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Ministrations of peace : the historical-spiritual underpinnings of contemporary Quaker approaches to conflict in 'Third World' military settings with special reference to apartheid South Africa, 1960-1994

posted on 2017-02-08, 05:58 authored by Guiton, Gerard
This study identifies, analyses and compares the spiritual underpinning of Quaker approaches to conflict in two military settings, 1652-61 in England and 1960-94 in South Africa. It contends that the early Quakers were well within the Christian Apocalyptic tradition, using the language of metaphor and allegory to unveil the potential of the New Covenant within; to be "in the Life", as this was understood by the early Quakers, meant successfully undergoing a rigorous spiritual self-examination for a purgation of sin. This "Life-apocalyptic" was mystically-inspired and sustained early Quakerism and the development of its outward manifestation, Quaker Testimony; both were consciously and confidently bequeathed to their religious progeny. Despite a predilection among some leading Quakers towards political activism, George Fox, the movement's principal founder, continually stressed the sub-ordination of Caesar to the Inward Light, of the movement's prophetic strain to its substantively priestly disposition, something realised by the whole movement in 1659/60 as the Quakers underwent a Pentecost moment in which its Life-apocalyptic was revealed collectively. The Quaker Pentecost accentuated the sacerdotal characteristic of Testimony in its tripartite form: (i) a degree of mediation/conciliation with authorities on behalf of co-religionists as well as among themselves, (ii) a public witness for their beliefs and (iii) the establishment of mutual support systems to maintain Friends in various expressions of ministry. Historical interpretations of early Quakerism, influential still among contemporary Friends, are challenged in this work as having de-spiritualised the early movement in favour of its political characteristic. However, the first Quakers saw no distinction between the secular and sacred; their holistic Life-apocalyptic was unconditional to time and space and rested generically upon a need for conflict (rather than political compromise as advocated by certain historians) on three levels - personal through convincement, within the body of Friends, and externally as hostile forces attacked the movement. As a result, contemporary Quaker knowledge and perception of its 1650s origins and activities is shown to be rudimentary; 43 of 46 interviewees regarded Quaker history as largely irrelevant. The thesis argues that a deeper knowledge and understanding of early Quaker Testimony and its Life-apocalyptic, as these developed within and were responsive to its militarised and "Third World"-type environment, may serve to provide fresh insights into early Quaker faith and practice, act as a valuable learning resource for contemporary Friends and others experiencing conflicted settings, and help highlight the still Apocalyptic propensity of modem Quakerism. Importantly, the thesis takes a critical look at the spirituality of contemporary Friends. In this vein, contemporary Quaker voices describing/discussing their work world-wide are captured. This, too, displayed a tripartite format: (i) mediation/facilitation, (ii) social justice activism and (iii) support from their Religious Society. An examination of contemporary Quaker individual and corporate experiences of conflict, which were often found to reflect those of the early Friends more closely than first assumed, allowed their recording, analysis and discussion, particularly in respect to South African Quakers whose odyssey included not only: (i) oppression and civil war but internal conflict as Quaker Testimony in that country developed gradually along a difficult path from Sharpeville in 1960 to first all-party elections in 1994, (ii) an important conciliatory role with the principal disputing parties in the South African imbroglio and, finally, (iii) a growing capacity to enact mutual support systems.


Principal supervisor

Gary D. Bouma

Additional supervisor 1

Alan Rice

Additional supervisor 2

Margaret Woodward

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Department, School or Centre

School of Social Sciences (Monash Australia)


Doctor of Philosophy

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Faculty of Arts

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