end of the paragraph, there does not seem to be a darn thing to be done except put up with it.

Well, MAYBE RantWoman will have to get her reading done in time to jot notes on paper or in Braille. Maybe!

RantWoman supplemental note: imagine this same lost ina sea of text issue while trying to edit minutes in a committee meeting or in Business Meeting. RantWoman has been VERY grateful to have minutes shipped out in advance by email and to have a clerk and recording clerk willing to engage with RantWoman's numerous vexations over recent months by email.

RantWoman could find it easy to get downright surly about a cerain committee that half the time could not even get minutes out by email until after RantWoman had gotten on the bus to come to a committee meeting. RantWoman was especially , cough, amused one month by a thoroughly well-meant but hopelessly clueless offer: RantWoman was invited to read minutes on someone else's laptop with no accessibility software and a lot of hurry without even time to fuss around and adjust a few settings taht would have helped a tiny bit. But there goes RantWoman being fixated and ungracious, AGAIN!
RantWoman will now resume her efforts to steep herself in Woolman well enough to "keep low" about her endless objections to others' interactions with her reality. RantWoman is afraid she is going to need a lot of steeping!

Oh wait: RantWoman has the same lost at sea problem interacting with the text even when she gets things in advance. The difference: when RantWoman gets things in advance and cannot remember every point it would wander into her head to be fixated on, RantWoman herself has to prioritize and let go! RantWoman is absurdly grateful when she gets to be true to her own Light, not just slog through someone else's sludge. Oh wait, back to steeping....

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Grace Coming out one's ears

RantWoman has already submitted a paper to the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference. Further, RantWoman has judiciously asked to be held in the Light, a practice she needs to be reminded of. Holding in the Light seems to be working as far as greater clarity not ripe for the blogosphere and words to hold where RantWoman's Inner Blowtorch is trending.

And still RantWoman is again overachieving in the Reflections department. More Grace!

This post is dedicated to Amazing Artist Friend.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! (RantWoman is posting belatedly.)

RantWoman thinks Amazing Artist Friend is likely to find without RantWoman even having to wish it, nature in which to be enthralled--for hours, long past when RantWoman's eyes can focus and her sinuses overflow with pollen. Amazing Artist can also talk for hours about ideas for her next creations, sculptures, pottery, drawing. Amazing Artist Friend at this point has accumulated a collection of her works. The collection is not easy to transport and photos are but a glimpse. Amazing Artist Friend also got it instantly one time when RantWoman said if she were to paint (Ha!) and wanted to paint a love scene, RantWoman would just paint two pairs of steamy glasses on a table and leave the rest to imagination.

RantWoman would REALLY like to have found some of Amazing Artist Friend's art on the internet somewhere to link to. RantWoman did not. RantWoman did find some visually uninspiring stuff about the land trust where Amazing Artist Friend lives. Oddly, inability to link anything visually interesting which might also be attached to Amazing Artist Friend's name causes RantWoman to feel freer about reflections in other dimensions.

RantWoman and Amazing Artist Friend met during abortive careers selling the nuclear freeze door to door. Amazing Artist Friend's career lasted a few days longer than RantWoman's; RantWoman is unclear to what was owed this success.

The first Grace in the story is Grace the office manager. Grace the Office manager worked at the office of the national organization in Washington DC where RantWoman and Amazing Artist Friend met.  Grace's husband worked at the State Department. Grace was sensible and middle-aged. She worked in an office full of young and idealistic people. It was the 1980's and the Cold War was not quite over. On one hand, Ronald Reagan proclaimed anyone concerned about the nuclear arms race a KGB dupe. On the other hand, rebellious youth with unstable addresses, RantWoman included, sometimes shamelessly received mail at the office address to "Comrade So-and-so." This greatly distressed Grace the Office Manager.

Grace the Office manager's other claim to fame is that RantWoman and Amazing Artist Friend walked into the door one day one after another. Grace the Office Manager looked at the two of us and said "You two would like each other." We still giggle about that!
RantWoman was moved to write public birthday greetings by reflections over at about youth painted vividly in some of the same intense themes swirling around RantWoman and Amazing Artist Friend. RantWoman is not distressed in the least that Amazing Artist Friend awhile ago declared emphatically that RantWoman has mellowed l lot. Yes indeed world. This is a kinder, gentler, considerably mellowed out version of the RantWoman of yore. Can you imagine?

By way of blog as filing cabinet and adding to RantWoman's mean to read list, an item about radical feminism:
Amazing Grace in a new way, in honor of RantWoman and Amazing Artist Friend and our spell hanging out being more or less church lady peaceniks with a bunch of women for whom this language rings truer to their spiritual life.

Remembrances from the specific historical experience RantWoman has in mind:

RantWoman confession: RantWoman has done wonderful powerful political and spiritual work with women who proudly use the word "witch." In many cases, RantWoman has boundless regard for the Light and movements of spirit among those she has struggled alongside. Still, RantWoman remains resolutely twitchy and uncomfortable and sometimes has no idea how to deal with that word! RantWoman herself, talking about herself, can never imagine using the word witch. And yet RantWoman continues to peer into that world.

The other point that caught RantWoman's ear from the Amazing Grace post is the thought of being without fear at least for a moment. RantWoman wonders, does being without fear, even for a moment, happen to anyone else? RantWoman's experience is not ever really of being completely without fear. But when most centered, most paying attention, a sense of being held in spite of fear is definitely there. RantWoman is even going to go so far as to say, if one is undertaking prophetic witness for instance in the form of nonviolent direct action, being without fear just might be unhelpful whereas a sense of being held can carry one through all sorts of what comes with Amazing Grace.
RantWoman is fond of Amazing Artist Friend because, even though we both like and deeply admire many women who call themselves witches and dream of women's land and..., Amazing Artist Friend interrogates some layers of cultural supposition almost as fiercely as RantWoman does.

Is this mellowing or just expanded perspective? For instance, nothing like being around a Quaker pastor back from doing trauma recovery in Africa. Quaker pastor reported that she taught classes based on the UN declaration about the universal rights of women; her students absorbed the material and still offered comments such as "Teacher Peggy, we would be glad to have (our deceased) husbands even if they beat and raped us (presumably partly because that would be protection for others and not even wandering into complexities of affection)."

Speaking of affection complexities, RantWoman lives in Seattle where winters are too long and wet and grey for Amazing Artist Friend. Amazing Artist Friend lives in Tucson. RantWoman thinks she would love the desert but is afraid of 100-degree heat in the summertime. That would be only the tip of the complexity. But RantWoman's head filled with all these stories recently when RantWoman sat down to assemble materials for the electronic age about her Meeting's longstanding support of marriage equality. At one point, RantWoman considered throwing a fit and making some of the happy couples she knows assemble the marriage equality materials. Then steadying clarity came, along with irreverent RantWoman one-liners:

If one loves someone who has multiple personality does one get to put "It's complicated" in one's facebook Relationship status by definition?

If , like RantWoman, you enjoy a personal life that is basically one big it's complicated emotional bramble bush but still want to help uphold marriage equality for all your happily coupled friends, leave a comment and RantWoman and groupies will hold you in the Light.

But nevertheless get over to  . Sign a pledge card promising to uphold marriage equality at the ballot box!

Oh and by the way, RantWoman is still editing looking for links that say "respectful ongoing faith-based discernment" which MIGHT speak to all the religiously oriented people opposed to marriage equality.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Grace: Heartily Unto the Lord

RantWoman hereby submits her offering for the Reflection Paper at the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference.
Grace, Heartily Unto the Lord

2 Corinthians 9:8: There are no limits to the grace of God, who will make sure you will always have enough of everything and even a surplus for good works.

“My mind too much tossed by a variety of interests and duties … it is a little like being in the whirlwind and in the storm; may I not be hurt in it,   … (but) enabled quietly to perform that which ought to be done; and may it all be done… heartily unto the Lord, and through the assistance of His grace….” Elizabeth Gurney Fry,

Dear Patriarch Kirill, Patriarch of all Russia, Happy Easter. For more information about what else I wrote of movements of God and concern for real democracy everywhere, please click below. WARNING: This post contains the name of an all-women punk band from Russia. The band’s name is in English and the English includes a word some women fling around with pride and others rate as a common vulgarity. Because of a protest performance by the band in February at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, the Patriarch has been uttering this word multiple times in press conferences. I admit to possibly unseemly delight. Readers are advised of the vulgarity issue and have the option to click or not to click.

The short version: all-female punk band stages impromptu performance in cathedral. Performance features a bunch of punck jumping around and shrieking with one chorus of vulgarities and one of Church Slavonic style delivery by prostrating singer: “Mother of God, Blessed Virgin, Please Drive away Putin.” Anyone who has been watching the “please God, no. Please God, no, not that one either” parade of aspirants to the presidency in the US can probably relate.

May it all be done heartily unto the Lord and through the assistance of his grace:

Dear Friends in my spiritual sharing group,

The poem “They have threatened us with resurrection” by Guatemalan poet  Julia Esquivel, including whirlwind and not sleeping because of both memories and forces deep inside, moved me deeply

In Spanish and worth it if you can because the rythms are different:

Example query: "threat" and "resurrection" are not usually words I think of together. What rises for you from the juxtaposition?

One Friend, heartily unto the Lord, paraphrasing slightly: the resurrection calls all of us. We SHOULD find it frightening to be called to be like Christ with eternal life available.

Another Friend, heartily unto the Lord, paraphrasing slightly: I didn’t get a darn thing out of this poem but what about Night of the Living Dead and endless cycles of violence?”

To myself, heartily unto the Lord, “YES! I knew this was going to be a good group. I KNEW this would be a good poem. But I was just thinking of memory. Could I forget? How I would want to. Could I forget?  How? Would I want to?”

May it all be done heartily unto the Lord, for Valentine’s day with bright read acrylic baseball socks—which my own mother tried to convince me contain cotton:

May it all be done heartily unto the Lord and through the assistance of his Grace:

I received the following draft State of the Meeting report proposed by the bedbugs who live in our Meetinghouse:

May it all be done heartily unto the Lord, this time not drafted by bedbugs:

May it all be done heartily unto the Lord, as approved by Business Meeting:

“twas Grace that tought my heart to fear and Grace my fears relieved. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see….” Ummmm, wait a second: 

Faith healing with stalker vibe overlaid

May it all be done heartily unto the Lord, through the assistance of his Grace,

Faith healing with cigarette smoke at a bus stop

May it all be done heartily unto the Lord, through the assistance of his grace, in the voice of a wee child:

1 Peter 4:10: As generous distributors of God’s manifold grace, put your gifts at the service of one another, each in the measure you have received.

So, um, God, I seem to be overachieving about something or other but I am not so sure “manifold grace” is what first comes to mind. Could you maybe at least make some suggestions about the “in service to one another” part?

Oh Wait, God of Grace and God of Glory!

This hymn is a prayer -- a prayer for God to bestow power upon the church -- and wisdom -- and courage "for the facing of this hour."  The hour that they were facing at that time was the Great Depression -- an economic disaster that drained the nation of life and hope.  "For the facing of this hour," There is never a time when we do not need God's help "for the facing of this hour."

"Save us from weak resignation" is an important part of the prayer.  "Save us from weak resignation to the evils we deplore."  We are always tempted to believe that the evils that we face far outstrip our resources to deal with them -- tempted to retreat into a safe place and wait for the storm to blow over -- but evil unopposed doesn't blow over.  It takes the sacrifices of dedicated men and women to build a better world.

"Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the facing of this hour."  That was a good prayer when Fosdick first wrote this hymn in 1930.  It is a good prayer today.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Marriage Equality: Testimony

There is an alert about Marriage Equality at the bottom from the Friends Committee on WA Public Policy. This post is a rough draft for something Friends in RantWoman's Meeting are seasoning. There is a timeliness element which is why RantWoman is posting the top as rough draft.

University Meeting has been taking same-sex and heterosexual marriages equally under our care for many years, having come to unity in our meetings for worship and business that this is what the Spirit calls us to do. But many people who've come to Meeting in recent years don't know about the deep and long spiritual discernment process which we went through, and so are less than fully prepared to talk to people in person, or via social media, about what we do and why. If you would like to help craft a more detailed collection of previous testimony about our history and numerous statements supporting our testimony in this area, please leave a comment.

Short history
University Friends Meeting was one of the first Monthly Meetings in the Religious Society of Friends to take same-gender relationships under its care. The first time this occurred was in the 1980’s and this Meeting has long been on record in support of full Marriage equality. Here we offer some excerpts from our many minutes and public statements.

Do you participate in discussions about marriage equality with friends or neighbors? Do you participate in discussions about marriage equality through social media? We want to know, are there any resources that would help you tell the story of our Meeting’s history or that speak to modern conversations about this? If you have ideas or questions, please leave a comment and RantWoman will either address herself or enthusiastically help route

Marriage and Commitment
from North Pacific Yearly Meeting1993 Faith and Practice

THE SPIRITUAL JOURNEY of an individual can be enhanced and strengthened in a loving, committed relationship. Some call the relationship marriage; some call it by another name. Friends have long recognized that some couples are called into a covenant relationship, a ministry of caring, which with Divine assistance may open the door to deep and unreserved love, to forgiveness, to sharing strengths, to trust and to the nurture of each other’s growth.

Early Friends recognized that the joining of two people in such a covenant relationship “is the work of the Lord only, and not the priests’ or magistrates; for it is God’s ordinance and not man’s; and therefore Friends cannot consent that they should join them together: for we marry none; it is the Lord’s work, and we are but witnesses.” (George Fox, 1669)

When a couple feels called into such a covenant relationship, they seek clearness with their Meeting. When the Meeting finds clearness in the couple, and clearness within the Meeting to take their relationship under the care of the Meeting, a Meeting for Worship is specially called in which the couple publicly affirm and celebrate their lifetime commitment to one another.

Monthly Meetings within the Yearly Meeting have a variety of responses to accepting the role of clearness and oversight of committed relationships and marriages. … A number of Meetings choose to leave the naming of the relationship and the celebration to the couple.

Coming Under the Care of the Meeting:
Before taking a couple’s relationship under its care a Meeting, through a Clearness Committee, counsels with the partners, seeking to establish their clearness in what they are undertaking. If the committee so recommends, and the Meeting agrees, the relationship and the couple are taken under the care of the Meeting. This means that the couple is surrounded by a loving community which may take action as necessary to support the well being of the two individuals, of the relationship itself, and of any children who may be, or become, involved.

A couple, regardless of sexual orientation, comes under the care of a Monthly Meeting in any of the following ways: first, through the clearness process which precedes the marriage or celebration; second, by the Meeting members attending the celebration and witnessing the vows; third, through the care, support, and guidance given to every couple in the Meeting throughout their lifetime journey.

2012: One of the always-cited arguments against gay marriage is the opposition of Christians and other people of faith. we not only endorse the gay marriage law, but feel that this is a position we must take as a religious testimony. We have as a faith community recognized, for many years, the God-given, sacramental basis of many committed same-sex relationships, and witness to this when we take same-sex marriages under our meeting's care. Tthis is similar in nature to our historic testimonies against slavery and racism, and in favor of women's rights.

1997 Letter to the Governor of WA:

Our faith community has spent many years in prayer and dialogue regarding issues of marriage and family. One result of our faithful work has been that we approve wholly of the married union of same gendered couples. This position was taken as a result of listening for Divine guidance and seeking the Truth as best we could. Thus we do believe that God desires and accepts fully those couples, heterosexual or homosexual, who make loving commitments towards each other. We take this stand for marriage as a spiritual and personal commitment within a faith community.

As a result of this stand, it is our practice to approve and perform marriage and ceremonies of commitment for same-gendered couples. These couples we accept fully as a part of our community. We know them to be deeply committed to each other and loving parents. They are essential to the strength of our community and are often models of love and care. In addition to offering these couples our spiritual support, we feel it is important that homosexual marriages be granted civil status equal to that granted to heterosexual couples. Friends believe that everyone is a child of God and should be related to in those terms. … We see clear benefits in granting equal civil recognition of same sex marriage. The legal and financial stability of such social recognition offered to couples creates a more stable union and, for those who choose to parent, greater stability for their children as well.

Over the years of our consideration of this issue we did struggle. We prayed and "held each other in the Light" even when we disagreed. The result of all of this has strengthened our community. We are still growing and learning, but we have what we believe is a truer sense of love, family, commitment and community.

A historical note from a modern blog also about legal recognition of Quaker families:

The original purpose of a Quaker marriage certificate was to provide public recognition of the act of marriage. It was signed by everyone present to give legal weight to the public declaration by showing that it was witnessed by lots of people. The certificate could be presented by the meeting to a magistrate to show that the couple’s children were not bastards and that they could hold property together and bequeath it to them, and so subvert the challenges of disaffected relatives.

Resources outside our Meeting:

Friends Committee for WA Public Policy
WA United for Marriage
Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns,

Decline to Sign / Vote YES FCWPP Alert on Marriage Equality

Friends Committee on WA Public Policy
Alert in Support of Washington State’s Marriage Equality Law

FCWPP endorses the Washington United for Marriage coalition and its efforts to uphold Washington’s Marriage Equality Law. Specifically, we support the effort by this coalition to collect pledges stating, “I support marriage equality for all loving, committed couples in Washington State. I pledge to approve Referendum 74.” We encourage you to visit  and pledge your support today. Physical pledge cards are also available to circulate and return to the coalition office.


On February 13, 2012, Governor Gregoire signed into law ESSB 6239, permitting same‐sex couples to marry in Washington State and thus ending marriage discrimination against certain loving, committed couples. This law is consistent with Friends’ testimony of equality and with the attached Minute approved by North Pacific Yearly Meeting 15 years ago, in 1997. FCWPP stood with others in supporting this legislation and has celebrated the action of the legislature and governor.  However, some citizens of Washington are circulating petitions to collect signatures for Referendum 74, in the hope of overturning this law. The way a referendum works is that before it goes into effect those who oppose a law passed by the legislature and signed by the governor may solicit signatures to place it on the ballot for a vote. Then they attempt to overturn it with a majority REJECT vote. Thus those of us who support the Marriage Equality Law are in a curious position:

1. It is in our interest not to sign a petition to put Referendum 74 on the ballot, but

2. If Referendum 74 does qualify for the ballot, then we would vote APPROVE it.

Those promoting the referendum need to deliver 120,577 signatures to the Secretary of State by June 6, 2012. If they do not, the law will go into effect on June 7, 2012. As part of the effort to uphold the law, Washington United for Marriage seeks to obtain more pledges supporting marriage equality than signers on Referendum 74. The support demonstrated by  these pledges will be used to counter negative messaging that turning in referendum signatures could create. FCWPP  supports this effort to help create the momentum needed to pass Referendum 74, if it gets on the ballot.

Meetings and other organizations may endorse this effort to sustain marriage equality at . Individual Friends and others may also pledge their support online at . Washington United for Marriage has a variety of suggestions for supporting  marriage equality and efforts to sustain the current law.

One final point. In the future, there may be an additional effort to place Initiative 1192 on the ballot. This would be another way to overturn the Marriage Equality Law. Friends who support marriage equality should also avoid signing petitions to place this measure on the ballot. Should it appear on the ballot, a NO vote would support marriage equality.

To summarize the main points: FCWPP recommends that Friends

1. Do not sign a petition to get Referendum 74 on the ballot
2. Do circulate and sign the Washington United for Marriage pledge to support marriage equality
3. If Referendum 74 gets on the ballot, vote to APPROVE
4. As you are led, ask your meeting to support marriage equality
‐‐ The FCWPP Legislative Committee

Wonderful Remembrances of Walter Wink

Walter Wink is perpetually on RantWoman's mean to read list. In the meantime, hold his family and the following memorial items:

Monday, May 14, 2012

World Conference posts to remember

Some World Conference posts RantWoman means to reread before Annual Session when a minute about overconsumption (according to its drafters, overpopulation) will again grace our gathering.

Friday, May 4, 2012

David Zarembka Report on World gathering

By way of Blog as Filing cabinet
AGLI - Report from Kenya - May 3, 2012

My Take on the FWCC World Conference of Friends

Being Salt and Light - Friends living the Kingdom of God in a broken world

While the history of humanity can be seen as a succession of divisions  and conflict, it can  also be seen as a history of ongoing attempts to overcome our divisions and attain unity. The work of the United Nations, Friends’ international peace work, the inter‐governmental panel on Climate Change, to name just  a few, are recent international examples of this. The African Great Lakes Initiative’s AVP, HROC, and mediation work happening right now here in Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi is another – which, to my mind, is some of the most important work Friends are doing  right now. It is a privilege to be here to witness it.

From Presentation by Thomas Owen, Aotearoa/New Zealand Yearly Meeting

For a week I have been attending the FWCC World Conference of Friends at Kabarak University in Kenya, about a four hour drive from my house. This report includes my observations of the conference. The purpose of the conference was to bring all kinds of Quakers from all over the world together and to interact. About eight hundred and fifty Quakers from forty-two countries attended. A few were unable to come. In one African yearly meeting, where the General Secretary has been in office for thirty years and is opposed by most of his membership, he refused to endorse dissenting members of his yearly meeting to come, a requirement. In another case I heard of an African woman who gave her fees to her General Secretary and rather than register her, he “ate” the money as they say here for “embezzlement.” Burundi Yearly Meeting sent about fifteen delegates, all men except one woman, Alexia Nibona from the Friends Women’s Association.

The conference was conducted in English, French, Spanish, and Swahili. I would estimate that about half of the attendees were from Africa. Naturally there were lots of Kenyans including many who had not registered, but paid day fees. This overstretched the capacity of the site, particularly on the first few days. There were also large delegations from Burundi and Rwanda. Considering the distance there were also substantial delegations from Latin America. Then there were a few each from such places as Nepal, Hungary, South Korea, China and Japan.

The trick, of course, was to get this diverse group to interact. I think that the Conference accomplished this. The main vehicle for this was the daily one and a half hour “home group” which occurred every day. These groups were intentionally diverse. My group had about fifteen members and my leaders were from Kenya and the Netherlands and had Kenyans, a Rwandan, one South African, the leader from the Netherlands, and a few Americans. Ironically the fact that the dining hall could not accommodate all the crowd encouraged this interaction. You could not find a seat next to your buddies from your yearly meeting so you had to sit wherever you could find an open seat. Then to be polite you had to introduce yourself to whomever was sitting at the table with you.

The only other comparable conference that I attended was the Friends United Meeting Triennial in 2002 in Nairobi. In that case the equivalent of the home groups did not work. They were too large; there were about forty in my group and the purpose was never explained so the Kenyans didn’t understand what the purpose was and didn’t return after the first day. The result was that the Triennial remained divided with the Americans and Kenyans usually forming separate groups.

Perhaps this success can best be illustrated by a story told by Sandy Grotberg from Chambersburg Meeting in Pennsylvannia. The fourth day was for excursions. A group of about a hundred went to Lake Bogoria. The fees for the park were different for Kenyans, East Africans, and foreigners. The park wanted the three groups to go separately into different buses because it would be easier to collect the divergent fees. All the World Conference delegates refused to be divided in this way and the park people had to back down.

A more substantive event was when Friends from Guatemala and El Salvador asked Joseph Mamai, Chairman of the Friends Church Peace Teams, to describe the peace work that we are doing in Kenya.

During the first three days I led a "thread group", Quaker Peacemaking around the World. Each person was allowed seven minutes to describe his/her peace activities and those of their meeting. I actually had too many participants - over 35 participated - probably because there really weren’t enough "thread groups" (mini-seminars where participants focused on a specific Quaker-related topic). The issue of the lynching of thieves and others in Kenya was the most dramatic part of my thread group and I’ll be making a full report on this in the near future as I think that is a major, currently neglected, concern that Friends ought to be addressing.

Naturally there had to be controversy. The homosexual issue was expected. Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgendered and Queer Concerns in the United States, like ten or twelve other Quaker groups, sent an epistle to the Conference. All these epistles were posted on the wall outside the main auditorium where we met. On the fourth day, someone tore down this epistle. The next morning after the opening worship and reflection on the theme, Liz Gates from Lancaster Meeting in the US and clerk of the conference committee, came to the podium and said that Friends were breaking her heart with this act of hate and violence. She was aware that there were strong differences in opinion on this subject as well as many others, but that everyone was a child of God. When she finished, most of the white folks clapped vigorously, while most of the Africans didn't clap.

The next night Zabron Malenge, the General Secretary of the Friends Church in Kenya, the organization that unites all the yearly meeting in Kenya together, announced a short meeting at the end of the evening presentation by Nancy Irving, the outgoing General Secretary of FWCC. As a member of Lugari Yearly Meeting, I felt I had a right to attend and so I did. The meeting was in Swahili and essentially Zabron said that the Kenya Church knew where they stood on this issue (i.e., homosexuality is sinful), but they should not let this incident destroy the conference. The Friends Church in Kenya would take up this issue at their next meeting in June and then would forward their statement to the yearly meetings. He asked if this was acceptable and there was agreement.

Then one man got up to speak to the issue and the women began to murmur. When a second man got up to speak, all the women walked out in protest. As they were going out, I heard them say such comments as “Why are we discussing this issue as we know it exists?” with the attitude that this was really no big deal. “Why should this be a concern to us?” “We know that some of these men are gay.” Unfortunately, the June meeting will be attended primarily by men and the few women, as is so common in the world, will be intimidated into silence. This confirms my observation that the grassroots Friends in Kenya are not particularly interested in the homosexuality issue since the women have much more pressing issues such as domestic abuse, poverty, and gender discrimination.

This then led to the opportunity to discuss the issue in the home groups. I asked a number of people what happened in their home group. My home group and one other in which a participant related the details did not discuss the issue. At the other extreme one home group was almost completely destroyed by acrimonious debate. In the others, the topic was brought up and discussed respectfully. A number of the informants commented that they were surprised how open many of the Kenyans – particularly the women and younger men – were. A number of Kenyans felt that homosexuals should not be excluded from church as is the current policy. In some cases, they did feel that they should be allowed to attend in order to realize their “sinful ways.” I heard about one group where an American woman indicated that her daughter was a lesbian. In this case the Kenyans were sympathetic as family relationships clearly were of higher importance. One person told me that none of the Kenyans had ever met even one person who is openly gay or lesbian. Their concept was the male prostitute in Mombasa living off tourists who come in on cruise boats. My conclusion from this incident is that there are opportunities in Kenya for dialogue on the issues of homosexuality.

The other major controversy of the World Conference could easily have been avoided. Without consultation with others, nor even information to the participants, the Local Organizing Committee invited former Kenyan President, Daniel arap Moi, to address the conference. I had heard that some people objected that the conference was being held at Kabarak University since it was owned by Moi and he is called the “Chancellor.” Moi ruled for twenty-four years during a time of decline of most of the major institutions in Kenya, high levels of corruption, and denial of basic human rights. People were assassinated, tortured, and demonstrators such Wangari Maathai were beaten. This lead to what Kenyans call the “second revolution” in the bid to oust the Moi regime. Unfortunately the Kenyan Church was one of the significant backers of the Moi regime. With pride they speak of how Moi came to lead successful fundraisers at Friends International Centre on Ngong Road  in Nairobi, Offafa Friends Church, and others. So in this respect it was not surprising that the Local Organizing Committee invited him. This, though, led to the highlighting of the Kenyan Quaker Church's complicity in the excesses of the Moi regime.

I have been at many meetings in Kenya were the topic of the stagnation of the Kenya Friends Church is discussed. In every one of these discussions, one of the topics that is discussed as harming the church is the involvement of the Friends Church in secular politics. There are four members of the Kenyan parliament who are Quakers, three of them ministers. All come from heavily Quaker constituencies and they actively court the Quaker vote. Naturally those who support another candidate are going to be disenchanted with the Church. Is the Church viable when the only method of obtaining large donations is when politicians come to fundraising events and contribute a large sum in order to “buy” the votes of the attendees?

I had heard that Moi was being invited before the conference and I sent an email to those concerned that I did not think this was a good idea and that the reaction from some of the Quakers used to opposing their governments might not look favorably on his attendance. I did not know what they might do, but I thought some might walk out or even stand with their backs to him when he spoke. I said that I would boycott his presentation.

At lunch on the day he spoke, three of the Quaker male hierarchy approached me as if I were leading some kind of revolt over his presence. I told them that in Europe and the US, Quaker peacemakers followed their own conscience and I did not know what they might do nor could I in any way influence them. I reiterated my prior statement (which at least one of them had received) that I would boycott the talk myself.

Perhaps as a result of this, his appearance was almost a secret as most of the participants had no idea he was coming – it was not on the conference schedule – and they wondered why one door to the auditorium was being blocked off. The session on weaving together the threads of the conference started as planned. Then Moi and about eight men – some I assume were body guards – came in. Everyone stood up when he walked in, except a handful of folks that were not noticeable, and there was much use of titles of honor such as “your excellency.” People reported to me that Moi's talk was conventional as he talked mostly about the morally corrupt society, focusing on the youth, that needed to be saved by the Christian Church. Some of the foreigners did not appreciate these remarks. When he left, people stood up again.

What was the reaction? I noticed that a few others also boycotted his talk. One person told me that he walked out. Others refused to stand when he came in. One person told me she refused to stand when he came in, but stood when he left because she was happy to see him go. After he left, I entered in the auditorium to be a part of the proceedings. One person got up and spoke at length at how the Quakers had lost their “salt and light” by overthrowing the Quaker testimony on equality during his appearance. I talked to a number of Europeans, Americans, and Australians, etc. They all felt uncomfortable about the situation. Some did not know about the history of the Moi regime, yet still felt uncomfortable. Others were uncomfortable because they were so surprised by his appearance. Still others totally rejected the oppression of his regime. While some of the Kenyans I spoke with were supportive of his appearance, some others were not.

I myself boycotted the talk. I got myself a chair and had a meeting for worship by myself in a vacant tent close by the auditorium. I prayed for those who had died, been tortured, imprisoned, and suppressed during his regime. I also prayed for those who died because the collapse of the medical system, those who did not receive appropriate education, the roads that were run down into potholes, and government institutions which became sources of enrichment for those who embezzled their funds.

This is my take on the FWCC World Gathering of Friends.


David Zarembka, Coordinator
African Great Lakes Initiative of the Friends Peace Teams
P. O. Box 189, Kipkarren River 50241 Kenya
Phone in Kenya: 254 (0)726 590 783   in US: 301/765-4098
Office in US:1001 Park Avenue, St Louis, MO 63104 USA 314/647-1287
Webpage:    Email:


distributed by:
Dawn L Rubbert, Program Manager
African Great Lakes Initiative (AGLI)
of the Friends Peace Teams
1001 Park Avenue
St. Louis, Missouri  63104 USA

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Grace Ungraciously

RantWoman is trying to write a paper on grace for this year's iteration of the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference

RantWoman is trying to write one paper, not five or six. RantWoman is trying to write a paper of some finite length that people will willingly read or MAYBE even read with enthusiasm. Some of the time RantWoman might even try for linear narrative without too many excursions into the poetic and magical realism. RantWoman's life overflows with Grace. And grace is showing up in forms which, if offered even half of half of a chance, would just punch things in the face. God help us!

Para Bailar la Bamba, se necesita una poca de gracia.

¿Una poca?

¡Más que una poca!

Mr. GG, Gato Gracioso / Gato Gordo: warning false cognate alert: Mr. Gracious Cat. How about Mr. Portly Cat. To heck with that. He's a furry meatloaf, Mr. Fat Cat.

God of Grace and God of Glory--with Handbells at something called the 2011 NH Spring Ring! Arrrrrrrrrggggh!

Another one? God, are you JOKING?

God of Grace and God of Glory, the top link on the Google search. Endless loop, instrumental.

Channeling RantWoman's past as a Baptist, with Harry Emerson Fosdick:
This hymn is a prayer -- a prayer for God to bestow power upon the church -- and wisdom -- and courage "for the facing of this hour." The hour that they were facing at that time was the Great Depression -- an economic disaster that drained the nation of life and hope. "For the facing of this hour," however, is a timeless phrase, because there is never a time when we do not need God's help "for the facing of this hour."

"Save us from weak resignation" is an important part of the prayer. "Save us from weak resignation to the evils we deplore." We are always tempted to believe that the evils that we face far outstrip our resources to deal with them -- tempted to retreat into a safe place and wait for the storm to blow over -- but evil unopposed doesn't blow over. It takes the sacrifices of dedicated men and women to build a better world.

(Dedicated? What about just REALLY PISSED OFF?)

Holy Crap! As if RantWoman WANTED still to need to elder multiple seriously weighty Friends currently and previously attached to seriously weighty titles.

And a blog post

There. This is the one. Processional. Mt. Olivet Methodist Church. Warning: SEVERE deviation from Quaker austerity!