A year ago I had the opportunity to see for myself the difference a Quaker witness can make in the West Bank of Palestine. My going itself was a surprise. Over the years as Di and I had opportunities to visit the “Holy Land,” I had been reluctant. Most official tours even when led by qualified guides did not seem designed to address the pain in the region. I feared being frustrated more than being inspired by visiting historical Biblical sites without serious reference to their contemporary relevance. I was, however, very interested in the Middle East and soon after we came to Newberg became a member of our Quaker Middle East Committee. Still I had little interest in visiting our ministry there. Besides I had just been diagnosed with prostate cancer with surgery scheduled in a few weeks. Continue reading
I was raised in a devout but non-Quaker Christian home and served for 33 years in Reformed Christian colleges and churches before retiring in Newberg, Oregon. What initially drew my wife and me to Newberg was the peace testimony of Quakers, having become a conscientious objector while serving as an Intelligence Officer in Viet Nam. I soon learned there was much more to the Quaker tradition, including a distinctive discernment process.
For years “discernment”—knowing what is the true or the right thing to do or believe —deeply frustrated George Fox. When the resurrected Jesus spoke to him, guidance came, followed by confidence and courage. From these 17th century roots has come an approach to decision-making both simple and profound, as well as controversial. And most importantly, it was never meant to be kept as an exclusive Quaker practice.
During our first years in Newberg I was able to attend two Quaker Discernment institutes. In each one week session there were folks from a variety of denominations and parts of the country. Somehow word had spread that there was something uniquely effective about how Quakers decide things. I came with some uncertainty. I had heard Quakers often held “clearness committees” to decide whether a particular couple should get married or make some other major decision. As a chronically analytical person sometimes paralyzed by decision making, I was intrigued. Continue reading