Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Honey-Glazed Carrots and Vegetable Stew

I have been talking with people about preparing for the upcoming yearly meeting.  I also received a copy of a minute from Indianapolis First Friends.  I am anticipating other minutes, expressions and opportunities for discussion in the next few weeks

It seems to me that part of what is going on involves different ways of seeing.

Western Yearly Meeting is a faith centered organization.  It is a faith that has changed form since its beginnings in the seventeenth century.  There have been disagreements and separations as various Friends chose to emphasize some elements of their faith and let go of others.  This is a process of development, growth and change that continues today.

The current stress within the Yearly Meeting involves two significantly different ways of seeing our faith.

I am not fond of cooked carrots, but I do enjoy honey-glazed carrots.  Good honey glazed carrots have a honey flavored sweetness that still allows the flavor of the carrots to come through.  There also needs to be a slight saltiness or tartness to set off the sweetness, sometimes from the addition of a little mustard.  While there can be variations in the recipe, there are some basics that need to be there for the dish to be identified as honey-glazed carrots.  And if too many other things are added, it begins to look like something other than honey-glazed carrots

Carrots are also often used as a basic part of vegetable stew.  Good vegetable stew will be seasoned in ways to maximize the flavors of the ingredients but there is a lot of flexibility in what those ingredients can be.  Some people like more potatoes.  Others prefer more exotic ingredients.  I like a little garlic thrown in.  My wife would much rather have onions.  Some would always add tomatoes and others would never add tomatoes.  Some prefer more pepper or spice.  A good stew has a variety of flavors to be explored.

My understanding of who we are as Western Yearly Meeting is like honey-glazed carrots.  There are some basic elements that identify who we are and that I see expressed in the Western Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice.  Two of those elements that make up who we are an understanding that Jesus is uniquely divine and that his sacrificial death uniquely saves.  There are variations in emphasis and differences in expression, but for me these basic elements identify who we are.

Othes see us as vegetable stew.  Faith and Practice is a collection of ingredients to select from or add to.  I would suggest that the June 2009 "Indianapolis Monthly Meeting Minute Regarding Theological Differences between Meetings and Individuals within WYM" expresses this way of understanding who we are (the minute is not available online).  This minute affirms that the basic ingredient is Jesus ("We take our relationship with Jesus seriously, and affirm that being a Christian entails being like-minded with Him as we strive to take on His nature in our daily lives").  The minute goes on to argue that, "Since spiritual revelation is an ongoing, inward process and not a result of static dogma, we do not strive for uniformity of belief, but rather we center ourselves upon the guidance of Divine Love as we listen together for God's leading,"  with a goal of becoming "an ever more broad and living example of vibrant theological diversity." 

So where is the conflict?  Isn't it just a matter of preference?  After all, combining the honey-glazed carrots and the vegetable stew would combine flavors in new ways. And the stew would still be stew.

But the honey-glazed carrots would no longer be identifiable. 

That is the heart of my concern and the concern of many others.  What identifies us as Western Yearly Meeting?



Nate said...

"Salvation is deliverance from sin and possession of spiritual life"
A quote from WYM faith and practice. So, is the question about the fact of salvation through Jesus' "sacraficial death," or about how that salvation works? Is it a question of "glazed" versus "stew" or what kind of carrots to use in the "glazed?"

Bill said...

Yes, the question behind the question is how salvation works. WYM faith and practice reflects an understanding of salvation that reflects the view, held among a majority of Friends through the history of Friends, that Jesus' death is in some way essential to how salvation works, although there are different ways of understanding the process involved (you can read my take on it at http://billclen.sc104.info/wordpress/2009/06/the-true-cross/).

One of the underlying issues facing WYM is whether Jesus has an essential role in salvation.

It is not a question of what kind of carrots, but whether the honey-glazed carrots require any carrots at all.

Nate said...

Kudos on your exposition on Atonement.
I think I am beginning to get an idea of what is happening (kinda hard to piece together without specifics of the perception of "substantial disunity" mentioned). Two more questions come to mind that are related but approach my confusion from two different directions. The first is whether Gulley's perception of the two elements of Ephesians 5:1-2 "1Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." in which he essentially indicates that institutional Christianity has made a religion of the sacrifice part and neglected the imitators part* is a denial of what I see as the "actuating event" in his zeal to emphasize the "transformational effect?"
The second question is whether the Atonement is seen as necessarily limited to those who "make a decision for Christ" in this lifetime or whether God's unwillingness "that any should perish" might extend to a rehabilitative view of punishment as opposed to just vengeance. Is there a perception that Atonement is of value only if there are those who never take advantage of it?

*From If God is Love p. 149

Bill said...

Ephesians 5:1-2 does not say what Phil and many other Christians think it says. Paul is tying together "living in love" and giving himself up for us, not separating them. They are two sides of the same coin. God demonstrates love by allowing the Messiah to be killed. We demonstrate love by allowing ourselves to die. This is the heart of atonement.

These two verses appear to be just the beginning of a v-e-r-y l-o-n-g sentence by Paul which closes with what appears to be an early church psalm:
"Wake up, O sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you."

By the way, the substantial disunity charge involves two specifics - Phil's rejection of the unique divinity of Jesus (he argues that Jesus was not divine in any way that we cannot be), and the need for some form of atonement.

Nate said...

Ah! Having the particulars is a big help in understanding what is going on.
By the way, I don't think Phil or I was saying that the elements of the Ephesians citations are separate, but that the institutional or historical church has made that distinction erroneously.
Ok, so there is no doubt that there is substantial disunity between Phil and Western Yearly Meeting in "what we believe," so the question is what to do about it, and here is where your questions in the previous blog post come into play. What we seem to be talking about is that curious Quaker propensity to say, "This is what we believe, but these statements do not have the force of doctrine as in other faith traditions," or something like, "to be held loosely." So, the question is what the effect of a different perception would have on the faith and practice of those who hold them, since Jesus said, "by their fruit ye shall know them," not "by their doctrines." In terms of your illustration, I guess it would be a question of whether WYM is the glazed carrots or the potluck at which glazed carrots and stew are available, at least so long as the "stew" is within bounds of "the fruit of the spirit."