Convergent or Divergent Friends?

NFC, quaker

Have I mentioned I can be a tad on the obsessive side?

I’m still reading old minutes and history stuff from NFC’s beginnings. I’m realizing that some of what I shared three years ago (and posted last Thursday) is a little inaccurate, or at least not completely dead on. (For instance, William Hobson wasn’t a feeble old guy when he came here, but quite able to farm and clear land.)

But I’m discovering, I think, the roots of why Northwest Yearly Meeting is…unique. We’ve been strongly evangelical, but also very Quaker in our expression. Robin coined “Convergent” Friends, the movement of God that is drawing Friends of many stripes together. In the early 1890’s, Chehalem Monthly Meeting (aka Newberg Friends) had two strong, exemplary leaders at the poles of what we now see “converging”. William Hobson, the man with the vision that started Newberg Friends and Northwest Yearly Meeting, was a Conservative Friend, deeply committed to plain speech and dress, unprogrammed Quaker meetings for worship, and proper Friends order. Yet he was open and longing for God’s power to move in evangelistic zeal.

Historic conflicts among Friends boiled down in essence to two men at NFC: Hobson and John Henry Douglas. Douglas was a man unbelievably touched with the Holy Spirit’s power. But he was more “Revivalist-Methodist” than Quaker, the man most responsible for bringing the pastoral system into practice in Iowa Yearly Meeting. Out here on the west coast, Douglas held revival meetings that literally shook this little frontier town of Newberg to the core. Hundreds–I am not exaggerating, literally hundreds–of people began a relationship with Jesus here over a hundred years ago because of Douglas’ preaching.

Hobson didn’t like the practices of revivalism or paid pastors…but he warmly embraced the evangelism and changed lives that were happening as a result of them. He opposed Douglas’ suggestions for change, but went along with the sense of the meeting when it was obvious the meeting was with Douglas. His open heart is moving to me, and I think that though one would say Douglas “won” the award of most influential person on the practice of Newberg Friends, Hobson’s refusal to sulk and become bitter are probably the reason the roots of traditional Quaker practice lay buried in our Yearly Meeting’s soil for decades, and still bear fruit today.

I find several things fascinating: the reformer-revivalists in later decades do not appear to have shown the same tolerance and openness that Hobson demonstrated. Under their leadership, the church seems to have stultified and stagnated in the 1920’s and 30’s, concerned more with form and outside appearances than God’s movement. The ones who so quickly and completely swept away the “old” Quaker ways became the “old revival ritualists” themselves…in my humble opinion.

I also wonder…am I more Hobson, or Douglas?

16 thoughts on “Convergent or Divergent Friends?

  1. Wow, this is very interesting. I know very little about Evangelical Friends’ history so I appreciate this information.

    Likewise, I see a historical pattern regarding Conservative Friends – they seem to be more present, or in the background, than one might realize. There are Conservative Friends present in the histories of a number of liberal YM’s, too. It seems as if just over 100 years ago they were swept over by influences of Evangelicalism and liberalism. I wonder if they will quietly return or remain in the background.

    Thanks again!


  2. Like Joe, I find your historic journey interesting. Hobson or Douglas? If both represent good why must we we choose between them? Their common strength appears to be a deep submission to the work of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps a good queston is are we more influenced by the Holy Spirit (Hobson/Douglas-ish) or by other factors?

    Dave Woolsey


  3. Joe said, “There are Conservative Friends present in the histories of a number of liberal YM’s, too. ”

    Indeed! We are everywhere :-).

    WIlburite Friend (I love that title…lol)
    Greensboro, NC


  4. He opposed Douglas’ suggestions for change, but went along with the sense of the meeting when it was obvious the meeting was with Douglas…

    This action and your description of Hobson’s “tolerance and openness” are, to me, more indicative of what early Friends used to call being meek or demonstrating genuine humility

    There’s a post brewing in me about these qualities, so I appreciate what you share here, Gregg.

    Liz, The Good Raised Up


  5. Yes, Liz, I like those words better. I’ll look forward to the post!

    Thanks for commenting, Craig! Glad to have you.

    Dave, I like your emphasis on Holy Spirit/God as opposed to people. I agree whole heartedly.

    Joe, I am very intrigued by Conservative Friends as well. Glad to see Craig speak up!


  6. Thanks Gregg for the link to my Convergent Friends idea.

    I want to be clear that I don’t see just two poles converging, I think there is also a pole of Social Action Friends, so carried away by Rufus Jones (et al)’s example of social work (in a way that Jones himself was not) that they have lost their connection to the spiritual roots and wellsprings of why we should help our neighbors. This also led to stagnation in the second or third generation.

    At this point in my opening around this, I think that the Convergence of Friends will lead to both a commitment to doing peace and justice work in the manner of Jesus, while living out primitive Christianity under the direct leadership of God.

    Another aspect that I notice in the story you told is that Douglas did not cast Hobson out, as a danger to the community/movement of the Spirit. Hobson remained as a model of a faithful Friend. Hence we don’t see a Hobsonian Meeting and a Douglasite Church in Newberg, or NWYM, as far I know. I don’t really know the parallel histories of North Pacific Yearly Meeting and Northwest Yearly Meeting well enough to know how this played out on a larger scale.

    I’m curious how you see yourself as Hobsonian? As Douglasite? I can’t speak for your local effect, but this blog, or rather, YOU have been part of my conversion process. And I’d never have come to a revival meeting. Or even read your blog if it sounded like one.


  7. Robin wrote: “At this point in my opening around this, I think that the Convergence of Friends will lead to both a commitment to doing peace and justice work in the manner of Jesus, while living out primitive Christianity under the direct leadership of God.”

    Amen and Amen! Robin, you’re going to make this Quaker into a pentecostal with comments like that. Made me want to shout for joy. The Spirit is moving in an awesome way amoung Friends. We have a message that the world really needs to hear right now. We need to get the message out that one does not have to throw Jesus out to have a spiritual life nor does one have to embrace fundamentalist nationalism.

    My Mom asked what Quakers were about. I told her to read the Gospels and see what Jesus did and said (especially Matthew 5 & 6). That is what we are! Followers of Jesus who are willing to listen to the Still Small Voice. God still speaks. I pray that we all may listen.

    God’s peace ya’ll,


  8. Last weekend, at College Park Quarterly Meeting, I had a very interesting conversation with the archivist for the Quarter. He has been writing a history of San Jose Meeting and Western Friends.

    He told me that Joel Bean, founder of the College Park Association of Friends, (more history here) had two sisters, both of whom also moved to the western United States. I think he said they were both ministers, but I’m not sure anymore. Anyway, one of them moved to Pasadena, and her son, Joel’s favorite nephew, became the president of Whittier College, in about 1908.

    The other sister moved to Newberg and married Benjamin Miles, not necessarily in that order. Her stepdaughter married a man named Henry Minthorn, or something like that, which is a name apparently familiar to folks at George Fox University. Anyway, apparently Joel used to come to visit his sister up in Oregon, and attend meeting for worship with her, which tended to irritate the Friends there who disapproved of him, but he did it anyway.

    Any factual errors in this will clearly be my faulty understanding and memory of this brief conversation. But I hope to find more out about the history of Friends in the west over the next few Quarterly Meetings.


  9. Let’s see, more catching up to do in this conversation…

    Robin, I’m intrigued by your comment about Douglas throwing out Hobson. He didn’t, but the ability for Newberg Friends to stay open to what each man represented got much more contentious as the years went by. The “Douglasite Church” overwhelmed the “Hobsonian Meeting” by the 1920’s, and made a lot of noise to finally pull out of the “Hicksite FUM”. I use that phrase because that’s how many in our YM saw it; from my perspective, the Five Years Meeting (FUM) was not Hicksite. There were issues of differences about Christ-centeredness, but I think that the choice to pull out of Five Years/FUM occurred because most saw Five Years/FUM as equivalent to FGC and Hicksites. The other interesting thing is throughout the 1930’s and 40’s, Newberg Friends itself gained a reputation as being more “liberal” than the rest of the Yearly Meeting. Levi Pennington, President of George Fox College/University was an influential Friend at NFC for decades, and he maintained connections with FUM and the wider family of Friends that earned him a lot of criticism over the years.

    Craig, I love your post. Just love it! I would love to have the opportunity to worship with Conservative Friends, and am so glad to hear of your love for Jesus and the gospels.

    Finally, Robin, in my reading about William Hobson, he was a good friend (and maybe even a relative) of Joel Bean. He considered founding his “Garden of the Lord” in San Jose, as Bean was already settled there. Henry Minthorn was the man who raised Herbert Hoover, and one of the people from our meeting is the curator of the Hoover-Minthorn house here in Newberg.

    There are amazing connections of history then.


  10. So just to continue this thread, I finally dug out my copy of A Western Quaker Reader, and I find that the first or some of the first people to hold Quaker meetings in California were Jesse and David Hobson at their home in San Jose, in 1860 or so. So when the Beans moved to San Jose in 1882, there may have still been Hobsons in San Jose as well as Newberg.

    It says here that “In 1873, San Jose became the first Western Monthly Meeting to be recognized by Honey Creek Quarterly Meeting of Iowa Yearly Meeting. During this period, Rebecca Clawson began holding “appointed” meetings for worship in Salem, Oregon, including at the State Penitentiary. In 1878, Chehalem (later called Newberg) Monthly Meeting was recognized by Honey Creek Quarterly Meeting, thereby becoming the first Monthly Meeting in the Northwest.” So the connections run deep and wide.


  11. Dear Friend Gregg,

    I want to post this invitation to all Friends here that might like to get the feel for how Conservative Friends worship.

    I’m going, and I think that other’s would gain alot from attending, as well.


    “Unto all them that love His appearing…” within our mortal bodies we each long to “know the Power of God in Spirit and in Truth” in a deeper way. We have found that as Friends who acknowledge Christ Jesus gather, and lay all else aside to wait in the stillness, we are given a great draught from the source of Living Water.

    The Ohio Yearly Meeting (Conservative) has scheduled a gathering of Conservative Friends and those of like mind to be held Sixth Month, 16-18, 2006, at the Stillwater Friends Meeting House in Barnesville, Ohio.

    Registration at Stillwater Meeting House 4-5:30 p.m. on 6-16, 2006.

    Contact: Nancy Hawkins
    5190 Kirk Road
    Columbiana, OH 44408
    Phone: (330) 457-2939

    In the Light of Christ,
    Graying Quaker/Albion Guppy


  12. Robin, you’ve confirmed something for me, thank you! I think I mentioned that I’ve discovered some inaccuracies in what I originally wrote/spoke about NFC’s history 3 years ago. The “talk” was that we were the first organized Friends’ meeting west of the Rockies, but it isn’t true. San Jose was first, and Pasadena California might have been ahead of NFC, too. Thanks for the confirmation of that, and I’ll use more accurate language when we talk about it this Sunday.

    Graying Quaker, thank you for such a genrous invitation!! I really wish that I could attend, because I am really intrigued by Conservative Friends and would love the opportunity to be with you. Your generosity in extending the invitation is a real honor to me, and I thank you. During sixth month and into seventh month, my family will be celebrating my in-law’s 50th wedding anniversary. Perhaps one day we will have the chance to meet in person, and even better, sit in stillness together.


  13. ‘A Weekend With Ohio Conservative Friends’

    This past weekend I traveled to Barnesville,Ohio to ‘The Wider Gathering of Conservative Friends.’

    I met people that before I had only known from their writings; Terry Wallace (from the New Foundation Fellowship), Arthur Berk, Seth Hinshaw, Nancy Hawkins, and Jack and Susan Smith, to name just a few.

    I had never attended a gathering of Ohio Conservative Friends before, but I had heard many times about their tenderness and their Christ Centered focus.

    Everything that I had heard was true.

    I met Conservative Friends there from Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Texas, California, New York, Georgia, West Virginia, and Virginia, and Britian and India, as well!

    The silent waiting upon the Lord meetings were absolutely the best times of vocal worship that I had ever shared with any other Quakers anywhere in the U.S.

    On seventh day evening Jack Smith (with the help of his children) gave a really well done presentation on ‘The Lamb’s War’.

    It was awesome!

    We had good weather the whole time, and sitting inside the 18th century hand built (by olden Friends) Still Water Meeting House was a treat in itself.

    The doors were opened to the outside, and as Still Water is out in the country, this brought nature into our worship as well.

    Everyone had communal meals together at Olney School which is also on the grounds, and not so far away from Still Water Meeting House.

    This too was quite a special feeling, of sharing meals with people who share so much of the same kind of Quakerism.

    Everyone was exceptionally kind to everyone else and ‘Plain Language’ abounded.

    I’ve never heard so many “Thee’s” and “Thou’s”, and “Thy”, as I heard this past weekend. 🙂

    About 3/4 of the folks there were ‘Plain Dressers’, and several of the women looked as though they had just walked directly out of ‘The Presence in the midst’ painting. It was truly amazing.

    It gave me alot of thought over the way that most of us dress, and the counter-point to that, of ‘Plain Dressing’.

    I enjoyed myself immensely, and felt right at home, and found the language of Plainess really quite lovely!

    I’ll go back in two years for sure, for the next meeting of scattered Conservative Friends, and in the mean time, I’m considering trying to start a Christ Centered meeting here in our home town of Mason City, Iowa (if it be the Lord’s leading…..which I feel that it is).

    I especially want to thank Terry Wallace and the New Foundation Fellowship and The George Fox Fund for their very kind offer of a scholarship to help defray my traveling costs.

    This was a simply wonderful Meeting that I will carry in my soul and spirit for a very long time, and in fact, I will consider Ohio Conservative Friends (at Barnesville)to be my ‘spiritual home’, from this point, onward.

    In the Light of Christ,

    Greying Quaker/Albion Guppy


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