The New Way

The following is based upon ministry given in a Philadelphia meeting on 11/5/17.


There is a story about Jesus that takes place after he’d been ministering for a while. He was at home, visiting with his brothers shortly before a festival was to occur in Jerusalem. His brothers were planning to go to the festival, but Jesus was not planning to go with them. The brothers spoke to Jesus, perhaps to chastise him for not going, or perhaps to mock him. They said to Jesus, if you have a message for the people, why don’t you go to the festival and give it? No one who wants to be known acts in secret. Show yourself to the world.  Jesus responds by saying: “My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready”(Jn. 7:6).

What Jesus is saying here is that he must wait for guidance before he acts; he doesn’t act on his own power and volition, as do his brothers, but he waits until he’s been given understanding from God for what he is to do, and when he is to do it. It is a new way to be, to regulate one’s life. And this is the content of Jesus’s ministry: there’s something new.

When I come to meeting, I arrive early and, a little while later, listen as people begin to enter  the meeting room and settle in. I like to hear all the sounds: the coughing, the sniffling, the shuffling of feet. These are cozy human sounds; there’s a warmth in hearing them, like sitting in front of a fire. And then there are the messages: people’s opinions and ideas. People have always had opinions and ideas. They, too, are human, a natural part of us. Some may be good ideas and some not; some may be productive and others destructive; some dutiful and others careless; some creative and others unimaginative, but whatever their qualities, they are all ideas. They come with our being human, along with all the other capacities that have been given to us by our Creator.

When Jesus spoke about his time being “not yet come, but his brothers’ time being always ready,” he was making a distinction between the new nature and power he’d been given by God–an inspired, divine nature–and the old human nature in which we are confined to knowing and receiving only human ideas and opinions.

To inform, to manifest, and to witness to this new way of being–partaking of the divine nature–was the purpose of Jesus’s ministry; it is the new way given by God.

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Stages of the Work

In his booklet “A Revolutionary Gospel,” Lewis Benson writes of three stages of work that seventeenth-century Friends undertook: the first in the sequence was turning people to Christ through preaching the Word (the substance of vocal ministry), which reached to the witness of God in others (convincing/convicting of sin); the second stage was settling and establishing the newly convinced, which entailed repentance and amendment of life; and the third was building on this newly laid foundation, thereby enabling the Church to form and become a witness to the society at large of the new order of righteous community.

Many in our meetings today are not yet convinced—have not moved into the first stage—and therefore the second and third stages of development (settling and building) go largely undiscovered. The work for any who have been inwardly convicted of truth and have learned the necessity of silently watching for its promptings for guidance to speak in meeting have before them the work of the first stage: turning people to Christ, the truth, through giving voice to the power and spirit of the Lord that can reach to the witness of God in everyone. This was the vocal (gospel) ministry as it was at first, and is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Benson concludes the segment on stages of the work with a paragraph that reminds; reassures; and, yes, comforts us that our time is not the only time of mistaken notions of individualism:

A fairly large segment of first-generation Quakers misunderstood the nature of the Quaker revolution. They thought it was leading to an individualistic righteousness and a loose association of free-wheeling religious individualists. They failed to catch the vision of a great people gathered to God by Christ who would learn together, obey together, witness together and suffer together. However, faithful Friends, who had grown up in the truth, became builders of the new righteousness and the new community (p.11).

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Moses and the Burning Bush

[The following is based upon vocal ministry given on Twelfth month, the 31st.]

And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed (Ex. 3:2).

One of the significant things about the burning bush that Moses saw was that it continued to burn. The bush burned and was not consumed. And so, Moses was drawn to look at it: he’d not seen anything like it before. For fire burns while it has fuel: wood, gas, or some other material. But when the fuel has been consumed, the fire goes out. The fuel is finite, and once it is gone, the fire no longer burns.

We humans are like fire in that we have a finite amount of substance to fuel our lives. We have limited time to live; our understanding is limited by history and circumstance; our capacity to love is limited by our affections, and often fails when we come into conflict with others. Our life powers are limited, much to our chagrin.

Moses was a man who was intensely aware of his limitation: he couldn’t speak properly; he had run away from his people whom he knew to be suffering; he had even killed a person. He felt his shortcomings keenly. When God spoke to him from the burning bush and told him that he would send him to Pharoah to liberate the Israelites, Moses–feeling his limits and doubting his ability–replied:

Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt? (11)

Because Moses felt and knew his limitation, he was prepared to become a spokesperson for God (a prophet); his sensing the truth of himself readied him to respond to God. We, too, may heed the promptings of truth about ourselves, and be led by the seed of God within. We, too, may be given to see the light, to know eternal life that is beyond our finitude; we, too, may be delivered from captivity and led into the promised land.

Contrarily, we may be hemmed in, enslaved by the inward Pharoah. Who is this Pharoah within, who will not let us go? He it is who would prevail; who would control and dominate; and who’d refuse to see what is, in truth, immediately before him.

To Moses, who saw his limitation and confessed his need for strength, God replied: “Certainly I will be with thee (12).” The power and wisdom of God, Christ the light within, visits, empowers, and sustains our lives indefinitely, eternally. Like a fire whose fuel is not consumed in burning is the life he brings to us: a life whose substance is not consumed in time, but is eternal.

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Enduring unto the End

If we died with him, we shall live with him; if we endure, we shall reign with him. If we deny him, he will deny us. If we are faithless, he keeps faith, for he cannot deny himself (2 Tim. 2:11-13).

These simple, beautiful lines are preceded by the Apostle’s guarantee: “Here are words you may trust.” It seems likely that he’s informing us that the words are inspired, and therefore trustworthy. In addition, the breadth and depth of understanding, expressed in so few words, is indicative of inspired authorship. So few words to speak of such a lengthy process, for the dying mentioned in the first line is slow and difficult, and, as a result, widely avoided. Nevertheless, the long inward process is laid out for us in the Scriptures’ apocalyptic passages; there we’re given words about what to expect: where we are going and Who will come to us in the end.

Each synoptic gospel contains an apocalyptic chapter; I prefer the one in the book of Mark because the language is concise, intense, and powerful. Chapter 13 begins with Jesus providing his disciples with an image and prediction of a destroyed temple. The disciples had been impressed with the buildings of their religion and said so, but Jesus tells them that “all will be thrown down”(2). Though he speaks of the culture’s dwelling space for God, he is referring to the inward dwelling place of our human spirits: our religious, philosophical, psychological, and cultural concepts in which we posit our understanding of self and world. These, Jesus says, will be thrown down.

Many of the chapter’s subsequent verses (7-20) describe destruction, turmoil, and distress: war, earthquakes, famine, betrayals, upheavals, family disruption, and fleeing one’s home and land. The significance of this imagery is two-fold: in one form or another, life’s distresses will be the lot of all; and secondly, this is not chosen but visited upon us, and endured. Personal trials are unique yet come universally to us all. It is as if Jesus, using poetic images, is giving an overview of life’s calamities, specific calamities that when conjointly listed imply the universality of loss and affliction. The line spoken by the Magi in Eliot’s poem summarizes it well: “A hard time we had of it” (“Journey of the Magi”).

This onslaught over time will, in truth, undermine confidence in all existential concepts, even those concepts of “self,” “God,” “love,” and “light.” All will be thrown down so that there’s not one stone left upon another to sustain one’s constructed image of life and self; this is one’s own personal inward suffering “such as never has been until now since the beginning of the world which God created”(20). Jesus tells us how we’re to handle it: we’re to endure to the end(13). To endure is to hold to the deep, wordless human insistence that truth must be honored, though it shakes to the ground every manmade notion of earth and heaven and leaves one feeling lost, without bearings. Such endurance during the temptation to despair is the material of Quaker journal writings and the experience of all true Christians.

Knowing the extreme suffering and despair of the inward process, the Cross within, Jesus warns us upfront to not be deceived and misled by those who come saying that they are the light of Christ:

Jesus began:”Take care that no one misleads you. Many will come claiming my name, and saying, ‘I am he’; and many will be misled by them”(5-6).

By making grand claims for themselves, such persons will mislead and foment a symbiotic relationship with any whose endurance has flagged and are ready to forfeit. A primary tactic of such is to manipulate by flattery, appealing to the ego of the willing victim by suggesting he’s already knowledgeable of God: in Paul’s words “saying that [his] resurrection has already taken place”(2 Tim. 2:18). Second, any check on this corrupt teaching will be denigrated as unworthy, thereby eliminating any standard for exposing the false gospel. The willing participant, in return, offers tribute in the form of loyalty and support, for he thinks himself released from his responsibility to endure, as Jesus has called him to do. This alliance upsets people’s faith, and so Jesus prominently places his warning against it at the start of his discourse. Early Friends admonished this dynamic when they saw it by recalling the prophet’s words: The priests bear rule by their means, and the people love to have it so.

The Son of man comes inwardly to those who “endure until to the end, [for] the same shall be saved”(13). Salvation is known by the inward coming of the Lord, “Then they will see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory”(26); his coming is known by the complete otherness of his person, for he is a person, neither solely a principle nor an essence. The coming of the Son of man is that which no person can effect by his own desire or aspiration or sacrifice; the coming of the Lord is out of our hands entirely, Jesus teaches. We do not know how to turn to the Son of man because we have no idea what he is inwardly, what to expect; his coming will not resemble in the slightest our human concepts of “light and love” or even our concepts of God. We know neither the substance nor the timing of this inward event: “But about that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, not even the Son; only the Father”(32). It is entirely other, for our deliverance is the prerogative of our Creator, not of our creaturely aspiration.

We can reject this ancient wisdom of our tradition but do so at our peril: “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away”(31). A faithless turn to idolatry only destroys one’s chances of salvation; it in no way impacts the soteriological structure by which we are called to abide: endurance in the truth until the end.

If we are faithless, he keeps faith, for he cannot deny himself (2 Tim. 2:13).

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Called to Christ

[The following is based upon vocal ministry given on 1 Tenth month 2017.]

In his Journal George Fox spoke of three kinds of dreams:

For there were three sorts of dreams: for multitude of business sometimes caused dreams; and there were whisperings of Satan in man in the night-season; and there were speakings of God to man in dreams (Journal, ed. Nickalls, 9).

In dreams we may learn something of ourselves that lies hidden during waking hours. The dream state allows access to a deeper awareness of who we are and what we think and feel. The self is not covered and veiled but revealed, and we can apply insights from dreams to better understand and improve our lives. We welcome this truth about ourselves and would like to always live with a deep awareness of truth, for there is freedom and comfort in it. Jesus said the truth makes us free, and he also said that the Comforter is the Spirit of truth. There is freedom and comfort in truth.

Fox also spoke of the two kinds of messages that the first Friends gave to people. To those who had not yet come into knowledge of God, Friends preached repentance. For repentance is an intentional uncovering of the truth about the self: what it is that must be seen and then laid down. In repentance, one chooses the light of truth over obscurity. The other kind of message that Friends preached was to those who had already gone through this coming into self-knowledge and had been given to see themselves as they were, without the Lord. They had been open to the truth of themselves, and had discovered that the truth that is Christ soon after was revealed in them. 

To the world the apostles preached repentance, and to believe in Jesus Christ; and taught faith towards God. But to them who were redeemed out of the world, in whom the son of God was made manifest…preaching repentance and the doctrine of baptism was needless, in whom it was fulfilled, to and in such as were brought to God (Works, 7:143).

They who saw themselves as they were without the Lord already knew the value of repentance, as it had led to their entry into the way, into the truth, and into the life that is Christ. They were free men and women who knew the Comforter, the Spirit of truth. To these people, Friends preached Christ in them, because they were folks who sought to hear Christ, the Word, preached: it brought them to the living God; it was their life. 

Fox writes: “There is a time of preaching faith towards God; and there is a time to be brought to God” (Ep. 151). Whether we are in need of repentance or whether we are in the life of Christ, we are all human beings and must move forward from the position we are in. For it is to Christ that we are called: Christ in us the hope of glory. 

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Reasons for the Peace Testimony

About a decade ago, I was curious about the reasons for the peace testimony and whether they had changed over time, and so I read a number of statements from different yearly meetings and other corporate bodies of Friends that had been written over the centuries. The list of excerpted reasons follows below.

This exercise came to mind when I read a Friend’s blog post titled “Why I am not a Progressive Quaker .” I shared this Friend’s dislike of “hyper-individualism which has led to the fragmentation of the Quaker tradition.” Having done this exercise, however, of listing different reasons for the peace testimony that had been given throughout Friends history, I placed the beginning of the problem of  loss of corporate unity further back in time than the heyday of Progressivism. Many of these excerpts from Friends corporate bodies–although still exhibiting group solidarity–put their reason for valuing peace elsewhere than a heeding of transcendent authority, that is to say, elsewhere than obedience to the living teacher of righteousness, Christ, which is the sine qua non of the original Quaker faith. This shift away from a hearing/obeying relationship with the Prince of Peace occurs long before the advent of individualism but, I think, led to it.

Tracking the motivation behind the peace witness, I saw that the loss of the transcendent basis of the faith could go unnoticed because, as many of these excerpts show, the secondary values of the faith tradition were still held, such as regard for Scripture, devotion to the historical Jesus as a model or example, or respect for Friends heritage. These secondary values motivated Friends to adhere to a peace witness; the original faith is given tribute but not manifested.

With the tradition’s loss of its transcendent reference, the move away from group solidarity into individualism would’ve been a natural sequence. After all, individual experience is real for everybody; thus–so the reasoning might go–everyone could be expected to agree to it as the ultimate authority.

Few of the excerpts below present the original basis of the peace witness that is evidenced in George Fox’s initial statement, which shows an immediate knowledge of the virtuous power lifting him out of the temptation to engage in war and strife. By contrast, many of the subsequent statements identify principles from Scriptures as the basis for rejecting war. Other excerpts show a peace witness based upon following Jesus’s commands as given in Scriptures, or following his example. For some, witness results from identification with  Friends of the past who were people of peace. Some find their witness validated by idealism, some pragmatic consideration, and some by sentiment.

I once asked an old Quaker minister whose life work had been the study of first- generation Friends when our Society had begun its spiritual decline. “Was it in the ’60s when so many peace activists came in; or earlier, in the nineteenth century with the Great Separation, or was it some other time?” I asked. Without missing a beat, he replied, “1691.”

Some Friends will know that 1691 was the year that Fox died. Now, we don’t have to harness our spiritual hopes to one dynamo of a human being, and Fox would be the first to say so. But we do need to find the spirit that enlivened Fox and gave rise to the Quaker movement and tradition.


Reasons for Peace Testimony, chronologically listed

1651 George Fox statement

  • I lived in the virtue of that life and power that took away the occasion of all wars…I was come into the covenant of peace which was before wars and strifes were.

1660 Peace Declaration

  • ‘He that taketh the sword shall perish with the sword.’
  • Christ’s kingdom is not of this world, therefore do not his servants fight, as he told Pilate…
  • The spirit of Christ, which leads us into all Truth, will never move us to fight and war against any man with outward weapons…
  • Because the kingdom of Christ God will exalt, according to the promise, and cause it to grow and flourish in righteousness.
  • By the Word of God’s power and its effectual operation in the hearts of men, the kingdoms of this world may become the kingdoms of the Lord…
  • Since we owned the truth of God; neither shall we ever do it, because it is contrary to the spirit of Christ, his doctrine, and the practice of his apostles…
  • [The] Lamb hath redeemed us from the unrighteous world, and we are not of it, but are heirs of a world in which there is no end and of a kingdom where no corruptible thing enters.


  •  Whoever can reconcile this, “Resist not evil,” with “Resist violence by force”…may be supposed also to have found a way to reconcile God with the Devil etc…. it is impossible.

Letter from London YM 1744

  •  We entreat all…to be faithful to that ancient testimony, borne by us ever since we were a people…
  • We may demonstrate ourselves to be real followers of the Messiah…

Issued by (?) YM 1804,1805 (Napoleonic Wars)

  •  transcendent excellency of peace
  • Some people then must begin to fulfil the evangelical promise, and cease to learn war any more.
  • While any of us are professing to scruple war, they may be…inconsistent with that [Gospel] profession!
  • We can serve our country…nor more acceptably to him [God]…than by contributing …to increase the number of meek, humble, and self-denying Christians.

Epistle Issued by (?) YM 1854 (Crimean War)

  •  War is incompatible with the plain precepts of our Divine Lord and Lawgiver, and with the whole spirit and tenor of His Gospel…
  • [It is]the paramount allegiance which they owe unto Him who hath said “Love your enemies.”
  • His peace…will be won by those who follow him in repentance and willingness to forgive.

Richmond Declaration of Faith 1887

  • All war is utterly incompatible with the plain precepts of our divine Lord and Law-giver, and the whole spirit of His Gospel.
  • [It is] the allegiance they owe to Him who hath said, “Love your enemies”
  • Exigencies of civil government and social order may be met under the banner of the Prince of Peace, in strict conformity with His commands

Statement by New Zealand YM 1987

  •  No end could ever justify such means.
  • Everyone needs [vision of peace] to survive and flourish on a healthy, abundant earth.
  • There is that of God in every one which makes each person too precious to damage or destroy.
  • While someone lives there is always the hope of reaching that of God within.
  • We would rather suffer and die than inflict evil in order to save ourselves and what we hold dear.
  • The insane stockpiling of nuclear weapons could…destroy everyone and everything we value.
  • What we advocate is not uniquely Quaker but human and, we believe, the will of God.
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Rediscovering the Teaching of George Fox: Introduction to “Restoring the Church of the Cross” (Eighth lecture)

The fellowship of the cross of Christ…is not of man, nor by man; for it is in the everlasting power of God; therefore, no longer do you keep in fellowship, but as you keep in the cross of Christ (Works, 8:67).

“Restoring the Church of the Cross” is the title of the eighth lecture in the series Rediscovering the Teaching of George Fox given by Lewis Benson in 1982 at Moorestown (N.J.) Meeting. In this lecture, Benson explores the meaning and relevance of these theological terms: the cross of Christ; the Church, as fellowship of the cross; the righteousness that is given through Christ, and defines the community; and the consequent suffering entailed in bearing witness to the Truth in a world devoid of understanding.

People gather and come together for many different reasons, but the Church, as George Fox averred, was a coming together and fellowship of people who knew—understood through experience—the cross of Christ, and kept to it. Since the days of the apostles, the knowledge of the cross as the defining characteristic of the faith community had been lost, said Fox. This loss was called “the apostasy.”

Here began the apostasy…when they…apostatized from the true cross, the power of God, and from the true church (4:171). 

It was Fox’s mission to bring people out of the apostasy, to gather a people to Christ by the power of the gospel. Benson writes:

[Fox’s] gospel message that “Christ has come to teach his people himself” is a call to people to become disciples of Christ, to be taught the principles of God’s righteousness by him, and to come into a fellowship that learns together, obeys together, and suffers together.

First Friends had discovered the one thing needful: the living purveyor of righteousness. Without the coming of Christ to teach his people his righteousness, no valid claim to righteousness could be–or can be–made: neither the Old Testament law in the apostles’ days; nor the Bible’s prescriptions in the seventeenth century; nor the testimonies and self-edification of our own times. Christ, the Lord of righteousness, “is not of man nor by man.” Nor is the fellowship of Christ determined by man’s rubrics.

He that is in Christ, is at the end of the law, and the precepts, and the statutes, and the ordinances, and the commandments, and is in the substance, God’s righteousness (3:270).

Suffering for bearing witness to the Truth that comes from God and Christ is a well-known part of Quaker history, and Benson spends much of the latter part of this lecture discussing what precipitates suffering and how suffering for righteousness of Christ is distinct from other kinds of suffering. He writes:

Thus Fox is teaching that suffering, in the Christian sense, is for the sake of bearing a faithful testimony to the Truth that comes from God and Christ, and especially for the righteousness that comes from God and Christ.

Ample supporting quotations in this and other lectures of this series may mislead readers into thinking that Benson’s work is primarily a scholarly endeavor. Although he does present modern Friends with information and analysis of our Society’s beginning, his intent is not confined to presenting his scholarship. Benson had undergone the inward dying to self that results from a keen drive to have something solid on which to stand as one assumes inward maturity, as well as gazes out and navigates life with all its pitfalls. Benson, as many others, had discovered the life that Fox, too, had discovered. For both men, the purpose and direction of the remainder of their lives was set: to communicate and to challenge lost and fearful humanity, floundering in apostasy, to once again come to the great discovery: Christ in whom there is “no shadow, variableness, nor turning” (7:295).


This lecture can be found at the New Foundation Fellowship website at, under the Resource tab under the listing of Lewis Benson’s writings: eighth lecture.

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