In the Society of Friends, or Quakers, we never vote on the issues before us as a community but rather pursue a more difficult route of finding unity in which everyone is in agreement. It’s not exactly consensus but rather trying to find the leading of the Holy Spirit.
It’s an amazing practice, actually, even though one person can hold up the motion of everyone else. Sometimes, as we’ve each discovered, that one person is closer to Truth than the rest of us. And so we labor together until clarity appears.
Without going into the details now, I’ll turn to a recent example of that discipline.
As we Friends in my congregation considered our response to recent racial affronts in America, we realized our reaction needed to go far beyond putting up a banner on the meetinghouse wall facing a busy downtown street or, for that matter, reciting certain trendy catchphrases.
As some among us observed, we needed to go to the spiritual heart of the conflict.
Here’s what emerged, a proclamation we recorded, after months of deep reflection, in our monthly meeting for business records. We do not do such things easily.
Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2, RSV)
Dover Friends Meeting affirms the deep truth we find in Black Lives Matter. It aligns with our conviction that there is that of God in each person.
Within our Meeting, we have Friends who have benefitted from racial privilege based on whiteness and those who have experienced pain, privation, and even peril because, as people of color, the onerous weight of institutional racism has been heaped upon them. Together, we reject the cultural fiction that “whiteness” has intrinsic value.
We hear, instead, a call to unity across our differences in our Meeting and in our society at large. This unity is a foundational truth of our lives. It stands firm on the bedrock of our primary experience that the Divine dwells within each.
In our entanglement with institutional racism, we have run afoul of Paul’s advice, “Do not be conformed to this world.” We sense a divine invitation to open ourselves to the revealing of ways we must cast off conformity to systems that unfairly benefit some and prepare ourselves for transformation through the renewing of our minds and hearts.
We come to this moment humble and ready. The rigor of the task ahead necessitates that we do this work, individually and collectively, in faithful Quaker community. We pledge to each other mutual accompaniment.
Dover Friends Meeting commits to proceed actively, following Spirit’s leading, to live into new ways to manifest equality and unity in our meeting, the Religious Society of Friends, and in our secular society.