A meeting in February of 40 nontheist Friends at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre, England, decided to organise with a view to becoming a recognised special interest group of Britain Yearly Meeting. A steering group of six Friends was appointed to take the work forward.
The steering group resolved to call the new organisation the Nontheist Friends Network UK (NFN UK) and agreed the following Statement of Aims:
The Nontheist Friends Network UK (NFN UK) is an informal group within the Quaker movement aiming to
(i) provide a supportive framework for Friends with an agnostic, humanist, atheist or related world-view, and those who experience religion as a wholly human creation;
(ii) join with all Friends who are interested in exploring varieties of nontheism as a recognised strand within modern diverse liberal Quakerism; and
(iii) strengthen and celebrate theological and spiritual diversity by promoting dialogue at all levels within the Religious Society of Friends.
The first action of the steering committee was to book the whole of Woodbrooke (62 rooms, up to 100 people) for a major Nontheist Friends conference next year, from March 9 – 11. This is something of a venture of faith! We hope some of our overseas Friends will join us at what is likely to be an historic event.
We are currently advertising regularly in The Friend and our contacts list is growing. On May 27 our first leaflet will appear as an insert in 3250 copies of The Friend, which is read by an estimated 12,000 people every week.
A number of local and national events are planned over the coming months, either organised by NFN UK or with NFN input. They include:
- London Quakers and the Quaker Universalist Group are jointly organising a Quaker Dialogue at Friends House, London, on May 7 on the theme Holy Spirit or Wholly Human?, centring on theist and nontheist approaches to Quakerism. Rachel Muers, senior lecturer in Christian Studies at Leeds University, will be in dialogue with David Boulton.
- We hope to organise an informal Nontheists Friends meeting at the Yearly Meeting Gathering in Canterbury, July 30 – August 6.
- Courses on Who was Jesus? and The Case for God, and a workshop on Gerrard Winstanley and the Quaker Levellers are planned at Woodbrooke, with nontheist input.
- We will be represented at the meeting of the Quaker Theological Discussion Group of the American Society of Biblical Literature, in San Francisco on November 16 – 20, when papers will be presented for and against nontheism.
The Network welcomes enquiries from all who are interested in exploring nontheist approaches to being Quaker. Our contacts list is open to all who can supply an email address. We encourage those on the list to subscribe as full members for £10 to cover our costs. Enquiries to Miriam Yagud, firstname.lastname@example.org
David Boulton, convenor