Presenting on Convergent Friends at FAHE in June

So much for a really creative title! It was the best I could think of at this hour. Anyways, Last year at this time I was living in Birmingham England, away from my pregnant wife, finishing up my first year of doctoral studies and working on Quaker theology with a guy named Pink (see my three posts here). Needless to say a lot has happened since that time, and a lot has happened because of that time. As a result of my project I did with “Ben” (Pink) this past summer, and because of his encouragement, I applied to present on convergent Friends for the Friends Association for Higher Education conference happening at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Center this June. I was really excited to see that my proposal was accepted and am now in the midst of preparing for that presentation. I don’t have any fancy titles for the workshop I’ll be doing just yet, but a couple ideas are:

  • (Re)Inventing the Past With the Present
  • Tradition as (only) grounds for innovation
  • Convergent Friendship: New Media and Quaker RenewalNone of these really jump out just yet, so I’ll keep tinkering. Anyways, I have 75 minutes for the presentation or workshop. I prefer workshop because it will be a more interactive session then one talking head the whole time. I plan on giving a 20-30 min (not sure which yet) talk that brings everyone up to speed on some basic history, terms, and introductions to the conversation and then I plan on opening up the group to some activities, queries, and who knows, maybe something a little crazy(?).In order to prepare for the presentation, I’ve been reading through a number of Yoder’s essays on tradition, ecumenicism, mission, and the theology radical reformation church. I’m also reading through a number of Quaker texts (QRT essays, Dandelion, Gwyn, Muers, and possibly Jay Marshall’s recent study) and a couple of philosophy texts dealing with poststructuralism (Beasley), the Enlightenment (Foucault), and religious convictions amidst pluralism (McClendon). I will also be working through as many convergent Friends blog posts as possible in the coming weeks.I also have enough material that I’ve put together over the last couple years to not do new research, but I feel like I need to have all my bases covered, and I’m hoping for a little extra inspiration and some new ideas on the subject. A good portion of my ideas will be coming from the paper I did with Ben this past summer with the very exciting title of, “Contemporary Quaker Tradition in Three Perspectives: A Dialogue With Alasdair MacIntyre.”  I also wanted to post the workshop description I’ve written up here for anyone who is interested in reading further about what I hope to be doing with the group.

Convergent Friends Workshop FAHE June 2008:

“To seek through meeting together and dialogue between the various strands of current Quakerdom new life and light under the leading of the Holy Spirit–something that might be called ‘convergent’ or ‘emergent’ Quakerism????

St. Louis 1970 ‘Future of Friends’

Description of Convergent Friends:

Convergent Friends is best thought of as a conversation among a variety of Friends from every branch, and more technically, it can be thought of as a hermeneutic from which Quaker theology and history is read in light of today’s cultural transitions and challenges. It rejects the idea of being called a movement, organization or something that indicates institutionalization.  It has no official ties and operates more as a meta-community for Quakers.  On one hand, convergent Friends appeal to the important role of tradition in shaping the spiritual and moral lives of the people within that particular historical community.  In this way it is a conservative sensibility because it takes seriously the primary texts, virtues and practices of those who started and profoundly shaped the Quaker tradition. This means that while not all convergent Friends are Christian, all are willing to wrestle with and acknowledge the importance of Quakerism as a part of the Christian narrative.  On the other hand, it sees faith (and the church) as always emerging, never a static entity. Thus, these Friends seek to engage the questions of contemporary culture for the purpose of bring the whole of life under the worship and mission of God. In this sense, these Friends have had a specific affinity to the emerging/emergent church conversation because their theologians have sought to disengage the church from the secularizing affects of modernity, while engaging the questions and issues that revolve around late-modernity, or post-modernity.

Description of the workshop:

This workshop is a basic introduction to the convergent Friends conversation a brief history on the formation of this group, what they do to spread their message, what that message is (and why it is important) will be discussed. The workshop will consist of a short presentation, followed by interactive group discussion on this topic. You do not need to know anything about convergent Friends to participate.

Purpose of the workshop:

This workshop sets out to help people become acquainted with who the convergent Friends are, how they came about and what it is they do. The hope is that there will be some basic connections with concepts like emerging church, postmodernism, blogs, social networking, tradition and practice. An  excitement about the possibilities not only of the future of the Quaker church, but also of its present – that is what people are already doing to help reinvent the tradition – should be communicated. Finally, one should be able to walk away with some imaginative stirrings about new and old ways to connect their everyday life and worship.


  1. To be able to identify some of the key questions and issues convergent Friends are dealing with.
  2. To know a basic history of how this group came about, and understand their uniqueness within Quakerism.
  3. To recognize new ways in which the Quaker tradition is spreading.
  4. To discover ways in which we can become involved with convergent Friends.

The Four Converging Areas:

These four areas operate as the very broad categories of which convergent Friends have traversed. On the one hand, these should not be seen as wholly separate groupings, rather, they often operate together, informing one another and enriching the conversation. On the other hand, it is the fact that there is a plurality of gifts and interests within this group of Friends, no different than the rest of the church. Some Friends emphasize different aspects of these features, picking up on those parts they are most interested and gifted in. This allows for a diversity of voices and ministry among the convergent Friends. I would note, as far as I know, those who consider themselves convergent Friends, acknowledge the need for all four of these aspects, even if they don’t focus on particular ones.

  1. Emerging Church – Mission/Culture
  2. Conservative – Tradition/Practice
  3. Friendship – Ecumenicism/Theology/Community (theology is the basis for our need to work together, it is also the (un)common language that we have).
  4. New Media (blogs, social networking, etc) – Community/OutreachIf you’re going to be at FAHE, my presentation is on Sunday at 9:30-10:45 in the Art Room (which I’m happy to have!).