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Rhode Island Monthly Meeting: An Evangelical Secession from New England Yearly Meeting Elizabeth Cazden* In 1951 the two Quaker congregations in Newport and Portsmouth, Rhode Island thatmade up Rhode Island Monthly Meeting transferred their affiliation from New England Yearly Meeting to the evangelical Ohio Yearly Meeting (Damascus).1 The disputes leading up to the transfer exemplify liberal-evangelical tensions within the Gurneyite wing of the Society of Friends as well as in other Protestant denominations. Rhode Island Monthly Meeting was one of the oldest Quaker meetings on this continent. Portsmouth and Newport, settled in part by Anne Hutchinson and her followers, proved fertile soil for early Quaker missionaries , and meetings for worship were held on the island from at least 1658. The first general gathering, considered the beginning of New England Yearly Meeting, was held in Newport in 1 661 . Within twenty years afterthe 1845 division, only the Gurneyite monthly meeting survived. AsThomas Hamm has explored indetail, in the early years ofthis century the Five Years Meeting, to which New England belonged, was deeply affected by the changing intellectual climate within the Protestant world.2 Despite the orthodox language ofthe 1902 Uniform Discipline, modernism became the dominant stream at least among the leadership. Haverford philosophy professor Rufus M. Jones, a lifelong member of South China, Maine, Monthly Meeting, among others, guided the body toward "new levels of accommodation to science and modernity and into the deeper mystical faith thatforhim constituted the essence ofChristianity and all true religion."3Liberals within FiveYears Meeting (andPhiladelphiaOrthodox) even began a cautious dialogue with their even more liberal Hicksite counterparts. As in otherdenominations, however, this swing toward liberalism didnot go unchallenged. In Ohio Yearly Meeting, which had remained independent of Five Years Meeting, Walter and Emma Malone built up the Cleveland Bible Institute and ajournai, The Evangelical Friend. Holiness Friends held solid positions in California, Kansas, Oregon, and IowaYearly Meetings, leading Oregon and Kansas to withdraw from Five Years Meeting over disagreements about the liberal interpretation of Scripture in its Bible School literature, the modernist editorial policy of The American Friend, and alleged doctrinal unsoundness among pastoral and missionary ?Elizabeth Cazden, a practicing lawyer and independent scholar focusing on twentieth-century Quaker history, is a member of Concord (New Hampshire) Monthly Meeting and past clerk of New England Yearly Meeting. Quaker History candidates.4 Individual Friends in these and other Yearly Meetings sought ways, in Arthur Roberts' words, "to lift up a standard of evangelical faith they felt had been pulled down in the Society ofFriends" and to "announce to our church ... an uncompromising war to the finish on Modernism and destructive criticism."5 These evangelical Friends were part of an interdenominational holiness movement, while retaining theirQuaker identity and orthodox Quaker doctrinal statements such as the 1887 Richmond Declaration .6 Rhode Island Monthly Meeting, probably alone among New England Friends, participated in this evangelical Friends' network.7 The ministers who visited came almost entirely from Ohio and Oregon Yearly Meetings. Membership transfers were mostly to or from Ohio Yearly Meeting; one member went to study at the Cleveland Bible Institute.8 Other meetings in New England, by contrast, had closer ties with more moderate Yearly Meetings such as North Carolina, Indiana, and New York. Rhode Island Friends supported missionary activities outside the Five Years Meeting's Mission Board, including work in Guatemala under the care of California Yearly Meeting and two of its own members working in India under Ohio Yearly Meeting.9 By contrast, most New England Friends supported the work in Ramallah (Palestine) begun by New Englanders Eli and Sybil Jones and now run by the Board.10 Rhode Island chose its mission work intentionally to avoid the liberal tendencies within the Five Years Meeting Board. It endorsed Kansas Yearly Meeting's 1931 withdrawal from that Board, affirming that the Board "should not send those to the field that disbelieved the Bible and do not give to Jesus His rightful place as the Son of God."11 Rhode Island Friends also maintained close ties with nearby holiness churches. From 1938 through 1946 the pastor of the Newport congregation was Norman Trafton, of the Reformed Baptist Church of Canada.12 A number of members transferred...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1504
Print ISSN
0033-5053
Pages
pp. 1-16
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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