(There’s a big followup to my last major post on the way, but in the meantime I continue with little tidbitty posts.)
One of the ways I think liberal Quakerism should change (under that name or not) is in being more understandable.
Being such a theory-averse, intuition-based group has many benefits, to be sure. But it’s quite bad for our outreach and cultural relevance when so much of Quakerism is so opaque to the outsider.
In particular I’m thinking of meeting for business. It’s perhaps the most central and imitation-worthy part of Quakerism, and yet I don’t think I’ve seen a single explanation of how business meeting works that hasn’t been deeply vague and fuzzy — little more than broad outlines plus “you know it when you feel it.” I’ll admit that this, along with learning-by-osmosis, has been enough to successfully pass it on within our little society, to be sure. But if we want to be more than an obscure, quirky sect, this simply will not do.
[On a side note, perhaps part of the problem is that liberal Quakerism, IMHO, is slowly rounding a big corner towards corporate nontheism (in the sense of naturalism, which may still include the use of “God” as a metaphor), and the theoretical groundwork to replace Barclay, etc. hasn’t been done yet. But then again, even the traditional explanations seem too fuzzy. In the coming weeks I hope to re-read some F&Ps, read Beyond Majority Rule, and perhaps some other sources, and see if this might be an unjustified impression on my part.]
In any case, I propose the following standard for future (or existing but not well-known) explications of Quaker business process: we ought to be able to draw a flowchart of the process that a monkey could understand.
I’m not proposing that the process itself should (or could) ever become logical or cut-and-dried — open sharing will always be open sharing, clerk discretion will always be clerk discretion, and rightly forming a minute will always require just as much sensitivity as it does now. I’m proposing that second-order explanations of the whole process (which already exist) should become clearer and more logical, enough so that ordinary people can understand and appreciate what we’re doing.
I’m working on a flowchart of this sort myself, and I’ll probably post it here in a week or so. (What’s surprising me the most as I work on it is that the dichotomies between secular “voting” or consensus and Quaker business process seem to be partially breaking down.)
Wording edits made to second-to-last paragraph 7/13.