Brother Francis, I Still Protest

"The likeness we bear to Jesus is more essential than our notions of him." 
Lucretia Mott

As I am writing this blog post, Francis is in Philadelphia as part of his trip across the east coast of the United States.  His historic visit was highlighted by an address to a joint session of Congress, genuine displays of humility and service to the poor.  However, during the course of his visit, I have noticed that deep down I still have a problem with something.

...a Quaker problem?

That was my attempt to break an uncomfortable feeling within myself with a meme, because as far as I know, I will be the first Friend in the Quaker blog-o-sphere to write something less than favorable about Francis.  Extending beyond Quaker bloggers, most of the progressive Christian voices have been positively ecstatic over the visit from the bishop of Rome.  A big part of me just wanted to wait out his visit and ignore my unsettled feeling, but it has risen to the level of a leading.

I am young, and I can err with my words.  I am also a student of the Inward Teacher, and am supposed to be a publisher of the Truth.

In this instance, the truth is that I still protest the claimed authority of the bishop of Rome.

I do not question his sincerity...Lord knows I have been moved by Francis's ministry far more than any mega-church pastor.

I do not question his heart for the poor, or his critiques against the evils of capitalism.

I think his calls for protection and care towards refugees have been inspiring and critically needed.

How can I as a person of integrity, lift up as an example of a 'model Christian', one who denies the equality of half of his own flock? Half a billion...billion with a B...half a billion women are categorically being told they are unfit for ministry in the Catholic church.  That is a lie.  That is a malicious lie and I condemn it in the strongest of terms.

Have Friends forgotten that testifying to the equality of women is an active position to take?  Have we forgotten that some of the most incredible ministers of the Gospel in the history of our Religious Society were women?  If Friends are only able to heap praise upon a man who sits atop a patriarchal priesthood....then we need to remember who we are.  I have observed most of that praise coming from Quaker men...which saddens me immensely.

"Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it." 1 Thessalonians 5:19-24
I want to be clear that I am not "anti-Francis", because I truly consider him a brother in Christ, and I hold the success of his continued ministry up in my prayers.  However, I want to be also clear that if I ever have the chance to have a cup of coffee with Francis...there is no doubt in my mind that the first question I would have for him would be regarding the equality of women.

The Clerk of the Elders of my Monthly Meeting is a woman.  Both of the Presiding Clerks of West Hills Friends Church during my time there have been women.  The Superintendent of Northwest Yearly Meeting is a woman.  Four examples of faithful ministers who I am separated from by 1 degree who all would have had their ministries quenched in a system similar to the Catholic church...and that is something that I can not abide by.

I spent last weekend at the West Hills Friends fall teenager retreat...and the thought of any one of those teenage girls being told by an adult that their gender limits their potential for ministry....makes me start to shake with anger.  All of those teens are equal, period.

All humans that ever were and ever will be...are equal.

Remember that, Friends of the Light, and boldly testify to it.

I think that part of the attraction of Francis is as a "proof of concept" of the papacy.  Surely within my lifetime, this is the pope that most exemplifies the teachings of Christ as I understand them.  And I anticipate that many will tell me something like "but think of all the good he will be able to do with the position he has! He can be a voice for climate change and against injustice to world leaders like no one else can!" no one else can? Really?  I think in our clamor to have a Christian super star with pictures and quotes to share on our Facebook timelines... there is a laziness.  Do not point to Francis as a validation of a Christian worldview! Live a life that bears a likeness enough to Jesus that people will experience Christ through you!  You dear reader....have just as much access to God as Francis does, and just as much ability to live a good life.

For myself, I do not believe that anyone is or needs to be the successor of Peter.  However, I know that so many Christians across the world experience God and truth through the traditions and style of worship of the Catholic church.  I am a Quaker who (shock horror!) finds a lot of beauty in liturgical worship, and am glad that there are groups who regularly practice those.  I am thankful for the people who stay in the Catholic church with hopes to reform it, faithful women and faithful LGBTQ folks...I pray that you will be filled with the Spirit's strength and wisdom in the years to come in that work.

Brother Francis, I am glad you are visiting the United States, but I still protest.  And for the time being, I can do no other.


  1. THANK YOU, A.J. I feel similarly, though didn't flesh it out so much. I've just been feeling like an odd duck surrounded by liberals of various faiths who all seem to think (swoon) "He's sooo cool!" My much cooler feeling toward him -- in the cool, calm, and collected sense -- is some combination of these things:

    - He's still not MY Pope, so isn't it as cross purposes with my faith if I were to get all swooning about him?

    - What happens when the next Pope comes along and says the opposite? If we give this good Spirit our affirmation of his Popedom and how much it matters, and then we don't do it when the message says stuff we don't like....what IS all that? It just seems very spiritually messy and untenable.

    - I don't value his positions that favor the authority of the Catholic church -- buying into it in the first place. Or the degree to which he still is moderate and not liberating when it comes to, yeah, women, but gay people even more so.

    I can be grateful that -- in a world where people see him as powerful -- he is one man saying Christ's actual liberating teachings matter. He is still implementing that in faulty ways (to my thinking)...but I'm grateful that he's using the power the world gives him to lift up the poor, to speak about our environment, and to encourage (ho hum, Catholic Church) more moderation and less judgment when it comes to gay people, divorced people, etc. It's baby-steps with those folks... At least that's what we've come to expect. Maybe that's why everyone's fawning all over him. Just being floored that he actually believes in social justice finally: so the bar is low and the Glow is high.

  2. Last I heard, and I haven't followed carefully, he is still harboring pedophiles. Now what do you think would happen if someone else who harbors pedophiles was invited to speak to Congress?

    1. I haven't followed what Francis has done about the child abusing priests in his denomination...I should probably research more. I will be holding those victims in my prayers.

  3. This Friend speaks my mind. Thank you AJ for saying what needs to be said. May I sign on as cosponsor?

    1. Hahaha thanks so much for reading Friend : ) I am glad my words have resonated with you, but also definitely would welcome your perspective/pushback if there is something I say in the future that you have a different opinion on! I appreciate you!

  4. Thank you. Translated into Russian for the Russian Quaker facebook group.

    1. Wow! Thank you : ) that is wonderful to know!

  5. Echoing the THANKS from other folks who have chimed in earlier: I, too, had those qualms, and am very grateful that you've located a large part of my own discomfort. Mark Charles, a blogger who reminds all of us of the peoples who lived on this land before any Europeans arrived, has another reminder of what's getting left out in the issues Francis is drawing attention to (

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting Gail! There is another Native American author who wrote a fantastic piece named Randy Woodley, he is also a professor at George Fox University

  6. Dang boy, you are so nice, I however- a mean old friend am not so nice. Screw em.



Meet The Author