Are Quakers already dead?

Aug 26, 2015 by

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We Quakers think a lot about our own demise. I’ve lost count of how many events, conferences, books and lectures have essentially centered around the question: Will Quakerism survive?

I believe this is the wrong question. The ultimate fate of Quakerism is not nearly so important to me as whether we are ignited by a living movement of the Holy Spirit today, in our own time and place. Labels and Quaker brand loyalty aren’t worth much if we aren’t willing to follow Jesus — wherever he leads.

It concerns me how frequently this conversation comes up in the Quaker community. The question of denominational survival is a major preoccupation among Friends. Maybe even an obsession. We demonstrate an almost morbid fascination with our own impending doom.

A friend of mine recently suggested that what is missing in modern day Quakerism is a triumphant, victorious spirit. He suggested that, in many cases, we as Friends have already accepted defeat. We’ve assumed failure as an inevitability. We’re so busy contemplating Quaker doomsday that we fail to see the incredible abundance and possibility of the moment we live in.

I’m convinced that we’re not dead yet. God has important work for us to do — not just back in the 1650s, not only during the Civil War or Vietnam, but right now. We are alive now for a reason.

What would happen if we located ourselves, not at the end of a long line of historical events, but at the beginning? Rather than maintaining the legacy of people who lived and died hundreds of years ago, what if we used all that raw material — theology, meeting houses, writings, endowments, faith and practice — to launch a whole new God movement in our time, place and culture?

What if we refuse to rest on our ancestors’ laurels? What would it mean to accept the challenge of radical discipleship here, now?

We’re only dead if we refuse to try.

Micah Bales is a writer, teacher and grassroots Christian leader based in Washington, D.C. He is a founding member of Friends of Jesus, a new Quaker community, and has been an organizer with the Occupy movement. You can read more of his work at micahbales.com or follow him on Twitter.


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