Silent Subversion Pt. II: Subversive Quaker Ecclesiology in Practice
(This is part II of a paper I wrote the spring semester of 2018 in seminary. In this part I discuss the ways in which Quaker ecclesiology has been and continues to be practically subversive. Take a gander at the saucy silent subversion of Quaker ecclesiology in practice.)
Subversion in Practice
As I suggested earlier, Fox’s five conclusions were deeply subversive theoretically to the political and ecclesial structures of his day. However, in practice these five conclusions subverted institutional self-preservation, hierarchical leadership, and injustice.
Quaker ecclesiology subverts one’s self-preservation in the way the gathered community discerns its ontology and mission. No one person or select group of people have power to discern the gathered community’s ontology and mission. There is not a clergy that discerns (whatever it may be that is decided) on behalf of the rest of the community. The responsibility of Quaker leaders is to create space for the community to be led by the Spirit in the process of discernment. The interrelationship between the community and the Spirit guides the discernment process, thus placing each person in equal power to one another. Institutions often can abuse power when an individual or a group of individuals gain considerably more power than those who institutions are to serve and support. In a way institutions can gain an unrestrained individualism as well, in that a certain individual or group of individuals accumulate too much power over other individuals. Quaker ecclesiology subverts the self-preservation of both institutions and individualism by committing to discernment as an act of the gathered community. Quakers highlight the importance of the gathered community insofar that even some suggest the primary activity of God occurs in the midst of the gathered community. Present-day Quakers may even propose that communal discernment in the gathered community extends beyond simply those in the present meeting but even extends to the meeting’s neighborhood. Listening and serving the meeting’s neighbors are not simply extensions of the activity of God from communal discernment but are the very activity of God in community in and of itself. Present-day Quakers are also freed from ecclesial self-preservation for most Quakers recognize God is already active in everyone’s life. Ecclesially, this frees Quakers from the oppressing weight of understanding the ecclesial community as the only space in which God is active. Understanding the ecclesial community as the only place in which God is active places great power in an ecclesial community, power that often cripples said community. Therefore, from the very act of discerning in community to listening and serving the community’s neighbors, Quaker ecclesiology subverts self-preservation...