Quakers today have been challenged to reconsider much of what they know about their predecessors and their role in worldly affairs—at the same time, they have been given many opportunities to show how their testimonies can be applied to contemporary crises. These concerns are reflected in the articles that resonated most strongly with the Friends Journal community over the last year.
5. The Art of Quaker Quilts
“The world is hard on all quilts, but it is especially hard on quilts like the ones that have been passed down in my family.” Vicki Winslow’s essay about doing her best to preserve a bit of her family’s legacy proved to be a surprise hit with readers.
4. Quakers Must Take a Position on Abortion
Erick Williams’s call for Quaker organizations to offer a clear stance on abortion rights issues prompted a response from Friends Committee on National Legislation: “The impact of Dobbs vs. Jackson is indeed very infuriating for some Quakers and welcomed by others,” Bridget Moix, FCNL’s general secretary, wrote. “We welcome Erick’s call for deeper discernment. FCNL’s Policy Committee is engaged in further discernment on the matter and welcomes input from Friends. Quaker churches, meetings, and concerned Friends have communicated with us on this issue, even before the Supreme Court decision, and continue to do so.”
3. Safe Meetings Don’t Avoid Conflict
“I am not a believer in ‘safe space’—in Quakerdom nor anywhere else,” Shannon Roberts Smith reflected after reading Donald W. McCormick’s report on how adversity to confrontation can actually hold meetings back. “I understand the concept as an ideal, but it seems to be no more than that—an ideal. That said, I can testify that the White middle-class cultural norms that pervade our meetings can be particularly insidious when directed against folks who inhabit more marginal identities. Particularly Friends of Color . . . All Quaker meetings need to introspect and examine what is meant by ‘safety’ (safe for whom?) and what needs to happen to make our spaces open and welcoming beyond platitudes.”
2. The Peace Testimony and Ukraine
“The present warfare in Ukraine gives us renewed opportunity to look at what guides us, individually and as a Religious Society,” David H. Finke wrote after reading Bryan Garman’s consideration of whether total pacifism was an adequate response to Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine. “More than two millennia of Christian history has shown a predominance of the theory of ‘the Just War,’ especially within the Established Churches . . . but I would hope that integrity would compel us to admit and proclaim that ours is a different understanding of the Gospel.”
1. Flawed Quaker Heroes
“The story of how Quakers held people in bondage, and then let go of those who were bound is a powerful story of power, persistence, struggle, and change,” Rachel Findley commented following Kathleen Bell’s analysis of how perspectives on William Penn and other colonial-era Quakers have changed in recent years. “We need to know what evils we did, and how we stopped. It will help us to ask ourselves now what evils we are doing today, and how we will stop, and how we may be disentangled from our evils to work for a Peaceable Kingdom in the world.”
Banner images: Frederick Stymetz Lamb’s stained-glass portrait of William Penn (commons.wikimedia.org); “Stop the War” sign at a peace rally (photo by Tetiana Shyshkina); a pro-choice demonstrator pauses for rest (photo by Gayatri Malhotra)
Catch up on past years’ lists!
Top Articles of 2021
- #5. A Quaker Call to Abolition and Creation by Lucy Duncan.
- #4. Pistachios and Cats by Lynn Gazis.
- #3. When Quakers Were the Karens by Elizabeth Cazden.
- #2. The Mystical Experience by Donald W. McCormick.
- #1. Are There White People in the Bible? by Tim Gee.
Top Articles of 2020
- #5. A Quaker Antiracist Reading List
- #4. Quaker Meetings Respond to Coronavirus by Katie Breslin.
- #3. Recognizing Racism, Seeking Truth by Inga Erickson.
- #2. Careful Discernment or Spiritual Timidity? by Kat Griffith.
- #1. The Middle-Class Capture of Quakerism and Quaker Process by Donald W. McCormick.
Top Articles of 2019
- #5 Selling Out to Niceness by Ann Jerome.
- #4 Building White Racial Stamina by Liz Oppenheimer.
- #3 A Quaker School’s Response to Allegations of Sexual Abuse by Erik Hanson.
- #2 We Are Not John Woolman by Gabbreell James.
- # 1 Slavery in the Quaker World by Katharine Gerbner.
Top Articles of 2018
- #5 Are We Really Christian? by Margaret Namubuya Amudavi.
- #4 What People Really Want from Church and Quaker Meeting by Donald W. McCormick.
- #3 Simple Living Beyond the Thrift Store by Philip Harnden.
- #2 Can Quakerism Survive? by Donald W. McCormick.
- # 1 Civility Can Be Dangerous by Lucy Duncan.
Top Articles of 2017:
- #5 Mystical Experience, the Bedrock of Quaker Faith by Robert Atchley.
- #4 Weeping to Joy by Betsy Blake.
- #3: A Mysticism for Our Time by Roger Owens.
- #2: It Breaks My Heart by Kate Pruitt.
- #1: A Quaker Approach to Living with Dying by Katherine Jaramillo.
Top articles of 2016:
- #5 Framing the Light by Jean Schnell.
- #4 Why Quakers Stopped Voting by Paul Buckley.
- #3 Affirming Ivy by Laura Noel.
- #2 The Third Reconstruction by William J Barber II.
- #1 A Gospel of Quaker Sexuality by Kody Gabriel Hersh.
Top articles of 2015:
- #5 Baltimore, the Time Is Now by Sarah Bur.
- #4 Reflections on Selma by Gail Whiffen.
- #3 What Quakers and Catholics Might Learn from One Another by John Pitts Corry.
- #2 Realizing Wholeness: Reflections from a Gay Palestinian Quaker by Sa’ed Atshan.
- #1 Beyond Goodness Sex by Su Penn.
Top articles of 2014:
- #5 Dear Friend/Good White Person by Regina Renee.
- #4 Sustainable Simplification Shuns “Shoulds” and Sacrifice by Chuck Hosking.
- #3 A Quaker Argument against Gun Control by Matthew Van Meter.
- #2 My Experience as an African American Quaker by Avis Wanda McClinton.
- #1 White Narcissism by Ron McDonald.
Top articles of 2013:
- #5: Bum-Rush the Internet interview with Jon Watts.
- #4: Categorically Not the Testimonies by Eric Moon.
- #3: Are Quakers Christian, Non-Christian, or Both? by Anthony Manousos.
- #2: Quakerism Left Me by Betsy Blake.
- #1: We Think He Might Be a Boy by Su Penn.
Top articles of 2012:
- #5: The Safety of Silence by Lindsey Mead Russell.
- #4: Eight Questions on Convergent Friends, an interview with Robin Mohr.
- #3: Quakers Are Way Cooler Than You Think by Emma Churchman.
- #2: Homosexuality: A Plea to Read the Bible Together by Douglas C Bennett.
- #1: When Quaker Process Fails by John M. Coleman.
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