Quakerism as a Charismatic Tradition: The Baptism of Love

In my second post of my series “Quakerism as a Charismatic Tradition” (the first being found here), I wanted to explore the Quaker view of baptism and its connections to charismatic spirituality.

Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church

Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church

“I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

—Paul, Ephesians 3:18-19

One of the doctrinal distinctives of early Quakerism was the belief that the baptism Christians should receive is Christ’s baptism of the Spirit rather than John’s baptism of water. Robert Barclay, early Quaker apologist and theologian, summed up the Quaker view of baptism with 1 Peter 3:21: “baptism, which [the water] prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Accordingly, John’s water baptism is seen as a ritual that points to a higher and greater baptism, that being Christ’s, which offers “a good conscience, through the resurrection of Christ.” In this baptism, we can experience the grace of Christ.

Charismatic movements throughout Church history have nuanced baptism differently, almost always stressing the importance of water-baptism and often defining the water-baptism as a charismatic experience in itself. That said, a baptism of the Spirit has been vital to such movements, especially in its more modern forms. The charismatic view of this baptism is more so an awakening or activating experience, that stirs up the gift of God within and enables a believer to walk in the power of Christ’s ministry.

Quakerism, on the other hand, has never practiced water-baptism. From the beginning, baptism was seen as an inward work of God rather than an outward rite. The water-baptism was seen as empty ritualism that gave a false sense of spiritual security to those in the corrupt established churches. James Nayler wrote in response to the accusations coming from the established churches, “The saints’ baptism was by one Spirit into one body… but thine is without in carnal water.”

Though Friends do not practice water-baptism, the Friends view of baptism has several dimensions to it, some of which are shared with Charismatics.

Friends on Baptism

Image Credit: Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections

Image Credit: Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections

Isaac Penington wrote of a baptism received upon coming to faith in Jesus, which is the aspect of Spirit-baptism that Evangelicals most deeply explore. He wrote, “The promise of receiving the Spirit is upon believing, and it extendeth to every one that believeth. ‘He that believeth on me,’ as the scripture hath said, ‘out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water;’ but this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive…but every one received so much of the Spirit as to make him a son, and to cry Abba, Father, and to wash him.”

This initial baptism of the Spirit draws Christians into discipleship, but Friends stress that in no way does the experience of the Spirit end there. Both Paul and Peter were recorded to have received multiple fillings of the Spirit, indicating that experiencing the baptism or filling of the Spirit can continually occur. Paul even encouraged believers to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18), revealing that believers should continually experience the Spirit’s filling and that one receives the filling in cooperation with, or in yielding to, God.

This baptism is written to be one of “Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt. 3:11), which is later revealed by the 120 disciples on Pentecost to be a baptism of power. Early Friends testified to the power of their conversion, often counting it as a mystical and at times ecstatic experience that brought them into discipleship under Christ. The baptism of the Spirit grants “power from on high” (Luke 24:49) so disciples may manifest the Kingdom. Not only was this an empowering experience for early Quakers, but also often seen as a crucifixion of false desires and sin. Many spoke of a “baptism of death” and an “inward cross”, revealing the refining, and sometimes painful, aspect of this baptism. Only through this baptism of death can one experience the power of resurrection.

George Fox wrote that this “baptism… plunges down sin and corruption, which hath gotten up by disobedience and transgression.” In other words, this baptism was seen as sanctifying, cleansing people of their crooked ways. Ann Branson, a Quaker minister, was in agreement with Fox, writing in 1833, “We must experience the refining, cleansing operation of his baptism–the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, purging the temple of our hearts from all that his righteous controversy is with, before He will deign to own us before his Father and the holy angels.”

Friends often seemed to see this cleansing from the Spirit as experienced through suffering. Suffering was often embraced as the providential work of God in a believer’s life. Isaac Penington wrote, “The power and Spirit of the Lord, which cleanseth away all this rubbish, will make his truth shine, his church shine, his suffering lambs, that come out of the great tribulation, shine more than ever before.”

19th century Friend Job Scott wrote the following in his journal, revealing the sanctifying suffering seen as baptism:

“Though Jesus has once passed through it all, and trod the wine press alone, he has not thereby exempted us from the like baptisms. On the contrary, he queried with those who seemed desirous to sit with him in his kingdom, ‘Are ye able to drink of the cup that I drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ These are the terms still. It is true, remission of sins that are past, is only through his blood; but as to actual sanctification, it is they only who suffer with him that can reign with him.”

Joseph Gurney may be a controversial Friend, but his words on baptism give a very full definition to the Spirit-baptism.

In his sermon in 1838 at Arch Street Meetinghouse, he describes being baptized in the Spirit as “trembl[ing] under an awful feeling of the power and the holiness of Jehovah.” He went on to explain the sobering and convicting experience found in the baptism, calling it a “living sense of his holiness… an awful remembrance of the doctrine, that God is light, and that in him there is no darkness at all” and that through this baptism “we begin to see our own alienation from him, while we are dead in trespasses and sin; then do we begin to perceive the sinfulness of sin; then are we brought to a trembling sense of the malignity of this worst of all evils.”

In that same sermon, he explained that this baptism of holiness was also one of love:

“And yet, friends, there is a being baptized into a sense, not only of the holiness, but of the love of God. O yes, we may well be melted into tenderness, when we offend the immutable Jehovah, the God of holiness, who condescends to plead with his transgressing children, as a father pleads with his dear son or daughter!”

Early Pentecostals on Spirit-Baptism

Much of how Gurney describes this baptism lines up with historical Pentecostal theology.

In 1833 at Bishopsgate Street Meetinghouse, Gurney spoke of the empowering nature of this baptism of love, as he explained that the apostles “were baptized of the great Baptizer… with the Holy Ghost and with fire; their hearts were indeed warm with the Saviour’s love, they knew the pure flame of his love to burn up the chaff within them, and were constrained by the strongest of motives to turn their backs on a world lying in wickedness, and to take up their cross and follow Jesus.”

Frank Bartleman, an early Pentecostal leader, wrote in his account of Azusa Street that the Spirit manifested most clearly in this revival through love.

“Divine love was wonderfully manifest in the meetings. They would not even allow an unkind word said against their opposers or the churches.  The message was ‘the love of God.’ It was a sort of ‘first love’ of the early church returned. The ‘baptism,’ as we received it in the beginning, did not allow us to think, speak or hear evil of any man. The Spirit was very sensitive, tender as a dove.

According to Gurney and early Pentecostals like Bartleman, the love of God imparted through the baptism fueled the work of the Church.

Modern Pentecostal theologian Frank D. Macchia wrote in his book “Baptized in the Spirit: A Global Pentecostal Theology“:

“The Spirit who mediated the love between the Father and the Son is now poured out so as to draw humanity into the koinonia of God and to gift and empower the church to participate in the mission of God in the world.”

Like Agnes Ozman, Pandita Ramabai, William Seymour, and other early Pentecostals, Macchia believes the “Spirit baptism is a baptism into divine love” and the greatest evidence of this baptism being unselfish love. Though many early Pentecostals believed that tongues was the initial evidence of the baptism, there was a consensus that love was the primary and greatest result of this baptism.

Macchia argues that “if Spirit baptism is ever to reconnect to sanctification and the fulfillment of the kingdom of God, it will do so with the help of Spirit baptism conceived as a participation in the love of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” This Pentecostal vision of Spirit-baptism includes growing in holiness, being supernaturally empowered, but at the heart of it is love.

Testimonies of receiving the Spirit of Love in the Spirit-baptism was and is common in modern charismatic movements. J. Rodman Williams shares the account of Lutheran Renewal pastor Erwin Prange in “Renewal Theology“:

“How could a man think he was passing out the bread of life every Sunday and still remain so utterly hungry himself? I was empty, and I knew it. This was the end of the line.” So writes Prange about his situation as a Lutheran pastor in his first parish. Then “all at once a voice seemed to come from nowhere and everything… The gift is already yours. Reach out and take it.” As Prange then stretched out his hands toward the altar, palms up, jaws tightening, and mouth open, “in an instant, there was a sudden shift of dimensions, and God became real. A spirit of pure love pervaded the church and drenched me like rain. He was beating in my heart, flowing through my blood, breathing in my lungs, and thinking in my brain. Every cell in my body, every nerve end, tingled with the fire of His presence.

This seems similar to the accounts of some Friends, like Job Scott, who wrote in his journal of a baptism that was experienced as overwhelming love.

“Ninth month, 1st, the Lord, the God of my life, was graciously pleased to fill my soul with the overflowing of Divine love, and inshinings of Divine light, which continued with me until late in the night, and wherein I have been much instructed. And, O Lord, my God! I humbly crave of thee to enable me, rightly to settle, or to have and know through thy help rightly settled in my mind, every rule, limit, and regulation of life; and that thou wouldest steadily hold my hand, and guide my feet in ways that will please thee, until every such rule and limitation, receive the sanction in my heart of a divine law, that is not to be broken against forever; yea, until a confirmed and habitual observance of them, shall have conformed my whole life thereunto; and therein to thy Divine will, and heavenly image. Amen!”

This recorded “divine visitation” of Scott reveals the variety of baptisms experiences among Friends. Not every baptism was one of suffering and tribulation, but some were pure ecstasies. That is not to say that such experiences were normative. What ties all these baptisms together was the love of God. As Paul put it, “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5) To know the Cross of Christ or to experience the perfecting work of the inward Teacher through baptism is to know and experience the love of God. Even if baptisms may be refining in the most painful sense, Hebrews 12:6 explains that this too is out of love, “because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

Though traditional Quaker theology tends to see the Spirit-baptism in terms of the progressive saving work of the Spirit, there remains a charismatic element to this baptism, as it is often seen as experiential and empowering for ministry. What binds the theology of baptism among both Charismatics and Quakers is that it fills one with love and the fruit of it is love. Perhaps both baptisms could qualify as what sociologist Margaret Poloma calls “godly love”, which is the experience of God’s love driving people to work towards justice and live out of love for their fellow child of God. If these baptisms are continual and at the core of the Christian experience, as Friends preached, then theologian Karl Barth was right in saying that “the Christian life begins with love [and] it also ends with love.”

Quakerism as a Charismatic Tradition: Introduction

The past few weeks have been incredibly busy, as I’ve moved across the country, celebrated my sister’s wedding, and started a new job, but in the midst of that I’ve also been writing a bit about the charismatic spirituality of Quakerism. I know many post/ex-Evangelicals and folks in general have a bitter taste of the Charismatic Movement, whether it because of abusive experiences or disagreements with their theology, but I ask that you give me a chance in these series of posts to explain why I very much consider Quakerism a charismatic movement.

Gracechurch Street Meeting, London ca.1779.

Gracechurch Street Meeting, London ca.1779.

What is the Charismatic Movement?

Many people make sweeping statements about the Charismatic Movement without much comprehension of the diversity among Charismatics, as evidenced by the multitude of books cautioning believers of this broad movement. In 2013, neo-reformed Baptist preacher and author John MacArthur held a conference that attracted thousands of participants that was dedicated to villifying the excesses of Pentecostals and Charismatics. This conference, “Strange Fire”, assumed Charismatics to be at least gravely deceived, if not hell-bound and blasphemers.

Thankfully, this sort of rhetoric is not as commonplace as it once was in the Church and is progressively losing its steam, as about 26% of the global Church is considered charismatic, and as different charismatic practices have been normalized and adopted by non-charismatic traditions (such as “listening prayer”, “prayer teams”, raising arms in worship, and even speaking in tongues, or the more sanitized “prayer languages”.) That said, people still have strange assumptions about what charismatic spirituality is, and many often are shocked when I claim that Quakerism is actually a thoroughly charismatic tradition.

The Charismatic Movement was initially a renewal movement across the Church rather than a distinct denominational tradition. In many ways it was influenced and informed by its predecessor, the Pentecostal Movement, but was distinct from Pentecostalism because its malleability and its desire to not start a new religious group but instead renew the participants’ respective churches in the power of the Holy Spirit. Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Catholics, and virtually every Church tradition was impacted by this movement.

Charismatic Catholics in New Orleans, 1979

Charismatic Catholics in New Orleans, 1979

The Charismatic Movement introduced many Christians to the “baptism of the Holy Spirit”, an experience theologically nuanced in different ways throughout the Movement but could be summed up as a “stirring” or “activation” of the Spirit within. This experience is often ecstatic or euphoric, and those who have received such an experience often claim to have felt God’s love and/or power in those moments as well as have manifested the gift of tongues or, to a lesser extent, prophecy.

The Renewal was not simply for the sake of a personal mysticism but was always meant to revitalize and bless Christian fellowship. The Charismatic Movement touched whole churches, bringing forth the corporate use of the charismata (a Greek word used by Paul that is roughly translated as “grace-expression” or , more commonly, “spiritual gifts”) Paul spoke of in 1 Corinthians 12:7-10, which include prophecy, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so on, to denominations that were not associated with such phenomena.

The use of these “supernatural” gifts and these “charismatic” experiences are not at all foreign to the Church. This charismatic thread has been an aspect of the Church since Christ’s ministry of healing the sick and casting out demons. Though the use of these gifts have waned throughout Church history, there have been several resurgences of charismatic phenomena, such as the healing revivals St. Augustine witnessed (Augustine, Book XXI, City of God), the ecstatic and miraculous experiences among medieval mystics (such as with Bernard of Clairvaux and Hildegard of Bingen), the modern Pentecostal movement, and countless other movements that believed the Spirit’s miraculous and emboldening power is a timeless gift for the Church.

The charismatic conviction that every individual may access God’s power and hear God’s voice, whether it be for the sake of building up and encouraging the Church, or the proclamation and demonstration of the Gospel, or even for an individual’s edification, is at the heart of Quakerism and, in my opinion, qualifies it as a charismatic tradition.

The charismatic thread in Quakerism

Quakerism follows this thread seen throughout the Church history where disciples sought the Spirit’s power for their lives and ministries so ardently that the intervention of God became expected. This is evident in Friends history from the very beginning with George Fox. Miracles placed a huge role in Fox’s ministry, giving him the reputation of being a healer. Fox’s own ministry was sparked by a revelatory experience where God spoke to him that only Christ could speak to his condition, revealing that there was no need for earthly mediators to connect to God.

Fox was not the only early Friend who experienced the power of the Spirit in such a spectacular manner, as meeting was widely experienced as a space for the Spirit to dramatically touch lives and empower the body of believers, and visions and rapturous experiences were frequent in the early days of the Society.

Even after the initial ecstatic period had long passed, revelations remained vital to Quaker spirituality. John Woolman, a Quaker minister and early abolitionist, wrote about an “opening” experience in his journal where he saw the Light manifest and God speak to his spirit. He wrote, “I awoke; it was yet dark, and no appearance of day or moonshine, and as I opened mine eyes I saw a light in my chamber, at the apparent distance of five feet, about nine inches in diameter, of a clear, easy brightness, and near its centre the most radiant. As I lay still looking upon it without any surprise, words were spoken to my inward ear, which filled my whole inward man. They were not the effect of thought, nor any conclusion in relation to the appearance, but as the language of the Holy One spoken in my mind. The words were, CERTAIN EVIDENCE OF DIVINE TRUTH. They were again repeated exactly in the same manner, and then the light disappeared.”

Even today, Quaker meetings continue to host the presence of God (though with perhaps a deeper contemplative edge) and the gift of prophecy often manifests among us during worship, often referred to as “vocal ministry”. The model of unprogrammed Quaker meeting, where all can equally be vessels of the Spirit, is in line with what Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, where all gathered may be used to manifest the power of God.

Quaker meeting also fully embraces what God granted the Church on the day of Pentecost, which was when the Spirit of God was poured out on the Church to empower the her and grant her the ability to hear God and prophesy. This event is the foundation of the Pentecostal Movement and at the heart of charismatic spirituality. On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached as soon as the Spirit was poured out and recounted Joel’s prophecy,

I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.”

In Quaker meeting, we see this prophecy fulfilled week after week, as we corporately experience the baptism of the Spirit and hear the voice of God from whomever God chooses to minister. We may not be a tongue-talking, holy-rolling bunch of folks, though I wouldn’t mind a little more of that, but one thing we Quakers know is the power and voice of the Spirit. As the Society of Friends, we have a glorious heritage as a people of the Spirit and I’m thankful that even today we continue to reap the gifts of Pentecost in our profoundly charismatic worship.

Read part two, on the baptism of love, here.
Read part three, on the prophetic Church, here.

Last One Standing: A More Thorough Update on My Life

A picture my [former] roommate, Carson, took at the end of the year QVS retreat

A picture of my house’s altar that my [former] roommate, Carson, took at the end of the year QVS retreat

Two days ago, QVS ended, and today I am leaving the QVS House. I’m the last one to move out and I already have seen all five of my roommates pack up and leave. My heart has been broken five times, as each roommate left the house, taking more and more of our house’s spirit with them. I have a lot of things on my mind and I am currently feeling a lot. But I feel satisfied. I am at peace. A lot happened this year, and it was difficult, and it was confusing, and often I’ve come to more questions than answers, but I’ve received a lot of wisdom, support, and love, and can say I have learned a lot. I would even say I feel more fully me.

Through my internship with AFSC, I have been able to learn from experienced organizers and activists. I have been primarily assisting AFSC’s Peace Program, which is focused on community peace-building and empowerment, as well as Project Voice, an immigrant rights program. I have been given opportunities to be on committees, planning for city-wide events like the May Day march, as well as speak at conferences and write grant proposals. More importantly, though, I was able to help with a program at Jefferson High School where I got to witness youth seeing the need for non-violent action and living it out in their communities.

In Portland, a Convergent stronghold, I’ve seen cross-branch cooperation unlike I’ve ever encountered before. The willingness for Liberal and Evangelical Friends to fellowship and learn from one another is a beautiful gift that the QVS house has been able to benefit from. The diversity of theology and spiritual practice among the supporting meetings has been the perfect space to explore what Quakerism means to me.

And, of course, I lived with five others I am proud to call my housemates—Ally, Carson, Rachel, Emily, and Kathleen—all of whom are brilliant, hard-working, compassionate human beings. These people are my community. I will not pretend that living in community has been easy. We have had to work towards being a community, and it remained a work in progress till the end. I will say that it has been worth it. I’ve had a ton to learn about communication, especially as somebody who avoids confrontation at all costs. Quaker values have undoubtedly held our community together, as we sought to not just co-exist in a house but dealt with hurts and misunderstandings with sincere intentions of peace-building.

We ended our year together on a retreat near Hood River, deep in the country. All around us were orchards, the forest, and a beautiful view of Mt. Hood. The time we spent together was meaningful, to say the least, and one of the deepest experiences I’ve had of “feeling seen”. I can confidently say that our retreat was beautifully crafted by both our local coordinator Sarah Klatt-Dickerson and the Spirit. Those moments will undoubtedly be defining for my experience in QVS.

I need to say thank you to everybody who has held me in the Light, prayed for me, encouraged me, and donated to me. You made this experience of QVS what it was. I still need to raise about $1,500, for the sake of paying off loans (which was included in my fundraising goal) and finishing my QVS payments. Any and every donation counts. You can donate on my GoFundMe or on paypal (sungis@gmail.com). That said, I cannot deny that I have been blessed immensely and I know I will look back to this year in the future and see it as formative and vital to my story.

As much as this transition hurts, I am ready for my next chapter. Hold me in the Light as I settle in Philadelphia and figure out my next steps. Also, I have a special prayer request for my family as there have been some painful repercussions from my post a few weeks back, “My Strange Relationship with the Mooniverse.” I do not want to go into details, but I know my actions, namely coming out as the founder and administrator of How Well Do You Know Your Moon, has put pressure on them. It does not help that last week I posted a video of one of Moon’s concubine’s sons telling his mother’s story, as well as sharing some of his own. It has been reaching the Unification community, reaching 3,000 hits in five days. Pray for me as I discern what my role in this work should look like and figure out how to be prophetic and in line with the Spirit.  Thank you, Friends.