"Prophecies" are inspired declarations of divine will or purpose, according to Merriam-Webster. Synonyms are along the lines of predicting, prognosticating, foretelling and the like.
This has been rattling in my brain since early this weekend. I was present at Friends General Conference's Central Committee - a wonderful gathering of inspiring people who have accomplished a lot, cumulatively, over the course of their varying lengths of lives. As a collective body, however, I left wondering whether we are caught in a system that is less than the sum of our parts. A gelling, jarring and telling moment came when the word "prophetic" was used in describing one of the program proposals. Without going into too great detail, this had to do with a proposal to upgrade the web-presence of the organization so that its messages and communications can be more egalitarian and timely. I had to be honest (and spoke to this at the gathering): upgrading the web presence and technology is essential to today's world, and, given that we are now wrapping up 2010, this can hardly be considered "prophetic". "It's about time" is more appropriate although, given the challenges on the road ahead for FGC, and the fact that the plan calls for this process to take 3-5 years, "too late" might be even more apt.
One of the Quaker testimonies is "Community". There are only 5 testimonies. Technology has profoundly changed the face and networks of the global community, how things get communicated and how things get done. It is a wonder what community FGC has had a covenant with that it finds itself, technologically, this far behind the times. I wonder if this is not reflective of a deeper challenge not just of FGC, but of all the Religious Society of Friends, and our corporate process. Certainly, among Friends, there are countless folks out in the cyber-world active and engaged. Why have none of the governing bodies of Friends (FUM, EFI, FGC) embraced some of this energy and integrated it into their web-world?
Beyond the mere integration and adaptation issue, for FGC-Friends, I am troubled by the use of the word "Prophetic" as a self-descriptive term. To what extent are we, as Friends, so enamored with our prophetic, cutting-edge and radically-progressive past that we are completely blinded to our present? We talk about embracing diversity, but there was more diversity at the local bar in New Windsor with 20 people than at Central Committee with a gathering of 150+ Friends (I'm talking real numbers, not proportions). I continue to find little movement among Friends in promoting HIV-testing - a small thing that we could do to show greater unity in our communities. To not do so is an act of white-privilege, especially here in DC. I increasingly feel that their are a rising number of Quakers who are and can be prophetic, and some of their messages of the need for change are directed not at the outer-world but at the Friends institutions themselves. If what I witnessed this weekend is any indication, these institutions have a long way to go before their actions can really join the world in sharing prophetic messages again.