Oregon Yearly Meeting & the Peace Testimony, 1938–1954

I have two pieces of exciting news on the research I did a while back with my grandfather, Ralph Beebe, on Friends from what was then called Oregon Yearly Meeting (now Northwest Yearly Meeting and Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting of Friends) and their draft choices. We interviewed men who were part of the yearly meeting between 1940–1975 regarding what they chose when they were drafted for World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, and why they chose that option.

One article on this research came out in Fall 2019, issue #133, of Quaker Religious Thought, and it became available this week as digital full text. You can find it here. That article focused on the draft choices of participants in the study and what their choices indicate about the way the peace testimony was being taught and practiced in Oregon Yearly Meeting during those years. The article also details information from archival records and yearly meeting minutes regarding peace education, committees related to peace, and support of Civilian Public Service camps, among other actions the yearly meeting was taking at the time. It discusses the ways OYM was attempting to hold fast to an evangelical understanding of Christianity while also maintaining its witness regarding Christ’s call to peacemaking alongside other Friends.

My second piece of news regarding this research is that part 2 of this article was published in the most recent issue of Quaker Religious Thought, Spring 2021, issue #136. This one is not yet available for full text download, but can be ordered here. This article is entitled, “Oregon Yearly Meeting and the Peace Testimony, Part II: Relationship with the American Friends Service Committee, 1938–1954.” As I was exploring the archival documents from this era, I noticed an ongoing conflict regarding whether or not to affiliate with the AFSC. OYM worked with the AFSC to adminsiter Civilian Public Service camps and hosted speakers sometimes, and several prominent OYM members held leadership roles in the AFSC during this time period. They were not formally affiliated, however, after 1938 because OYM felt the AFSC was not sufficiently focused on the message of Jesus Christ. Also, the AFSC was promoting communist ideals and at times directly promoting the Communist Party through its literature, speakers, and other activities. By explaining the relationship between OYM and the AFSC, I explored the challenges of listening to the Prince of Peace in that time period without being drawn into litmus tests regarding party line loyalty (on both sides of the aisle), issues we are again facing in our own time.

These two articles focus on WWII and the Korean War, since I originally wrote the main part of these articles for the Quaker Theological Discussion Group in 2018, which focused on early 20th century Friends theologies of service in the United States. (Even going to 1954 was a little bit of a stretch to call this “early 20th century.”) Eventually, I plan to complete a manuscript my grandpa and I started, which will also include the Vietnam era.

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