Howard Brinton

Howard Brinton (1884-1973) was an author, theologian, professor and howardbrintonpicadministrator.  His books included Creative Worship; Guide to Quaker Practice; The Society of Friends; Friends for 300 Years; Prophetic Ministry; and Quaker Journals: Varieties of Religious Experiences Among Friends.  Brinton came from a long line of West Chester, Pennsylvania Quakers.  He graduated from Haverford College with a degree in mathematics and physics.  At Haverford he met Rufus Jones, who became his mentor.  He went on to teach at Olney, Pickering, Mills and Earlham.  In 1916 Brinton was appointed acting President of Guilford College, during which time he visited the conscientious objectors at Camp Jackson.   He performed relief work in Germany with the American Friends Service Committee after World War One.  In the 1930’s he earned a Doctorate in Philosophy, spent a year at Woodbrooke, and he and Anna, his wife, became Co-Directors at Pendle Hill.  In his later years he was involved in AFSC relief work in Japan, the formation of the World Council of Churches and the reunification of pastoral and unprogrammed Friends.  He is buried with his wife in the Oakland Friends Cemetery.

Brinton greatly influenced unprogrammed Friends through his writings.  His recommendations on Meeting for Worship, Meeting for Business, First Day School, service and vocal ministry were adopted by these Quakers.  His popularization of the term “testimonies” was broadly accepted.  Furthermore, his selection of certain testimonies –simplicity, peace, integrity, community and equality, known by the acronym SPICE –was commonly used.  (Previously to Brinton, the word “testimonies” was almost never employed by Quakers.  Such topics were referred to as “advices” and dealt with numerous concerns).  Brinton’s belief that Friends is an experimental religion, grounded in experience, also appealed to these Quakers.  Above all, his conviction that the basis of Quakerism is mysticism as reflected in Meeting for Worship was generally shared.  (Friends from other branches of Quakerism, however, disputed this emphasis on mysticism).

I read most of Howard Brinton’s books when I first encountered Friends.  They are a clear, solid explanation of Friends principles as practiced by unprogrammed Friends.

April 2018

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