10 February 2020
The annual conference of the Centre for Research in Quaker Studies (CRQS) and the Quaker Studies Research Association (QSRA).
Woodbrooke, Birmingham, UK: Wednesday June 10, 2020
Reunion, Renewal and Schism
To book your place, please visit:
Programme and Abstracts
9.30 – 10am: Arrivals and drinks
10 – 11.15: Session 1
Welcome to the Conference
Rebecca Travers and Seventeenth-Century Quaker Disputes, Betty Hagglund, (Centre for Research in Quaker Studies).
Unlike many of her contemporaries, Rebecca Travers (c. 1609-1688) seems to have managed to be involved with a number of significant seventeenth century Quaker disputes and divisions while sustaining friendships and a good working relationship with those on all sides of the arguments. Converted to Quakerism by hearing James Naylor speak, she remained a close friend and supporter of Naylor until the end: dressing his wounds after his punishment beating, writing a certificate on his behalf to parliament and letting him stay at her house after his release from prison. At the same time, unlike most of Naylor’s supporters, Travers continued to be a key part of the Quaker ‘mainstream’. She became a leading woman preacher in London and actively participated in the Six Weeks Meetings of London Friends, hosting them at her home. She attended Second Day Morning Meetings, the editorial board for Quaker publications, which was generally made up solely of male elders. She was a leader within the London Women’s Meeting, with a concern for order and harmony. She also hosted George Whitehead and George Fox at her home during the mid-1660s. She was active in trying to reconcile the factions that developed between the followers of George Fox and those of John Perrot; her sister Mary Booth was an adherent of Perrot. This paper will explore Travers’ involvement with disputes and factions, and her attempts to maintain unity, both within the Women’s Meeting and across the whole Quaker movement.
Anne Conway’s Christology, Laura Arcila Villa (Colorado State University).
I propose to examine Anne Conway’s understanding of Christ in The Principles of the Most Ancient and Modern Philosophy and in some of her correspondence and place her ideas in the larger context of early Quaker theological and metaphysical discussions, including those about Fox’s “indwelling Christ” and the revisionist Christology of William Penn and Robert Barclay. To this end, I consider the hypothesis suggested by Richard G. Bailey, that Conway’s account afforded Quakers a distinctive and more moderate alternative in which claims about the “inner Christ” can be supported without compromising the distinction between the indwelling Christ and the creature. I explore the metaphysical underpinnings of Conway’s position within the larger context of Cartesian dualism, and the originality of her views of Christ and human perfectibility in relation to Cambridge Platonist Henry More, Conway’s mentor and friend, whom remained skeptical not only about Fox’s understanding of Christ and his views on human perfectibility, but also about the less unorthodox theologies of Penn and Barclay.
11.15 – 11.45am: Morning drinks
11.45am – 1.15pm: Session 2
More and the Quakers on Christ, Andrew Jack, (University of Birmingham).
Henry More (1614–1687) was a theologian and philosopher. He had extensive personal contact with Quakers (meeting George Keith, William Penn, George Whitehead and George Fox), and read Quaker texts (by Penn and Issac Pennington, as well as Keith’s Immediate Revelation and Barclay’s Apology). Recent scholarship on More and Quakers tends to rely heavily on the Nicolson/Hutton collection of letters relating to Anne Conway. My focus is wider and also includes: a very useful section in Richard Ward’s 1710 Life of Henry More; a number of More’s own texts, published between 1656 and 1667, dealing with Quakers; and the Appendix to the second edition of Keith’s Immediate Revelation, which responds to five of More’s objections. More’s central and consistent criticism was that Quakers were Familists. It is clear from his writings what he meant: by focusing exclusively on the Light or Christ within, Quakers ignored the external man, the historical figure Christ, and so ignored what is essential to true religion. In his later writings More softens his criticism, accepting that not all Quakers are Familists. Through More, I examine the differing positions of individual Quakers in this debate about the importance of the external, historical figure of Christ.
The Christian Quaker: a reassessment of the Keithian controversy, Madeleine Pennington (THEOS)
The Keithian controversy was the most explosive Quaker schism of the seventeenth century, beginning in Philadelphia in the 1690s when the prominent Quaker minister George Keith was accused of focusing too heavily on the Incarnate Jesus in his preaching. It is usually explained in terms of personality and politics, and is therefore understood as a one-off event – an embarrassing episode, which has largely been forgotten by modern Quakers and neglected in Quaker scholarship. In contrast, this paper will argue that the Keithian controversy was fundamentally a theological disagreement. Moreover, the issues at its heart are still contentious and have lurked beneath the surface of every major Quaker schism since: are certain beliefs necessary for true faith, what is the ‘Light within’, and how should Quakers best relate to Christianity? This not only explains the course of the Keithian controversy itself more effectively, but necessitates a reassessment of the place of the dispute in Quaker history as a whole. This was ultimately a battle for the spiritual heart of the Religious Society of Friends, and greater understanding of its causes is vital to an understanding of the history of the Quaker movement.
Henry Finch (1735-1805): a ‘troubler of Israel’, Chris Skidmore (Independent Scholar)
Henry Finch was a third generation Friend who, despite being in good standing with his local Meeting, found himself in opposition to the late-eighteenth-century movement among influential Friends, such as Samuel Fothergill, to maintain and strengthen the discipline within London Yearly Meeting. He and three other Reading Monthly Meeting Friends became ‘disaffected’ in the 1790s following the monthly meetings’ decision to disown two of its members for paying tithes: at the insistence of the Quarterly Meeting all four disaffected Friends were themselves disowned. Henry reacted to this by taking the war to the enemy. He became involved in supporting the American Quaker, Hannah Barnard, in her dispute with London & Middlesex General Meeting over its refusal to issue her with a travelling minute – a dispute which hinged on her interpretation of Old Testament texts. His campaign culminated in an attempt to attend London Meetings for Business. On being opposed he reacted by suing his opposers in the Court of Exchequer, maintaining that since Meetings for Business were themselves Meetings for Worship, they should be open to all to attend.
This paper will rehearse these events and reflect on their impact on reactions to the Hicksite and Beaconite schisms, and on the maintenance of the discipline today.
2.15pm: QSRA AGM
2.45 – 4.15pm: Session 3
”A refreshing season from the presence of the Lord”: on Spirit and matter in Quaker missionary James Backhouse’s Norwegian Journals from 1853 and 1860. Hans Eirik Aarek, (University of Stavanger).
James Backhouse (1794–1869), nursery owner, botanist and recorded Quaker minister was an experienced traveller and missionary. Backhouse’s last major mission journeys were to Norway in 1853 and 1860. He travelled from the south to the far north of Norway holding more than 300 meetings and writing Journals of nearly 900 pages. Backhouse describes the spiritual and material conditions of Norway. This includes accounts for commerce and trade, topography, plants and animal life. Backhouse met new people and new landscapes with great interest. He saw the beauty in nature and praised God and his Creation, and he also saw that it was useful. Backhouse also took an interest in societal and political affairs in Norway including the religious situation with a dominating State Church. He noted the general progress between the visits of 1853 and 1860. A distinctive feature of Backhouse’s take on life was his experience that everything is linked together: religion and nature; expressions of feelings and accurate observations of nature, a joy for the beauty of nature and a rational description and use of it. The world that surrounds us is not perceived as evil, but as God’s Creation. The purpose of this paper is to analyse possible syntheses, tensions and juxtapositions between Backhouse’s intentions and the various experiences he encountered during his mission journeys in Norway as described in his Journals.
‘A sense of purpose’: Quaker men, fellowship, and emotions in conflict, 1916-1919, Rebecca Wynter (University of Birmingham)
New iterations of Quaker service and resistance arose in response to the First World War. In the conflict zone and in prison, Quaker men found themselves emotionally engaged by fellowship and individuality in new ways. Whereas Friends had found camaraderie in early-modern Britain that at least partly cut across social divisions, and thereafter had found togetherness both within their faith, and beyond it in response to humanitarian concerns, the mechanised violence of the twentieth century fused these disparate types of solidarity. Yet the war also threw into sharp relief differences in emotion and character. Exploring the responses of three Quaker men between 1916 and 1919, this paper will consider how friendship and disparity played out in the grip of conflict. By looking at three very different Friends—Laurence Cadbury, T. Corder Catchpool and Wilfrid Littleboy—the meanings of connectedness will be considered in relation to personal individuality. In particular, this paper will look at how frustration, empathy and isolation shaped ideas about care and duty, and vice versa.
British Quakers and Indian Independence: T. Edmund Harvey and Horace G. Alexander clash over cultural imperialism, Mark Frankel (University of Birmingham).
The paper is about a difference of opinion between two Quakers over the politics of India in the twentieth century. T. Edmund Harvey (1875-1955), used his position as an MP 1937-45 to call for an end to political disturbances in India and a gradual move to semi-independence. Horace G. Alexander (1889-1989), by contrast, supported Gandhi’s movement for swift, complete independence and sought to bring the Mahatma’s message to the West. The paper shows how contrasting attitudes to imperialism co-existed in a church with a tradition of witnessing to peace and reconciliation. The clash between the two men was one of personalities which raised questions about cultural imperialism, personal authenticity and the effectiveness of activism.
4.15pm : Afternoon Tea
4.45 – 5.45pm: Session 4
Quakers and the Border Between Human and Non-Human Animals, Chris Lord (University of Birmingham).
Ontological boundaries between supposedly qualitatively different kinds of being tend to go fuzzy when looked at closely, yet these same distinctions seem necessary for us to function in our social, religious and ethical worlds. This can give rise to ethical inconsistencies, where moral behaviour, based on the implicit, habitual and unconscious acceptance of such boundaries, can contradict moral positions held explicitly. In this paper I explore the conflict between, on the one hand, the conventional boundary between human and non-human animals, and, on the other, contemporary Quaker ethics. I ask:
1. To what extent is the human/animal boundary ‘real’? Here some of Wittgenstein's methods, e.g. family resemblance / ways of seeing, are of use, as well as his moves, through his theory of language-in-use, to ‘deplatonise' supposed metaphysical entities.
2. How comfortably might this boundary sit with regard to Quakers' broad ethical principles, often called ’testimonies’?
I argue that:
1. The border between human and non-human animals, like (almost) all other borders, functions primarily as a social construct, with a social purpose. This particular border serves to make it socially and emotionally easier for humans to exploit other animals.
2. Quakers are famous for ignoring supposed barriers between human beings, but their general acceptance of the human/animal border often brings their behaviour into conflict with their 'testimonies’.
Squaring the Liberal Quaker Circle in the Contemporary Workplace, Mark Read (Independent Scholar)
The liberal Quaker tradition in the UK has open borders. Its affiliates tend mostly (but not exclusively) to enter via mainstream Christian churches, convinced by its pluralistic and tolerant religious claims (Dandelion, 1996, 2008). Professing little in the way of church dogma, the Religious Society of Friends avoids overtly prescriptive belief claims so that, now, even the existence of God is regarded as an open and individualised question. The way in which the Quaker collective is organised also appears to facilitate this pluralistic countenance. Categories of ‘membership’ are complemented by an alternate and implicitly transitional classification of ‘attendership’. With few if any theological distinctions between these categories, attenders are no longer – if they ever were – Quakers-in-waiting. Instead, this heterodox form of religious organisation liberates Quakers from the hierarchical style of traditional Christianity which might bend the individual religious enterprise away from the authentic. Yet, such apparent liberal religious revitalisation is only partially explained with reference to the Quaker collective. Outside of ‘Quaker Time’ (Dandelion, 1996), affiliates’ relationship with the hierarchies of work appear conflicted. Placing Quaker claims under the workplace lens reveals a religious schism, though not of liberal beliefs, but one defined principally by supportive or unsupportive work environments.
Conference ends 5.45pm
Supper, for those who have booked separately: 6.15 – 7.15pm
7.30 - 9pm: George Richardson Lecture
Hugh S. Pyper
‘The Quaker Contribution to Biblical Scholarship’