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Readings for Reflection: May 2009
from the Committee on Ministry and Counsel

Conservative Radicals

Friends are conservative radicals. They are conservative because they are religious and religion, as the origin of the word indicates, suggests binding together. Religion binds the present with the past and it binds diverse people into communities. Quakers, because of their deep Christian roots, are bound into the past history of [humankind]. The words and actions attributed to Isaiah, to Jesus, to Saint Francis, to George Fox, and to John Woolman are bound into the life and witness of today. In the meeting for worship Friends seek to break through the here-and-now into that which is eternal. Here that which is beyond time and in every time becomes part of the present.

With all this conservatism, however, Friends are also radical. Their authority is the light within, the present and personal experience by which past undoubted authority must be tested. “Thou sayest Christ said this and the apostles saith that, but what canst thou say,” says George Fox…. This “What canst thou say” is the key to a religion in which we have “No time but this present” and in which there is a constant hunger to apply the eternal principles of love, justice, and redemptive suffering to this present world.

Kenneth Boulding
Friends General Conference, 1988

Cited in Faith and Practice
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting
January 1995

All Readings for Reflection
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