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Book List:Basic QuakerismCorporate Discernment
Collected Public Witness, 1995-2004
BY LLOYD LEE WILSON
"We are invited to participate in the counter-cultural action of putting God at the center of our stories, rather than ourselves." -Deborah Shaw, from the Foreword Wrestling with Our Faith Tradition chronicles the vocal ministry offered by Lloyd Lee Wilson at Friendly gatherings and yearly meetings over a ten-year period. We all have the good fortune of reading the wise words of Lloyd Lee Wilson, a recorded minister in the Quaker tradition. His journey offers us a growing understanding based in faithfulness and an invitation for all of us to deepen our experience of the Divine.Was $18.95 now $10.00.Quaker Press of FGC
2005 231 PP Paper
h3. Reviewed by Arnold Ranneris in the Canadian Friend, 5/2006
In 1993, a book with the unlikely title of "Essays on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order" was published, became a modest success, sold out, and was reprinted. Somehow it spoke to the need of Friends to have messages from a "classical Quakerism" viewpoint. Lloyd Lee Wilson is a convinced Friend in the North Carolina (Conservative) Yearly Meeting. He had dedicated himself to "public witness" among Friends from l995-2004. Now in 2005, we receive this collection of ten addresses, five in the category of "Faith" and five in "Practice."
These essays explore three areas: a listening spirituality based on silence, the direct experience/relationship of the person with God and Christ, and membership in a worshipping community that hears and obeys the voice of God. Lloyd Lee is rooted in the spiritual practice of Bible study. I recall him during his 1982 visit to Canadian Yearly Meeting at Pickering College with his black Testament ever present with him. This visit, incidentally, gave the title of one of his addresses: "Why Do You Still Read That Old Thing?" He explains: "I was taking a short walk one afternoon during a break in the formal sessions, my Bible under my arm as usual, when a twenty-something Canadian Friend approached me and struck up a conversation. After some preliminary greetings, she got to the point. Pointing to my Bible, she asked, "Why do you still read that old thing when there is so much more modern material available?... I've been answering that same ques¬tion in many forms, for the fourteen years or so since that day. Tonight I can give you a progress report."
Some chapter titles show the broad scope of titles: A Confession of Faith, Encounter with the Taproot, Biblical Basis for Quaker Peacemaking, Gathered With One Accord, Friends' Testimonies in the Marketplace. They are conversational, yet penetrating in tone, getting to the roots and marrow of Quakerism.
Francis Bacon, in his 16th Century essay "Of Studies" on study and reading, says, "Some books are to be tasted; others are to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.". This book falls into the latter category. It is recommended for those who want this grounding. It makes for good personal reflection and study as a group.
__Arnold Ranneris is a member of Victoria Monthly Meeting, and of the CYM Faith & Practice Development Committee.__
h3. Reviewed by Forrest Curo, San Diego Monthly Meeting
Rather than wrestling with the tradition, Wilson sets out his version and leaves it for us to do the wrestling. His "classic" Quakerism and ours are different enough to ensure we'll have to wrestle--both close enough and different enough to make it a valuable experience.
What makes Lloyd Lee Wilson such a good mind to wrestle with? He's a bright, devout Friend with considerable wisdom and (I suspect) a sense of humor. He's critical of the same modern Quaker weaknesses I myself deplore, while he's often enough mistaken that I sometimes have to disagree, but respect him too much to be easy about it. He speaks out of a Conservative Friends tradition which contains more bones than our Liberal one, but perhaps also more spiritual meat. ("Conservative" meetings are explicitly Christian while retaining traditional Quaker forms and insights.)
Many of us know Wilson's Essays _on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order_; his current book is a collection of talks he has given since, frequently inspiring and profound. And radical, in the true sense: "We can be in community with God only when our community includes those people for whom God has shown a loving preference: the poor, the powerless, the oppressed people who are at the bottom of the pyramid of power, wealth and prestige. They are not the only members of God's community, but if they are not fully part of it, God is not fully present.
"To include these folks in our community forces us to step outside the social, political, religious, and economic structures that serve you and me so well. We will have to see those institutions from the perspective of the bottom, of the margins, and understand their flaws as well as their strengths. And because those structures in fact do not work for all the members of our community, we will have to restructure ourselves in ways that more truly reflect the value God places on each human life."
I gravitate to intelligent critics of Liberal Quaker folkways, out of a sense that we've been leaving out something crucial. Too many good modern Friends do not experience meeting as an encounter with God, and rather seem uncomfortable with the very idea. Wilson is clear that "God cares about and is present in the world you and I inhabit today, intervening in the affairs of human and beast to relieve our suffering and keep us from going irretrieveably astray." He knows, from experience, "that God who loves me offers guidance continually, and that this guidance is perceptible. From experience, I have put my faith in the fact that this guidance is aimed at my deepest happiness... God is not badgering us into some moral achievement, some sort of divine merit badge. God is offering us abundant life--the life for which we were intended and designed and which is the ground of true happiness--life in intimate relationship with our Creator who loves us." We need to know these things, not because we're somehow 'bad' if we don't--but because Quakerism (or any life) without them is like an unconsummated marriage. Our "Liberal" reluctance to push beliefs on people is laudable; but our indifference to lack of faith can leave a meeting spiritually arid.
What, then, can I make of this notion: "One makes spiritual growth only in the context of a faith community and faith tradition"? The value of contact with other people is indisputable, but what hope does this allow when one's Quaker 'faith community' considers Christianity an obsolete mistake, and George Fox simply "bonkers"? Fox himself had no community, until he had done considerable spiritual growth, to learn that only God could speak to his condition. Wilson says that "The institutional church is always inserting itself in between the individual and God, claiming its role as necessary intermediary and interpreter of the word." And then he makes the same mistake, pleased to have "a spirituality that enables direct revelation from God" but adding: "It does not take much imagination to visualize how this might lead to insanity. The faith community provides the stability and groundedness needed but not supplied by either the spirituality of subtraction or the direct experience of divine communion." If anything leads to insanity, it could hardly be 'direct revelation from God.' Neither could a community have stability and groundedness to provide, except by that very communion, and the Reality that grants it.
The pair of husky men--drawn wrestling on the cover--seem almost to be dancing with one another. This is the way I find myself wrestling with Wilson, one moment half in love and the next moment struggling for my life. His language occasionally gets dangerously extravagant, but the faith and thought beneath it are solid. I hope you too will have the same pleasure.
Posted by QuakerBooks on October 20, 2006 10:35 AM
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