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Thanks for that story, Bill.  This is indeed a disappointing story.  It would seem like the committee involved could have allowed her to sponsor the Bible conference without the co-sponsorship of that committee.

BYM (as all meetings, organizations and individuals), I am sure has a break-down on occasion in the action of Love and Light.   

I am wondering if the event was a Sandy Spring meeting event that was advertised to all meetings.  My meeting (as many meetings) holds events and then invites other meetings within the yearly meeting.  Do you remember if it was sponsored by the yearly meeting or Sandy Spring meeting? 

In any case, it is possible that that meeting's sensitivities at the time wanted an inclusive "sacred scripture" conference that included adherents of any sacred scripture.  I certainly don't know why, but as Forrest said, it might come down to the preferences of the controlling committee's members.  Of course when such preferences occur at the yearly meeting level, the repercussions are greater.

Once, years ago, I wanted to facilitate an exclusively "Bible" event at my meeting for reasons I won't waste your time on.  I wanted the ministry committee at my meeting to sponsor it - with me doing the organizing work and facilitation. They came back to me saying they would certainly sponsor it if I would widen it to include many sacred scriptures that bring Light to its readers.  However, they said that at any rate, I was definitely welcome to use the meetinghouse and sponsor an exclusively "Bible" event without their additional sponsorship.  I understood that this committee was looking out for the welfare of the whole meeting community and therefore wanted to respect the spirituality of all - not just the Christian oriented Friends in the meeting. In other words, they saw their committee as needing to be neutral as to particular world religions.  I thought this was a reasonable response from that committee, considering that the particulars of the spirituality of members of a liberal Quaker meeting can vary widely.  The ministry committee must always keep that in mind when they sponsor events.  But an "enlightened" liberal meeting would welcome individuals in the meeting using its facilities to pursue their particular spiritual interests and ministering interests to others.  That welcoming of the use of their facilities for such spiritual events (whether Christian-oriented events, Buddhist-oriented events, whatever that spreads Love and Light) is done at my meeting and the large liberal Quaker meeting down the road.  For a liberal Quaker meeting, this is likely the best approach. 

I have certainly seen things done at the yearly meeting level, as well as the meeting level, that are not tolerant, loving, or even kind.  Such is the human condition.  I do think that when a structure is not hierarchical or doctrinal, it is easier for the Spirit (the Light of Christ) to intervene eventually to correct a wrong course. And if a more networked organization (such as Baltimore Yearly Meeting) is operating at its best, it is listening and reacting to the continuing revelation of its constituent meetings.  I have seen over and over again that this self-correcting approach is exactly how BYM operates with overall much success.

This all reminds me that it is hard being human; we are all trying the best we can to navigate the mystery of existence.  We are lucky to be able to share with one another as we do here (and hopefully in our meetings) to constantly grow in our relationship with the divine in order to be a pure vehicle for the Light to shine.

Hello, Howard!

Let me say right at the start that I do not see this as in any way a reflection on you personally.

I surmise (but do not know for sure) that the Bible conferences became threatening when they began to attract a large following, even from from Conservative Friends!!

These events were held in more than one meeting, at a considerable distance from each other.  I don't think this was a Sandy Spring-sponsored event, although Sandy Spring Friends were extensively involved in the conference we attended.

The range of sessions was broad, by no means reflecting a single point of view.  I doubt that anyone would have objected if the Koran or Gita were mentioned, as long as the Bible was the focal point of the discussion.  Most of the sessions tied, at a minimum, one or more Biblical themes to Quaker history.

I am still waiting, impatiently, for someone to revive the Bible conference, preferably as an annual event, for Friends in the eastern part of the country.


Thanks Bill for your response.

I'm not sure how long ago this was; but perhaps someone knowledgeable about the background of the discontinuation (from Sandy Spring) could enlighten us (if they are reading this).

It is not unusual for a liberal Quaker meeting in most parts to have a sizable Christian-oriented contingency; enough to warrant biblically oriented offerings at meeting.  So, I personally would be surprised if that was the reason.  But, like you, I have no way of knowing.  Let's hope not!

"Conservative churches grow more" was also the conclusion of a study some 40 years ago. The study's authors concluded that being prey to the sunk cost fallacy combined with the amount conservative churches ask of their members was why.

More recent scholarship says it's really more about birth rates. Conservative religious people have more babies, and over time those babies add up. Heck, the Amish average 7 kids per family, 6 of which stay Amish, so is it any wonder they're the fastest growing denomination?

However this thread has now gone on to Bible conferences and liberal Friends and our "shhh don't say we're Christians; that's exclusive!" tendencies, and...ugh. We're a Christian denomination. We don't mind non-Christians showing up and worshipping along with us, but we're a Christian denomination. I didn't become a member until I was ok with calling myself Christian for a reason

I'm with Pink Dandelion in his Swarthmore Lecture when he says we need to do less of saying "Hi, we like you, what do you want us to be?" and more of "Hi, we like you, and we're doing this thing, so if you're into that, join us."

Another interesting research report!

I think that quibbling over the details is less important than the overall finding.  In my opinion, American and European Friends need to do lots of soul-searching, instead of concluding that we can safely ignore these findings because ...

I am reminded of an occasion on which Darlene and I pulled off of I-88 in New York State, after having slept much of the night in the car, to look up a small rural unprogrammed meeting that I had visited a few times in my younger years.  We finally found the meetinghouse, obscured by a corner convenience store where early morning commuters stopped for a cup of "get-up-and-go" (I speculate). That meeting had worshiped there for a couple of hundreds of years, I'm guessing.  The rural hamlet was named after it!  I later contacted the clerk by email, and learned that a handful of elderly worshipers continued to meet there.  The group's visibility was restricted by lack of a good sign.  But, ah, what a classical buggy shed--still intact!

As we drove back and forth searching for the meetinghouse, we found a dilapidated church a mile away, where a Bible church congregation had moved in.  I don't know how they were doing as a group, but I surmise that they were growing--squatted on the ruins of whatever mainline church had once been there.

Do I recommend Bible churches?  Well, I have relatives who attend them, and I have gone at least once.  They surely don't have all the answers, and some they do have leave something to be desired in my opinion!  But what I do notice is that they have many serious seekers attending, and the average age of the congregants is young.  Few of these folks were raised in Bible churches; their growth is not primarily a function of a high birth and retention rate.


Interesting that you and your wife were "released" William, as in my neck of the woods "released" has the connotation of higher status. A "released Friend" is one with a recognized ministry, as discerned by a Clearness Committee (under Oversight) and then assisted by a Support Committee.  Such a Friend is "released" from committee work, the primary obligation of ordinary members and aspiring attenders.

Quakerism in Portland, Oregon doesn't seem to be fizzling in that we have two Monthly Meetings of the unprogrammed variety, and two pastoral. However I do think Quakerism needs to reinvent itself from time to time and I'd like to contribute towards the design of the next version, in Spirit-led fashion.

Our society gives people few opportunities to role play in serious enterprises that involve money, maintenance, scheduling, real estate and so on.  Meetings do that.  Join a Meeting and you have opportunities to serve on Property, Finance, Oversight and so on, positions within a real company that does real business in this world.  Take what you learn back to your day job, now that you've seen an alternative to board meetings, shareholders, Robert's Rules and all that.  Quakerism is about running enterprises in an egalitarian, Spirit-led manner.

I think once we get into radio and television more whole-heartedly, that'll prove attractive to new members.  New technology has lowered the barriers to entry.  You don't need an FCC license to distribute podcasts or have a Youtube channel.  One of our Monthly Meetings has a Communications Committee, which oversees the website.  We also have Peace and Social Concerns, and one of its members is all over Youtube discussing WTC7 and all that.  It's not only LDS that has visibility on that issue.

So put me down as bullish about the future.  I look back to the 1790s for role models.  Back then, Quakers were into steel, banking, insurance, ship building.  Lets make some recreational and science-oriented submarines and compete with General Dynamics.

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