Public Ministry among Friends

Some Private Thoughts

All rights reserved for Canadian Yearly Meeting and the author

Johan Maurer

Sunderland P. Gardiner Lecture, Canadian Yearly Meeting 2000

When I was first asked to give the Sunderland P. Gardiner lecture for the year 2000, the suggestion was made that I try to help Canadian Friends understand pastoral Quakerism.  Little did I know at the time that, by the time I was to give this lecture, I would myself be in the pastoral ministry!  My service on the ministry team at Reedwood Friends Church in Portland, Oregon, USA, begins in the same month as this lecture. 

I first became involved with Friends as a university student in Ottawa in August 1974.  Although I was baptized in a Lutheran church as an infant in Oslo, Norway, my parents had no involvement at all in organized religion.  The Ottawa Meeting was really my first spiritual home.

Although the experience that led me to Friends was a Christian conversion that was based on Bible reading and personal prayer, I know that there were some reasons that I entered religious community specifically through the Quaker door.  One of these reasons was our stand against making a trade or a show out of religion.  Friends did not give certain people a special status of being more holy or spiritually accomplished than others, nor did Friends grant certain people a license to make a living from their Quaker faith and practice.  So it seemed to me at the time, and this was part of the enthusiasm with which I plunged into the Quaker world.  These and other testimonies of Friends allowed me to become an active member of the Body of Christ, and to seek passionately for further Christian experience in the Bible, in prayer and in worship, without denying the serious doubts about the religion industry which I had inherited from my agnostic parents.  Strangely enough, my enthusiasm and gratitude for Friends has led to my serving Friends for pay for 21 of the 26 years I’ve been a Friend, including the brief period I served as resident Friend in the Ottawa meetinghouse and business manager of The Canadian Friend.

This lecture, well-timed as it is in ways I would never have guessed when it was proposed, gives me a chance to think through what public ministry means for Friends, what special insights Friends might have for public ministry, in particular pastoral ministry, and which of our traditional cautions against “hireling priests” might remain valid for us today.  I’m basing this lecture on visits among over 300 Friends meetings over the last 26 years, and in particular over the last seventeen, as I have been engaged in the traveling ministry as part of my service with Friends World Committee for Consultation and Friends United Meeting.  I’m also operating from my own personal interpretation of who Friends are, not any group’s official formulation, which is why I call this lecture “Some Private Thoughts.”               

I will start out my thoughts by proposing some definitions and distinctions, starting with the word “ministry,” both in its positive sense and in the more corrupted forms criticized by early Friends. Then I will explore public ministry as Friends have practiced it, including the ways Friends have recognized ministers, especially pastoral ministers.  I will examine Robert Barclay’s cautions against priesthoods and clergy, to see whether Friends have avoided the pitfalls he identified.  (My own attitude will not be secret: Although there is always a risk in making distinctions among types of ministry and levels of visibility, public ministry, including pastoral ministry, plays a vital role among Friends.)  Finally, I will sketch out my vision of how pastoral and nonpastoral Friends can work more closely together, especially in the creation of new meetings. 

The word “ministry,” as a New Testament word, is usually thought of as a translation of the Greek word “diakonia” which simply means “service.”  In other words, in the thinking of the early church, ministry is service.  It is often divided into the service of the Word, or teaching and preaching, and the service of pastoral care, or eldership, but it is not clear from the New Testament that these distinctions were intended to become rigid and hardened into official roles.  Nowhere is it even hinted that there would be special status or power beyond the power of honest persuasion involved with ministry.  The model, at least in terms of attitude, is Jesus, who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45) and who said, “whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant...” (Mark 10:43) and “I have been with you as a servant” (Luke 22:27).  Friends use the word “ministry” in this egalitarian and inclusive sense and refuse to limit it to what clerical people do.   Some Friends use it as shorthand for “vocal ministry” during unprogrammed worship.  Other Friends simply avoid the word altogether; for them it simply has too many clerical or priestly assumptions. 

Many Friends in the unprogrammed and nonpastoral Quaker world, and that includes present-day Canadian Yearly Meeting, probably think of George Fox’s denunciations of “hireling ministers” when they hear about paid pastorates among Friends.  By this term “hireling ministry” I refer to those pejorative references by early Friends to religious leaders who preach and counsel primarily for money.  I doubt there was ever a time in Christian history when such hirelings were all you could find among Christian leaders.  Nevertheless, Friends arose during a time when many ministry positions were little more than patronage appointments obtained as political favors, or a career option for those who could not succeed in the family business or in farming or the military.  Furthermore, during this period of British history, the fate of individual ministers was often caught up in the national political battles between moderate and High-Church Anglicans, Presbyterians, Independents, and the perceived menace of Roman Catholicism.

The cynicism implied in the term “hireling minister” was not surprising in view of the desperate state of church affairs in England in the mid-1600's, as exemplified by George Fox’s own encounters with ministers during his period of intense, agonized search for truth.  “And I went to many a priest to look for comfort but found no comfort from them,” he says concerning those times.  He had long private conversations with his own hometown priest, then found that that priest was using George’s thoughts as sermon material, which certainly irritated George.  Another priest in whom he confided told others what he had said in confidence.  Still, he persisted in trying to find someone among those with “reputation” to help him in his search; this one turned out to be hollow, and that one raged at George for accidentally stepping into a flowerbed.  No wonder George had the insight that going to the right school did not fit one to be a priest.  “And I saw that being bred at Oxford or Cambridge did not qualify or fit a man to be a minister of Christ; and what then should I follow such for?  So neither them nor any of the Dissenting people could I join with, but was as a stranger to all, relying wholly upon the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1647, Journal, Rufus Jones, ed., Richmond, Indiana: Friends United Press, 1976, pages 71-76.) 

Back to the definitions.  I’m using the phrase “public ministry” to refer to those expressions of Friends faith and practice which are intended to be offered regularly to groups inside the Friends community or out in the larger world.  This includes pastoral ministry, as I’ll elaborate later, but also includes the traveling ministry, administrative leadership in Friends organizations, the ministry of writing, and other forms of public service undertaken in the name of Friends and with an accountability to Friends.

“Pastoral ministry” involves certain functions of leadership in the local meeting, often (but not always) assigned to a Friend with the title of pastor or pastoral minister.  Among these functions often are administration or coordination of the meeting’s public ministries, preaching, leading the meeting for worship, some aspect of religious education, and being a public spokesperson for the meeting.  The title “pastoral minister” is intended to imply that there are other ministers and ministries also operating in the meeting.  Some meetings use the words “pastor” and “minister” interchangeably, but the word “pastor” really refers to only a subset of ministries and services. 

 In many yearly meetings, Friends recognize and, in a sense, authorize “public ministry” in their name  by observing those among them who have gifts in the ministry which seem useful to the teaching and proclamation and pastoral functions of the meeting, and “recording” in their minutes the name of the minister, after a certain process of prayer and evaluation.  In some yearly meetings, the recording of ministers takes place at the monthly meeting level, while in others, such as my own Indiana Yearly Meeting, this is done at the yearly meeting level.  In either case, the recording body is in essence telling the wider Friends world and the world in general, “We have observed gifts of ministry in this person, and are willing to vouch that he or she speaks the Friends message reliably.” 

The recording of ministers was discontinued in 1924 in London Yearly Meeting (minute 32) after careful consultation throughout the constituency revealed that there was a lack of uniformity in the recording process, a decrease in the frequency of recording, a disinclination to be recorded on the part of some Friends to whom it had been proposed, and a general worry that the recognition of some ministers would lead to a decreased sense of responsibility for ministry on the part of others.  Without being able to back it up with evidence, I suspect that there were other factors also operating: Improved communications made it easier for local Friends to know informally who was considered acceptable as a visiting minister, decreasing the importance of credentials; and a decreasing involvement in missions and evangelism also made the recognition of public gifts less important.

In many other predominantly unprogrammed yearly meetings, recording of gifts in the ministry has also been discontinued either formally or through disuse.  In some places it is seen as an oddity, a historical relic which might be exploited pragmatically to provide, for example, credentials for prison ministry or (in the case of USA yearly meetings) to provide credentials for visitations to Cuba.  In the case of predominantly pastoral yearly meetings, the situation is much more complicated; recording has tended to become part of a sort of certification process for pastors, despite efforts to preserve the original intent to recognize gifts in public ministry whether or not a specific public role was also contemplated.  In all fairness, it has seemed to me that most Friends pastors become pastors first and only then get recorded, but still the linkage between recording and pastoring has tended to obscure the original purpose.  Probably most pastoral yearly meetings do record a minority of public ministers who are not in pastoral service.  In my own case, I was recorded as a minister by Indiana Yearly Meeting during my service with Friends World Committee for Consultation.  The monthly and yearly meeting committees dealing with my recording were fully aware that I didn’t see myself on a path to eventual pastoral service; I had the impression that they were consciously dealing with a sort of exceptional case but felt that the recording was right.  That same year they also recorded a college president as well as two pastors. 

There are other ways of recognizing gifts of ministry.  For specific occasions, many Friends meetings are willing to write a letter of introduction or a minute for service.  The first time I went to Russia on behalf of Friends United Meeting, my monthly meeting gave me a minute for service, which was approved by the Yearly Meeting as well.  During the civil war in Nicaragua, another Friend in Indiana Yearly Meeting went to Nicaragua with Witness for Peace; he also requested and was given a minute for service by his monthly meeting and the Yearly Meeting.  I know that this practice was alive and well during my years in Canadian Yearly Meeting and I hope it still is. 

“Spiritual gifts” is another concept worth defining.  All Friends ministry, whether public or not, is ideally an expression of the spiritual gifts of individual Friends.  The New Testament concept of spiritual gifts is central to Quaker ministry.  By emphasizing ministry based on spiritual gifts rather than on social status, gender, age or other extrabiblical criteria, Friends return to the Spirit-based community ideal of the early Church before the development of a leadership class among Christians.  Briefly, spiritual gifts are abilities or capacities which everyone has and which equip us to participate in a spiritual community.  In his New Testament letters, Paul lists these gifts in several places (particularly Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:4-31, and Ephesians 4:7-13).  These lists of gifts are not rigid and consistent; sometimes Paul names roles and sometimes he names qualities.  The lists include the roles of apostle (by which I understand leadership which goes beyond the local fellowship), prophet, pastor, evangelist, teacher, contributor, healer, and administrator.  The lists also include unusual capacity for service, mercy, prayer,  miracles, spiritual discernment, speaking in tongues (that is, in a language not our own or in what some call a “prayer language”), interpretation of tongues, celibacy, martyrdom.  The abilities implied by these gifts overlap somewhat and are certainly not distributed exactly one per person

Some writers go to great lengths to distinguish spiritual gifts from natural abilities, but I don’t understand that distinction, since our “natural abilities” are also God-given.  What makes these abilities “spiritual gifts” is their usefulness in equipping us for spiritual community, for working together to be more faithful to God and each other.  Athletic ability or a beautiful voice may be equally God-given, but may not be as directly related to mutually accountable living.  Paul makes at least two things clear about all of these gifts: First, they are for the building up of the church, and second, that love is over all of them and there is no other hierarchy among them. 

The concept of spiritual gifts ties in very closely with Quaker church government.  My operating definition of Friends is that Friends are people who want to live as closely as possible to Jesus, the leader of the church, and who organize themselves to live in this way and to help each other live in this way, including its ethical consequences.  The purpose of church is none other than to experience this intimacy with God and each other and to provide each other support along the way.  Our spiritual gifts are the ways we support each other to live together, to remain faithful to God, to restore each other when we slip, and to maintain a faithful witness to the larger world.                                                                                                                             

An increasingly popular and important way of recognizing gifts in the ministry is through the various spiritual gifts discovery programs.  They usually involve some instrument, some set of queries, by which the participant is helped to discover what his or her spiritual gifts are.  One such set of queries is included in the Friends United Meeting membership curriculum, On Becoming a Friend, by Patricia Edwards Konic (Richmond, Indiana: Friends United Press, 1998).  When these exercises are done in a group, the confirmation of others in the group is very helpful.  My wife Judy and I first experienced this process in 1982 in a First-day School class retreat led by Jan Wood, founder of Good News Associates in Seattle, Washington, who was at the time a pastor in Indiana Yearly Meeting.  Jan used an instrument developed at Fuller Seminary, and helped us through the references which seemed alien to Friends.  The questionnaire seemed to reveal that one of the women in our group had the gift of prophecy.  We all affirmed this, having experienced more than once her getting up in meeting for business and raising awkward issues which others would have preferred to avoid.  Jan noted that prophets often do have a hard time, and need to be in partnerships with others who can help discern what is prophecy and what is irritability, and help strategize the best way to get the genuine stuff heard.  As we sat through this discussion, I began to get a new peek at how spiritual gifts relate practically to the way we live together in meeting. 

At the end of this retreat, Jan challenged us to take the logical but revolutionary next step: to get our meeting to relate the gifts-discovery process to the nominations process.  As in many other meetings, our nominating committee worked by a combination of worldly logic (if a person was involved with finances in their job, they would be a natural for the finance committee; if you’re a teacher or have children, you belong on Christian Education) and open calls (sometimes fairly desperate calls!) for volunteers.  The panel of monthly meeting committees – five or six members for each of three years for each committee – seemed very rigid, but was designed to be an improvement over the old days, when committees were too often self-perpetuating and exclusive.  However, our particular meeting’s committee list had more slots than active members of the meeting.  It had been developed when our meeting had more than three times the number of members it had in 1982.   Our challenge was to ask the meeting to consider the whole nominating process in a completely new way – starting with spiritual gifts discovery for the whole meeting, with the results going to the Nominating Committee, who would presumably make selections based on those gifts and with less regard for uniformity of size of meetings.  The transformation was never perfect – for one thing, too few of us took the step of learning our spiritual gifts – but our nominating committee has kept some of the spirit of Jan’s recommendations ever since. 

Earlier, I said that the concept of spiritual gifts is closely related to Friends’ concept of the purpose of the church.  Jan Wood used to say that every healthy congregation has the spiritual gifts it needs among its members.  However, it’s been my observation that often those gifts are not recognized and consequently not empowered.  If nobody expects the gift of healing to be operative, or is even aware of the existence of such a gift, there may be people in the meeting with that gift, suffering quietly from the ache of unfulfillment.  The gift of evangelism, which is a gift I identify with, is another example of an under-recognized gift among Friends.  One person with that gift came into one of the meetings I’ve been involved with, and said he wanted to be involved in visiting neighbors to tell them about our faith.  He was told that he would probably be happier in another meeting where that sort of thing is done.  Years later, with a little more experience with spiritual gifts, my reluctant meeting was far more prepared to recognize and authorize the evangelists among them.  I felt fortunate that my gift was confirmed by Ottawa Meeting even though there we didn’t speak the language of spiritual gifts in the mid-1970's.  When the meeting started an outreach committee, I was put on it, and had my first experiences of the joy and challenges of trying to tell the Carleton University community of the spiritual treasure awaiting them at 91-1/2 Fourth Avenue.          

There are some gifts of the Spirit which have, shall we say, a special reputation, in particular the gift of tongues.  Although I’m open to that gift existing, I’m also mindful of both Jesus’s and Paul’s cautions against religious exhibitionism.  I should explain that when I first attended Friends meetings in Ottawa, the meetinghouse was also used by a charismatic group, Maranatha Outreach, with which my relatives in Manotick, Ontario, were involved.  I had already attended several of their prayer meetings and was familiar with speaking in tongues, and had already associated it in my own mind, probably unfairly, with a culture of compulsory cheerfulness and a heavy expectation that you had to exhibit the right behaviors to be seen as a spiritual equal.  To me, the existence of these more dramatic spiritual gifts is a humbling reminder that our self-control and dignity are less important to God than our faithfulness, and so we need to keep a place for extraordinary freedom and mystery in our meetings for worship.  The Holy Spirit cannot be bound by our intellectualism and our distilled Quaker folkways.  Having said that, I’m glad that we Friends do not feel pressure to exhibit any particular sort of dramatic behavior to be acceptable to each other. 

The use of spiritual gifts discovery programs is different from the recording process in an important way: it is designed to reveal everyone’s gifts, not just gifts of public ministry.  It is an important reinforcement of the universality and equality of spiritual gifts.  In a way, the reporting of gifts discovery processes to the nominating committee is another sort of recording of gifts.  However, I would argue that there is still a place for the public recognition of gifts in public ministry for several reasons: 

1) The public minister, through expression or behavior, is calling for the attention of the whole meeting, or of Friends in other meetings.  He or she is alleging that this expression is a consequence of divine gifting or divine leading.  (If this gift is fresh and emerging, he or she may not actually be alleging this, but asking “What is happening to me?” and needing the discernment of the group.)  Nowadays we don’t talk much about the “good name” of Friends anymore, but in earlier times there would have been the dimension of reputation: By “going public,” a minister exposes the whole Quaker community to the judgment of the larger surrounding community; is he or she speaking or acting with a reliable consistency to our faith and practice?   In any case, this call for attention needs to be considered and held accountable by the minister’s community.  At its most basic, “recording” is simply the minuting of the results of such consideration. 

2) Beyond attention, the public minister may be making a claim on the resources of other Friends.  The most obvious example might be the pastoral ministry, where Friends will be expected to contribute to a salary for the minister.  Traveling in the ministry also involves expenses.  One Friend I know cleans homes for a living, but also has a definite ministry of visitation overseas.  In order to allow her to carry out this ministry, we have to cover not only her travel costs, but also compensate her at least in part for the income she loses when she is not cleaning homes.  A number of yearly meetings and local meetings contribute toward her expenses, knowing that her gift and the consequent expenses are valid. 

3) Effective, persuasive public ministry has a kind of power.  As Paul Lacey of Earlham College has pointed out, Friends are not always honest in dealing with power; we often prefer to think it doesn’t exist or that we don’t have power relationships among us.  But when we don’t deal with power openly, it will move among us in secret, unacknowledged ways.  When power is not openly structured and shared, then we too often end up empowering those among us who are most manipulative or who most effectively hide their persuasive abilities under a cloak of appropriate Quaker modesty.  When a person speaks or acts with genuine power and authority among us, I believe it is good to acknowledge this openly, and at the same time place ourselves in a position to guide and discipline such Friends when they seem to be operating unhelpfully.  A frequent unintended consequence of not engaging in an open process of guidance and affirmation and encouragement with our public ministers is that they leave Friends for another religious fellowship which understands better than we do the importance of leadership.  Some of them probably were not ever going to understand Friends’ philosophy of governance based on group discernment, but others were put off by the inability of their constituencies to endure even healthy, honest leadership. 

Throughout all of these preceding comments there is a running dilemma – how do we relate the person to the gifts?  To put it another way, how do we encourage the individual to know his or her spiritual giftedness without running into the danger of exalting the individual over the group, or implying a hierarchy?  In my experience, there is a genuine dilemma here and also a false dilemma, and we need to address both. 

The genuine dilemma is reflected in the ambiguous language of the recording process: Do we record ministers or do we record gifts in the ministry?  I know the standard pious answer: We record gifts in the ministry, not people.  But we really cannot detach people from their gifts.  Sometimes we Friends just need to get real!  My recording certificate says that I am recorded as a minister of the Gospel – it is not some disembodied phenomenon that was recorded, but the whole person who is hopefully giving expression to one or more gifts in public ministry.  One of the recorded ministers in Indiana Yearly Meeting who was always an inspiration to me was Bartram Shields.  After an education in theology and, among other things, automotive engineering, he became a Friends pastor and was recorded in 1944.  Having taught with him in the joint recording school of Indiana, Western and Wilmington Yearly Meetings, I imaging his gift of teaching was part of why he was recorded, but my memory of him is of a man who simply shone with love.  There was such a direct link between his faith and his behavior.  Having been convinced at an early age, through the ministry of such people as Kirby Page and Raymond Wilson, of the pacifist position, he counseled generations of young people on the rights of conscientious objectors.  After he retired from pastoral ministry, he and his wife Sara took the house that their children had built for them near Traverse City, Michigan, and used it as a retreat center for many Christian groups.  He had a passion for chess, and eventually had a ministry of teaching chess in nine elementary schools.  He was particularly pleased to be teaching and playing chess with many children who did not come from socioeconomic backgrounds where chess was a big feature of family life.  I remember the warmth and tenderness with which he taught my own son Luke how to play chess.  All of that was wrapped up in Bart the recorded minister, not one or two neatly categorized gifts.  But the recognition of those gifts placed Bart in a definite relationship of accountability with his monthly and yearly meeting.  He was responsible to be in fact, not just on record, a public minister, accountable for the use of his gifts and for their disuse or misuse should that occur.  Presumably others in Indiana Yearly Meeting are exhibiting the exact same quality of love and inclusiveness, but not all are ready to serve so publicly and accountably. 

The dilemma is this: Does the public recognition of such exemplary ministers as Bart Shields lessen the sense of responsibility of others for their fair share of the ministry of the meeting?   Setting aside the specific case of pastoral ministry for the moment, the general answer is “not necessarily.”  A lot depends on the expectations of the meeting and of the individual minister.  A healthy meeting will expect some kind of ministry from all, and will nurture the gifts of vocal ministry and other forms of ministry as they appear among young and old, experienced Friend and newcomer.  Others in the meeting will not see any exaggerated deference to recorded ministers.  The recognition of women’s voices in ministry has at times been an encouraging and prophetic contrast to patriarchal assumptions in the surrounding culture.  I know of several cases where women serving as recorded ministers were a powerful source of inspiration to other women – in this case, they raised rather than reduced the potential for ministry by others.  It is the responsibility of the meeting to ensure that the process of recording is kept in proper perspective, neither becoming such a casual business that the importance of real ministry gifts is forgotten, and nor becoming such a rarity that its use constitutes some kind of novelty.  In the latter case, I’ve seen recording dusted off to further the ambitions of some Friend with a private agenda, and I’ve also seen at least two cases where recording was highly appropriate but became controversial because of the reluctance of a few who seemed not to know why it was provided for in their yearly meeting’s discipline, and claimed that it contradicted Friends’ belief in equality.  In one case, if it had not been so hurtful, it would have been amusing to contemplate the spectacle of highly educated, articulate and credential-laden men arguing against the recording of a very gifted, experienced and  modest woman.

This relates to the false dilemma I mentioned earlier.  To be concerned that the recording of ministers might lessen the shared sense of responsibility is reasonable, and should lead to some definite safeguards.  However, to argue that our Friends testimony of equality does not allow the recognition of gifts is less reasonable and seems to me to be a manifestation of a romantic pseudo-Quakerism that does not allow for leadership.  Ironically, the corners of Quakerdom where those views prevail often seem to me to be dominated by Friends with very strong personalities and a near-ruthless ability to caricaturize their opponents, so I don’t see virtue on their side.  Logic is also not on their side, since the testimony of equality makes no claim that all Friends are equally committed to the future of the Quaker movement, or are equally equipped for every service needed for that future, or are equally gifted or temperamentally suited for the public aspects of ministry for which recording was intended.  The testimony of equality is very precious to me – it says that all of us are equally loved by God, of equal value in God’s eyes, of equal value to the community, and that in the discernment of gifts, ministries and roles in the church, no false distinctions of race, sex, age, ethnicity or other human differences can be allowed.  The testimony of equality should not be misused to pretend that we don’t make distinctions and selections, it simply says, “Don’t use false criteria.”  I get frustrated when I see Friends argue against leadership or recording because it involves a recognition that doesn’t literally apply to everyone when they themselves are making such distinctions daily in their secular lives, and are certainly willing to make such distinctions with regard to which Friends sources they will honor and which they will ignore. 

By the way, it is interesting to me that Friends who are severely judgmental about paid pastors often have no trouble with Friends hiring staff to conduct public advocacy, economic development, bookselling, fundraising, even development of religious education curriculum, and so on.  The various Friends service committees worldwide have hundreds of staff.  Philadelphia Yearly Meeting alone at one time had more paid staff than the total number of pastors in any yearly meeting in North America.  It is probably not quite fair, but still very tempting, to ask whether these forms of paid Quaker service are acceptable to anti-pastoral Friends only because they don’t do their ministry within the context of the local meeting community -- precisely where ministry ought to occur and be held accountable. 

Among the sources honored by most Friends, Robert Barclay is very helpful on the subject of what makes for genuine ministry among Friends.  In his Apology for the True Christian Divinity these words shine with good Quakerly common sense: “And so this [ministry in the Friends meeting] is not monopolized by a certain kind of men [sic], as the clergy (who are to that purpose educated and brought up as other carnal artists) and the rest to be despised as laics; but it is left to the free gift of God to choose any whom [God] seeth meet thereunto, whether rich or poor, servant or master, young or old, yea, male or female.  And such as have this call, verify the gospel, by preaching not in speech only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much fulness, 1 Thess. i. 5, and cannot but be received and heard by the sheep of Christ.”  (Prop. X, Sect. XXIV) A little later, responding to those who say that Friends “... make no distinction betwixt the minister and people, I answer, If it be understood of a liberty to speak or prophesy by the Spirit, I say all may do that, when moved thereunto....; but we do believe and affirm that some are more particularly called to the work of the ministry; and therefore are fitted of the Lord for that purpose; whose work is more constantly and particularly to instruct, exhort, admonish, oversee, and watch over their [brothers and sisters]....” (Prop. X Sect. XXVI) Barclay denounces in no uncertain terms those who get a living by the preaching trade, “That he [as it was then] may acquire a knack from a verse of scripture, by adding his own barren notions and conceptions to it, and his uncertain conjectures, and what he hath stolen out of books; for which end he must have of necessity a good many by him, and may each Sabbath-day, as they call it, or oftener, make a discourse for an hour long; and this is called the preaching of the word; whereas the gift, grace and Spirit of God, to teach, open, and instruct, and to preach a word in season, is neglected....” Prop. X, Sect. XXII) 

Barclay is equally scathing concerning the bad effect of financing this program through compulsory tithes, resulting in priests and ministers living in much greater luxury than their constituents, becoming so “glued to the love of money” that it is a scandal to Christianity.  However, in this era of voluntary financing of the church, it is also important to read Barclay on the legitimacy of compensating ministers: “... Yet if God hath called any one from their employment or trades, by which they acquire their livelihood, it may be lawful for such, according to the liberty which they feel given to them in the Lord, to receive such temporals (to wit, what may be needful for them for meat and clothing) as are given them freely and cordially by those, to whom they have communicated spirituals.” (Prop. X.) 

It is precisely the fact that, for Friends ministers, the false social and educational distinctions of the past have been abolished, that points to the necessity for a process of discerning whether or not there is a genuine giftedness and faithfulness, whether the meeting is willing to vouch that this Friend is an instrument of  “...the gift, grace and Spirit of God, to teach, open, and instruct, and to preach a word in season...” to whom the attention of the meeting (newcomers as well as those “in the know”) and of others outside the meeting is commended.  This leads to a relationship of two-way accountability: not only is the recorded minister accountable to the meeting (which, as in the case of Indiana Yearly Meeting and some others, may withdraw the recording if the gifts are not used, or are misused) but the meeting is accountable to the minister.  This may be what some modern Friends find unpalatable – that they may be asked to endure the prophetic or teaching ministry of gifted ministers who have actually been given permission by the meeting to tell us when we fall short in our faithfulness.  One relatively affluent congregation in Indiana Yearly Meeting found it convenient to say goodbye to a pastor who apparently laid too much stress on economic justice.  Another midwest pastor founded a new meeting when an older, established meeting was unable to united on granting membership to an African American family.  On the other hand, a pastor in Western Yearly Meeting convinced his meeting to adopt some new policies,  that they would not quench the Spirit and would give the needs of the meeting’s young people top priority.  Not only is that meeting an exciting place to visit, a place where worship always lasts well over an hour, but the young people are always sitting in the front rows!  One of the things that is very apparent in that meeting is that there is a dynamic relationship of two-way accountability between monthly meeting and pastor, and also that the pastor is not operating from ego; leadership of meeting for worship is always shared among a number of people, and the pastor himself has a modest style that is the opposite of the stereotypical celebrity model of church leadership.

Now that I am into the subject of pastoral leadership as a prominent variation of public ministry among Friends, it seems only fair to say that Barclay did not have the salaried pastoral system in mind when he wrote the words I quoted so approvingly.  Barclay foresaw Friends public ministers being chosen by God, approved by the body of Friends upon evidence of spiritual power, and compensated upon the occasion of needful reimbursements, not by steady salary.  He seemed sure that allowing ministry to be a way of earning a living would lead to various abuses:  the need to fake it when the Spirit really is not there, the creation of a special class of people who would marginalize the “common believers,” and a preoccupation with money on the part of the ministers.  Since the creation of the pastoral system, all of his worries have been at least somewhat justified, but none of them, I believe, are fatal.  The reasons that Barclay’s cautions are not the last word are worth going into – they relate to the peculiarities of Friends pastoral ministry, perhaps in contrast to pastoral ministry in the churches which Barclay observed in his lifetime. 

First, on the need to put on a show in the absence of the real thing: This is least likely to happen when the meeting for worship is under the care of Ministry and Counsel and when the pastor is not the sole worship leader.  If the people of the meeting have come to worship in spirit and in truth, probably nothing the pastor could do would prevent that from happening.  Along with the rest of the meeting, the pastor and other worship leaders share the responsibility to maintain our Quakerly dependence on the Holy Spirit rather than ecclesiastical stagecraft -- remembering always to conduct their planning of the meeting for worship (and preparation of sermons, children’s messages, and so on) in a worshipful attitude, just as the others must come with hearts and minds prepared. 

The single most important feature of programmed worship that keeps the door open for the Holy Spirit is the time of unprogrammed worship during the meeting.  This is called open worship by many Friends, and is sometimes also called communion after the manner of Friends.  Even if that period is woefully short, as it is in many meetings, it serves as a sort of symbolic commitment to the principle that the Holy Spirit has the last word.  Where there is more than one such period in a meeting, or it is of significant length and respected as a central part of the worship, it’s been my observation that there is likely to be a feeling of depth and genuineness that cannot be conjured up by artful programming.  In most programmed meetings I know, there is also an unhurriedness, a willingness to linger in the transition from one element of worship to another, which helps explain to me why, when I first started attending programmed meetings after years of exclusively attending unprogrammed meetings, I felt a sense of familiarity which transcended the obvious differences. 

The second, related danger is that of creating a professional class of ministers, something approaching the clergy of other denominations.  Originally Quaker pastors were simply resident ministers, often chosen from among traveling evangelists to help assimilate the huge numbers of new Friends converts who were coming to us in the second half of the 19th century.  As Elbert Russell writes, “Gradually, and usually with the tacit consent and even encouragement of the meeting, he [or she] assumed functions which Protestant ministers exercise in public worship; the pastor ‘timed the meeting’ in place of the head elder; he [or she] felt the obligation to preach regularly and the meeting came to expect it; the elders no longer ‘faced the meeting.’  There were often periods of silence but the worship became more and more like that of ‘low-church’ Protestant bodies, without the sacraments or a fixed order of service, but with a fairly definite program established by custom.”  (History of Quakerism, Richmond, Indiana: Friends United Press, 1979, pp. 485-6) Many Friends reacted very negatively to the expectation, in the words of a report in Western Yearly Meeting, that “a minister or other individual assumes the prerogative of governing or leading the exercise of the Meeting by calling on this or that person for ... prayer, exhortation, singing, or in giving their experience to the congregation ... thus virtually denying the headship of Christ in his Church.”  (Larry Barker, “The Development of the Pastoral Pattern,” quoted in Hugh Barbour and J. William Frost, The Quakers, Richmond, Indiana: Friends United Press, 1994, pp. 211-212)

In 1894, when the primarily nonpastoral periodical Friends Review was merged with the predominantly pastoral Christian Worker to form the new American Friend (now Quaker Life), one letter to editor Rufus Jones reflected the deep misgivings many Friends held about the pastoral system: “It can no longer be disguised that the Review has surrendered the last phase of attachment to the principles which many of us hold dear, and that the publication in its present form is to be used as the organ of the western agitators who have wrecked the Society of Friends in all places where they have obtained a foothold.  Also that it is indicative of a design to seek to engraft upon Philadelphia Yearly Meeting the methods which have practically blotted out the existence of the Society of Friends in most parts of America.”  (Quoted in Errol Elliott, Quakers on the American Frontier, Richmond, Indiana: Friends United Press, 1969, pp. 258-9.) 

Although the Friends pastoral type evolved in response to necessities of westward expansion and rapid growth through revivals rather than as a copy of some else’s structure, it was inevitable that their Protestant neighbors’ patterns would have at least some influence on that evolution.   According to Elbert Russell, one consequence was that, as with other Protestants, there were far fewer women than men in the pastorate, although there were always significant numbers.  As the years went by, other factors contributed to the creation of a pastoral identity: the need for financial support, which led gradually from support by voluntary subscription to the inclusion of pastoral salaries in meetings’ budgets; increasing (though widely varying) expectations of educational preparedness for the ministry; the natural tendency of older, more experienced pastors to identify, encourage and mentor those who seemed to be potential pastors; and eventually the creation of pastoral associations and yearly meeting events specifically designed for social interaction and continuing education for pastors.   A complicating factor has been non-Friends taking on Quaker pastorates; some have been eager to learn what makes Friends special and have been responsible participants in monthly and yearly meeting affairs, while others seem interested in simply “preaching the Word” in their local setting and contributing nothing to the identity of the group as Friends.  Of course, in the latter case, the meeting may already be estranged from the yearly meeting for one reason or another and have no particular inclination to find a pastor who honors the history of the denomination. 

Years ago, one of the Friends meetings in the Midwestern USA had a pastor who came from outside Friends, and who stressed the authority of the pastor.  In many ways, he was serving satisfactorily, and in fact had the loyalty of many Friends, while others had great misgivings about his philosophy of the authority of the shepherd.  However, in one meeting for worship, he made the claim that the pastor stood in the place of Jesus, and those who did not respect the authority of the shepherd of the church should be asked to leave.  During the open worship, one of the oldest and gentlest men in the meeting stood up, and with a trembling voice, said, “What we have heard is completely inconsistent with Friends beliefs” and sat down again.  This was the beginning of the end for that pastor’s tenure.  In another case, a pastoral Friends meeting in the Midwest began departing from the yearly meeting’s faith and practice, among other things excluding women from the meeting of ministry and counsel.  In this case, it was the yearly meeting that began communicating the unacceptability of these innovations, and ultimately invited the meeting to leave the yearly meeting.  (Bart Shields, whom I mentioned before, was one of the yearly meeting representatives trying to work with this meeting.)  The meeting did leave, and did not last long as an independent congregation.  While there may be temptations for pastors and their meetings to get involved with centralizing power and making something special out of pastors, there are protections built into Friends governance – if they are remembered and used. 

The need to pay pastors touches on Barclays’ third area of misgivings.  It was a central point of Barclay’s anti-clerical thinking that the Gospel should not be held hostage to money.  And even now his argument gives us pause: I am serving at Reedwood Friends Church in part because the monthly meeting’s budget includes enough money for my family and me to live in an expensive city.  If we had not come to a mutually satisfactory agreement on the money involved, I would not have gone there.  To pretend otherwise represents an unhelpful spiritualizing of the situation.  In some rural meetings in the USA, the old custom of barter as part of the pastor’s maintenance probably still goes on, but in most places, there is a set salary for the pastor.  It is less than a full-time position in a large minority of North American meetings, and outside North America full-time pastorates are a rarity, so that many pastors are also working outside the church, but the church is an important part of their income.  That means that Friends pastors catch both ends of the independent-church dilemma – in a sense they are trading on their gifts and knowledge, but they also may have to ask themselves whether they can afford to minister or preach in a way that alienates the donors in the meeting. 

On the other hand, the situation is not really the same as in Barclay’s time.  Pastoral appointments are not “livings” as in the old parish system; pastors are “called” or appointed by the monthly meeting, hopefully on the basis of their spiritual giftedness and maturity, and the monthly meeting also has the power to decide that their service should end.  Few meetings compensate their pastors even at the level of a secular teacher with the same experience.  I can honestly say that nobody I know ever went into the pastorate motivated by financial considerations, and almost all of the ones I know went into the pastorate after serving in another occupation and feeling a call (or being told by a trusted fellow Quaker that they may have a call) to pastoral ministry.  Barclay was shocked by how angry the priests he knew would get if they didn’t get their pay; I have never seen anything remotely parallel in modern times.  The older Quaker alternative to pastoral service, namely the traveling ministry, has in modern circumstances changed drastically as the result of new employment patterns (not permitting years of absence at a time), a less supportive and geographically concentrated Quaker community context to support families left behind, different modes of transport, and increased availability of Friendly information through other methods of communication. 

Arthur G. Dorland, in The Quakers in Canada: A History (Toronto: The Ryerson Press, 1968, page 261-2) sums up the discussion well:

The danger, so far as the Society of Friends is concerned, lies in the development of a professional type of minister who does the thinking and much of the worshipping for the members of the congregation, who, in turn, are content to remain spectators rather than real participators in the religious exercise of worship.  As a consequence there may be lacking that personal involvement and individual responsibility on which rests the basic Quaker principle of the priesthood of believers and of congregational worship under the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Experience seems to show, however, that as the spiritual and educational level of a meeting is raised the danger of this happening becomes more and more remote; while the remedy always lies in the hands of the meeting itself.  No more consecrated and self-effacing men or women ever lived than the Quaker pastors.  If a free lay ministry has declined it has been due to a voluntary abdication of their rights on the part of members of the meeting and a shirking of personal responsibility because it was the easiest way.  But Quakerism, we venture to think, has never stood for the easiest way nor for second hand experience; but ever for the hard path of individual discovery, of personal sharing and giving of one’s self in service.

David Brock, former superintendent of Indiana Yearly Meeting, once told a class at Earlham School of Religion that the ministry of the Friends pastor is 90% the same as the ministry of any other pastor.  My interpretation of that 90% is that, all theorizing aside, most pastors must dedicate most of their energy to the ministries of preaching, education and pastoral care, applying their knowledge and prayers and spiritual gifts to the real and evident needs of the people they love and serve.  There is usually a small and varying additional component of community service outside the meeting, wider denominational involvements, and ecumenical service.

However, to me that 10% is still an important point of distinction between Friends and most other Christians.  A Friends pastor is not a priest, publicly mediating grace and interceding between God and humans by virtue of an ordinational continuity with the earliest apostles, bishops and deacons.  Those offices are still, for all Friends, distributed among the full membership according to spiritual gifts, and can never be alienated from them through the designation of a single clerical person or class of people.  Instead, pastors have a somewhat less exalted but equally important servant role: in full consultation with the elders or Ministry and Counsel, pastors provide public leadership for the meeting; they serve as human doors to the meeting in a way, having care for “access” to the ministries of the meeting, including its ministries of equipping of all believers and the ministries of proclamation, education and pastoral care.  This does not mean that they need to do all of these public things, but they have the visibility, freedom, authority and accountability to ensure that they happen reliably and that they are biblically grounded and reflect the beliefs of the church.  Ideally, the main difference between a pastoral and a nonpastoral meeting is that the pastoral meeting has freely and thoughtfully decided that this function of constant, reliable access is best served by appointing and financially liberating one or more people, while the nonpastoral meeting finds that these same essential functions are carried out adequately through the existing voluntary leadership and committee structures. 

In real life, of course, as contrasted with ideal typologies, our present variety of pastoral and nonpastoral meetings got to where they are through a complex history of church politics and demographic factors.  It is my testimony that both types of Friends meetings can be very vital, and both types can be dead.  At their best, both types of meetings can be places where Friends experience true worship and hear a prophetic word; both types can be places where Friends of all temperaments and levels of sophistication can go through life changes and life crises, can be supported in spiritual growth and in times of doubt, and can face death knowing that they have given their lives to a genuine and worthwhile community life.  On the other hand, both types can be rigid, sterile, legalistic, prone to honoring tradition or secret rules over the needs of living souls.  Pastoral meetings can indeed be passive and overprogrammed, where an official shared language covers up deep uncertainties and searchings among individuals, and where the demands of supporting a building and pastor can sap energy from outreach.  Nonpastoral meetings can become obsessed with the esthetic perfection of the silent meeting, which can become occasions where people hide in private reflection rather than experiencing baptism in the Holy Spirit and the joy of true communion, or where newcomers and young people remain in an embarrassed ignorance about what can happen because nobody bothers to explain how the power of God is evident to them in waiting worship.  However, I have truly come to believe that where Friends truly know each other across these lines of differing practice and understand our common roots, a willingness to affirm our deepest hearts can replace the suspicion with which one group sometimes views the other. 

I’d like to end by commenting on the correlation between pastoral and programmed, and nonpastoral and unprogrammed.  There never has been a perfect correlation between these categories.  For example, congregations which are pastoral, and whose main meetings for worship are programmed, have often had unprogrammed meetings under their care.  There are large unprogrammed meetings with meeting secretaries or other paid staff who have sometimes served as pastor in all but name outside the meeting for worship, and occasionally even have had a more than average expectation of ministry within the worship.  Programmed meetings have, for one reason or another, gone without paid pastors for long periods of time without suffering, although they usually prefer to return to having a pastor.  These examples allow me to hope that Friends will not think too rigidly when we consider starting new meetings in places where there has been no historical Quaker presence, or where Friends are severely underrepresented and badly needed.

When we equip and send and sustain a Spirit-led Quaker church planter in a new area for Friends, as I hope will happen more and more often in the future, I hope we will expect that person to have gifts of evangelism and proclamation and pastoral care, to gather the new people whom God wants in our community, but I do not believe that the new fellowship must be programmed.  It is the “access” function of the public ministry that is foremost in the work of a church planter, but the form of the resulting worship – whether programmed, unprogrammed, or some creative hybrid -- should be based on the needs and discernment of the people, not necessarily on the competing models and arguments of the past.  In places where there are already programmed Friends, a church-planting pastor might well want to facilitate the offering of an unprogrammed alternative, stressing the uniqueness and raw authenticity of this way of worship to a whole new “market” of potential Quakers.  In a place where there is an existing unprogrammed meeting, a new church planter might work to invite those who yearn for the intimacy of Friends theology and polity and the consistency of Friends discipleship, but who by temperament or conscious preference need for worship to include singing, teaching and other programmed elements.  Instead of the old “turf” mentality (“we were here first and we get to decide what the word ‘Quaker’ means in these parts”), it would be especially wonderful if these pairings could include mutual support and referrals of seekers from one meeting to the other according to the needs of the seekers. 

The vast majority of the world’s Friends are in pastoral meetings.  Will public ministry in Canadian Yearly Meeting ever again include pastors?  It is hard to make a prediction, but I hope that the answer results from faithful processes of discernment, free of false stereotypes of Friends pastoral ministry.  I do predict that if the pastoral ministry reappears in this Yearly Meeting, it will be part of a movement that also involves new outreach and new forms of hospitality to people and places where Friends have been underrepresented in the past.  I don’t want to represent pastoral ministry as a shortcut that enables easy growth for Friends, because in recent years in North America, unprogrammed Friends groups have grown faster than pastoral groups, although the growth seems to me to be remarkably homogenous.  However, I am certain that there are Friends in this Yearly Meeting who would be gifted pastors and church planters, if encouragement and occasions of service were open to them, and I am equally certain that there are places where such Friends could well be Spirit-led catalysts for whole new meetings.  How will we identify these Friends and these places, and how will we bring them together?  I hope that the local and central nominations committees of Canadian Yearly Meeting, the Home Mission and Advancement Committee, and the Yearly Meeting of Ministry and Counsel will find new ways of working together on these questions.  Answers are needed – both for the sake of Friends already among us, and for the sake of those who have never heard of us but whose hearts yearn for the message we carry.