Cat Chapin-Bishop: Open Letter to My Christian Quaker Friends

On Quaker Pagan Reflections, my dear F/friend Cat has posted a two-part open letter which poses questions and challenges for those of us who seek to transcend the illusory boundaries between Christian and non-Christian Quakers.

In Part 1 (also republished on Quaker Universalist Conversations, the blog of the Quaker Universalist Fellowship), Cat writes about becoming a convinced Friend while remaining “loyal to and part of the Pagan community that formed for me a soul capable of hearing a spiritual call….”

Cat invites Christian and non-Christian Friends alike to trust that “the Spirit is a magnificent translator. To those of us who are…staying low and open, also being courageous and present, She will grant the ability to ‘listen in tongues‘.”

What is required is to stay low to the Truth, not to hide it or apologize for it…. Do not share one syllable more of your Scriptures than the “Spirit that gave them forth” is speaking in you—but equally, do not share one syllable less.

When speaking from Spirit, use whatever language That Spirit lends you—and if that involves quoting from the Bible, speaking of your experiences of Christ, or sharing any other words that may be uncomfortable, for me or for you, do it! Do not be “nice” to anyone: be bold!

But do not speak beyond what is given you to say: be low.  Only be faithful in your speaking.

It’s not enough to speak your truth, as you experienced it once, years ago.  You must speak from love, in the present moment, and from Spirit, also in the present moment.

In Part 2 (also republished on Quaker Universalist Conversations), Cat voices a different challenge, one which calls for greater self-awareness on the part of all Friends who wish to be advocates for others.

I am beginning to suspect that we Quakers have a disturbing tendency to objectify, through our pity or our zeal, those we want to feel ourselves to be “helping.” I think I’ve seen us do it to our youth; I think I’ve seen us do it around race; I think I’ve seen us do it around social class, educational background, and mental health.

Somehow, deep down, many of us with privilege begin to think of ourselves as saviors, and to see those with less privilege as Others, as objects, as charity cases….

[While] it is indeed good to speak out against injustice, we need to do so with some humility.  Listen before you speak on the concerns of others.  Is it Spirit’s yearning for justice that’s driving you to your feet, or your ego’s yearning for importance?

If it’s the first, rise up!  If the second… hang back.  Wait and see if there’s a better leading about to break in.

Be bold but low; it turns out to be a theme.


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