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Responding to Diversity Among Friends

Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC)

July, 2000

by Carl Williams There are approximately three hundred thousand Friends in the world, ranging from more than ninety-two thousand in Kenya to less than a dozen in Moscow. Within that number there are untold dimensions of diversity, covering small unimportant issues and huge theological gulfs. A diversity that includes broad differences in our understanding of God, cultural differences, and fundamental differences in our responses to the world. One of our greatest strengths has been to avoid a written creed that would make our understanding of God's love hard and formulated. One of our greatest challenges is the same lack of a creed which might serve to give us a common language to discuss and share our relationship with the Divine.

Friends World Committee for Consultation was established in 1937 to "to facilitate loving understanding of diversities among Friends while we discover together, with God's help, our common spiritual ground; and to facilitate full expression of Friends' testimonies in the world." FWCC is widely known for sponsoring world wide Triennials where representatives of the world community come together. The twentieth Triennial is in New Hampshire this summer.

The World Office in London maintains contact with the four Sections (Europe and Middle East Section, Section of the Americas, the Africa Section, and Asia-West Pacific Section), works in partnership with Britain Yearly Meeting's Quaker Peace & Service and the American Friends Service Committee as well as assumes responsibility for the work of the Quaker United Nations Offices in Geneva and New York. Isolated Friends and worship groups throughout the world are linked to the family of Friends through the International Membership program.

The Section of the America's goal is to bring "Friends together face-to-face and heart-to-heart across traditions and national borders" through promoting exchanges that "advance spiritual renewal and vitality within the Religious Society of Friends." Its goals include programs and structures to help Friends "listen respectfully to each other, thus getting to know each other on a deeper level and healing breaches between groups of Friends; clarify our own beliefs and experiences of God and articulate them to others honestly and lovingly; strengthen our faith in God and our understanding of Quaker heritage and practice; take back to our meetings and churches seeds of revitalization; and give full expression in the world to our faith and the testimonies that flow from it."

It's a daunting, but an exuberant, task. Both Isaiah and Edward Hicks presented visions of a God's kingdom on earth as a peaceable and contented one. Friends have always felt a call to bring that vision into reality. What better place to start than with ourselves?

All contents of this page -- Copyright 2000 Carl Williams, All Rights Reserved