Publishers of truth

I’ll be in Georgia this coming weekend for the annual conference of Quakers Uniting in Publications. The gathering of Friends publishers, booksellers, editors, and authors this year focuses on the question, “Are Quakers still publishers of truth?”

This is an important question.

For instance, Elbert Russell writes in The History of Quakerism (1979) that “in the seven decades after 1653 there were 440 Quaker writers, who published 2,678 separate publications, varying from a single page tract to folios of nearly a thousand pages.”

And in Quakerism of the Future (1974), John Yungblut claims that the urgency of early Friends to write and publish makes sense: “If one has been visited by a direct sense of inward presence, he is driven to tell everyone who will listen to him.”

But more recent publishing efforts among Quakers, valuable though they may be, are missing two elements, according to Johan Maurer: “The first is the excitement and urgency of a movement that once believed it was bringing something new and crucial into the world, that lives and destinies depended on getting these new experiences and insights expressed persuasively.... The second missing element is the expectation of an external audience. [Today] we issue timid mating calls to try to attract people as much like ourselves as possible, and nobody else.”

We can do better.

This coming weekend, I’ll be enjoying what’s predicted to be a warm spring weekend at the Penn Center in St. Helena. I’ll be working with others on how to embody truth, how to speak and live truth, how to live as modern-day Quaker pamphleteers. I’ll be listening and talking and writing. I'll be paying close attention to how the Spirit shows up in our midst.

Because I’m convinced that God isn’t done with us yet. Many have not yet experienced “a direct sense of inward presence,” and the world still needs publishers of truth.

Eric Muhr