Saturday, September 14, 2013

Quoting from Facebook

[In the original FaceBook version, comments by others are interleaved.  NPYM = North Pacific Yearly Meeting.  I am discussing a public document available at that Meeting's website. I've added some hyperlinks, refactored the paragraphs ]

Interesting the NPYM draft Faith and Practice already has renamed Oversight Committee to Pastoral Care Committee. This despite the fact that the largest meeting in the region has not switched to that nomenclature and some actively oppose such a name change.

In the old days, Faith and Practice was descriptive more than prescriptive (said what we did do, not what we "should" do per somebody's blueprint). Clearly there's an attempt at top-down management here, such as we've not seen hitherto?

For me it's about grass roots versus top-down. If individual meetings want to adopt a name change and go with Pastoral Care over Oversight, then F&P should reflect these choices. At the moment though, the meetings I'm aware of in the NPYM region are all using the traditional terminology. This new draft language is very out of step with the standard practice of its people. That's what seems surprising. I don't see it as splintering for some meetings to use different terms. I just don't think we're at a point where such grass roots choices should be codified at the NPYM level. Most of us say "Oversight" and don't assume there's a problem in saying that.

The paragraph I shared around Oversight before sending it off (not presuming to speak for anyone but me -- but it had come up as an agenda item to discuss NPYM's draft): "AFAIK, MMM has no plans to change the name of Oversight Committee to Pastoral Care Committee. I know there's a minority that wants to do that but without real discussion in Business Meeting I'd say F&P has gone beyond its light in making that name change for our region and/or meeting." (AFAIK = "as far as I know").

To me, advocating we drop "Oversight" in favor of "Pastoral Care" is like saying we should stop saying "master / slave" when talking about disk drives, or that tool users should stop asking "male or female?" when wanting to know if it plugs in, or accepts a plug. Bending over backwards to be inoffensive too often means pabulum in place of edginess.

Quakers have diluted their language sufficiently. Loss of "Oversight" looks more like self-evisceration, Hara-kiri.

To "oversee" means to have the big picture view.

"Pastoral" reduces people to seeing themselves as sheep, as a "flock" of bleating brainless (sorry sheep), needing to be led.

Why is that vocabulary less offensive than empowering Friends to be "overseers". Better to have "overseers" (a rotating position) than docile sheep expecting to be patronized by all-knowing (better qualified) "pastors" (ala the religion we divorced from, quite awhile back, no regrets -- or are we hankering for a caste of professional theologians -- clerics -- again?).

I go off Oversight / MMM in 2014 at which time I predict the clerk (continuing) will be expected to push through the name change, neatly dovetailing with Discipline Committee's plans to move us into a more mainstream churchy vein, more like "other Protestants".

Once MMM falls to Pastoral Christian Friends, it will be easier for them to take the Valley.

It's definitely a shift to the right from the point of view of ye old College Park Beanites and their liberal ways. Adopting mainstream churchy language helps consolidate a more "ecumenical" Christianity with less dissent (less outward divergence at the level of theology).

I propose to fight back by referring to churches as "steeple houses" once again (unless they really don't have steeples -- I pay attention to architecture).

I also support the narrative that some Quakers are "forking off" from Christianity, meaning a meeting may well stay a Friends Meeting without identifying as Christian, and indeed some meetings may publicly not want that "Christian" affiliation / moniker / brand for themselves (which doesn't mean they can't or won't study the Bible; no books are banned).