Let our lives speak for our convictions

The annual sessions of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) begin today. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, our meetings this year will occur remotely using Zoom, a video and audio online meeting application. The following is from the Yearly Meeting’s website https://www.iymc.org/

Welcome to Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)

Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) includes monthly meetings, worship groups and preparative meetings in Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin. All branches of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) share common roots in a Christian movement that arose in England during the middle of the 17th century. Conservative Friends are “conservative” in the sense that they tend to “conserve” the Friends tradition as it was believed and practiced in the mid-19th century. Among the principles which guide our faith are:

Most fundamentally, Friends perceive “that of God” in all persons. This living presence, experienced variously as the Inner Light, the Holy Spirit, the Inward Christ, and the Divine Center, enables a person to enter into intimate communion with God, without intermediaries. Friends are led, inspired, enlightened, or chastened as they come into the Light in prayer. God is Love, and each of us has a spring of that Love within to draw upon for strength, wisdom, and compassion.

By means of the Inner Light, a person can discern “Truth.” Its entirety is more than any one person can know, and human frailties limit and color the measure granted us. A greater understanding of Truth can be attained by sharing discernments with one another, always humbly aware that anyone may be mistaken or may, by God’s grace, bring to light the very Truth we seek.

from the Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) website: https://www.iymc.org/

Our annual gatherings usually take place at Scattergood Friends School and Farm. Many of us attended this high school boarding school so it is like a reunion to return.

Many of those who attend Yearly Meeting serve on committees related to the work of a spiritual community, such as Ministry and Counsel, and Peace and Social Concerns.

We live in uncertain times. It is appropriate that the theme of the annual sessions this year is “Finding hope in troubled times.”

Quakers are about putting our spiritual beliefs and leadings into practice.

This morning I am strongly led to consider the following epistle (letter) that was signed by several members of our Yearly Meeting. Around the time this was written (circa 1960) I was a student at Scattergood Friends School. This epistle was an important influence on my decision to be a draft resister. But I often return to this eloquent statement about living our convictions. Much of our work as Quakers, and much of the business we will be considering at this Yearly Meeting, will relate to putting our beliefs into action.

An Epistle to Friends Concerning Military Conscription

It matters little what men say they believe when their actions are inconsistent with their words. Thus we Friends may say that all war is wrong, but as long as Friends continue to collaborate in a system that forces men into war, our Peace Testimony will fail to speak to mankind.

Let our lives speak for our convictions. Let our lives show that we oppose not only our own participation in war, but any man’s participation in it. We can stop seeking deferments and exemptions, we can stop filling out Selective Service forms, we can refuse to obey induction and civilian work orders. We can refuse to register, or send back draft cards if we’ve already registered.

In our early history we Friends were known for our courage in living according to our convictions. At times during the 1600’s thousands of Quakers were in jails for refusing to pay any special respect to those in power, for worshiping in their own way, and for following the leadings of conscience. But we Friends need not fear we are alone today in our refusal to support mass murder. Up to three thousand Americans severed their relations with the draft at nation-wide draft card turn-ins during 1967 and 1968. There may still be other mass returns of cards, and we can always set our own dates.

We may not be able to change our government’s terrifying policy in Vietnam. But we can try to change our own lives. We must be ready to accept the sacrifices involved if we hope to make a real testimony for Peace. We must make Pacifism a way of life in a violent world.

We remain, in love of the Spirit, your Friends and brothers,

Don Laughlin, Roy Knight, Jeremy Mott, Ross Flanagan, Richard Boardman, James Brostol, George Lakey, Stephen Tatum, Herbert Nichols, Christopher Hodgkin, Jay Harker, Bob Eaton, Bill Medlin, Alan & Peter Blood.

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