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The Statement of Principles of Christian Law: A Quaker Perspective

  • Frank Cranmer (a1) (a2)

Abstract

An ecumenical group of experts in church law produced a Statement of Principles of Christian Law based on a comparative examination of the internal regulations of their respective churches. This article examines the detail of the Statement from the point of view of the regulations and practice of Quakers in Britain and concludes that, based as it is on a Trinitarian, sacramental view of ‘the Church’, while there is much in it with which Friends – and members of other non-sacramental, non-hierarchical denominations – would agree, there is also much which has little resonance for them.

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Copyright

Footnotes

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1

Thanks are due to Michael Booth, Church Government Advisor at Friends House, for his helpful comments on a draft – but that in no way represents any kind of nihil obstat, still less an imprimatur.

Footnotes

References

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2 Hill, M and Doe, N, ‘Principles of Christian law’, (2017) 19 Ecc LJ 138155.

3 Which until 1995 was known as London Yearly Meeting.

4 In the United States, for example, there is a division between those whose practice resembles that of British Quakers and more Bible-based groups. In 1828–1829 American evangelicals who wanted to adopt a statement of faith split from liberals who did not: Livingstone, E (ed), Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (third edition, Oxford, 1997), p 766. American ‘Orthodox’, ‘Conservative’ or ‘Evangelical’ Friends hold to the priesthood of all believers but take a high view of Scripture, employ stipendiary pastors and hold liturgical services with readings, hymns and sermons – known as ‘programmed worship’. Some of the most conservative even persist in using ‘thee’ as a nominative. In the US, liberal Friends are in the minority.

5 Bradney, A and Cownie, F (2000), Living Without Law: an ethnography of Quaker decision-making, dispute avoidance and dispute resolution (Aldershot, 2000), p 137.

6 They used to be called ‘Monthly Meetings’.

7 In which context, it should be noted that activities such as prison ministry, hospital chaplaincy, the arrangement of funerals, and chaplaincy in institutions of further and higher education are often undertaken by laypeople even in churches with a separate class of clergy.

8 Quaker Faith & Practice (fifth edition), 2.88 (hereafter QFP).

9 Available at <http://www.qhpress.org/texts/balby.html>, accessed 2 June 2018.

10 Canons and Institutions drawn up and agreed upon by the General Assembly or Meeting of the heads of the Quakers from all parts of the kingdom at their New-Theatre in Grace-church-street in or about January 1668/9; George Fox being their president (London, 1669).

11 Hamm, T, ‘The best written code: a brief history of Quaker books of faith and practice’, (2013) 59 Friends Journal 1013 at 11.

12 Largely a series of questions commended as an aid to self-examination ‘for the comfort and discomfort of Friends’ (QFP, 1.01).

13 Other Yearly Meetings have similar handbooks: see, for example, Philadelphia YM's Faith and Practice (revised 1997) and New York YM's Faith and Practice (revised 1998).

14 The updated text is available online at <http://qfp.quaker.org.uk>, accessed 2 June 2018.

15 QFP, 11.01.7, emphasis added.

16 Britain Yearly Meeting, From Friends, with Love: book 2 1998–2000 (London, 2002), p. 51.

17 For British Quakers, ‘birthright’ membership ended in 1959.

18 QFP, 12.11; for the detailed responsibilities of eldership, see 12.12.

19 QFP, 12.07.

20 The de facto executive of BYM which acts on its behalf when BYM is not in session: it has about 200 members who meet five times a year. It began in 1675, at a time when Quakers were frequently imprisoned for their faith: initially to obtain redress in particular ‘Cases of Suffering’: see QFP, ch 7.

21 QFP, 12.22–12.25.

22 QFP, 12.26.

23 For the duties and role of clerks, see QFP, 3.13-3.20.

24 QFP, 4.25.

25 QFP, 4.26.

26 For the detail, see the Meeting for Sufferings Calling Letter and Agenda, 23 March 2018, MfS 2018 04 06, available at <https://quaker-prod.s3.eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/store/86eed27800f23b822af5151201f859617da531916f4dafc20ae3baf4625d>, accessed 3 June 2018.

27 Though if someone ministers at excessive length or makes statements that appear unQuakerly, that person might be reproved – quietly and very gently – by one of the elders after the meeting has ended. That said, I have never known it happen, nor, when I was an elder, did I ever do such a thing myself.

28 See, eg, Boulton, D (ed), Godless for God's Sake: nontheism in contemporary Quakerism (Dent, Cumbria, 2006).

29 See, eg, Pym, J, Listening to the Light: how to bring Quaker simplicity and integrity into our lives (London, 1999).

30 Perhaps the best known is the Revd Canon Paul Oestreicher, an Anglican priest who from 2004 to 2009 was also honorary Quaker chaplain to the University of Sussex.

31 But not in Scotland, where there is no system of registration.

32 Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints v United Kingdom App no 7552/09 (ECtHR 4 March 2014).

33 R v Registrar General ex p Segerdal & Anor [1970] 3 All ER; R (Hodkin & Anor) v Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages [2013] UKSC 77.

34 See, eg, Cocks v Manners (1871) LR 12 Eq 574 and Gilmour v Coats [1949] AC 426, both of which held that a bequest to an enclosed religious order was not for the public benefit and therefore not charitable.

35 For the procedure, see QFP, 11.04–11.12.

36 See, eg, the ‘Testimony concerning Christopher Story (1648–1720)’: ‘He suffered imprisonment and spoiling of goods with much patience, which proved to be his lot pretty early, by wicked men who became informers, seeking his ruin, with many others; yet the Lord preserved him in faithfulness, and brought him clean through all these exercises’ (QFP, 18.04).

37 QFP, 29.10.

38 The position is entirely different in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

39 L Ondrasek, ‘Slovakia's new religious registration law is a step in the wrong direction’, Providence: A Journal of Christianity & American Foreign Policy, 1 March 2017, available at <https://providencemag.com/2017/03/slovakias-new-religious-registration-law-step-wrong-direction/>, accessed 2 June 2018.

40 Most recently on this point, see Bektashi Community and Others v ‘The former Yugoslav Republic of

Macedonia’ App nos 48044/10, 75722/12 and 25176/13 (ECtHR 12 April 2018).

41 Bingham, T (Lord Bingham of Cornhill), ‘Endowed by their creator?’, (2005) 8 Ecc LJ 173185.

42 QFP, 24.04.

43 See Miller v Secretary of State for Home Affairs [2004] UKEAT 00926/03/0405.

44 For the current position, see QCCIR, A Spirit-led Church: a response from the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain to World Council of Churches Faith and Order Paper No 214, The Church, towards a common vision, Geneva 2013 (London, 2016).

45 QFP, 9.13.

46 B Pink Dandelion, The Changing Face of Faith in Britain: how should Quakers respond? Part 3: charting Quaker ecumenical and interfaith involvement (London, n.d.), p 6, available at <https://quaker-prod.s3.eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/store/d0715f67729cf8b51188954f10b4957036d8de73ef38758a854e9c18bfed>, accessed 7 June 2018.

47 Si nos servaremus in necessariis unitatem, in non necessariis libertatem, in utrisque caritatem’ (Meiderlin, P, Paraenesis votiva per Pace Ecclesia ad Theologos Augustana Confessionis auctore Ruperto Meldenio Theologo (Rottenburg, 1626)).

1 Thanks are due to Michael Booth, Church Government Advisor at Friends House, for his helpful comments on a draft – but that in no way represents any kind of nihil obstat, still less an imprimatur.

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