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The tensions that we are experiencing between Jesus Christians and Quakers has led many people to ask (including ourselves), "Why do you bother persevering with the Quakers?  Why not leave?"

Jesus once said, "If they persecute you in one city, flee to another." This seems like a reasonable approach to take under some circumstances.  We certainly have considered it with regard to Quakers.  However, we have a feeling that what is happening between ourselves and Quakers goes much deeper than that, and it is precisely because of our great admiration for Quakerism that we feel this.

There is truth in every religion, and that includes every Christian denomination.  However, our experience has been that other Christian denominations strongly oppose what we stand for, and sooner or later we are forced to leave.  Because of their professed faith in Jesus, it is not easy for them to publicly announce their reasons for rejecting, but it is possible.  The reason it is possible, is because they each have set creeds that they can refer to in damning us as heretics.

Our faith in the teachings of Jesus, and our attempts to obey the teachings of Jesus are, in themselves, virtually grounds for condemning us as teaching "salvation by works"; and that is the most commonly expressed reason for rejecting us.  Of course it helps if they can pretend that we are a sex cult, or that members are being physically and/or psychologically abused, and so they invariably try to imply this, although they are always at a bit of a loss with regard to evidence.

With Quakers, on the other hand, there is no creed, and tolerance of each individual's right to work out their own salvation is as fundamental to their "core values" as anything else.  The fact that our spiritual journey has led us to be pacifists, to teach a kind of universalism based on people walking in all the light they have, and to regard sincerity/integrity and love as the two most important Christian virtues, has put us very strongly into the Quaker camp. The facts that we worship silently, don't use titles, practice a mixture of consensus and democracy, and live in community also add to the similarities.

For nine years we have worshipped and fellowshipped peacefully amongst Friends, aware that there are differences between ourselves and other Quakers, but thrilled that we had so much in common as well.  Now, all of that seems to have changed, largely as a result of a serious campaign by certain non-Quakers to cause division, but, as is becoming more and more evident, because of serious reservations that some often weighty Friends have had about us almost since Cherry and I first joined the Society of Friends eight years ago.

The sad thing is that these objections are not being clearly expressed.  A list of accusations was sent to us privately, but when we posted those objections on our forum, Cherry and I were ordered to take them down.  We were publicly attacked at a Regional (i.e. statewide) Meeting in August, but the minute finally recorded did not specify the heresies of which we are guilty.  It only said that we, as Jesus Christians, have certain unnamed beliefs that are "incompatible" with Quaker ideals.  The specifics included a complaint about us donating kidneys. (One woman has actually stormed out of our local meeting on those grounds, apparently with the understanding that she will not return until she can be guaranteed that visitors will never find themselves discussing organ donations over a cup of coffee after the meeting!  The local meeting then discussed offering her Cherry's position on the Ministry and Oversight Committee as an incentive to draw her back.)  Another specific complaint was that there was an ABC "Australian Story" report about a Jesus Christian who attends the meeting, although he is not a member.  (Note:  Quakers were not mentioned even once in that documentary, but what difference should it have made if they had been?  Cherry and I are, after all, Quakers.)

Cherry recently shared with me that she sees our continued attendance like the sit-ins that used to take place in buses and in lunch counters in the Southern States of the U.S. during the 1960s.  They were confrontational, and they tended to aggravate the problems that existed between Whites and African-Americans.  But they achieved results, and thus are considered, with hindsight, to have been a significant step forward in terms of moral development in those states.

It seems that what we are doing may be in line with those demonstrations.  As long as we can maintain a peaceful and loving attitude toward the people who oppose us, our presence may either break through their personal animosity, or create a wider awareness of the problem which will lead to other actions being taken to remedy it.

Some people have argued that there is no provision in modern (Australian) Quaker process for kicking someone out of the organisation on the basis of their beliefs, and others have said that, even if there is, the official Quaker stance (and I think this includes all branches of Quakerism over its entire 350 year history) would never be to block someone from continuing to attend meetings.  If this is the case, and if we do not leave willingly, then either Friends are going to have to circumvent past tradition in one way or another, or learn to co-exist with ourselves.

Because we have not, so far, done anything to abuse our membership or to abuse the roles that we have been given within the Society, it is obvious that it is just our presence (and perhaps what they are saying amongst themselves about what we supposedly believe or stand for) that is upsetting people.  So if we do not leave, and if we continue to peacefully participate as "attenders", the problem, for them, will not go away.

And this, we feel, is part of Quaker greatness.  They do NOT have an official mechanism for labelling someone a heretic, conducting a heresy trial, and then dealing with the heretic.  We are, of course, being dealt with "unofficially", and what is happening is terribly unquakerly at the moment.  But hopefully if we do not give in, it will eventually need to be dealt with officially, and when that happens, Friends will be given the opportunity to move forward in keeping with the great ideals of quakerism.  It could actually be an historic moment for Australian Quakerism.  I believe that we, as Jesus Christians have a great deal to offer Quakerism, but not much that was not there even in the earliest days of the movement. Because of this, I feel that Cherry and I have a certain moral obligation to stick this out, and to do so because of our LOVE for Quakerism, and not because we want to cause unnecessary problems.




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