Looking At Quaker Pagans

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  April 28, 2008 — 1 Comment

Modern Reformation magazine profiles the growing movement of Quaker Pagans, and interviews Cat Chapin-Bishop of the Quaker Pagan Reflections blog.

“In the last decade, this dual faith has sprung up around the country, including Quaker-pagan gatherings, seminars, an extensive presence on the Internet, and even explicitly Quaker-pagan congregations. There may be only several hundred Quaker pagans, but among American Quakers, their presence can be distinctly felt.”

The article also speaks to Pagan-turned-Christian Carl McColman, and Stasa Morgan-Appel of the Musings of a Quaker Witch blog. The tone of religion journalist Matthew Streib seems to be intrigued but cautious, noting that the dwindling number of Quakers could receive an infusion of new blood from curious Pagans, but that the tradition (specifically the Friends General Conference) risks losing its focus on Christ (and thus its Christian identity).

“[Cat Chapin-Bishop] says many pagans find Quakerism attractive because it allows them to appear more mainstream. Still, she worries that if their commitment doesn’t deepen, that could weaken Quaker beliefs. “I see the pagan world waking up and saying, `Wow, there’s Quakers, and maybe we could be Quakers and pagans — cool!'” she said. ‘If it stays on that superficial level, that’s not good news, and threatens Quakerism with real dilution. But if there are some leadings and people … take in the wisdom that people have to teach us, then it’s a wonderful thing for both pagans and the Society of Friends.'”

Could the more liberal strains of Quakerism slowly evolve into a post-Christian faith? It isn’t an unheard-of event. Unitarian-Universalism, once two distinct liberal Christian traditions, has embraced a post-Christian identity and now happily includes a number of theological points of view (including Paganism) within its ranks. Whether these theological shifts are ultimately healthy is a topic that is still being debated, though even conservative Quakers are hesitant to take an action that would make Pagans feel unwelcome.

“Christ is not the sort of person who would drive people away — I don’t know that it’s our job to stop it … Our job is to seek to know the will of the living Christ and to obey it the best we can. When we humans try to fix one another, we just make things much, much worse.”

Whether its fate is to remains essentially Christian, or evolve into something else, the Religious Society of Friends will most likely avoid hostile cries of heresy and fights over blasphemy that would be greeted if this trend manifested in a more mainstream Christian church. Instead, the Quakers will most likely do what they have always done, listen in silence, and wait for the “leading of the spirit”.

Jason Pitzl-Waters