What are the Quakers doing?

The Quakers, or officially the Society of Friends, have aroused some controversy by discussing rewording things to avoid using the word ‘God’. They are asking whether a belief in God is a precondition for being a Quaker.

Are Quakers changing their beliefs or merely changing words?

The Friends have always taken a very broad approach to faith. They have avoided defining God and have welcomed people with various views. They want each person to find God inside himself or herself and are concerned that the term ‘God’ itself is loaded. It may put off some people who would benefit from their meetings and bring something of value to the movement.

Can an Atheist be a Quaker?

The debate is about how far they can reach out to people of differing beliefs. Surely, an atheist could benefit from meditating in a meeting and find much in common with people who hold religious views. Some say you can be spiritual without being religious. It depends on your definitions of both those terms. Perhaps you need a chance to explore what you really believe.

Are Quakers following Christ’s example?

Jesus healed and helped people who were not his followers. There was the centurion and the woman from Tyre, who were not Jewish or worshippers of the God of Israel. Christians down the ages have helped people in practical ways without insisting on conversion as a precondition. Of course, an encounter with Jesus tends to change people, but initially he takes us as we are.

Do the Quakers have a message for all of us?

All Christians need to remember to take people as they are and to offer practical and spiritual help as needed. Churches need to offer space for people to meditate and meet others on non-judgemental terms. This does not mean that Christians should be shy about telling others about Jesus and his teachings, as long as we listen to them too.  If you attend an Alpha course, you will hear the case for Christianity, but you will also be listened to. Go to the Alpha website.

Before you join the Quakers, look around.

If you find your church too narrow or dogmatic, try looking around. You may find the Society of Friends is what you need. Or you might find another church of any denomination a lot more open than you think. Perhaps it is you who needs to be less judgemental, about Christians? About God?