Friday, 3 February 2017

Swarthmore Lecture 2017

I sent this rather tart letter to The Friend, which they have published

Edward Burrough wrote in 1659 that 'We are not for names, nor men, nor titles of Government, nor are we for this party nor against the other' (QF&P 23.11).  It is therefore with some surprise that I have learned that this year's Swarthmore Lecture is to be given by Catherine West, a Labour MP and member of the Corbynite faction, who happens to be a Quaker.

The Swarthmore Lecture has two purposes: firstly to interpret to Quakers their message and mission, and secondly to make the wider public aware of the spirit, the aims and fundamental principles of Quakers.  Ms West’s will focus on addressing inequality, tackling poverty and promoting social justice. As warm words about such issues are on the lips of politicians of all parties, including the Prime Minister, a concern for social justice cannot be the distinguishing mark of a Quaker.  This calls into question whether the Swarthmore Lecture is the proper platform for what sounds like an address to voters.  No doubt what Ms West has to say will be of interest to those, Friends and others, with a secular and civic concern about socio-economic equality (see A&Q 34) but whether it fits within Burrough's rubric and the purposes of the Swarthmore Lecture is less clear.


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