YOU ARE NOT A QUAKER (so please stop calling yourself one)

That’s right, I said it.  You are not a Quaker.

Hey, how can you tell me I’m not a Quaker?  According to what definition?

Good question.  There are good arguments for why no one can make such a claim.  I’ve been a part of these conversations since attending the World Gathering of Young Friends in 2005, where Friends from all across the world and from every branch came together to share about our particular pieces, learn about the others, and ultimately try to resolve what was the unifying factor.  Later I was part of this discussion in a major way in a Quaker Beliefs course, again full of different kinds of Quakers studying the branches’ theologies and practices and wondering, ‘is one branch more Quaker than the others?’ ‘What ties us together?’

Things I learned: None of us are practicing anything like original Friends although Conservative Quakers come closest with their combination of silent worship and biblical grounding.

However, silent worship isn’t what makes defines Quakers (no, we can’t cut off the Pastoral Branches).

Nor is a Biblical grounding or a strong Christian theology (that’s right, you also can’t do away with us filthy Liberals).

Likewise, connection to Quaker history and tradition does not make one a Quaker (yep, many authentic Quakers in the world have not even heard of George Fox).

And finally, being an active member of the Quaker community DOES NOT MAKE YOU A QUAKER.

The good news is that I figured out what defines a Quaker and so we can finally have a conversation about why you do not qualify and should stop calling yourself such.  Here it is: all real Friends everywhere, throughout our entire history and in every branch, no matter what their theology or worship practices, are committed to one shared thing; GETTING NAKED.

(This is ultimately why this ministry exists– it goes to the root of our religion, which most of us who call ourselves Quakers are totally ignorant of.)

What the hell are you talking about Maggie?!  This is an appalling marketing ploy that I don’t appreciate.

Now bear with me!  Nakedness is about stripping away all of that which is not righteous, which is not eternal, which came into being not through obedience to Spirit/ Love/ God/ Christ/ Righteousness/ Wholeness/ Etc, but through human disobedience, brokenness, and distance from the Divine.  Quakerism is a movement of people, or Friends of God, who engage in the process of inviting the Search Light (aka God) to shine upon all of our coverings (all that is unholy in our lives), so that we can identify them and work to remove them, with the help of God’s grace.
Quakerism is a group of people who are committed to this transformation, and believe TRULY that is it possible and available right now, through our direct connection to the spirit of Wholeness and Righteousness.  It doesn’t matter what we call it: Jesus, Light, God, Christ, the Universe, Spirit, He, She, It, etc.

It doesn’t matter if we do it solely through silent meditation or through listening to a pastor or reading spiritual texts or Scripture.

It doesn’t matter if we do it in community or on our own (although history shows that it tends to go better if we’re doing it with the support of others).

The only thing that truly defines Friends as a distinct group and not just a bunch of Unitarians or Christians or a secular social club is that all True Quakers are committed to the process of gettin’ naked as a step in the longer path of being clothed in righteousness, which means a return to right order, or the Gospel Order, or the Kingdom of Heaven, or the Garden or Eden, or total Liberation, or WHATEVER YOU WANT TO CALL IT.

To be fair, “True Quakers” also include those of us who don’t know anything about how to do this but WANT this transformation.

So, if you attend meeting because it’s nice, or because you enjoy having a group of liberal friends to talk with about politics, THIS IS NOT ENOUGH TO CALL YOURSELF QUAKER.

If you call yourself Quaker because you like the social messages and the fact that we’re ‘so accepting’ or that we’re not going to stuff religion down your throat, that’s all fine and good, I feel the same BUT THAT’S NOT ENOUGH TO CALL YOURSELF A QUAKER.

If you attend Friends Church so that you can feel connected to God/Christ and do the things a good Christian would do, THAT’S NOT ENOUGH TO CALL YOURSELF A QUAKER.

If you call yourself a Quaker because you went to a Friends School and now work at a nonprofit and always compost your banana peels, THAT DOESN’T MAKE YOU A QUAKER.

Are you all getting my point?

Please stop diluting our movement and muddying the waters with your wishy-washy comfort-driven engagement with this group that you think is cool or enjoy ‘meditating’ with.  You are not Quaker.  Go join some other group that’s not going to tell you what to do and will accept your lack of interest in real radical transformation.  That’s not what we’re about.  And yes, we ARE about something.  Don’t you dare imply otherwise and I’m sorry if we mislead you by acting like anything goes because we don’t believe in anything specific or challenging.  IT DOESN’T.  PLEASE LEAVE.

In Faith,
Maggie Harrison

Posted in Maggie's Naked Blog | 165 Comments

165 Responses to YOU ARE NOT A QUAKER (so please stop calling yourself one)

  1. john doe says:

    you’re horrible

    • Linda Joy says:

      Harsh, Maggie, harsh. Do you think shedding down to your ideal divine self means tossing others to the wayside as obstacles to your special quaker pure transformation? We all hold the same beautiful potential- tossing folks out with a kick to the ass doesn’t leave much room for sharing in the transformation of all. But don’t worry, sweetie, we’re all on a learning curve, ALL of us.

      • SAJ says:

        I believe being a Quaker means agreeing to these three things.

        All souls are loved equally.
        The light of God is in everyone we meet.
        Attempting to live a life of peace and love by the example of Jesus.

        Perhaps that is simplified, but I feel that it is meant to be a unique journey for each of us with the above foundation.

    • Linda Joy says:

      YOU ARE NOT NAKED if you think your path of discernment takes precedent over the paths of others. What “clothes” are you wearing when you do this?

      • D says:

        ( Just ‘ D ‘ here because … ) … discernment is the issue and whilst Maggie’s post is an enjoyable rant I unite here with Linda out of personal experience as an elder as to where such ideas as ‘ getting naked ‘ can lead because it is essentially not plain speaking : in the early days of Quakerism many literally did ‘ go naked for a sign ‘ amongst other things and ranted extravagantly and were probably very entertaining, but we have just had a stiff dose of such behaviour from two people in our meeting and it was very disruptive and eventually came down to one leaving ( and now apparently plaguing another meeting ) and the other having their membership terminated. So we have recently literally wrestled with the question of ‘ Who is a Quaker ? ‘ and in the latter case it hinged upon a very established and respected long term member having decided that they were in membership with the people that they could get to agree with them and not in membership with those that they could not. In other words they rejected the idea of being in community with others and had decided to appoint themselves leader and arbiter of discernment , on the basis that they are a very important person at every level – or were until last week. They will of course appeal, and waste another three years of everybody’s time and patience as the decision is tested at every level all the way up to God, who will of course vindicate them because the Deity is their personal friend and they are clothed in righteousness…

        In plain speech I myself view membership in Quakerism to be founded upon attending Meeting for Worship, and I would probably be willing to go as far as keeping a register and striking off the membership list those who do not attend because although sitting alone and trying to find stillness may be beneficial the practice of Quakers is to collectively discern what emerges from it, and it is in collective worship that we minister to each other – you can not minister to yourself ! You do not become a Quaker because you read something and liked it, wanted to wear romantic clothing, contributed money to the church, volunteered your time to some charitable work, wrote something that got published by a Quaker organisation, are well liked by other Quakers – and most definitely not by adding your name to any list. Membership is not a unilateral process, it is a matter of mutual recognition by collective discernment and the word ‘ Quaker ‘ and the whole history of Quakerism is merely secondary to this, no individual can assert a claim that others are not Quakers nor can they individually proclaim themselves to be a Quaker.

        … and I might add … once they get it into their heads that they are akin to the angels and licenced to fly on angel’s wings above the rest of us, well … the weightier the Quaker the harder they fall …

      • Geneh says:

        The other side of the coin is that Quakers don’t have a corner on getting naked. BTW: Quaker and Friend are overlapping categories, not synonymous to my mind.

  2. becca says:

    john doe is clearly not a quaker. really, mr. doe, you’re going to troll a quaker blog?

    i love this. i love your clarity. i wish the members of my meeting who stand up to speak every single week with prepared messages would read this. maybe i’ll leave some copies in the back of the meetinghouse…

  3. Wow Maggie, this is very interesting. A lot of stuff to think about. When I think of the fire and energy of early Quakers, I suspect that was driven by this “getting naked.”

  4. Sarah says:

    Well, you have the self-righteous part down pat. I shouldn’t bother responding. Like thousands of other internet trolls well-versed in intolerance, you’re looking for a reaction; anything beyond ignoring this gives it more power than it deserves. But as a fellow Quaker (and no, I’m not going to justify why I’m one here) I hate reading stuff like this. I get it, you’re holier/more committed than everyone else. You’ve gone to lots of conferences and taken lots of classes. Congrats. But I can’t help feeling that you’ve somehow missed the point (I’m not sure you’re entirely clear what it is yourself—you read over your description of “what Quakerism is” prior to posting, right?)

    Sure, no religion wants to be a hang-out for dilettantes or frauds, but different people get different things out of it. People engage in diverse ways, with varying levels of depth and for different reasons. Who am I to say that my way is right and just and that everyone who isn’t there for my reasons should leave? The light manifests itself in different ways; demanding that people commit in the same way you commit is naïve and intolerant.

    But again, I don’t know why I’m even responding. You’re not interested in growing Quakerism, in creating a stronger, more diverse community. No, you just want to exclude everyone who isn’t like you.

    • Kevin says:

      The wording is stronger than I would have used, but only because I’ve had the benefit of hindsight. What some readers will celebrate, others will reject out of hand. Not all that long ago, I might have penned a similar piece. Indeed, the topic describes how I feel myself often. My own Meeting would have absolutely bristled at the tone, but this is a deliberately provocative piece.

      Though everyone’s leading is different, the intent here, at least to me, is to urge people to challenge themselves. Friends can be so afraid of confronting large issues that they never make much headway towards Spiritual growth. Belief, as I understand it, is not always meant to be comfortable.

    • Maggie Harrison says:

      I am truly sorry my post brought these distresses up for you. I definitely didn’t think anyone was listening, and I understand that on the contrary, this writing has reached a number of people, including you, with whom I am not in active community and thus cannot have learned my heart and gained trust in me. This is essential to our practice of community and of functional/nonoppressive Eldering, that it is only effective to push people when they trust you. Now, I feel confident that the Friends who know me and my work have a lot of trust and faith in me, even though I can be a pain in the ass a lot of the time. It was on this sense that I felt I could write off-the-cuff without filter, forgetting that although our faith talks a lot of community and talks about our religious body as a community, that we in fact cannot possibly know one another well enough to trust any old person who speaks. This is where originally the traveling minute would come it. And now that I think about it, maybe the internet is the new space where we truly need that traditional letter. I’ll work on getting one from my various Quaker communities so that you can hopefully have some comfort that I am being held accountable to a wider body, and also that other trustworthy Friends can affirm that sometimes Truth does choose to come through my vessel, with all it’s flaws and crudeness. You are right that there is no reason you should take it from me on faith, unless you want to take that leap. I give my sincere apology for not anticipating this problem/dynamic beforehand. Thank you for honestly sharing what came up for you. I hope we get to engage in the future and I can continue to learn from your own ministries and furthermore, I would like to invite you to open this conversation up within your own particular Quaker community.

      • Linda Joy says:

        It’s not abut the credentials, it’s about the message. I don’t care if it came from the most revered quaker on the planet. Discernment is about asking yourself whether the message sounds like truth, or short of truth, and by how much. Stretching is a beautiful thing, but it’s a process of finding love. I heard a quote that said, “The truth can only be said lovingly.” I can’t swear it’s truth, but it’s something to think about. Of course, my favorite quote is, “Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change.” – keeps me humble ;).

        • barbara says:

          I think it is good what she has written BECAUSE she causes us to think of what WE find acceptable and what We are uncomfortable with. It makes us focus on our own ‘nakedness’ and how well we are doing in accepting the differences of others. I have used this same technique in committee meetings where sometimes it seems we don’t know what we are there for. By telling them what they don’t want to hear, they are forced to speak of what they do want.

      • Z says:

        Your smug confidence in your moral certitude and your judgment of others on different paths is NOT in line with Quaker principles, and only serves to turn away people who should be welcomed into our community. Self-righteous pride is abominable.

    • Jordan says:

      I second that, Sarah

    • Mac says:

      You might re-read the post and note that Maggie is not telling anyone that their beliefs aren’t good enough or that she is holier than anyone else. I believe she is trying to strengthen Quakerism by clearly defining it, not grow it for the sake of growth. People who find God as Friends should be Friends, folks who find God elsewhere should go there. Please don’t see this as “trolling” it’s just the truth that if you want to call yourself a Quaker you should know how you define your beliefs and how they are different (no better or worse) than those of other groups.

  5. Wilson says:

    I find it a little odd that you let all the different sects of Quakerism define themselves as Quaker, make your own definition, and then request that everyone who doesn’t fit that definition should leave. Why not let those people define themselves as Quaker, too, if everyone else you talked to got to define themselves? It is not your right to pick where YOU think the line is and kick everyone else out. That is exactly the same as the liberal Quakers who say that pastoral Quakers aren’t real, etc etc.

  6. Faith says:

    Thank you, Maggie, for being willing to say some hard things.

    I have a gut reaction of “Right on, girl!” but I think it is similar to the gut reaction that some of the other responders had to your audacity in defining your own religious community and saying that not everyone needs to be (or is) a part of it. And like all gut reactions, I need to sit with mine and figure out whether I’m responding out of a recognition of the Truth or my own baggage. That being said, here are some first thoughts:

    Life is, both fortunately and unfortunately, more complicated than blog posts, and so it would be easy to get tripped up on the nuances and gray areas that life brings to this. However, this is mostly just an attempt to dull the razor of your message- that Quakerism is about allowing the living God to radically transform our lives and if someone isn’t looking for that than they should not try to claim the faith tradition.

    No matter how we try to squirm out of it the questions implied here, they remain: Are we willing to lay aside (for liberal Friends) our argument that Quakerism is everything to everyone and instead insist on some definitions and boundaries? Are we willing (for orthodox Friends) to get over our obsession with doctrine and instead focus on a living, transformational relationship with Christ?

    • Honor says:

      Thank you for that nuance. I am often frustrated by the idea that “anything goes” in liberal Quakerism. I believe that in our efforts not to offend or exclude people we may end up being unclear about the actual experiences that DO define us.

      There is nothing more frustrating to me (personally) than the idea that a meeting could spend four years of business meetings deciding what kind of chairs to get in the meetinghouse. Many would argue that this is “in keeping with Quaker process” What I would argue is that good process is one that arises out of being Quaker, out of a desire to be sure that every voice who is led to speak can be heard. I don’t think it means that every voice has equal weight and that people who “think” that “they” have something to say, or want their opinion heard get permission to prolong the process. I think this is a misunderstanding that has arisen out of worshiping of process over God/Spirit/Divine wisdom etc. God doesn’t care where/how you worship. Worship in chairs, worship outside, worship on your head… but recognize that gatherings, and Meetings are in fact a place for worship.

      Another thing that came up for me when reading this is that I am aware that there have been times when I have felt the Spirit moving within me, and it appears not to be working in another person, and then as it turns out it has been, just in a different (and unknown to me) way. I feel the tension between wanting to include people who are experiencing the Divine in a variety of ways that I may not (and in reality cannot if it is truly divine) understand, and also being clear about the fact that Quakerism is not as many seem to feel “anything goes” and “whatever you believe is okay”, and it is not about doctrine, but about living our faith, and being transformed by a power greater than ourselves.

    • Needablessing says:

      Agreed – “focus on a living, transformational relationship with Christ”. I would add the word continuous. No faith is “about” doctrine. Doctrine may describe it, but will never define it. Relationship with Christ and unconditional love define it. The continuity displays it.

    • LBC says:

      I was raised in liberal meeting and I don’t know anyone who literally believes that “anything goes”, and I find this generalization kind of unfair. If “anything” went, most of these people wouldn’t bother to come to meeting: They could stay in their original churches with their old friends and relatives, bigger communities (in our part of the country, at least. Meetings run small in Texas), better potluck dinners, etc., and still call themselves Quaker. But they don’t.

      Yes, many have–I’ll call it “residue” instead of “baggage”–from childhoods in stricter, more mainline, Christian denominations, and some have parallel interests in other philosophies, but they don’t usually bring them to worship. The few that do usually figure out pretty fast that they’re not where they want to be and move on.

      I’ll grant that congregations are bound to differ in tone and makeup, and that some might indeed have lots of “anything goes” types, but it is my no means universal among liberal Friends.

  7. Emily says:

    I admire a bold approach to an important conversation….but what struck me most was the seeming contradiction between this idea that getting naked is the one “True” way to be a Quaker, and the fact that this blog essay is a lot of finger-pointing at those you think are not living into that challenge. Is that kind of categorizing of others possible within your framework of nakedness?

    Additionally, the idea that those who are not living radically righteous lives should stop calling themselves Quakers sends the message that you are threatened by them and the dilution they present. Wouldn’t the kind of complete focus on and rightness with the Divine also mean that this kind of judgement and concern about how we appear as a faith community shouldn’t be of such concern to you?

    • Maggie Harrison says:

      These questions you raise are SO important and make me realize the deepest flaws of my approach and the ways I was not actually focusing on the issues of real concern for me. I hope to clarify and address some of your questions in my Vlog post: YOU ARE NOT A QUAKER: a Dramatic Reading of a Real Blog Post.
      You’re Eldering was well received and deeply appreciated.

      Have you answered your own questions for yourself? Shared them with other Friends? I hope so. Your voice is needed.
      Blessings, M

    • ag says:

      In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he suggested that the only people that Christians should judge were other members of the Church. The message seemed to be – the world is the world. Sinners out there don’t claim to be anything else. But those within the Church have a higher calling and claim a higher standard and you should hold them to that. I see being a Friend similarly. Other people are going to do what they will do, but as Friends, we have a duty to hold other Friends to a high standard. We must challenge each other and cleanse each other, constantly stripping away the muck that inevitably collects and rebuilding the good stuff that inevitably is chipped away.

  8. Tim says:

    I understand this statement as a challenge and a call NOT to exclude.
    “However, silent worship isn’t what makes defines Quakers (no, we can’t cut off the Pastoral Branches).
    Nor is a Biblical grounding or a strong Christian theology (that’s right, you also can’t do away with us filthy Liberals).”

    The challenging part is to be open to radical transformation. I see this as clearly consistent with the most forceful and tender messages of Quakers from George Fox to the present.

    I am being invited to “strip away all that is not righteousness.” I agree with the statement that if I don’t want to believe in anything specific and just do whatever I want, I should leave. And there is this cloth I wear that speaks of not believing in anything, and that I can anything I want, and I don’t need to put myself to the task of radical transformation. I yearn to cast off that cloth of that that is not righteous. I, Tim, do not intend to leave. I WILL ask that part of me that is not righteous to leave. This is what being a Quaker demands of me, and I will hold myself to this challenge, every day, in prayer, in connecting with other people and in connecting with God/Christ/Spiritandallthatstuff.

  9. John March says:

    Hi Maggie,

    You’re on to something really important which is that to merge the personal will with God’s will we need to strip away the aspects of the personality that are in the way. One has to become deeply silent for these to show up and for surrender to happen usually over many years. This is the heart of the contemplative pathway whether it is Quaker, the Catholic mystical tradition (you’d likely find John of the Cross interesting) or any of the Buddhist paths. Among Friends, Rex Amber and the Experiment with Light process is a modern contemplative approach. Unfortunately, many Quakers including those in unprogrammed Meetings have become separated from our contemplative roots so much so that Quakers these days are unfamiliar with deep interior Silence. So you are right, none of the things you cite makes one a Quaker, but the heart’s inclination toward Silence and from this following leadings toward outward action is about as close a requirement as one can get.

  10. Daniel says:

    I see what you’re getting at here, but I think the tone comes across as condescending and arrogant. Who, exactly, is the ‘we’ you refer to near the end of your piece, if not the very people you seem to be overly concerned with? You say on one hand that Quakers who aren’t as dedicated or interested in ‘radical transformation’ as you are should go somewhere else where ‘people tell you what to do’…after you spent paragraphs doing exactly that. The radical transformation you advocate (which is apparently just the vague act of wanting, and not much else) should probably start with you, yes? You might be better served by heeding the admonishment of your blog title, but sticking more to the righteousness part and less to the self.

    • Maggie Harrison says:

      Hi Daniel. I indeed am attempting to take your advice in the end of your post. There was a time when I often spoke of how it seemed to have more integrity to respond to the question of what is your religion with, “I’m trying to be a Christian”, or “I’m trying to be a Quaker” because that statement would acknowledge the real challenge those labels present (or did present, or could present), and also an acknowledgment of the PROCESS of integrity and unifying with spirit’s will or ‘becoming righteous’. Also, I acknowledge that I sound like an ass, and hope youll check out my vlog that is meant to share a little more about my voice and tone, which in my head was playful and theatrical, rather than harshly condemning. Guess it’s the downfall of the medium… damn print!

  11. Caleb says:

    As a truth I must say it feels pretty incomplete.
    Do you really believe that anyone shall be able to reach the ” right order, or the Gospel Order, or the Kingdom of Heaven, or the Garden or Eden, or total Liberation, or WHATEVER YOU WANT TO CALL IT.” if not every single being is actively being invited there with you?
    Where do you think all of those with different beliefs and practices will be in your Eden?
    As a catalyst for thought and conversation I greatly appreciate it.
    I disagree and thank you!

  12. RantWoman says:

    “But back to Spirit Rising: RantWoman’s favorite inquiry, from Really Good Questions Friend, was “but what unites all these people in spite of all these different practices and traditions?” RantWoman does not remember what Sara H responded. RantWoman thinks it might be sufficient to say “Well, someone, somewhere, somehow has called or heard them call themselves Quaker AND they committed to dialogue together on that basis.”

    from this blog post

    As for getting naked, RantWoman is a little afraid of soundling like an old fuddy-duddy. RantWoman is not flinching from the possibility that she will be deemed insufficiently positive about the realities of corporeal existence, but morbid curiosity or not,”naked” is not necessarily something RantWoman always wants to see. On the other hand, “the spiritual equivalent of a nude beach” MIGHT make an interesting tag line to sell people on Meeting for Worship.

  13. Naomi says:

    Your understanding of what it means to “be a Quaker” sounds similar to the core definition of nearly every mystical religious tradition…namely, the shedding of ego (getting naked) in order to establish a closer relationship with God (righteous clothes). In every religion there are those who cling to the more “shallow” aspects of that particular tradition (what you might define as ritual and community) in order to find solace or fulfillment or what have you.

    You sound kind of like, a, um, Quaker–defining our religion by what we are NOT rather than what we ARE. The only clear definition you give is less than revelatory. And I’m not sure if this “getting naked” thing actually defines Quakerism as much as defines what it means to be a spiritual person…personally, I’d like a bit more clarity as to what it means to be a SPIRITUAL person on a QUAKER path. Is it the silence that transforms us? The community? Do YOU have the answer, Maggie?

    Perhaps it can’t be defined, perhaps our unity comes in our diversity–our willingness to have this conversation, to be radically inclusive and radically opinionated.

    This isn’t really a new gripe but it’s an important one to voice every few years. So thanks. I like the passion. Way to kick us all in the butt and get us angry and confrontational.

    • Maggie Harrison says:

      Naomi, You are totally right. This is related to mystical faith, which is not specific to Quakerism, but Quakerism is one path, that I am claiming does include the intention for transformative connection. It’s like those word problems: All quakers are part of the mystical tradition, but not all mystics are quaker. We’re just one path, and it couldn’t matter less which one we’re one, but picking one is a good start, and I just want us all to agree that this path is indeed a particular one. Then we can start to recognize the other people who are on it and all travel together! Yay for extended metaphors!!! BTW, i have few answers, just lots of reflections, lots of passion, overly strong opinions, and a leading to preach about Nakedness. But yeah, let’s remember I’m just a young woman sitting on her laptop in West Philly. Wish I could be more like Deborah and Miriam though…

    • Lauren McAlee says:

      I love Naomi’s question, “what [does it mean] to be a SPIRITUAL person on a QUAKER path”? Similar wonders have come up a lot for me as I’ve begun discernment on Membership in the Society. We know Meetings can be a place to encounter Spirit … but so can the dance floor, and the mountains, and the office, and… What makes this Quaker path the right (or wrong) one for a particular Seeker at a particular moment?

      It struck me tonight that sometimes the more closely a spiritual practice resembles our everyday environment, the stronger its binding power to our daily experience. For example, if I have a revelatory experience on drugs which are rarely in my system, it might be very difficult to transfer some of that revealed quality into life when the drug is not present. Many of my own spiritual practices differ from other moments in key ways, especially socially: Yoga removes most interpersonal demands, ecstatic dance invites big movements and subtracts verbal language, silent Quaker Worship limits our environment … Something which strikes me as valuable for me about Quaker social-spiritual practices (Meetings for Worship with Attention to Business, Clearness and Support Committees, ministry and pastoral care, and on,) is they invite so many of the things which exist in our lives alongside an intentionally spiritual state of being. For me, I believe those social-spiritual practices (alongside the more internal ones which help us go so so Deep) have opened up channels for Spirit to more parts of my life.

  14. Jay says:

    LOLz @ compassionate blog post.

  15. Jim Schultz says:

    Is your concept of “naked” much different than being a “seeker”?

  16. Bill Samuel says:

    I think this blog does hit on a very central part of early Quakerism. But the blog entry does not define being a Quaker for a couple of reasons:

    1. There is nothing uniquely Quaker about this getting naked and getting transformed. You can look throughout Christian history and find this. Look at Paul talking about being crucified with Christ so we can rise with Christ. What Paul was talking about with that is just what the early Quakers were striving for. And you can look at the Desert Fathers and many others throughout Christian history who were not Quaker. So this essential can not define Quaker, at least by itself.

    2. Early Quakers included some things which the blog entry says do not define Quaker. And for them, it was all integral. They didn’t separate out like the blog entry does. They would not agree with a number of things said here. To them the means by which they thought they would get there were essential to the purpose. To define Quaker you would have to include some of this because Quakerism can only be defined separately from others with the same objective by including means they used for the purpose.

    In the end, this blog entry does what most Quakers do in various ways. It holds up certain elements of early Quakerism as essential, and defines other elements of early Quakerism as not essential. In doing that, it – like most individual Quakers and groups of Quakers – departs from the Quaker tradition.

    I too agree that some integral parts of early Quakerism are not essential for us. In fact, I think there are some of them that are actually harmful. But to define Quaker by taking some parts of Quakerism while rejection others seems ludicrous to me.

    And why would it be important to be Quaker? I can’t see a good reason. What seems important to me is the process of transformation into someone who more closely reflects the spirit of Christ. It is not the label that is important. Personally I have fund it helpful to do this at this point in my life largely outside of the institution of Quakerism.

    • Ethan R. Friend says:

      And yet a key part of the early Quaker conception of their faith was that of continuing revelation–that all forms, all beliefs, serve their purpose for a time, and pass away as others become relevant and greater knowledge proves older assumptions faulty. So the Quaker tradition is not necessarily abandoned when one decides to take certain aspects and leave the rest behind–this was an integral part of the faith for the ealier friends.

      -Ethan R. Friend

  17. Julian says:

    Part of what you’re expressing (without actually saying it) is that Quakerism is not a community without standards or boundaries. The Quaker faith is not “anything , you know… like basically everything that is good”. Come on Quakers, let’s be willing to be part of some controversy or we won’t stand for anything at all! If we have some standards we say people need to live up to, it can feed us spiritually rather than take away.

    But I agree when Naomi says, other faiths also stand for radical transformation and the stripping off of all the things that come between us and God. Not a problem … we can still say “a commitment to radical transformation is what being quaker is about!”

  18. S says:

    I wanted to sit on my thoughts about this for a little bit before firing off a reply. In the end, I find this rant misguided. The inherent contradiction in this, of course, is that you preach acceptance and tolerance of all journeys through Quakerism, while simultaneously wanting to kick out everyone in the club who doesn’t conform to your own strict notions of what Quakerism is. This type of “you’re with us or you’re against us” mentality is the very reason why people glom onto Quakerism in the first place. it is not different from a Protestant claiming Catholics have no claim to Christianity, that Mormons have no claim to Christianty. Constricting membership to those who conform to fundamentalist values (and yes, this is Quaker fundamentalism) is akin to the tools of oppression I am not agreeable to, as a person brought up in Quaker tradition. I don’t see this as much different than the conservative churches kicking gays out of the congregation because they don’t share the religion in exactly the same way, all the time.

    I appreciate the sentiment of challenging ourselves to walk in the light on a daily basis, to have everything we do be good and helpful. However, kicking people out of the club for failing to conform to your perspective is against the traditions of community that are equally important to Quakerism. It is against the nature of accepting that of God in everyone and whatever that means in one’s spiritual path. The testimony of community does not mean we kick out people who are finding their direction and celebrating the living spirit in their own way, whether it meets your criteria of godliness or not. A less aggressive approach at this message would be far more in line with my personal understanding of the Quaker testimonies.

    • Maggie Harrison says:

      Hello S,
      It appears that my post stirred up some distress around excommunication for you. I am sorry that you heard that as my main message. Rather than kicking people out, which I am actually not at all interested in, my wording more came from imagining what we might actually be able to do and be as a Society if the people who called themselves Quakers could openly agree/acknowledge/practice that we are about the transformation of ourselves and the world. What a juicy picture! Emily above and Aaron Levitt below helped me realize my weakness in addressing this as a negative rejection instead of a positive invitation. My bad!

      Anyway, I was particularly curious about what I said that made you believe I have “strict notions” of what Quakerism is. I really thought I was saying something pretty flexible and easy. As Jon put it, a Friend in a Coma could qualify as long as we can agree that somewhere in there, they’re hoping for a transformation of their state! =)

      The other part that stands out to me in your post is your suggestion that a less aggressive approach would be more in line with the Quaker testimonies. For one thing, there are no official testimonies, it’s just a teaching device to try to point to or distill our Faith and Practice into a useful soundbite. Secondly, being nice or easy to deal with is not part of it. I assume you are making a connection between being less aggressive and being more peaceful, which I do not agree with, although it is a widely shared belief and practice within Society. Peace is not assimilating differences or avoiding conflict. And more importantly, the forces of oppression in this world do not bow down easily. Consider Egypt this past year. In the face of what we are dealing with in this world, aggression can be a pivotal tool for change. Do I enjoy being cast through the fires in response to the weird amalgamation of “gifts” i’ve been given (including being loud and somehow unable to avoid making people upset)? No. Definitely not. I’ve prayed for other Callings. But this is what I’ve been given and I have seen all over the world that g-d has a use for it and thank god we have a long list of rabble-rousers in our tradition because I’m pretty sure the Protestants wouldn’t take me! =D

  19. S says:

    Furthermore: an unprogrammed Friend of mine was once told by a programmed Friend, “I’m not going to say you’re the WRONG kind of Quaker, but I’m going to pray to Jesus that you find the RIGHT way.” Felt wrong then, feels wrong now.

  20. Patricia D.R. says:

    Maggie, You surely pricked the prude in me with this one. As a middle-aged person and a visual learner, the thought of naked Quakers is necessarily off-putting, but you are young–and YOUR LIGHT IS FIRE–so blessings on you today! Love.

  21. Patricia Dallmann says:

    Thank you for your clarity and courage in identifying the work of coming into right relationship with God and thus receiving Life that fulfills and for which we are intended. This is the message that was at the heart of Quaker faith (and the primitive Christian faith that Quakers revived in the 17th century). It is a prophetic faith, meaning God is the active agent, and the individual hears and obeys. Our human part in this drama is first to divest ourselves of falsehood and corruption that stalls or inhibits his Will from being known within. As we first discover this true source of Life after long struggle in the metaphorical desert, we take the challenge to others, and likewise with clarity and courage strip away the same accretions that prevent Life. Keep broadcasting loud and clear, Maggie. “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin (Jn. 15:22). Help us get rid of the cloke; help us to get naked!

    • Rita Varley says:

      Pat Dallman–Thanks for the spiritual depth of your comment on Maggie’s blog! So many of the comments expressed freakout over what I had taken as a kind of humor that I almost wondered if something was wrong with me for not freaking out too. With your comment, now it all looks like the messy part of transformation getting itself naked on the blog.

  22. Cindy says:

    Quakers are seekers. We are at different places along the path (this is not to say that someone further ahead on the path is more or less Quaker than someone behind, nor that there is even an ahead or a behind, nor that there is only one path…).

    So my question is, without engaging deeply with the people you observe doing what you say is “not Quaker,” how do you know so definitively that they are not on the path to “gettin’ naked”?

    Before you came to this realization, were you not a Quaker?

    If someone had told you at that time that you were not a Quaker when you thought you were, would that have helped or hindered your journey toward this realization?

    How is “PLEASE LEAVE” anything but a cruel denial of another person’s right to be on this path?

    I’m all for speaking truth to power, including the power of comfort and self-satisfaction and even self-delusion. But there are ways and ways of speaking truth to power. Some enlighten immediately; some hurt, but eventually cause growth (like resetting a broken arm); and some maim and stunt growth, perhaps permanently.

    Shouting “PLEASE LEAVE,” especially without engaging individually and at length (perhaps over a lifetime) with those you condemn and judge in an instant, to me feels like the last of those three.

    • Maggie Harrison says:

      Greetings Cindy, thank you for sharing your heartfelt reaction. I certainly don’t mean to cause lasting harm. Indeed, trying to nurture and support spiritual growth has been the Center of my life, it was furthermore the initial pull to look at Spiritual Nakednes in the first place. I thought, “OMG! This stuff is the very framework of transformation within our sect! It could be SO USEFUL for the inspiration and inward growth of our members and our communities!!” and then wrote a pamphlet and got Jon Watts to jump on board with his gifts. THAT is how this project began and the place I’m still in, as I believe any Young Friend I’ve worked with can attest. Maybe to you this will go down in history as a foible. That’d be a real shame, but an understandable blunder for a budding minister and, after all, I didn’t real suppose anyone would read this or care.

  23. Aaron Levitt says:

    According to the Gospels, when Jesus performed the miracles of the loaves and the fishes, he did not subtract his followers’ hunger…he added food.

    In the miracle of the draft of fishes, he did not cast aside the nets…he filled them.

    In the miracle of water into wine, he did not pour off the water…he transformed it.

    • Maggie Harrison says:

      This was a beautiful piece of Eldering. I believe you must have real gifts in that work and I hope they’re being used well in your life. Please consider me well chastened and held accountable to a higher standard through your words. I am deeply grateful. Thank you.

  24. David N says:

    I’m going to read all this again tomorrow (it’s after midnight here) but I’m going to bed happy.

  25. Mary R. Hopkins says:

    after a weekend at Pendle Hill with the Friend’s Conference on Religion and Psychology: If you feel you have to be holier than thou by being politically correct, that is a poor excuse for a lifestyle

  26. Nomikos says:

    Well, by *my* definition *you’re* not a Quaker (demanding everyone “PLEASE LEAVE”, pfft..). Now what?

  27. Jon Watts says:

    Really great discussion happening here… I think we are in a particularly interesting position as a religious society, having disposed of any hierarchical systems of accountability and judgement.

    But what have we put in its place? Are we all so familiar with our Yearly Meeting’s Faith and Practice that we don’t need a system of elders calling us out when our behavior strays from the guidance of the Spirit?

    No. And the truth is, we’ve been without guidance and accountability for long enough now that our “religion” has become an open club, diluted, without passion or cohesive practice.

    Is that really what we want for Quakerism? Is it really all that Quakerism has to offer?

    I would hope that your answer, like mine, is “HELL NO!!!” Quakerism has the power to call us out, as a society, of our greedy consumer lethargy that is eating us all from the inside. It gives us the tools to come together and heal, the tools to love, and the tools to be powerful without getting utterly lost in our power.

    That’s the Quakerism that I want. It’s the world that I feel called to build around me, every day. But how do we get back to that Quakerism? How do we even take a step closer to it?

    The truth is that we need ministers like Maggie to point their fingers at us and say “Are YOU really what you claim to be?”

    It’s going to be uncomfortable to hear, and we’re not going to like it. But there is no growth without discomfort, no birth without death. We’ll be better off for having been put in the spotlight than if we had been left comfortably in the shadows. This is what I see as the process of getting naked.

    So that this isn’t just in the abstract, I’ve posted a blog response in which I tell the story of a time that a respected elder in Quakerism pointed their finger at me and told me that I wasn’t a Quaker, and I was PISSED:

    Why Being Told I Wasn’t a Quaker Was the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me

    • Aaron Levitt says:

      Does an “open” spiritual community really equate to “diluted” or “without passion”?

      When closed and concentrated societies are passionate, how often is passion for God preeminent, and how often merely passion for closure?

      Is more cohesive practice necessarily closer to God? If so, is that because all practice coheres toward God, and never away, or because cohesion is intrinsically Godly, and diffusion otherwise?

      • ag says:

        I think that “openness” has never been Friends’ problem. Meetings for worship, even in the Seventeenth Century, were public events. Anyone could come and participate fully. There was no two-tier, you haven’t been baptized so you can’t share fully in our rites, type of attitude. However, I think this is distinct from being a member of the Religious Society of Friends. I think we can still be “open” without letting every seeker become a member, thus changing the character of the Society. My 2 cents….

    • S says:

      I am not hearing anyone complain about being challenged to “get naked”. I am hearing complains that someone would tell everyone who doesn’t fit into her view that they need to GTFO. There is a huge difference.

      Everyone starts their spiritual path somewhere. By the tenants of the religion, all Quakers are seekers, all the time, no matter how enlightened we may feel we are, wherever we may be on our spiritual path. IT IS NOT OUR JOB to tell people they don’t belong. It is the job of the spirit to bring people forth to meeting, to guide them on their path. The Quaker community’s job, in my opinion, is to be nurturing of people on their spiritual. We all start somewhere. I don’t believe in telling people who they are and who they are not. Spiritual perfectionism has never meant exiling people.

      It is one thing to challenge, but this is the same crap that makes people feel like they are not “Quaker enough”.

    • S says:

      And no, while Maggie cannot kick someone out of meeting for not being Quaker enough, why should the community discourage someone on their spiritual path?

  28. Christine Greenland says:

    Preach it, Maggie! I’m still stripping things away… to good effect — and found a meeting where I’m often called to account.

  29. Chuck Fager says:

    Hi Maggie & all–

    Is “getting naked” the way to tell the real Quakers from the poseurs?

    The phrase is one that would not have occurred to me, but I’m fine with the process you described; so for all those who want to identify with it and run around in their spiritual birthday suits, fine.

    But as a definition and/or boundary line for the RSOF, it doesn’t work for me. Let me try to explain why:

    In the theological biz, the underlying issue here is ecclesiology, that is, what’s the nature, structure & governance of your church?

    In the Bible, there are many ecclesiological models. And somehow, Jesus forgot to tell his disciples which one of the received array, or which new one, was the “correct” and authoritative model for those he called “Friends” (John 15:15).

    So it shouldn’t be surprising that in Christian history, numerous models have come into play — from the imperial mimickry of the Catholic Pope-at-the-top-down, to the old-time Baptists and Congregationalists, where each local church calls its own shots.

    Nor is it a surprise that a range of models has been used among the heirs of George Fox and his motley crew.

    Among this range, the model that makes the most sense of both the history and the present, at least for me, is what I would call the JC model, for Jewish-Catholic.

    The Jewish part is the notion that Quakers are a chosen people. (But if “chosen makes you spew out your herbal tea, try “gathered” instead.) That is, when Fox wrote that on Pendle Hill God showed him where there was “a great people to be gathered”, that was not just a metaphor.

    (Jesus talked that same talk, in John 15:16, right after the “Friends” bit: “You did not CHOOSE me, but I CHOSE you, and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will last.”)

    That is, the RSOF exists because God wants it to, and God has some work for Friends to do. (Also, one hastens to add, because God is very patient with the many ways we screw all this up.)

    What about the Catholic part? In that body, hierarchical as it is, it turns out that there’s lots of room beneath Mother Church’s broad and flowing robes. And within it, many persons have felt a particular call from God to do particular kinds of work.

    These missions range from Jesuits teaching to Dominicans preaching, to others running hospitals and still others just praying all the time. Each group also feels “chosen”.

    BUT — and this is a BIG but — each group is not the ONLY chosen people; the whole array have their slots in God’s work for the larger church. Or to quote a popular tune, “All God’s critters got a place in the choir.”

    And I’m persuaded that while God chose Quakers to do some particular work to bear our special “fruit,” as Jesus said, we’re not the ONLY ones who have had such a call, and it’s appropriate not to get too full of ourselves about this status, especially considering how often we make a hash thereof.

    The detailed specifics of this work, though, are somewhat mysterious. cleverly concealed in the misty notions we call “Testimonies.” Just what those are, and what they require of us in constantly changing times is a continuing challenge, to put it mildly. The work of figuring this out, always provisionally, we call “seeking” and “discernment.”

    The temporal reality of this process ranges from untidy to chaotic. It brings to mind an image of the Hebrews wandering in the desert for decades enroute to their promised land. They must have made a ragtag sight: with Moses Aaron, and the Pillar of Cloud (presumably) up front, and the rest strung out behind, with not a few straggling in the rear or off to one side or another, not to mention complaining that Moses was a deluded windbag who was leading them in circles.

    For those who like clarity, unity and order, I doubt this was a good place to look. (But that’s the Bible, and practical “ecclesiology” for you!)

    In our Quaker life, one small part of the “mission”, I believe, is to follow some procedural peculiarities, which we fondly call ” Quaker ways,” when we aren’t tearing our hair out about them. One of those ways is that deciding the authenticity of membership is delegated to local Meetings.

    And when I’ve been involved in making such in-out decisions, the issue has come down to this question: is it my best discernment that the person before us is called by God to be part of this gathered people called the RSOF?

    This query is notable for what it leaves out: Do I agree with their theology, if any? Or their politics? Do I like them? Will the donate to the building fund? Do I think they’re about to drop their drawers and “go naked”?

    All interesting. All irrelevant.

    Bottom line: am I persuaded (like it or not) that God is calling them to part of this people– to join in our scattered caravan wandering in the wilderness that is the world of the 21st century? If so, then I submit. If not, likewise.

    In practice, I’ve discerned such a call in persons whose involvements in various things were very far from my head told me was best/proper/even moral. And I stand by them.

    So that’s what I call the JC approach to weighing who the true Quakers are, or aren’t, whether they’re naked or not. If God has called someone to be among Friends, then please Lord, help me get over myself and deal with it.

    • Kitt Eileen Reidy says:

      In my opinion, being a member of The Religous Society of Friends and being a Quaker are two separate (though not mutually exclusive) identities. Sure, to be “official” someone else discerns the right fit of your relationship to God to their Meeting. I have not invited others to do this type of discernment for me, therefore I am not a Friend. But do I have a direct relationship with divinity that challenges and transforms every single moment? Yes, I do. I quake before the lord. I am a Quaker. My relationship with God and the words I use to identify myself are not up for cooperate discernment. I’ll just go directly to God to determine how I will define my relationship to Him.

      • DigitalQuaker says:

        I completely and wholeheartedly agree with you. That being said, if one is to be part of a spiritual community, then one should voluntarily abide by its customs and practices. If one is not able to do this, then they should work within the community to seek a way to perform their ritualistic communal practices (i.e. Religion), or find a place to practice their beliefs that does not put them in conflict with the community. A person most definitely should developed an intimate and deep personal relationship with God. But certain faith communities may not be able to reinforce an individual’s beliefs. That’s one reason why we have so many religions. What I can’t condone are folk who think (believe) that because they have a personal and unique relationship with God (a good thing!), they can do whatever they want, because “I will not be judged by you”. And I’m not saying that’s you. :-)

        My point is that every religion has a set of rules, practices, disciplines. It is up to us to seek to find one that works best for us, and our beliefs, not for a religion to accept me even if I’m not unwilling to following the customs. Again, that’s not a “love it or leave it” statement. If one feels led, work to bring the light of one’s own understanding to the community, but in a loving and tender way. If unity cannot be found, then perhaps one needs to accept that one’s spiritual journey may need to take a different path.

        One of the things I love, respect, and treasure about Quakerism is the openness and inclusiveness of a wide range of ways that individual relationships with God manifest. But Quakerism, as a religion, as a communal ritual practice than reinforces and supports ones beliefs, does have boundaries. Boundaries that have developed, and we continue to developed, to enhance the belief and faith of a community of individuals. So I guess what I’m saying is that while one’s Beliefs are not subordinate to the judgment of the community, the disciplines of a Religion are not subordinate to the judgment of the individual.

        Contend anger with love, convene love with joy!

        • Kitt Eileen Reidy says:

          I feel that you just projected a whole bunch of erronous assumptions on to me and then suggested I find a different spiritual path. I’m not seeking membership in a Meeting right now. Being an attender is not outside the customary boundaries of any Friends group or Meeting that I have actively participated in.

  30. Raye says:

    Refreshing, thanks!

    (The slap of a friend can be trusted to help you, but the kisses of an enemy are nothing but lies. )

  31. Roger D-W says:

    Appropriately provocative. I hear you Calling ALL to Love the Lord Our God with All our Heart and All our Mind and All our Strength… and to love our neighbor as ourself? And to leave all else behind. Jesus has one commandment: To Love One Another – As I Have Loved You. It is a commandment because it not according to our human nature… doing what I want doesn’t get me there.

    But what REALLY made a difference, for me, was/is the quiet presence of Centered Friends. I WANT THAT! And, yes – I know – it means giving up more than I have, as yet.

    Still, Christ sits at the table with loving, laughing eyes, and says with an unforgettable smile, “Come, sit, eat and drink with my friends” And there are all sorts of people at the table, most of whom don’t believe that I should be there, but Christ defends me and says, “No, I want him here.” And Christ says to me (without words) “And now you have to accept them as well.” Yes Lord, I believe.

  32. Mike says:

    Gospel of Thomas, Saying 37
    His disciples said: “When will you appear to us, and when will we see you?”
    Jesus said: “When you undress without being ashamed and take your clothes (and) put them under your feet like little children (and) trample on them, and then [you] will see the son of the Living One, and you will not be afraid.”

    • Bill Martin says:

      And Chapter 30:2 Isiah:

      At the same time spake the Lord …. Go and loose the sackcloth from off thy
      loins, and put off thy shoe from thy foot. And he did so, waking naked and barefoot. 3. And the Lord said, Like as my servant Isiah hath walked naked and barefoot three years ,,,,,

  33. Aron says:

    Way to get naked online!

  34. bem says:

    To many dang words
    Quiet down please.
    Cain’t heah God with all the jabber.

  35. Mariellen Gilpin says:

    I followed the entire notestring of responses. Maggie sure did hit a nerve, didn’t she?! I guess my response to all the responses, and to Maggie too, is, “Yes, getting naked before God is necessary in order to be a Quaker. Yes, it’s important to invite everybody to the table. What do we Quakers do to help the newcomers and the sluggards and the political Quakers who come to our table wake up to their hunger, and to the delight, of getting naked before God? Jesus told us to feed his sheep. How do we feed his sheep?”

  36. Paul Smith says:

    Personally, I prefer the older term – Religious Society of Friends. It comes from the words of Jesus as recorded in John 15:15. Since God is not a source of discord, maybe choosing to view other belivers as Friends of the Christ would reflect the Unity that is within the will of our mutual Friend.

  37. Wendy Landau says:

    Just to say that reading this post is trending among south african friends, and even got a mention in worship sharing tonight in joburg.

  38. The closer I get to a place where, if, years ago when I first began to attend our local meeting, I had the advantage (?) of seeing where I am now, I might, then, have said “that woman, there, in the future, is a Real Quaker, but I am not quite there – no, not yet,” the less inclined I am to accept (or assume) that designation (although I do in a variety of piecemeal ways). Not because I am not committed to an authentically Quaker path – or do not find that notion valuable – but rather, because I am; more so, in fact, with each day.

    I will say this: Some years ago, during Silent Worship, a woman – whom I did not recognize as having been to our Meeting before – suddenly stood up and all but yelled, “THIS is not a real Quaker Meeting!” and huffily stormed out. And no one, to my recollection, said a thing about it. And I thought to myself, “Sure, these are real Quakers. Anybody else would have schooled your ass on what an arrogant jerk you’re being.”

    [Note: Unless for some reason the author of this piece is ALSO this particular woman – which I quite doubt – the above characterization of my thoughts at that time should not be interpreted as thoughts I am NOW having toward the author of this piece, nor to any of its conversants above.] [Parables, am I right!? Whatareyougonnado.]

    Of these “piecemeal ways,” then, here is one of many imperfect instances in which I have (in all my grossly human audacity) called myself a Quaker, last summer, in the fragmentary-by-design medium that is Twitter:

    The reasons I am a Quaker are most effectively summarized in the following text:



  39. Sam says:

    I have enjoyed reading this entry and the ensuing discussion. It has given me a glowing ember of thought to focus on for a time. On first read, it was obvious to me that you were seeking to challenge the reader(s) and did not allow myself to read it as directly offensive. I have read it several times now, also the various replies here on the blog and on Facebook posts, simply trying to clear my own thoughts on what you have written (written, rather than “said”). I have done my best to reread it with different tones, intent, imagined body language, etc. Perhaps if I knew you personally, it would be more clear to me what you intend. I think it’s that lack of a personal connection/understanding between you the writer and me the reader, that really gets this train off track. That connection is critically important to a challenge phrased as this was. When I am hypothetically, yet explicitly, told to Please Leave, even though I don’t believe you are necessarily speaking to me when you say it, it does not inspire me to explore further discussion; rather it invites me to consider you a closed-minded, judgemental, and possibly passive-aggressive, crank. Sadly it also reminds me of Meetings I have visited that have no greeter, and where no one talks to you afterwards (rhetorical: is it because they don’t think I’m really a Quaker?). Those are sad an unwelcoming places that cause me to seek out worship with others elsewhere. And not just Meetings, I am also reminded of all of the ugly reasons I have not found a community to worship with in any of the steeple-houses I grew up attending. Friend Cindy above, speaks my mind.

    I think this post is particularly confounded by your use of “we”, “us” and, “you”. Particularly, the difference between the hypothetical “if you” and the direct “you” of when you mean actually me the reader or some imagined milktoast Quaker. It reminds me of an essay that confuses the various verb tenses and leaves you wondering when something actually happened. I also wonder at your use of: “True Quakers” versus: true “Quakers”. I suggest trying a quick Internet search on those terms. You will not find a capitalized True other than at the start of a sentence and this blog. Be careful or you might start a new sect ;)

    Sometimes the best outcomes come after a rocky start. Perhaps your real meanings will be clearer when you begin your vlog, which I look forward to. Perhaps you might not simply read your exact text as written here, but reconsider, rework, and deliver your truly intended message?

  40. Robin Mohr says:

    Oh, Maggie, I don’t think we’ve met, but I hope we do one day soon.

    If you haven’t caught the message yet, irony/sarcasm doesn’t play well on the internet. At least not in Quaker blogs. We are far too sincere a people, for better and worse. The good news is that this too will blow over. It’s just a blog post, folks, not an actual dictator’s decree. But there I go too close to sarcasm myself.

    The word I would use instead of nakedness is holiness. Which also conjures up uncomfortable images for people. I wrote a post about it a couple of years ago which I commend to you.

  41. Paul Tinkerhess says:

    How ironic that those of us who have come to love Quakerism as a spirituality with a source of power beyond authoritarianism, that leaps past the ancient fence-building that has long walled off one from another, that breaks with the patriarchal imperative of preaching from the pulpit of pride, that bends every impulse of surety inward until melted in the crucible of the Inner Light, cooled with tears of self aware humility, how ironic that those of us who might be alarmed by an experiment in crafting weaponized paragraphs out of ordinance that we in generations past risked much to diffuse, that we who might be your offended adversaries (were we less securely grounded), delight in your love of undiluted Quakerism, delight in the kinship that binds all who call themselves Friends, delight in the earnestness of a quest to circumscribe the boundaries of a tribe which seeks most to erase all boundaries, delight in the harmlessness of all flailing efforts to box with and box up untouchable truths, delight in the privilege of witnessing your brave acrobatics as you perfectly embody the latest imperfect incarnation of the eternal persistence of a the Spirit in our midst.

  42. Sam BFH says:

    These are interesting and provocative points you raise Maggie! I’ve considered this issue for some time in trying to discern what does and does not define Quakerism, however rather than sharing my progress in that regard I’d like to offer a counter point for consideration.

    We are the sum of our past experiences, individually and collectively. “Quaker” to me is no more a static thing, no more an absolute than the earth itself. All things change and grow over time, they adapt or they fall away against the never ending forces of change. You have already seen, as I have read, the error in strong words that can come across too bitter too swiftly. I’m not trying to admonish so much as I am to ask:

    Does the path of nakedness call to us to cast aside all past experience, all collective memory? Can we not be more measured in our approach to searching for those strands which connect us throughout history and which in turn have brought us to where we are today?

    Is it possible to grasp for a concept of faith and transformation if we do not account for the ways in which we have already been transformed to good or ill?

  43. Paraic says:

    Either everyone is a Quaker or no-one is

  44. Benjamin Pressley says:

    I really identify/resonate with Faith’s comment:

    “No matter how we try to squirm out of it the questions implied here, they remain: Are we willing to lay aside (for liberal Friends) our argument that Quakerism is everything to everyone and instead insist on some definitions and boundaries? Are we willing (for orthodox Friends) to get over our obsession with doctrine and instead focus on a living, transformational relationship with Christ?”

    As a former ESR student, those are questions we wrestled with day in and day out in seminary, and that center that Faith is searching for here is basically what I was/am looking for as well. I think it’s interesting how alternately pro- and contra- the responses to this posting have been. That really says more about the state of Quakerism than does the actual content of the piece. I thought Maggie wrote an interesting and impassioned essay. My only criticism would be that I am never entirely sure what people mean when they say that our goal should be to “live radically” or “be a radical witness” or to “undergo a radical transformation.” What does that even mean, really? Most of us are going to hold basically the same views we developed in our mid-to-late twenties. Many of us are going to vote for Obama because the alternative is a robber-baron capitalist nightmare. Alternately, most of us are going to keep buying gasoline or at least riding buses and airplanes. Most of us (including, I would assume, Maggie and Jon Watts) are not actually going to parade around “naked” or walk through the streets with our pants rolled up to avoid invisible rivers of blood (as George Fox actually did). So what does “radical” really mean? If someone could define it for me in a less wooly-minded manner than has so far been demonstrated, then maybe I will take it more seriously. I kind of feel about that word the way Henry Cadbury must have done when he suggested a moratorium on the phrase “that of God.” The call to be “radical” gets you killed, like Jesus got killed, like Martin Luther King got killed, and like people are being killed in Egypt today. Camping out in the middle of an American city like Washington or Philadelphia does not make one “radical” in the same sense.

  45. Rita Varley says:

    Wow. I think Maggie used a kind of battering ram to get the door open, and many have gotten upset by her weapon, but, hey, I want to turn around and look through that door she kicked open. That is the part that attracts me.

    One person asked for an explanation of what it means to “get naked” and get transformed. I want to have a swing at illustrating with a story: One time many years ago, when I was upset over a conflict with a friend, I took my problem to the private anonymity of the Cathedral of St Peter and Paul in Philadelphia and slipped into a pew to pray. I started into a cycle which repeated a number of times in which I told God what I was upset about, cried, and listened to God, told God some more, cried some more, and listened some more, etc. An amazing thing happened. With each cycle, layers began peeling away. I started out feeling alienated and offended. Gradually I moved over to awareness of all the other people in the world who had felt that way, over to seeing the other person as also feeling that way, and then on to seeing the other person as a reflection of myself on the other end of the stick, and on to compassion for both of us, and on, ever deeper until I reached a place of deep gratitude to the other person for triggering the whole thing in the first place, and moved into a kind of profound communion in which I understood St. Teresa of Avila’s famous description of the onion layers. On the surface we are separate and square off, and in the heart of it, we are in mystical union. Every time we take our condition straight to God, and allow the pain in our lives to slice off the outer layers as we surrender to God, God lifts us up to a new place and we come out of it much stronger. It is definitely NOT a forced process, NO forcing oneself to forgive, but one of allowing God to work with what is there, including all our negative thoughts poured out nakedly. It is impossible to reach this level by thinking; it requires prayer. This process has happened many many times in my life and always follows the same pattern of taking a painful situation to God, and letting God change me. And it has always resulted in another new and amazing insight into the essential oneness of creation and a new outward strength in the world. This is different from conflict resolution which to me represents one of the middle layers of the onion. I used to be Catholic. I now think that the Catholic sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion are originally based on this, and I think it is critically important to our spiritual lives. I certainly can’t judge whether other Quakers experience this or not, but I do rarely ever hear recognizable references to it. If it is not happening, we are missing the sweetest thing about our faith. Have we possibly thrown out the inward sacrament along with the outward form?

  46. kiwihelen says:

    LOL! I am quite amused by this all… Maggie, all power to you.

    I’m supporting someone who is struggling in a meeting where his Overseers decided to be seen to “uphold the Peace Testimony” while going against Truth, by disregarding a court order about a piece of property that his ex wife took from the marital home with assistance from the Overseers. Their view ‘he was unreasonable to need a court order’ – his reality, the court order was needed after 8 months of asking her to talk about a divorce and her giving him silent treatment – who is the abusive one there?

    This is what I see Maggie’s post as being about. We have got to have the difficult conversations and uphold the uncomfortable nature of Truth, which is our core testimony.

    I defy anyone to argue we can have the Peace testimony without Truth. And the Truth has a nasty way of tripping us up…so we need to be naked before g/God/dess to help us see how much we are imperfect.

  47. Mariellen Gilpin says:

    Maggie and John too,

    I appreciate your encouraging and challenging Friends. It’s okay to have standards; that’s my view too. The bottom line is to be willing to look at oneself honestly and work on one’s own issues. That’s what “getting naked” is about — to be open to God and to God’s guidance about things in ourselves that need work. In my experience, God does give guidance when we’re open. With respect to what I’m doing about teaching Quakerism, I wrote an article in Illinois Yearly Meeting’s nenwsletter, Among Friends, which I will take the liberty of copying and pasting in below:

    Choose Life
    Mariellen Gilpin

    Quakerism in ILYM will die in our generation, unless we as a Society stop saying, “Ain’t it awful.” It’s time to wake up and, in Joan Pine’s words at a recent Ministry and Advancement committee meeting, “Pray til the power of the Lord comes down.”

    There’s a problem with prayer. The trouble with praying for the power of the Lord is that often the Lord says, “You need to work, and work hard. You need to change your ways. Change is the hardest work there is. I’ll help with the leadings, and Way will Open, but only if you put your back into the work of changing yourself—your priorities, your choices.” The reward of praying for the power of the Lord to come down is that lives can change for the better, and the future of our Society can change for the better, when we work hard, not only at listening for divine guidance, but in actually doing what the Lord doth require of us.

    When I was a leader of my 12 Step group for mental sufferers I noticed that every group member worked very hard. Some of us worked hard at changing ourselves, and we were rewarded far beyond our wildest dreams; often in a very short time. We said of one another, “You’re a walking miracle.” Other group members, also truly lovely souls, worked just as hard—at not changing. They attended meetings and enjoyed the positivity. They complained about how rough being a mental patient was, but when someone gently suggested the least little thing they could do to work on themselves, their eyes glazed over. They hung up the phone—often literally. Those of us who got better got lots better. Those who didn’t… most of those friends are dead, long before their time, and the remaining two are vegging in nursing homes. Waiting to die. Waiting for the next bingo game to distract them from their pain. The life-lesson I draw from this experience is that being willing to change is the hardest work there is—and absolutely the most rewarding. And, changing is highly correlated to living longer, living better. Joy is the Fountain of Youth. Joy comes from discovering true efficaciousness lies in working on oneself.

    How many of those old-time prophets cried, “Repent”? All they really were saying was, “Change your ways. Choose life.” If we are to live—to survive as a Religious Society of Friends—we have to give up our comfortableness about our Quaker ways of talking only to one another, our habits of substituting middle class nice guyism for what is Real spiritually, our Quaker jargon as a substitute for the Truth it once represented, our “Ain’t it awful” as a substitute for changing ourselves. We have to give up, and wake up. We have to get real—with ourselves first of all, and by that means, re-discover what is real in Quakerism. “Feed my lambs, feed my sheep,” Jesus said. Are our meetings offering those hungry sheep the Quaker equivalent of junk food?

    All any of us in the Religious Society of Friends have to offer is ourselves—our gifts, our experiences, our passion for the Real, our gut-hunger to feed hungry sheep real food—soul food. Or not. Self-satisfied religions die. Let us choose life.

    • R.H. Francis O'Hara says:

      As a fellow 12 Step practionioner & Quaker attender I deeply appreciate your heartsong here, thank you for speaking up.

  48. Paraic says:

    Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

  49. Julian Brelsford says:

    Something i’ve realized I have in common with the people who have commented thus far is that I’m not getting naked. Or to put it another way, not taking much of a risk … in how I’m participating in this discussion.

    So I’ll ask all of you to consider taking risks here. Take responsibility for what you say. Maybe ask your community to take responsibility for what YOU say. My community is the West Philadelphia Quaker community.

    Maggie came to us, the west philly quakers, and asked us to join in the discussion here. She wanted to feel supported and protected, I think.

    What i’m going to say here is that there’s a whole community of people responsible for Maggie’s ministry. We, the Quakers around her (west philadelphia Quakers, and young adult Quakers in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, among others) are partly responsible for carrying this ministry. This isn’t some lone blogger looking for a reaction, it’s actually a movement of a bunch of Quakers and ideas that we are sharing together, spearheaded by a couple of really devoted ministers who are willing to take risks for what they believe.

    I was inclined to hide behind the anonymity of the internet and not take total responsibility for what I say here, and what we’ve said together, these communities of young and young-at-heart folks that support Maggie. But I’m going to give that up and say who I am. Why is Maggie not a troll? You can hold her responsible for what she’s said. Some of it is crap, and she’s willing to put everything out there so that all of us can search together to figure out what’s real and what’s crap. She’s willing to be judged.

    In the process, she’s allowed a great amount of light, a great amount of truth straight-from-God, to come out along with the crap that’s included (and always is, when human beings expose themselves and how they really think!).

    That post above from “Julian”? That was me. You can hold me responsible for that, including the part where I was hiding behind anonymity by not saying who I really was. My full name is above (on this post).

    • R.H. Francis O'Hara says:

      “Die before you die”
      The first time I got nekkid truly I was 28 years old and I was hurting, it included shaving my head bald, AWEsome experience !
      My advice anyone listening here …
      JUST DO IT ! please get nekkid asap.
      I’m in my mid 50’s beloved Friends and the learning continues.
      JUST DO IT !
      “Die before you die “

  50. Charley Earp says:

    Hi Maggie, you’ve definitely sparked a conversation and have no doubt realized what a lightning rod feels like. I’m sympathetic to your sense of urgency, and frustration with complacent liberal Quakers, of which there are far too many. That said, I want to suggest that “getting naked” as a metaphor misses something that I see as the real soul of revolutionary spirituality, having a grieving and broken heart. The world needs radicals who want to lift people up out of the suffering and darkness and truly weep in the face of life’s misery.

    Anyway, you inspired me to blog about your message here. It’s meant in love, though it also tries to ask challenging questions:

  51. Wanderer says:

    I disagree.

    Unless we can root our faith, our mystical encounters with the Divine in a specifically monotheistic, Christian belief system, then we have failed as Friends. All of Fox’s doctrine that we prize so highly and argue about so passionately is rooted in a desire to encounter Christ, to hear the “still, small voice” (a favorite phrase, sometimes said without knowledge of its Scriptural basis) that Elijah heard in the cave. If we are not pursuing God and God’s Will, then everything we do (like unprogrammed worship, simplicity) or don’t do (like outward sacraments, taking oaths or soldiering) is just an empty shell of ritual.

  52. Kristin says:

    Maggie- I have one humble suggestion: QUIT APOLOGIZING FOR YOUR MINISTRY!!!!! I am tired of Quakers who have terminal niceness. You wrote out of a leading with passion and fire. Let it stand with all the passion and fire that is in it without diluting it with niceness. You followed your leading well. It has done the work that God wanted to be done. Let it stand as is, a billowing tower of fire, that will burn some people, warm others, and ignite others into action. Blessings on your ministry.

  53. kevin says:


    don’t let the dung beetles get you down.

    • Tim Mammel says:

      And as dung beetles well know, beautiful things grow out of shit. This reminds me that in communities, even when things might get ugly, God’s love is with us. Then things settle down, the manure dries out and then it can be burned, making a beautiful, warm fire for Friends to gather around. This is what I have discovered about the Spiritual Path. It embraces the whole range of feelings and experiences for us humans. It’s not at all about just feeling good. But when I’m willing to experience the naked truth, the pain may be greater at times, the confusion may seem amplified in places, but the joy becomes so much bolder and the connections with others grows both strong and tender. God bless, Maggie, and all!

  54. John says:

    Growing up in a conservative church, the “Lord’s supper” was only for members, and even they were admonished to be “pure of conscience” before partaking. One of the things I like about the United Church I attended for some time was the way they threw out all the “belonging” criteria. They invited everyone to partake in communion, and considered it a stepping stone to greater faith.

  55. Karen says:

    I have felt that the Quaker Testimony of Simplicity is the most important of Unprogrammed Friends testimonies. (I don’t even know – are the Testimonies are shared among branches?!) At its essence simplicity is about peeling away everything until you get to clarity and the heart of the matter (to God, or the Spirit) – what you are calling “naked.” I agree with you that there is something that all Quakers share.
    Though, I would disagree that Liberal = non-Christian. There are many Liberal Christians out there. Keep your ears open and you will start noticing them (or you may be aware of them already?).

  56. Robert says:

    Perfect set up for some Lenten reflection… for those so inclined.
    In my own experience, I’m a Quaker who had to start hanging out with Methodists to be free to be naked.

  57. Bill says:

    All “Christians” should seek transformation, and of course it should be REAL transformation. Therefore I find the label “Quaker” to be silly and immature. How about just calling yourself a Christian, and then explaining to people that ask that you aren’t just a nominal Christian. Further labels beyond that are divisive, silly, and make Christ’s message less attractive to those on the outside. I grew up in a Friends church and went to a Friends college and I call myself a Christian. Please.. move past the labels. And please… drop the phrase “the light” or whatever it is.. it makes you look like a crazy cult.

  58. Camilla Hadlock says:

    What you say sounds so similar to what my brother has been telling me for years that I can only draw one conclusion: you’re Buddhists. At any rate, you seek the same destination.

  59. Eric Evans says:

    Maybe this has already been spoken to (there are so many responses!), but I have a question.

    What is the difference between “stripping ourselves” and allowing God to strip us?

    Where is the place for Grace in this work with God?

    • Rita Varley says:

      This reply is to Eric’s question–mostly because I have an opinion–that there is a great chasm between stripping ourselves and allowing God to do the stripping. When I try to do it myself, I run into judging of self and others. When God does the stripping, it is more like removing the veils that hide joy. This topic is SO IMPORTANT. I think it means that it is a total waste of time to spend any time at all trying to judge or justify. We have to take all that judging to God and let God love away our judging. The secret is to run straight to God with whatever it is and surrender it. Only God can take us to places our mind has never before experienced, to places never dreamt of, a place of union so complete that there is no other left to judge another.

  60. Ah, Maggie, what a pleasure it was to read your blog post and meet another “fire breather.” Thank you -it warms my heart to know that you (and other younger Friends) are out there- gives me hope. I think that you are in for a rough ride with this ministry because fire breathers are really not such comfortable companions.
    So I am glad to see that you have a Meeting standing by you to provide some emotional shelter.

    You gave voice to something that I certainly have thought but never would have said. Because – and I hope that you will have this experience – it takes all kinds of Quakers to make up a Meeting. And you will need ALL those others to sustain you in your fire breathing.

    I have been here on the edge of the Empire for 7 years, hoping that one day, other Friends might find a way down here to help bear witness on Haiti. I figured the earthquake might have drawn some to the front line here but Friends do not appear to be called here. Or really called to much activism in the outer world at all these days.
    But then, of course, that was always what spoke to me – the part about moving your feet when you pray.
    Hard to imagine that we are the same group that started so many things.

    But you, I suspect, are going to start something,

    May the wind be at your back!

  61. Richard says:

    This is a hoot! It reminds me of why I am not a member of any church.

    It’s all so human, so tediously, repetitively, perennially human.

    If stakes and hair shirts and crusades and holy wars and and inquisitions, monasteries and self-flagellation were still politically correct, we’d be all over them.

    I recommend reading Huxley’s Devils Of Loudon. Whatever role you like to play in this perennial charade, you can find your role model in it. It’s the best book on the deep motives of religious folk I’ve ever read.


    • Maggie Harrison says:

      My mother, who sometimes hangs with Friends, and maybe considers herself one, is more clearly a member of the mystical life-loving folks who just live eat breathe the world as g-ds incredible creation. Think Job’s Speeches from the Whirlwind. Anyway, she inculcated in me a true enjoyment of and desire to revel in the particularities of this life, with all its eccentricities and surprises and ridiculousness. This is all to say that I too am finding deep enjoyment over my small part of this great dance, this divine drama that is life on earth and in community. I am so glad you are finding enjoyment in it too and I will indeed check out Huxley’s book. I really appreciate his contributions to the religious life.

  62. I Dissent says:

    I am not Quaker.

    Now perhaps it is the latent hipster in me (after all i DID attend Guilford College), but i would like to state for the record that I wasn’t Quaker long before not being Quaker was cool. Even through I attended and worked in a local meeting for over 18 months, the closesti have ever come to claiming or identifying as “Quaker” has been to say that Quakerism matched most closely my personal theology and that, out of all the other denominations in which i have worked and worshipped, Quakerism alone had the most chance of transforming me theologically. I could accept from members of my meeting the idea that maybe i DIDN’T have it all figured out, that maybe something beyond my ability to articulate could transform me into another being. I was ready to begin a journey that would show me how to dismantle a very static construction of my personal spiritual self to one that was open not only to the messages from “on high” but also to the disharmony that exists “down here.”

    Until now.

    Quite by accident, and somewhat against my will, i fell back into chruch at eighteen. A friend of mine convinced me to start working at her church (paid hourly), and one sunday before i even had the order of service down in my head, the Epistle reading for the day turned out to be the Analogy of the Body, “Now you are members of the Body of Christ, and individually members of it.” (I Corinthians 12:27). 11 years later, there was not one meeting where we did not enter into silence where i did not whisper this verse to myself, content that i had finally come to understand what Paul meant satisfactorily if not fully. As a tapestry of believers, both individually and corporately, we are all in someway important to and needed by the church as a whole. Those who denounce Quakers as, well, quackers are in essence denying a vital part of God’s Creation. Jesus Himself commanded us to “love one another as yourself” (Luke 10:27). Make no mistake, however; Jesus, liberal hippie that he was, at the same time preached a theology of exclusion: “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). As someone who works in the church but not as part OF the church, i feel somewhat objective when I say that it is the conflict between these two parts of Jesus’ message that defines most judeo-christian churches as a whole: “all are welcome” we say, “except those heathens.”

    You talk in your explanation blog about leaving seminary. Speaking from experience, you are not the first young self-identified Quaker i know who has made that decision (and in fact, you may already know about whom i am speaking). Not surprisingly your reasoning, though you only hint at it online, is not all that different from theirs. You both speak of a Quakerism that is diluted, a Quakerism whose congregants lack conviction, a Quakerism that (though you would never use these terms) is theolgically wanting; and though you admit to stating your argument in a confrontational manner, your underlying solution is no less exclusionary than a Jesus-level proclamation. You are, for lack of a better term, attempting to reclaim ‘Quaker.’ In doing so, however, you are willing to unravel and cut off the very threads of the tapestry that so hold the [holy Catholic…church of God] together. Other people have made the point, but it bears repeating: becoming spiritually naked for the sake of putting on righteousness is not the exclusive theological ideology of Quakerism. In fact, when one attempts to define what Quakerism is and is not, one is left with merely a thread out of a tapestry, or perhaps more illustrative, a single stick instead of a bundle. Remember the moral of THAT story?

    Christianity, by its very definition, is hard, at least to me. I’m not talking about the lists and laws of the Old Testament, I’m not talking bout the parables and illuminations of the New. I’m talking about the belief in the trans-formative power of belief itself, of the commitment to faith without proof, of letting go all of your free will to let Spirit do its work in you (us). To go from self into selflessness, from judgement into justice is, for me, the goal of Christianity in general, Quakerism in particular. “In particular” because there seems to be exclusive to Quakerism a tenet that prayer (silence, meditation…) on these goals is the beginning of the story, not the end. I have worked in chruches where the work of the Church is merely the business of the church itself — luncheons, cantatas, meetings to discuss new hymnals. Getting through the Anthem for the week gives some members of the choir such a look of satisfaction upon their faces, you’d think that they had just healed a few lepers with the sound of the voice! I have also worked with congregations so small as to be laughable, yet with such a clear devotion to the idea that “church” is what happens OUTSIDE The sanctuary, there is an almost palpable excitement on Sunday mornings, in preparation for the week’s work. The former, chaff; the latter, kernels. Were it merely a dichotomy, I would agree with the substance of your message, if not the tone. But for those who must strike a balance between the two, your tone and word leave a helluva lot of do-gooders out in the cold.

    If you are looking for Quakers that have found meaning where you fear there is none, if you are looking for Quakers that are willing to stand for their beliefs where you fear there is wavering, if you are looking for Quakers that have developed a theology they are unafraid to profess where you fear a loss of vision, then I would like to tell you a story. After leaving the east coast and setting out for parts unknown (aka where i live now), and starved for the community of Friends, I sought out the local Quaker Meetinghouse. As I went into meeting that Sunday (January 2011), I noticed a few odd stares but was not terribly uncomfortable; I was the new kid, after all. Sometime after we had settled into silence, a heretofore unnoticeable older gentleman stood up, book in hand, and shifted his chair to an edge of the room. He began to speak, and much like me, who had often felt a leading but rarely spoke, he stumbled over his words, and seemed to take a minute to get his message going. I sat with a bemused expression on my face, as he recalled to me so strongly a member of the meeting i had left in North Carolina, and much like my “home” meeting, i looked around expecting my smiles to be reflected. The abject terror on the faces of the members startled me, and this startling was only to be compounded when, within the next several minutes, i witnessed several members stand up, interrupt him, and engage him in argument; then to MY abject terror, i saw this man physically removed from the meeting room, almost dragged (for those who know of my penchant for hyperbole, let me be clear; i saw a man digging his heels into the carpet trying to gain leverage to get the speaker to move). Order restored, the members of this local meeting smiled to themselves, thankful again of their holy silence and went back to listening for the Voice of God, which then spoke ever so clearly to me. I got the hell out of there, and haven’t been back since. THOSE were Quakers with convictions, and they were willing to stand up (and manhandle) for their faith.

    Quakerism, as I understand it, is not set up like any other hierarchical religion. In Quakerism, one does not start out an altar boy and end up the Pope. Individual Quakers are lifted up into national and international prominence almost by chance (though i’m sure Quakers would attribute such fate to that Thing Which Cannot Be Named Lest We Piss Off Someone). Yes, you are absolutely turning the discussion towards something that perhaps has been politely cast off to the side; yes, you are sounding harmony in an internal dissonace that is felt by others and is searching for expression; and yes, you are asking some very difficult questions; perhaps more of those who do and have identified as Quaker, rather than those who do not. But if your answer is to find spiritual identity in yourself by calling out where others are spiritually deficient, then i weep for the future of the Society of Friends. Secular humanism might be Godless, but by God, why would you seek to deny into your little club those who may eventually be called to the work which you profess to be called? In doing so you are denying the beauty of the tapestry for the fraying of a few threads. We may all have fallen short of the Glory of God, but Christians (and now Quakers) never cease to delight in pointing out how.

    Shame on you.

    • Maggie Harrison says:

      Hello “I dissent”.
      I couldn’t help but notice the amount I resonated with your message and didn’t get the sense that we were in disagreement until the last moment of your post where you focused on how I would “seek to deny into your little club”. I hope that this is not the main point that people, including you, take away from my words and posts, because I am in accord with all ya’ll who are pointing out how pointless or misguided that focus would be. But besides that, your stories were wonderfully illustrative and I wonder where you are at now with Quakers and if you are not engaging with us much anymore, what could I do to try to reel you back in?
      I personally would like more of what you are offering. Thanks for sharing it with me.

  63. Karen says:

    Trying to find a Quaker Way, or a Quaker “theology” is not necessarily about forming an exclusive club or keeping others out or being special. A Quaker Way, or any other Way, is often about finding a way to encounter God or the Spirit. This provides a language for considering spiritual matters individually as well as in a community. It provides a way for a group of people to share their questions, their ideas and their work. A balance is needed, too – between being rigid and giving absolute primacy to the words, and, on the other hand, resisting entirely any definition of the words (so that individuals can no longer communicate with others in the community because the words have no common meaning). A group can seek together with a common language and work – with openness – knowing at every minute that none of us are the sole keepers of “The Truth” or have complete knowledge of God.

  64. Erin Abbott-Haines (McDougall) says:

    Dear, dear Maggie,

    I have not had a chance until now to sit down and read all the comments here. I know this is just one place of many where you have sparked fiery discussion with your courageous, Spirit-led post. I have not yet had a chance to read/watch all the other threads of this discussion (in your vlog posting and the posts on FB) but wanted to take the opportunity to touch base with you here.

    In the interest of naked-ness and thanks to Julian Brelsford’s encouragement to be accountable to our comments in this discussion, I have signed this comment with both my maiden name and my married name. I thought about simply emailing you my response and my encouragement but then it felt Right to get more “naked” by posting here. So here I am.

    First of all, as someone who has been burned in person and on the internet for my fire-breathing ministry in the past, I want to offer you salves and cool cloths for the burns you have received in the wake of this posting. Oh dear one, I know you must have shed many tears over this and felt both hurt/pain and frustration at how this post was received by so many.

    Well done, honey, for being so radically, imperfectly and beautifully YOU and answering the call to speak the message given to you. Though you have apologized to some for hurting them, I hope you are not apologizing for the storm that your post has stirred up. In reading through this whole page, it is so very clear to me that the responses that people have had to your posting is part of what God was wanting to stir up here on the interwebs. You inspired discussion, you ignited fire, you got people mad – and you got applause and “Amens!” too. You got people in SOUTH AFRICA talking about this message God has you carrying in worship-sharing. Girl, you stood up on those benches at the back of the church and shouted, just like George Fox used to. And if we were in another time and place, and not on the interwebs, you would have probably been tossed in jail for pissing some people off the way you did. Hmmm. Seems to me that you are getting naked and pushing the limits just like our imperfect but fiery and passionate forefathers and mothers did before us.

    Maggie, honey, you have given the Quaker community much to think and talk and worship about by being willing to put this message out the way you did. You have learned much, I can tell, about your own voice and how imperfect we all are (me and you included, obviously) as vessels. I have no doubt that you have hurt, cried, raged, thought, and prayed and prayed and prayed about this posting and the responses it has received. I only hope, dear one, that you do not shy away from ministry the way I did when I got burned one too many times. I hope you continue to step onto the ledge and then take that step off into trust … That you continue to use your imperfect and beautiful voice to speak and sing and shout out the messages God gives you. We need your voice. Keep on using it.

  65. Erin Abbott-Haines (McDougall) says:

    To the readers of this post: I feel the need to say something that you may think is off topic. I want to speak to what I know of Maggie’s character. For though that is far from the topic of her post, as she is striving to be a vessel for the message she was given and is not trying to stand up as herself and be noticed, many people who have commented here have attacked her personally and her personality. And the mama-bear in me (no, I am not her mom) feels the need to tell you some of what I know of her.

    For those of you who are not lucky enough to know Maggie personally, I would like to state that she has one of the biggest hearts I know. She is passionate, fiery, loving, intense, colourful, inspiring and fun. She is artistic and playful and smart and kind. She notices those who sometimes blend into the walls and befriends them. She is one of the first to see the God-led truth in an unusual ministry and thank someone for it. She is the kind of person (which she has proved in her responses again and again) who will take the criticism she receives and look for the kernel of Truth in it – and thank the person from the bottom of her heart for the lesson she was offered through their vessel, even as others would cringe at the tone. She is not perfect, nor does she ever claim to be. She is the first to tell you that she is an imperfect vessel, struggling to live into the calling that God leads her to. And she is, just like she said, just a young woman, sitting on her laptop in West Philly, trying to speak as she is led and live into the Light she has been given.

    And dear Friends reading this, I want to say one more thing to you. It is wonderful that you feel able to speak what is on your heart and challenge Maggie as she has challenged you. And because you don’t know her, you can’t have known how much love of Quakerism and Friends and longing for a vital community was at the heart of her posting. Not having spoken directly to her (in months, sadly), I want to be clear that I am not trying to speak for her. But to speak to what I know OF her. And because I know her well enough to know that Love is always at the Center of her life, my whole being cringed at the angry and intentionally hurtful responses some of you had to her posting. It happens all the time – she hurt you through her post, so you hurt her back. But Friends, did you forget that on the other side of this internet is a woman, a human, another person who is vulnerable and imperfect and has hopes and dreams and wants and needs? Did you forget that Maggie could be your neighbour and that we are called to love our neighbour as ourselves? Maggie has admitted (a couple of times throughout her responses to your comments) that she did, indeed “forget” that there are people listening on the internet and that the way she delivered words may hurt them.

    Please, Friends, let us remember that just as we seek to be loved by our community (as so many of you declared so clearly), we need to love the others in our community. This is something that I am learning and relearning and relearning in so many ways in my life – and something I have yet to come close to figuring out how to make a constant presence. I have intentionally hurt and lashed out at others to their faces and behind their backs. There are some, even as I write this, that I am becoming clear about – that I must both forgive the hurt done to me and apologize for the hurt I have caused them. Not easy. Not fun. But necessary. I hope we can all continue to find those growing edges and live into them, as Maggie calls us to. And I hope … oh, I hope so much … that we can conduct ourselves with Love and not Anger, even when we find ourselves pushed and aggravated and hurt and scared. Let us seek to conduct ourselves in Love.

    • ag says:

      Maggie is blessed to have people like you to stand up for her in the face of such fiery and (occasionally) unloving opposition!

  66. David McKay says:

    Thank you for this. I agree.
    This is also a part of (not the only reason) why I left. Because the Quakerism that I loved and participated in for 20 years–didn’t get what you have put so clearly. And which you got yerself crucified a bit for here–just scanning the comments.

    Speaking to this–have you read Carole Spencer’s “Holiness: The Soul of Quakerism”? I cannot recommend it too heartily. It speaks to thy concern.

  67. Ethan R. Friend says:


    Unlike several other people on here, I picked up immediately on the facetious tone of parts of the post. I especially like the description of the Quaker school graduate who works in the nonprofit sector and composts…while I agree overall with your point, I too found the “please leave” part a bit too harsh. It isn’t so much leaving that is necessary as soul-searching.

    I’m not about to demand that people get out of my meeting unless they believe in certain things, but folks, let’s be real here. While I agree with Maggie that a strong knowledge of Quaker history is no guaranteur of Quaker-cred, it helps to put things in perspective. Who are the Quakers who stand out as exemplars of the Quaker faith? Fox, Penn, Woolman, Fry, maybe Rufus Jones in the 20th century? What do all of these standouts have in common? A persistent search for a life lived more fully in accord with Divine wisdom and Will, the stripping away of all things rooted in our ego and our lusts (sexual and economic). To be a Quaker (or a “friend-big-F”) is to seek a life in accordance with our Testimonies, that trusts in the Divine and seeks to follow its Will. All of us fall short of attaining that perfection (even me, though I hate to admit it to myself!). But that has been the common purpose of Friends from the beginning.

    To say that those who attend Meeting for other reasons are not Quaker is not a rejection of them as people, anymore than telling an American expat living in Vienna that they are not Austrian is a rejection of that person. Like in most other faith communities, outsiders are welcome to participate in our worship services to the fullest. But just as there are Catholics and noncatholics at Mass, and Presbyterians and non-Presbyterians at Presbyterian services, there are also both Quakers and nonQuakers at every Meeting. This doesn’t negate the value of the non-Quaker. This doesn’t deny that the Spirit can speak to and through the non-Quaker as much as through the Quaker. But there is a difference, and I think Maggie outlines it well in this post.

    A Quaker is one who tries to align him- or herself with the Divine Will as he or she understands it, to Love as the Divinity loves, and to overcome the obstacles of personal ego and greed. It is not a path for everyone. It is not easy, feel-good, New-Age-floaty. But just because not everyone at Meeting isn’t fully there doesn’t mean they have to disappear.

    Blessings, all.

    -Ethan R. Friend

  68. Jason says:

    Thanks Maggie
    Your a brave and inspiring soul. Regarding “leaving” , I’m reminded of Christ’s strong exportations to his followers. I would wish you “enjoyment” on your path but perhaps success is better described as obediance and authenticity. Oh well , may enjoyment accompany that also.

  69. Kate Lawson says:

    Friend Thee speaks my mind! I am a 66 year old, woman from the New York Yearly Meeting who has been struggling to keep my faith in the RSF for years. I’m holding you in the Light as I am sure you will meet with resistance and “Friendly” anger. Please know that at least one Old Quaker Lady is in favor of your efforts and prays that you can shake up the RSF.

  70. Jordan says:

    And oh, how sweet and pleasant it is to the truly spiritual eye to see several sorts of believers, everyone learning their own lesson, performing their own peculiar service, and knowing, owning and loving one another in several places…For this is the true ground of love and unity, not that such a man walks and does just as I do, but because I feel the same Spirit and life in him…and this is far more pleasing than if he walked in just that track wherein I walk.

    Isaac Penington, 1660

    • Dave Britton says:

      Thanks for this, Jordan! Pennington is so clear that it is our differences that allow us to be Friends together. We need to cherish our diversity and to understand that it is a deep strength that we can worship and work and grow together as a faith community by being naked without, and not restraining one another with, the demand to obey an explicit creed. It’s not just the true Tao that can’t be put into words, perhaps it’s also the true Quakerism. Paradoxically, we can even include Friends who don’t believe this!

  71. george says:

    Oh Maggie, Maggie, Maggie……(best if said with a Scottish accent). I’m not Scottish I just like the way it sounds).
    And really it’s not the sound itself that is so appealing. It’s the end result of that sound, isn’t it? How it makes YOU feel. Everything…we do has a “feeling” associated with it, a spiritual interaction with our “LIGHT”. We exist in a cyclical balanced Universe, ever changing. The blessing of YOU, Maggie, is when you question someone’s faith, the recipient must really,..even if it’s for a moment…… question their own faith, as a process of comprehending the statement “You are not a Quaker!” I Love it, even down to the exclamation point!!! There’s three for you.
    Look at what you’ve stirred! Good girl!
    Any “Quaker” with the most basic understanding of the faith knows that spiritual stretching of one our children (use of the word children is to demonstrate vitality, desire to grow, awe of life, all describe Maggie) does not diminish your faith, your relationship with God, or negatively impact your relationships with your “friends”. It did, however, cause an important reaction in your spirit and there in lay the blessing. Take it in, Love it, connect, “quake” even. But please don’t allow YOURSELF to let her obviously inspired expression create negativity in your spirit. Take it for what it is. A blessing.
    On a lighter, carnal note. She is the occupier of an absurdly delightful shell of flesh that would cause most to welcome any desire she might have to “get naked”.

  72. Casey says:

    Maggie…This is simply fantastic…I am 55 years old and I loved every word you spoke. You words ring so painfully true! How long are we going to gladly reap the goodwill and accolades earned by our ancestors…but not by our own generation of Quakers. The Mennonites are now the ones quietly working around the world…doing much of what we once did.

  73. Robert says:

    I have never been a Quaker. I am a Friend. I am a member of the Conservative Religious Society of Friends. I am a nonresistor as Jesus taught all to be. I am not a Quaker.

  74. joanna says:

    I am impressed — by the original Harrison post and by the whole cacophany of responses. I became a convinced Friend first and then a member second. My participation dates to about 1970. This year I have written a letter to my meeting asking them to release me from membership. It doesn’t mean that I am not in unity with Friends’ beliefs, but that all organized faiths — including Quakers — can dull the experience of the Spirit/God/Jesus/Yaweh because we can package up our direct communion and hide from our vulnerability. I also want to take some time to unite with others of different faiths without being identified with a particular faith that comes with its own baggage.
    Nakedness is a very good thing — sometimes it shows up because we belong. Sometimes belonging prevents nakedness.
    Thanks for reading this, Joanna

  75. Mark Johnson says:

    Thanks Maggie, you truly have spoken a truth that needs to be deeply listened to.

    It is one that is deeply in harmony with our understanding of the place of ‘notions’, that at heart we are not about identifying with forms of religion and forms of being Quaker. Or of being comfortable in a merely social and artificially like-minded setting (and too often crushing any form of actual worship that intrudes upon this sterile setting).

    What I discern you as addressing is the difference between a quantative identification and a qualitative relationship – that at heart we quake in our giving ourselves to being searched, revealed, stripped, and then living deeply.

    A dynamic relationship, ever creative, and not one for those that seek comfort.

    I also discern that what you offer is of deep worth to our listening to that which is common to the diverse forms of being Quaker, and the diversity which can pour from the foundation of being unclothed by the Light.

    Unity does not mean uniformity.

    I also listen to the deeper ecumenical resonances, and inter-religious ones too.

    No conclusions to many of these, but needful thoughts raised.

  76. Patrick Dwyer says:

    Dear Maggie,
    You do have one good principle expressed in your demand for those you tell to leave in capital letters.The idea of stripping down to refect upon what is most important and necessary was a great reminder.As for telling people to leave because they have not met your personal requirement; you have failed to enlighten anyone from your personal experience or thoughts.May you have good health and happiness as your lashing out at others(How you say something can obliterate what you are saying) indicates both mental health and personal happiness has diminished your judgement on how to convey the message of remember and practice the basics.

  77. Mick Henry says:

    I can see no disagreement here at all..the problem is that once we find the peace of Meeting you can feel you have arrived and be lulled into a sense of calm stagnation.

    Maybe if the more traditional churches have their Alpha Course we could have a Quaka Course?…and if so what would it comprise?

    But her general comments are right……so now get out of my Meeting House you lot!

  78. Robert Lae Wild says:

    I’m a new Friend. I’ve only been at for about two years now and I’m only 20 years old. I grew up on a farm to fundamentalist Southern Baptists and I’m gay. When I left my small town I moved to Oklahoma City where I found the Quaker community to be the only spiritual community that would accept me. I knew what the friends were and I knew I agreed with their message. At first it was basically a community that helped me stay sane, basically a new family to replace the one that disowned me. As time went by I began to see the transformation in myself that came from my following the inner light. This obviously didn’t happen so quickly and the first year I attended meeting I wasn’t a Quaker.

    That is my story Maggie. I was one of the people you would have told to get out, and in all honesty I wouldn’t have survived. You need to understand that everything happens for a reason Maggie and those people that you feel are in your way are in your way for a reason. Rather than casting them out, maybe you should invite them in closer.

    • LBC says:

      Thank you.

      I was raised in meeting and I didn’t have to go through what you did, but your situation is the reason a lot of my fellow congregants here in Texas came to meeting: Basically to escape abuse inflicted by “friends”, relatives, other religious experiences, because something was “wrong” with who they were or what they believed. To snub them because they have a lot of healing to do before they can “become Quakers” seems absolutely despicable. Do we now only accept perfect specimens?

      We don’t have a lot of life-long Quakers in the South and West. Most people I know are on the run from the Baptists, Catholics, or Lutherans. They have some catching up to do before they can really transition to, if you’ll pardon a little glibness, “Quaker-ness”. It’s a learning curve of sorts. It might be years before they become Quakers (Friends, etc.). That has to be OK. If y’all think that “dilution” is causing the death of Quakerism–something that I don’t believe, anyway–see how fast purging reduces your numbers!

      I won’t say we haven’t had conflicts in our own meetings, but it seems to me that these most often stem from inexperienced leadership. The remedies have been education and guidance, not excommunication.

    • Robert,

      It’s the Quaker who MOVES ON, not those who stay on behind, that are living like a Quaker!
      You’re more like a Quaker in your moving on to a Meeting House – which was obviously hard, and not comfortable.

      But as for that bunch in the House, they should have moved by the time you arrived.
      They might disagree, but they are still sitting on the benches.

  79. Mark Haddon says:

    I am not a quaker, because I believe in the truth too much.

  80. Mark Johnson says:


    I do think that you have not understood what Maggie is saying, as too a lot of those who have reflexively responded to her posting.

    Esentially all that Maggie has asked is that those who call themselves Quaker be receptive to the Light and the shredding of so much or our falseness.

    The product of this can be very diverse, but the common foundation is the nakedness and vulnerabilty that the Light has achieved in us.

    That being a Quaker isnt about being confortable and chatting about the latest social cause, sitting calmly and mulling over idle and chattering thoughts, or being activist for activisms sake. Rather it is primarily about being receptive to being stripped by the Light, and then what we diversely do, according to the measure of each, flowing from this purgation.

    And nor is this a one off event, but a continual experience of being Quaker.

    It is in fact an honest and passionate giving over to the Light, and letting it shine brightly in who we become and what we do.

    Judgement of sexuality is not at all at issue here, so do please feel held by your Friends.

    • How can a wolf shed his own skin?

      If you are FALSE, it’s permanent:

      Fear of the real transcendence of God;
      Anarchy as real order;
      Lies as real ethics;
      Sabotage of real Oaths and vows and
      Extermination of a real legacy.

      • Whether you believe in the transcendence of God or whether you believe in a real transhumanism; the point is that you should allow for the possibility of both – without excluding the other. Just because you may personally disagree with the other doesn’t mean you foist your ideas onto anyone at any-time. It’s uncivilised and rejects both Reason and open transparent discussion.

  81. Little Spirit says:

    The trick is not to destroy the law, but fulfill it.

    Not to destroy, criticize the old, or to criticize the different ways that people come to the Spirit of God but to Call and remind them of the Glory of being with God. And I would substitute your idea of ‘Getting Naked’ with Holiness. It is the Holiness of God that allows for the healing and the overcoming of all that stands in the way of the Presence of Spirit, both within and with out.

    Little Spirit
    AKA; Scott Holloway

  82. Nat Case says:

    Longer response here:

    Can real nakedness be the basis of identity? Could it be that all the stuff we use to bind ourselves together is getting in the way? If we wish to utterly open ourselves to truth, to go out naked into February, do we need to shed the very name itself? Is the truest Quaker the one who accepts no common identity—no meetinghouse, no clerk, nothing? How could such a Quakerism survive? How would it avoid frostbite?

  83. John Ellsworth says:

    Thanks Maggie, for reminding me of why I do this!

    My Joy in the experience of God, and being changed by that process.

    My joy in being united with my lovely Friends…


  84. John C. says:

    Friend Maggie,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. It does appear that most of the negative reaction you are recieving is from those folks who have gravitated to Quakerism precisely because of its reputation for being inclusive, accepting, and non-judgmental. In short, many Quaker meetings are comfortable places where one need not worry about being challenged about their choices of lifestyle, moral stances, inconsistant politics, or much else (that is as long as they remain politically correct).
    But along you come and upset the apple cart a bit. Suddenly, you have raised the spector of actually making judgments. That sitting around in our social club atmosphere and patting ourselves on the back for being so enlightened and tolerant might actually be nothing more than an exercise in precisely the kind of smug, self-satisfied, self-righteousness that we like to look down on those wacky fundamentalist Christians for doing.
    Thank you friend Maggie for challenging us and making us uncomfortable. But you needn’t apologize any more than John Woolman needed to apologize for speaking inconvenient truths to all those slave holding Friends who didn’t like having their presuppositions challenged either.

    ALWAYS mind the light,

    John C.

  85. Ken Baxter says:

    In regard to Maggie’s original post and all the comments that follow: don’t they show our humaness with all its warts and wonder? I walked in the wilderness for over 50 years wanting human perfection before I found a place at meeting that worked for me to connect and understand. Personally, I hope Quakers never stop alluding to the light and seeking it. I understand anger and discomfort at imperfection and I also understand its enduring presence in our lives. This has been a most productive thread I thank Maggie for. Naked or not, I won’t be leaving the Quakers any time soon.

  86. anonymous says:

    Hello Maggie,

    While I have to appreciate the impulse to shake things up, I have worried for you when seeing this post and a similar (but less abrasive) youtube video on Nakedness. If you are still reading these responses I would like to offer one more. Humbling is hard when it comes so publicly and I feel that the more publicly you speak in this way the more you are setting yourself up for a public response from the community, as happened in this case, and I don’t want that for you.

    You are a mercy, much needed. Not this message — YOU. You are a mercy. You are Light, much needed. You speak as if you need everyone around you and yourself to “get there.” I would instead invite you to know that you are already in God’s hands and in the Light, as you are. Taking off your clothes (metaphorically or literally) won’t change the oppression you feel within yourself, which shows in this fiery explosion.

    It’s understandable that you would try to work with that message of Nakedness but ultimately, within YOU, another approach is needed.

    “Free spirits” are usually the least free. I just kept thinking that you must be running from a lot, must be afraid of a lot….. that you are dealing with a lot of repression and trying to not let it get the best of you.

    I applaud you for that struggle but worry that when you choose to do it so publicly you can be hurt a lot more. I think you need to face your own repressed self and find ways to heal that. Honestly, I have found that acupuncture helps a lot, but everyone’s way may be different.

    When you have found ways to release that burden, you won’t come across as so fiery and (if you don’t mind me saying so) so immature, to others. Your words will then seem more wise, and be more wise, and your way more peaceful within yourself and with others.

    God bless you — you have been facing a lot. I hope that any humbling from my note will not smart too much and that it will only be for the good.

    in peace.

  87. I am not a Quaker. But I have discovered the writings of George Fox and early Quakers through the Hall V Worthington website: and my life has never been the same. The Journal of George Fox describes the deep transformation that occurs when religion is put off and Christ is found within as the free and true teacher, the inner light. I have never attended a Quaker meeting and most of my interactions with people who call themselves Quakers perceives a focus on outward forms, activism and politics rather than the transforming power of the living, eternal gospel of Christ. Recent movements such as Lewis Benson’s New Foundation Fellowship and Rex Ambler’s Experiement Light reveal a desire by some to rekindle the flames of George Fox and the early Quakers who literally turned th world upside down with the living testimony of love and peace – even unto death. See also:

  88. Bob Siedle-Khan says:

    Thanks for the nakedness. I love this essay/performance. You are probably strong enough to deal with the misunderstandings.

  89. Jenna Kay says:

    The saddest thing about the arrogance and hostility in this post is that it leaves no room for compassion. What about bearing things (particularly people, and “where” they are) in love and patience? What about kindness? What about non-judgement? I don’t think God is interested in our labels–I think he’s interested in our hearts.

  90. Elisabeth says:

    As a brand-new Attender, I found this post and all of the comments to be quite interesting. Does it really matter if someone else “is” a Quaker or is “not”? For who can tell/judge where another is on their spiritual path? Is it not more important to be aware of one’s own point on the path? For one who may “not” be a Quaker, at that moment of judgment by another, may be in Meeting for Worship because the seed has been planted to “become” a Quaker in the future.

  91. Glee Lumb says:

    Thank you for letting this come through you.

  92. Laura Parrish says:

    My “credentials”: I’m not a Quaker, but my parents are, my mother having returned to my grandmother’s family’s meeting and my father attending, now, too. They both graduated from Guilford. I’m 53.

    I’m reading Maggie’s blog and enjoying her thoughts very much. I understand what she’s saying, and appreciate her work.

    The bigger question, for me, has been why would I need or want to unite myself with a group and identify as a member of that group? “I’m a Quaker.”) If you really want to get naked, you have to cast off the desire to be a part of any group, any label. That kind of search for connection is about self and ego, not about connection with Spirit/ Love/ God/ Christ/The Whole. Or so it is and has been for me, in my experience.

  93. Christine Westgate says:

    Thank you. I stayed up late last night to write a letter to my new friend (relationship material, who has asked about being a Quaker). I had been weeding my garden in the evening and minding my own business, clearing my mind and it occurred to me (discerned thought) that I needed to weed my relationship space as well, to select one plant to nourish from each group of seedlings and furthermore to remove weeds that would threaten to choke the selected seeding, proactively. Yep, getting naked. The light of day can shine down harshly but when you get to the part where you can bask in the warmth without fear of exposure (because you’ve already CHOSEN to do that work, rather than having it happen to you), being naked is liberating, even if your ‘tan lines’ show, you can share more of yourself with others and be more of an inspiration for transformation. People truly cannot change or move forward unless they can be accepting of where it is they’re at. And to be accepting, you have to get comfy with the nakedness.

  94. Christopher says:

    When I was a teenager in the 90’s, growing up in Oregon there was an anti-gay group trying to pass laws in the state of Oregon. To sum up, this is what the laws would have been had they passed: Despite the psychiatric communities the world over refuting the concept that homosexuality was a normal occurrence in animals and human beings, it was going to be written into the Oregon constitution that homosexuality was ‘abnormal, perverse, and should be discouraged’ and gays and lesbians were to be put into the same categories as bestiality. Had I come out of the closet if those laws had passed, by law my guidance counselor at school would have had to tell me that I needed psychiatric help.

    How dangerous that was, to an already confused young man who had a year before become baptized and confirmed as a Catholic. A young man who wanted to be a priest or a monk because of what the Pope was saying (very similar to your capitol letters of YOU ARE NOT…). Enter a girl who I was in school with who befriended me who was a member of the North Pacific Yearly Meeting, she had also spent time at the Scattergood school as a boarder, and her mother published (at that time) the Friends Bulletin for the Pacific, North Pacific, and Intermountain meetings. By the hand this family took me, into their hearts (and into their home) to comfort me when my own parents didn’t, couldn’t or wouldn’t. I was taken to worship and business meetings at the meeting house, attended quarterly and yearly meetings. It was exactly what I needed then, to feel that I was worthy of God. Before that, I had been following many of the examples of the saints in the Catholic faith who inflicted pain upon themselves to not only suffer for Christ, but to also purge myself physically of what I believed was a grave sin: my sexuality. My body still bears some of the scars of a faith that said exactly what you have said: YOU ARE NOT.

    The Friends at the meeting, both young and old embraced me and talked to me about the love and acceptance that I had been seeking that I couldn’t find anyplace else. Unlike you, they didn’t tell me to leave…they told me to keep coming back. To learn a different way of life and to know that I was worthy eased that pain. It was one of the most powerful experiences that now at the age of 36, still resonates and holds true to the person I became. None of those experiences left me, because I truly felt what it was to be whole after a period of wanting to not live. That was a VERY radical transformation in my life and for you to basically lay down what it means to be a Quaker borders on organized religion.

    To quote you in the end of your vitriolic rant:

    “You are not Quaker. Go join some other group that’s not going to tell you what to do and will accept your lack of interest in real radical transformation. That’s not what we’re about. And yes, we ARE about something. Don’t you dare imply otherwise and I’m sorry if we mislead you by acting like anything goes because we don’t believe in anything specific or challenging. IT DOESN’T. PLEASE LEAVE.”

    This has to be one of THE MOST hateful messages I have ever come across from someone, and you should have named your blog “Clothe Yourself in SELF Righteousness” because it is true. NOWHERE are you preaching anything to do with love, you are wanting people out that YOU do not feel belong. That is no different than the Mormon church trying to tell someone that they will not gain heaven and all the blessings, because they love someone of the same gender and therefor cannot go to the temple. What if someone who was seeking truth and attended meetings came across this blog and took it to mean that you represented the entire group of Friends or a meeting that you want to basically cleanse of people you do not feel worthy? Do you not see how divisive and painful and hurtful it is what you have written? You are a person who obviously is known in yearly meeting circles and if I heard you saying this in a meeting I would be ashamed to even call myself a Quaker, I’d get up and leave because basically you’re making organized rules as to what becomes a Quaker most.

    Sorry that there are people out there whom will never be good enough in your eyes to belong to your clique, because that is pretty much what you are telling people. I’m sure the Westboro Baptist Church will welcome you on one of their next protests.

  95. Christopher says:

    p.s. All the anger you have expressed aside, the concept of nakedness that you speak of is very lovely and from the heart. Too bad it is ruined by everything else you have written.

  96. Maggie, how dare you think that this is provocative.

    This is a bore of a post.

    You imply that this article will ruffle feathers, how?

    Just because a bunch of American liberal Quakers whine louder than the silent?

    Let them have their precious UN – a ghetto for Quakers. Since that’s all they’re good at…being corrupted in confined groups.

    You run the risk of being identified – by others – as a Quaker . That isn’t a nice result at all, today it’s deeply embarrassing. It’s a shocking taunt, a curse.

    That’s because of that old saying : ” Join the Catholics or the Orthodox, Anglicans too. For there’s more residual Quaker here, than all the Quakers – times two”.

    You have one saving grace Maggie: it seems you will be scorned by liberal Quakers.

    This is very promising. You may save us from being swamped.

    The fact that they hate any reference to Fox, Penn, Pennington and Barclay proves their ‘House Party Friend’ status.

    Let them take power. We know the City of God, and it’s given. Not taken.

    • Of course, Radicals, Libertarian Hard-liners and the Old Left are excluded from this word “liberal”, which has been hijacked by both the Warfare-Progressives and Warfare-Right. Ripping it from any “Classical” Liberal root, as they intended.

      A far cry from Adam Smith, Tom Paine, Edmund Burke and Lord Acton indeed.

  97. Marie says:

    More young Friends need to speak out and be heard. I think “getting naked” is akin to being honest, and opening ourselves to shine a light to the depth of our souls. Our founding name is The Religious Society of Friends of Truth, and you have expressed your truth. In retrospect, it may not be everything you wanted it to be, but understand that truth and witness is not respected by everyone. Truth pushes internal buttons. This piece made many people uncomfortable, but Quakerism isn’t about being comfortable, and personally, I think you are spot on. This getting naked, being open to the light to the depths of our being is the one element that broadly defines the most difficult part of generational differences. For instance, many Quakers, no matter their political persuasion will separate their values and faith, from their political beliefs. I would have omitted the last paragraph, it is clear that you are angry over the presence of some people who do not take Quakerism seriously, and when you experience really strong feelings, it is best to hold a piece for a while, to allow it to settle, to be able to allow the light to shine through it, so that others may have a sense of invitation to consider a view which may be different from their own. Thanks for having the passion and courage to post.

  98. T-dub says:

    This piece is great. Not to say that I wholly agree or disagree; as with all ministry, the elements need to be tested that they may be refined. What the author has done, that shouldn’t be overlooked, is make a statement that she knew would be challenging, put her name on it, and respond to commentary/eldering/concerns with a humble and loving spirit.

    Maggie, thank you for taking a stand. I say this not only in reference to this blog post, but also in reference to your leadership in the real world. It matters. It is easy to for readers to assume that your writing is in vain. I see it differently. Your out there walking it, while some are caught deciding which date for the next potluck will best coincide with the spring calendar. We were once considered a dangerous people and though some of us don’t want to see ourselves in some of your descriptions, we need to take an honest inventory of who we are as individuals and a community.

    I appreciate this writing and the discourse that followed. It’s not enough to sit on the sidelines and throw shots at M for speaking her heart. I’ve read some incredibly cruel and self righteous responses here. I would ask Friends to test their own thoughts, words and deeds against the testimonies. To me this DOES speak to what we are- or at least what we could be. I’ve been looking for this kind of fire in my meeting. I also read this as a piece that was meant to cause discussion and debate, while it seems that some f/Friends took it as a definite position.

    As for me, I truly bless you all and hold all of you in the light of God’s unwavering love.

    *this is stream of conscious and typed on my tiny phone. I’m certain that it’s replete with errors. Please find it in your hearts to forgive me*

  99. Justin says:

    Challenging ministry. Agree with it entirely though that is too easy a thing for me to say, and isn’t enough to make me a Quaker.

  100. Randy Burns says:

    Maggie is right. If you have not experienced the baptim of the Holy Spirit by fire. If you have not been perfected and sanctified in Christ Jesus, you are of a carnal mind and cannot understand the things of God as they are spiritual discerned. Have you not studied 1st JohnThis is why George was set upon quietness. How can you expect the Holy Spirit to cleanse and purify your mind-soul if you will not give up the world long enough to allow him to do it. Prove what I am telling you. Can you sleep at night in peace or is the “Tempter” who Christ said would come bothering you? Have you been sealed with the seal of the Living God? Do you not know that the Father and Son have come to make their home in you? Are you not the temple of God? If you can not claim that Christ Jesus has come in the flesh (your flesh) then you are Anti-Christ. For you can not serve two masters .If you refuse to carry the cross God gave you and die daily to the worldly sin around you why do you call yourself Christian, or for that matter Quaker? Being a Quaker is a full time, life time ministry. It is not for the synagogue of satan who claim they are jews and are not. The scriptures tell us that the real Jew is one who is circumsised in the heart. And if you do not tremble and quake under the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost then you are not George’s friend nor mine. I have search the whole of this land for true Quakers and have spent most of my time weeping. For there are none who understand, none who who hunger and thirst after righteousness. But out of my nakedness the Lord heard my cries and He said; ” I have presently kept unto myself 7,000 who have not bent the knee to Baal.” Is there any of you who want to make it 7001?

  101. Randy Burns says:

    I am a Christian Quaker and not a theologian, so please over look any and all punctuation erors in my last post. Here’s a word of knowledge for you. It is written in the book of Acts that it was in Antioch, Seria that the followers of Christ were first called christians. But did you know that “cretin” was what the greeks were actualy calling them? Cretin is properly termed Christian, hence human being. So if I seem to be a little “cretinish” then I am only being true to my faith in Christ Jesus, Lord of Lords, King of Kings.

  102. Toby Lindsay says:

    I like this, a lot, good stuff. I think if we are not striving to change through loving God then we are missing the point. I also like this:

    Let us not be anxious because we are not getting better, but rather worse. Let us give up the idea of spiritual progress, if that means becoming more holy, more devout. God meets us in the absence of things, all sorts of things. And this is good news. Because we are not getting any better, but only worse; we are not making any progress but regressing fast. The only qualification is to have no qualifications; the only admission ticket is that we don’t have one; we lost it years ago, and we’ve been desperately looking for it ever since. Just say, “I haven’t got anything to show you; I can’t prove a thing; I can’t tell you who I am, or provide a good reference, or tell you who to ring up. I’m an unqualified, unskilled, inexperienced non-entity.” Say all that and what he will say is, “Come in, my dear. You’re the very person we’ve been looking for.”
    John Fenton

    cheers :-) Toby

  103. Toby Lindsay says:

    I guess when I say change I mean, be vulnerable, be open to that and shiver in nakedness in God’s sight.

  104. Randy Burns says:

    * a double minded man is unstable in all his ways.*

  105. Randy Burns says:

    The purpose of Christ Jesus baptism by fire and the Holy spirit is to perfect and sanctify you. To put to death the old man so that the new man may be born in his place. ( you cannot put new wine in old skins, nor old wine in new skins) the soul that sinneth must die to self and be reborn in Christ Jesus. The Father and the Son will not make their home in any other but a virgin, pure, holy, spotless.(Christ Jesus was born of a Virgin). Beautifully clothed in righteousness. (For she has managed to cloth herself-). We are commanded to take up our cross daily and to put to death self love, or as Paul says: I die daily: and again it is not I who live but Christ Jesus who lives in me. And again: I count it all as glory, that I am allowed to share in the suffering of Christ Jesus. To call upon the name of the Lord is to walk with Him always, not taking His name in vain. Billions of christians so called have taken the Lords’ name in vain for they have become as it is said of those in the days of Noah. They eat from both trees and have become hybrids;( God hates hybrids and will readily destroy them). Nephelim having one foot on the land and one on the sea, always with a bible in their hands, shaking it at heaven, ready to judge anyone who disagrees with them and always ready to *deliver them up for destruction of the flesh that their souls may be saved in the day of the Lord*. Pity though, they stand at the door, not going in themselves nor allowing any one else to go in. If they only understood that God created the lake of fire for our benefit not our destruction; one cannot be made pure as fine gold without the heat made seven time hotter. For it is written: that it is certain that if God allowed all to fall in the first Adam, then it is so that all will be raised in the second Adam. For He wishes that none shall perish. And if God wishes it, well then what else can be said? Our choice: God wants all men (man, woman, child) every where to come to the knowledge that can save them– in Christ Jesus. The gospel of Jesus’ life is an example to be followed,not just a fanciful sunday school story. Decide then, will you be truly born again (circumcised in the flesh) and enter the Kingdom while alive, (the dead in Christ rise first,(born again) then we which are alive and remain (alive in the Kingdom) shall be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air (the Spirit). All we wait for then is our translation, for it is written of Enoch (that he walked with God and was not for God took him). It is enough for one to cry, ABBA FATHER !!—- Even so, come Lord Jesus. If you desire to understand the Bible, earnestly pray that our Father will give you the same Spirit to understand it as the one who spoke it. It is written ( Mary has the best part and it shall not be taken from her) or better yet ( this is my beloved Son, hear ye Him.) It is God who gives us the power to become the sons of God, but only if we respond to that still small voice, the one who gently knocks at the door of our soul. Allow Him entrance, and He will walk with you always, even to the ends of the world and beyond. Today (the day of the Lord) is the day of salvation, open to all men everywhere, for another angel (the Holy Spirit) flying through the midst of Heaven (your mind) preaching the ever lasting gospel has been preaching for over 1900 years. Oh that men would not shut their minds to Him. For the carnal mind is and always will be at enmity with God, and cannot understand the things of God for they are spiritually. God is a SPIRIT and we must worship him in spirit and truth. And He loves those that worship Him this way. The flesh profits nothing so worshiping Him with fleshly works and lip service is the works of Satan and his anti-christ churches of the last 1900 years. It is the spiritual works of the Holy Spirit (fruit) which are pleasing to God through the pruning and trimming (circumcision) of the vine (soul) which are acceptable to our Father, not by the works of any man lest he should boast. But one must realize, once you take the first step, you can’t take your hand off the plow, or turn back as Lots’ wife did or you will not be worthy of Him. The short duration of suffering and tribulation in the flesh to enter the Kingdom is nothing compared to the pain and suffering that will be felt by your disembodied spirit in the lake of fire, which is the second death. For neither will you be holy or pure, but after your allotted time, you will be saved as one who has passed through the fire. And you will never see the inside of the temple, that is for the Kings and Priests of God for they having been born again (Elect) are in the first resurrection (blessed and Holy). No yours will be the outer court, for it is not measured. Containing dogs (male prostitutes), sorcerers, whore mongers, murderers, idolaters and who so ever loves to make and tell lies. No it is a sad tragedy that many will try the narrow gate but few will make it. Let us pray that we are of the few. —– (if any have a question about what I say, ask and I will explain it, only in the Lord) for we are all commanded to have the mind of Christ Jesus. If Christ Jesus be not formed in you then you are none of His: and again if Christ Jesus be not formed in you, then the law is your taskmaster.

  106. Randy Burns says:

    A true Quaker only says what the Holy Spirit tells him to say, and he quakes (vibrates) under the majesty of His power. His soul yearns for Him when He leaves for awhile as a wife does her husband. And rejoices when He returns again. We must recognize this as Gods’ testing time and resign our selves to it. At this time satan and his angels will try as they did with Eve to draw you away from your husband, to entice you with the world, to ensnare you once again. But a true wife (elect) will not fall for it. This marriage is the only marriage blessed of God as it produces Holy children (sons of God). (Let us create man in our own image) Yes the marriage between a born again and Christ Jesus produces a Holy child (you!)= (son of God). You must give up all to follow Christ Jesus, not just say you will be willing if per chance He was to ask. He will not ask. That is part of forsaking yourself, (self love) and taking up your cross (cross of self denial) and following Him (for He was led of the Holy Spirit to a high mount to be tempted of the devil). Do you think that if you follow Christ Jesus you should be treated any different ? Would you not sell all to purchase the field with the treasure in it? Do you think you can dig it up without getting a little dirty? christians so called have been tricked into believing that all they have to do is nothing to gain salvation. Even though Paul said we must work out our salvation by pain and suffering. So why would people believe that Jesus took away your sins yesterday, today and forever all because you answered an alter call and asked Him to be your personal savior? And to come into your life and watch you to continue to sin (cry up a body of sin and death) till you die in your sins or are raptured in your sins. Just how stupid are people to believe satans’ lies. No wonder everyone in the U.S. thinks their Christian. Wake up people God is a Spirit and He deals with us through the humanity of His son, Christ Jesus, Emanuel. He sent His son to make recompense for the sins of Israel and to become a Light unto the gentiles. Christ fulfilled this on the cross. His blood paid once and for all time the sins of not only Israel but the world. There will never be another temple in Jerusalem no matter what the Jews do or say because God will not have a bunch of hybrid Jews killing animals for their sins again. He will destroy them first. And the U.S. too if they step in His way. There is neither Jew nor gentile in Christ Jesus only one man and he can only get to God through the cross of Christ Jesus. Did you ever wonder why there is a lake of fire instead of just a furnace? At the midnight call, when the bride groom and five virgins (born again) go in and the door is shut. The other five virgins (christians, all 33,000+) different sects of them plus all Jews, muslims, hindus, budists, satanists, and every other deviant who ever has been will be cast into that lake of fire. Even those very angels of whom the elect are to judge over will be cast in as well. So you see a true Quaker is not worried as to whether he is naked or not, for he knows that he has given up the garments of sin, has been washed in the blood of the lamb, and donned the pure white righteousness of the saints, that being Christ Jesus. No wonder we quake under the magnitude of His glorious power, endowed with the sheer love and the presence of Christ himself living within us. How dare we not witness Christ in us the hope of glory. Preach (walk with God) Christ Jesus before men and witness Him to the ends of the world teaching all men what so ever is commanded us. And Lo, ” I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Even so, come Lord Jesus.

  107. Tracy says:

    I don’t find this to be very Quaker. The ego is what seperates, not the heart. To say some one isn’t a Quaker and to leave is to say the light isn’t in us all. This “getting naked” thing is not plain speech, theology, spiritual practice, or what being a Quaker is. Its a slogan as shallow and as deep as you want to make it but on its on doesn’t mean anything. You speak of transformation but this post is external. If you are pointing the finger at other people and focusing on others behaviors you aren’t seeking transformation. And specifically early Quakers sought to hear the voice, for the light within. All who seek are Quakers.

  108. Tracy says:

    Also there’s a system to this:
    Shame and exclude
    Create a condition
    Leave vague instructions and claim to have an answer to a question with no direct one

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