Hugh Stewart Barbour, Quaker historian, longtime professor at Earlham College and Earlham School of Religion, peace activist and devoted Quaker, died on 8 January 2021 at the age of 99. It is difficult to describe his immense influence on the field of Quaker Studies. We hope the eight tributes below are at least a partial fulfilment of that daunting task. Stephen Angell of Earlham School of Religion offers a comparative appreciation of a longtime Barbour family friend, Ts’ai Yung-ch’un, with William Penn and Barbour himself. Then, Michael Birkel of Earlham School of Religion, previously a colleague with Hugh at Earlham College and editor of Hugh’s Festschrift, considers Hugh’s evolving appreciation of Christian and Quaker thought on perfection and how that interacted with religious awakenings over many centuries. We follow those scholarly appreciations with six personal tributes: from Melvin Endy, a scholar on William Penn now retired from the faculty at Hamilton College; from Mary Garman, retired faculty member at Earlham College; from Doug Gwyn, an independent scholar who has written about early Quakers; from Thomas Hamm, professor at Earlham College; from Rosemary Moore, affiliated with the Woodbrooke Quaker Studies Centre; and from Carole Spencer, who has been affiliated with both George Fox University and Earlham School of Religion. We hope that you find these heartfelt tributes illuminating and enjoyable.
William Penn and Hugh Barbour’s Chinese Friend, Ts’ai Yung-ch’un
In his spiritual autobiography, or ‘spilgrimage’, that Hugh Barbour penned for his Festschrift, he discussed his upbringing in China. Hugh was born in China and spent most of his first ten years there, until the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, nurtured by a rich mixture of nationalities and pacifist-tinged Protestant Christianities. His Scottish father, George Barbour, taught geology at Chinese universities and collaborated with Pierre Teilhard du Chardin in the latter’s archeological excavations. His American missionary mother, Dorothy Dickinson Barbour, was an accomplished religious educator who wrote books about child care in basic Mandarin. Hugh notes that she wrote in English, and was aided in translating her books into Mandarin ‘by her Chinese seminary students’ (Barbour 1992, 20).
One of the latter, Ts’ai Yung-ch’un (1904-1983), was a significant enough figure in his own right and, one comes to understand, such a notable influence on Hugh that he merited a brief Hugh-Barbour-authored memoir published in 2000 by the Yale Divinity School, a work that is too little known and too little read. The premise of my essay on Hugh is that there are fascinating similarities and parallels between Ts’ai’s life and thought and that of one of Hugh’s most enduring scholarly subjects, William Penn. Accordingly, in this essay, I will attempt a comparative analysis of the life and thought of Penn and Ts’ai, in the hope that it will thereby illuminate many of Hugh’s deep intellectual and spiritual convictions and commitments.
Ts’ai Yung-ch’un was a prominent Chinese Christian pastor, hospital chaplain and university professor who lived through, and was profoundly affected by, a very turbulent time in his nation’s history. During the 1940s he was, for a time, a pastor for the Church of Christ in China. His sermons were remembered as full of philosophical wisdom and very convincing. As a university professor his main subjects were church history and comparative religions, also subjects that were central to Hugh’s teaching. He married Huang Xiuyin in 1933 and they had two daughters (Hong-yu, also known as Joan, and Liang-yu, or Dorothy).
Ts’ai was a lifelong friend of the Barbours. As alluded to above, in his youth he was one of the Yenching seminary students who advised Dorothy Barbour on how to translate her tracts for mothers into Mandarin. He remained close to the Barbours until they left China in 1931. There were numerous close contacts between the two families even after this departure. In particular, the families visited often when Ts’ai came to the United States for graduate studies at Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary in New York between 1946 and 1950. In 1947 Ts’ai stayed much of the summer with Hugh himself; Hugh, then 26 years old, was pastor of a Congregationalist church in South Coventry, Connecticut.
Ts’ai had experiences of hardship, oppression and conflict throughout his life, as many seventeenth-century Quakers had. His youth corresponded with a period of a disunited China under the rule of numerous warlords. During that period he was once kidnapped and held for ransom and, on another occasion, his family’s houseboat was robbed of most of its possessions. His health was often delicate, as he suffered recurring bouts of tuberculosis. In the 1930s the Japanese invaded China and Ts’ai suffered a three-week imprisonment in 1938, before his family moved to Hong Kong, where he served on the faculty of the Canton Union Theological College and also worked with refugees.
He returned to China in 1950 during the first year that the Chinese Communists had unified China and consolidated their power, and he was hopeful that the Communists would allow religious freedom and would govern in a way that manifested a social gospel. His hopes for freedom under the Communist regime were mostly not borne out. The Protestant universities were taken over by the government in 1951 and Ts’ai was ‘tricked’ out of a teaching job for several years (Barbour 2000, 23). In 1966, under the Cultural Revolution, faculty members such as Ts’ai were turned out of the university and replaced by soldiers and faculty workers. ‘Ts’ai was detained, interrogated, beaten on his back and mouth, placarded at his gate, and paraded for ridicule through the town’, and the aging Ts’ai and Xiuyin were forced to live in the rugged countryside, where sympathetic neighbors helped them with the heavy labour (such as drawing water from a well, since there was no running water) necessary for them to survive (Barbour 2000, 24). Ts’ai’s health suffered.
Ts’ai Yung-ch’un’s Thought
Most of Hugh’s memoir of Ts’ai is devoted to a summary of his Christian devotion and his thought, as can be ascertained from his master’s thesis, doctoral dissertation and other writings. His devotion and his thought were intertwined.
Ts’ai loved the Christian gospel. He was very devout, reading the Bible daily. In his later years his main literary work was compiling was Hugh describes as a ‘solid’ anthology of New Testament readings, one that would be published in 1992 after his death. For Ts’ai, the Christian gospel was inherently a social gospel; Christ saves us communally, not just individually, and the gospel, as he understood it, has a this-worldly focus in serving others. So, from his youth, Ts’ai was critical of a fundamentalism that would over-emphasise individual salvation as preparation for afterlife. One theme that Hugh does not explore in any depth is the massive effect that the growing division between fundamentalists and liberals had on the Chinese Christian churches, the Chinese mission field.
One of Ts’ai’s mentors and longtime friends was Dr T. C. (Tze-ch’en) Chao, a theologian at Yenching University, an Episcopal priest and an enthusiastic ecumenist (Barbour 2000, 13). Hugh does not mention it, but Chao was also a key person sparking Rufus Jones’s later career as a ‘lay’ ecumenical activist who played a vital role in rethinking the aspirations and tasks of Protestant missionary work in the 1920s and 1930s (Angell 2000, 169). These kinds of links between Chinese Christians and Christians elsewhere are little known. We need much more scholarship on the interactions of the Chinese churches with the rest of world Christianity, and Hugh’s memoir of Ts’ai is a source that ought to be consulted when anyone undertakes such a project.
Hugh, however, makes it quite clear that Chinese Christian theologians had a somewhat different set of tasks before them than did most or all Western theologians. To be successful in China, Christianity could not be seen as an alien import. Yet China already had its indigenous religious traditions, Confucianism and Taoism, and also a widespread Buddhist tradition that had been imported prior to Christianity. As a young Christian, therefore, Ts’ai wrestled with questions such as these: ‘[What is] the relation of Christianity to myself and China’s national life? Is Christianity a vital religion to me? Does China need such a religion? How can Christianity be fitted for modern China?’ (Barbour 2000, 8).
Seeking harmony between faith and reason, and also a harmony between the various types of spiritual wisdom available to the Chinese people, Ts’ai adopted a pragmatic and friendly approach to such questions. In the early decades of the twentieth century, Chinese converts to Christianity were generally expected by Western missionaries to destroy the Buddhist, Confucian and Taoist images they possessed. Sometimes a big bonfire was started and the images consigned to the flames. Ts’ai sketched out a less antagonistic approach between these great religions. In his MA thesis, addressing the issue of funerals, he suggested various ways to combine Confucian and Christian rituals. He did not advocate that Christians should ‘encourage’ or ‘revive’ Confucian rituals, but ‘the church may tolerate them’ (Barbour 2000, 16).
His doctoral dissertation, completed in 1950, on the eleventh-century Neo-Confucian philosopher Cheng Yi, delved deeply into wide-ranging theological and philosophical matters. Ts’ai agreed with Cheng’s presupposition that there was a universal ethical order. ‘Right must be done for its own sake, not because it can bring desirable results or happiness’ (Barbour 2000, 19). He was in general accord with the predominant view of Chinese philosophers that human nature was essentially good, or at least not hopelessly corrupt, and so sought a basis in nature and human nature for social ethics. Similar to much Confucian exposition, he did not see God as intervening in history in a causal fashion. Cheng’s word ming has been translated by some as ‘divine decree’, but Ts’ai preferred to translate it as ‘fate’ (Barbour 2000, 18). One should live by righteousness, not rely upon fate. Although Ts’ai apparently did not make this point explicitly, Cheng’s Neo-Confucianism resembles deism and other Enlightenment forms of Christianity more than Orthodox Christianity in its downplaying of divine agency and elevating of human responsibility.
Ts’ai approved of Cheng’s emphasis on the centrality of integrity and sincerity (or ‘being true to one’s cosmic nature’) in a person’s life. ‘If one cannot fulfill [one’s social roles] with integrity, then one is not following the Tao, one’s fundamental nature’ (Barbour 2000, 19). He concluded his work with an analysis of Cheng’s views on politics and society. According to Cheng, ‘the good minister … must put first the peace and welfare of the people, but also protect and encourage the scholars’ (Barbour 2000, 20).
One surmises that Ts’ai was in general agreement with Cheng’s ideas, and also that he saw them as appropriate views for Chinese Christians to uphold. If the reconcilability of portions of Confucianism and Christianity had ever been in doubt, Ts’ai implicitly but convincingly demonstrated how they could quite easily reinforce each other.
The Chinese state’s intermittent and oscillating protection and encouragement of scholars took a turn for the better in the late 1970s, more than a decade after the start of the Cultural Revolution. In 1979 Ts’ai was publicly rehabilitated and formally reinstated as a professor, four years after his 1975 retirement. He never recovered his health, but after 1979 he was able to resume scholarly activities and some contact with friends overseas. He died on 24 May 1983.
In his scholarship on William Penn, Hugh emphasised the importance, indeed the centrality, of Penn’s theological thought to his life’s witness. Hugh’s most significant contribution to Penn studies was a two-volume work that was published shortly after his retirement: William Penn on Religion and Ethics: The Emergence of Liberal Quakerism (Edwin Mellen Press, 1991). This essay will also take note of two earlier analyses by Hugh: ‘William Penn, Model of Protestant Liberalism’, Church History 48 (June 1979), pp. 156-73; and ‘The Young Controversialist’, in The World of William Penn, ed. Richard S. Dunn and Mary Maples Dunn (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986), pp. 15-35.
These early essays limned a William Penn who was a humanist and a moralist, one who emphasised the commonality of all human beings while simultaneously providing philosophical justifications for Quaker distinctives. Penn was a ‘culture snob’, Hugh wrote, but he ‘also shared deeper outlooks of the humanists: that the world is one and is rational; that we are taught about it by philosophers of all faiths and eras; that between thoughtful men, nothing human is alien’ (Barbour 1979, 160). Penn legitimately built on the universalism of earlier Quakers that every person can have access to God through the Light within them. But Penn’s outlook on the world definitely did not depend on God actually reaching every person directly. Hugh extensively analysed the pragmatic, psychological, humanist and economic grounds that Penn established as the basis for his central philosophical tenet of religious toleration.
Ultimately, however, in his Church History article, Hugh determined that Penn’s contribution to Quaker theological core principles, especially in his 1674 tract The Christian Quaker, was his deepest and most significant contribution to the wisdom both of Quakers and of a wider world. In The Christian Quaker, Penn was able to appeal to the thought and life example of pre-Christian Greek philosophers to demonstrate the universality of the Light within. ‘Unlike other Friends, Penn learned from all the Christian humanists to revere human understanding and the concrete wisdom of alien men as containing divine truth’ (Barbour 1979, 173).
Hugh’s essay on ‘The Young Controversialist’ both simplified and complicated the dynamics he had set forth in ‘The Model of Protestant Liberalism’. Penn’s humanity was on full display in this essay, as Hugh included many amusing, quirky stories about Penn and his friends and associates.
Hugh made a simplifying assertion in the latter essay, offering that Penn’s most creative theological writing very largely came before his thirtieth year, 1674. This had occurred for a variety of reasons: he had more time for writing earlier, and he shouldered more time-consuming responsibilities later in his life for the Society of Friends, and for his colonial projects. At the same time, the cut and thrust of polemical debates pointed out the complicating factor of attempting to maintain consistent theological positions while being attacked by all sides, including by Socinians (i.e., early Unitarians), Muggletonians and Quaker dissidents such as William Mucklow.
Penn’s radical ethics, most notably set forth in his 1669 tract, No Cross, No Crown, largely rose above this polemical crossfire. But ‘the mood and agenda of a debater kept Penn from producing writings more centered in his own experience, such as he achieved in ethics; and this in the end made his theological books less known and loved than Robert Barclay’s’ (Barbour 1986, 15).
Again, Hugh assessed that Penn’s Christian Quaker supplied the clearest and most illuminating statement of the humanism at the core of Penn’s theology. Moreover, the philosophy Penn worked out in The Christian Quaker would serve him well in his later career as statesman and colonial proprietor. That 1674 work proclaimed that
already every person knows truth enough to start on the way to salvation, and to obey until fuller Light is received. Penn drew from this approach to truth a new basis for Friends’ relationship to non-Quakers, notably those in the English government, and built on it his program of political reform by consensus of sensitive consciences. (Barbour 1986, 28-29)
Hugh’s carefully edited Penn anthology, William Penn on Religion and Ethics (1991), works out his insights and contentions from the two earlier essays in a brilliant and thorough manner. Its 672 pages are divided into six parts. The first five of these parts - Penn’s prophetic radicalism; trinitarianism; the universality of the light; Quaker discipline; and religious toleration - are all rooted in the massive writings of the young Penn prior to 1674, although brief selections from a very few writings from Penn’s later life are also included in the bulk of the book.
Only Part VI of the anthology, ‘Penn’s summing up of Quakerism’, presents exclusively his later writings from the 1690s. ‘His works in his final years, beloved for their pithy character, are his distillation of a lifetime’s experience, some more conventionally Christian than any of his early writings, others more unashamedly philosophical’ (Barbour 1991, I, 20). The fact that several of Penn’s works from the 1690s had come to be regarded as classics and, as such, had been frequently reprinted alleviated any sense of urgency that Hugh might have felt to publicise them further. Quite consciously, he chose to concentrate his scholarly efforts on Penn’s lesser-known early works, as still quite deserving of attention, even as other of his colleagues in Quaker Studies and related areas, including Frederick Tolles, Edwin Bronner, Jerry Frost and the Dunns, focused their attention on other aspects of Penn’s life and works.
Yet, at this point, as we prepare to draw contrasts with the work of Ts’ai Yung-ch’un, it is appropriate to ask what he and we are missing in Penn’s life by focusing our attention primarily on his early work. What might Hugh have largely missed? We might mention that Penn and his Quaker contemporaries faced a degree of societal turbulence and opposition that would have been familiar to Ts’ai, but less familiar to subsequent generations of Quakers. Penn achieved greater fame and prominence in England from 1684 to 1688 as a courtier to his friend James II, but after the Glorious Revolution in 1688 that deposed James Penn was held in great suspicion of possible treason or sedition by the new monarchs William and Mary, and he had to live unobtrusively in forced retirement for several years. He was in great danger for a time, although he did avoid the most negative possible consequences by remaining in seclusion. In addition, Penn, as a mostly absentee proprietor of Pennsylvania, often faced considerable and vexing challenges from the residents of that providence.
The imprisonments and political persecution that Ts’ai would later experience were not unknown to Penn. As the eighteenth century dawned, the political climate both in England and Pennsylvania were more favourable to Penn and the Quakers, but Penn’s personal and financial troubles landed him in debtor’s prison in 1708 for many months. The most recent biography of Penn begins with this little known episode from Penn’s later life (Murphy 2019). Penn’s and Ts’ai’s universalistic idealism could not flourish without significant suffering on both men’s part, and continuing struggle and opposition. Hugh makes this part of Ts’ai’s biography explicit. However, this aspect of Penn’s later life is mostly implicit in Hugh’s portrayal of him.
Hugh Barbour with family members.
Nothing Human Was Alien to Him
Homo sum, humani nil a me alienum puto was a sentiment derived from a play (Heauton Timorumenos, i.e., The Self-Tormentor) by the African-born, formerly enslaved Latin playwright Terence in the second century BCE, and this sentiment was important to Hugh. An English translation is: ‘I am human, and I consider that nothing human is alien to me.’ We have already seen this statement paraphrased in Hugh’s writings on Penn. It was not explicitly alluded to in his memoir of Ts’ai, but that memoir is also imbued with Terence’s spirit in this regard.
Penn, Ts’ai and Hugh were remarkably cosmopolitan spirits. Of Welsh, Dutch and English ancestry, Penn spent much of his childhood as part of a Protestant minority in Catholic Ireland. He later spent nearly two years receiving an advanced theological education in a Reformed Protestant seminary in Saumur, France. He visited Germany four times. Much of his adult life was spent nurturing English colonies in North America, including nearly four years of residence in Pennsylvania. His 1693 Essay toward the Present and Future Peace of Europe imagined a means of world government and nonviolent conflict resolution for all countries in Europe, including many with which he had such intimate connections.
Ts’ai devoted his life to preaching Christianity, not an indigenous religious tradition in China. He befriended and worked closely with many foreigners in his chosen vocation as educator and pastor. His advanced degrees were all achieved through years of study in the United States.
Hugh Barbour with Henry Cadbury.
Hugh Barbour, along with his Scottish father (with some Canadian ancestry) and American mother, lived for the first ten years of his life in China. His brother Ian and he
talked more Chinese than English together until we were laughed out of it when I was five. … By the time I was sixteen I had crossed the Pacific five times and the Atlantic ten, and been the outsider in ten schools … . Any career which did not change the world would be a betrayal of my heritage. Even now I haven’t freed the world from nuclear weapons. … Along with family trips to France and Italy I spent vacations at workcamps in depression-ravaged Lancashire. (Barbour 1992, 21)
He would marry an Earlham College graduate who was a native of Finland, Sirkka Talikka.
Both Hugh and Ts’ai forged close connections with many religious communities. Ts’ai was originally affiliated with the United Church of China (a church that brought together Congregationalists and Presbyterians) but later accepted ordination from the Episcopal Church.
Hugh was a self-described ‘ecumaniac’:
I was baptized a Congregationalist, confirmed in Harry Emerson Fosdick’s Riverside Church, had been an acolyte at an Episcopal School in England and done seminary fieldwork in Methodist and Protestant churches. But while I was in college Dean Angus Dunn convinced me that I did not believe in the Priesthood and so could never be an Episcopalian. Henry Cadbury and George Selleck welcomed me into Quakerism. (Barbour 1992, 25)
From his convincement in 1667 until his death 41 years later, Penn was always a Quaker, but seldom a narrow one. One of Penn’s best-loved passages from his Fruits of Solitude breathed the generous and exceptionally welcoming spirit that Hugh so graciously exemplified: ‘The Humble, Meek, Merciful, Just, Pious and Devout Souls, are everywhere of one Religion; and when Death has taken off the Mask, they will know one another, tho’ the divers Liveries they wear here makes them Strangers’ (Barbour 1991, II, 548).
Hugh’s spoken and written references to China featured the wise, generous and inclusive side of its culture. One example will suffice. Hugh was greatly interested in the attempts by the first generation of Quakers to evangelise the whole world. Some such attempts involved parts of the world that were well known to the English at the time. Thus, Mary Fisher was granted an audience with the sultan of Turkey, Mehmed IV. Several Quakers visited Rome during the papacy of Alexander VII, seeking to convince him of Quakerism. But Hugh was especially interested in a letter that George Fox sent to the emperor of China, one that demonstrated a ‘universalist spirit’ and would acquaint them with the God-derived ‘Light which Jesus Christ hath enlightened you withal’. The letter was entrusted to the care of four Friends who never were able to reach China. But Hugh, in his classes and in his writings, always insisted that the Chinese emperor would have been happy to receive the letter. Here is how he put the point in The Quakers in Puritan England: ‘The Emperor K’ang Hsi, Confucian scholar and friend of Jesuit scientists, would no doubt have received the letter with courtesy and approval’ (Barbour 1964, 88).
Quakers, Hugh insisted, had tapped into a rich vein of universalism that was deeply and genuinely embedded in Christianity, and was too often overlooked by most Christians. But Penn knew all about this universalism, and he wrote about it, too. The Quakers, like Jews, believed in the salvation of all who accepted the Noachide principles that, in Penn’s telling, ‘tend[ed] to the acknowledgment of one God, and a just Life’ (Barbour 1991, II, 433).1 Quakers and Jewish rabbis converged on common spiritual wisdom, just as Christians and the Neo-Confucianist Cheng Yi did in Ts’ai’s doctoral analysis. The liberal universalisms of Penn, Ts’ai and Barbour were each alive to the rich possibilities of spiritual convergence between religious traditions.
A further convergence is found in our spiritual guides’ treatment of the theme of Christian love. Here, according to Hugh, is how Ts’ai treated that topic:
Love is neither merely thoughts nor merely talk. Love is compassionate action. Love is the holy cross. Love is the devoted concern for the interest of others. For [it] one is willing to sacrifice his own interest, to struggle without fear. With selfish or distracting thoughts, love cannot retain its purity. Love does not tolerate evil, but can treat one’s shortcomings justly. Love is infinite tolerance of the shortcomings of others, and compassionate help. One should review and meditate on the love he has been given so that he can understand what love is. To love your enemy is to love adversaries among brothers and sisters. It does not mean that one should tolerate evil without condemnation … . Condemning evil is love as well. (Barbour 2000, 25)
And here was Penn’s take on the subject:
Let us then try what Love will do: For if Men did once see we Love them, we should soon find they would not harm us. Force may subdue, but Love gains: And he that forgives first wins the Laurel … . Love is the hardest Lesson in Christianity; but, for that reason, it should be most our care to learn it … . Did we believe a final Reckoning and Judgment; or did we think enough of what we do believe, we should allow more Love in Religion than we do; since Religion it self is nothing else but Love to God and Man. He that lives in Love lives in God, says the Beloved Disciple: And to be sure a Man can live no where better. (Barbour 1991, II, 549-550)
The converging Gospel preached by Penn, Ts’ai and Barbour was a warm, inviting and winsome one, with Love at its centre.
How His Mind Changed: Hugh Barbour on Perfection and Religious Awakenings
This essay explores how early themes in Hugh Barbour’s scholarship, specifically themes of perfection and religious awakening, re-emerged later in his work. These themes are prominent in his first book, The Quakers in Puritan England, and they return in his later writings, painted on a significantly larger canvas. They reflect Hugh’s enduring interests in religious experience, ethics and social change. This essay also highlights some less-well-known items in Hugh’s scholarly corpus, pieces that merit fuller acquaintance.
Hugh Barbour and Earlham colleague Lincoln Blake.
Reading Hugh Barbour: A Singular Style
It may be important to begin with the obvious: Hugh’s writing style can be far from obvious. It can be concise to the point of terse. In this, he has forbears in Christian history, such as Tertullian or Maximus Confessor, so he stands in good company. The familiar adage about a person ‘thinking in paragraphs but speaking in sentences’ at times applies abundantly to the character of some of Hugh Barbour’s work. A casual reading can miss much. The reader must adopt a slower pace, reflect from multiple angles on what is stated and often fill in the gaps. One could, for example, read the chapter ‘The Terror and Power of the Light’ in The Quakers in Puritan England looking only for theological statements and miss the profoundly subtle psychological dimension of this astute analysis of early Quaker spiritual experience.
Hugh himself did not always seem aware how rich and complex his writing could be to others. In the 1985 reprint of The Quakers in Puritan England he innocently wrote in a new Preface,
No debate followed from my own thesis calling the most crucial of Fox’s early ‘openings’ (a series including ‘Jesus Christ who can speak to thy condition’) the moment when he saw within himself ‘the ocean of darkness’, ‘the ocean of light’ and ‘the natures of dogs, swine, Sodom and Egypt.’ Seeing also at work within him the Light that could ‘be atop’ these, Fox no longer ran endlessly from outward temptation or from father figures. (Barbour 1985, vi)
It seemed not to dawn on him that it was possible that ‘no debate followed’ because this thesis was expressed so much by implication that few readers in fact picked up on it. What may seem obvious to a brilliant person can be much less so to the rest of us. I freely admit that in fact I only perceived Hugh’s thesis about George Fox’s experience and relationship to father figures only after he had explained it to me in detail in private conversation. As with some great poets, what is unsaid can be more important than what is explicitly stated. Inference is key.
Hugh Barbour the Protestant
The later writings that are the focus of this essay show that Hugh Barbour was more than a Quaker historian. He was a church historian. He loved the breadth of Christian history, but above all he was Protestant to the core. An important essay of his, ‘Protestant Quakerism’ is in part a response to Lewis Benson’s Catholic Quakerism (Barbour 1969; see also Barbour 1984). Benson used that term widely, in no way suggesting deference or adherence to the church of Rome. For his part, when Hugh used ‘Protestant’, he meant precisely the heirs to the Reformation of the sixteenth century and beyond. Hugh loved Protestantism. In his teaching of church history he wooed his students into loving the insights of Martin Luther, especially his teachings of salvation by grace rather than by human effort, and his emphasis on the hiddenness of God in Christ. He then swayed his students to fall in love with early Anabaptism, which echoed the concerns of early Friends in numerous ways. Finally, in an era in which the word ‘Puritan’ was a term of aspersion or vilification, Hugh unabashedly laboured for his students to see Puritanism in positive terms, as a movement to remake society in a godly fashion, akin to the social change movements of the 1960s, especially among the radical wing of Puritanism. As he put it, ‘Two important themes had now [that is, during the English Civil War] emerged in Puritanism: social justice and spiritual inspiration’ (Barbour 1964, 21). This devotion to Protestantism no doubt played an inspirational role in his programme to convince readers to see early Friends squarely within the realm of Puritan England. Hugh’s love of Protestant and all church history is key to some of his late writings. He never abandoned Quaker history, but he desired to see Quakerism within the wider context of the Church across the ages.
In his monumental and multi-disciplinary study of early Friends, Quakers in Puritan England, in addition to theological and psychological approaches to the rise of early Friends, he considers Quakerism as a movement of religious awakening.
Fox and his co-workers turned in the winter of 1651 toward the North of England, the crucial region of early Quakerism. As a striking contrast, Puritanism was least strong in this region … . The areas which the Civil War demonstrated to be the real heartland of Puritanism were even more cold to Quaker preachers: Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridge, and, except for London, the rest of the Southeast. (Barbour 1964, 42)
He wrote that Quakerism was
not merely a reaction against Puritanism but much more a movement into untouched territory. In the North the frontier character made for an ‘awakening’ among the unchurched not unlike the Great Awakening under Jonathan Edwards or the Kentucky camp meetings of the American Second Awakening. (Barbour 1964, 42)
In the North ‘public meetings of over a thousand gathered’ to hear George Fox (Barbour 1964, 45). He was to develop such comparisons later in his scholarly work.
The primacy of the experience of the Light, with all its terror and power, has been mentioned above. He noted that this personal experience lay at the root of early Quaker teachings on perfection (Barbour 1964, 149). Here Hugh spoke of the ‘possibility of perfection’ in terms of ‘perfect obedience to the Light’ (Barbour 1964, 150). As he explored the many expression of Christian perfectionism over the ages, he came to reconsider the unique qualities of Quaker teachings on perfection.
Awakenings and Perfection
The Quakers in Puritan England grew out of Hugh’s doctoral dissertation, begun in the early 1950s and then much revised in its publication in 1964. By the late 1970s his interest in comparing the early Quaker experience with both other religious awakenings and other understandings of perfection was yielding exciting insights. I recall an unusually animated lecture by Hugh on that topic in his course on American church history. It was fast-paced and captivating. I recall saying with appreciative excitement to a fellow student that I felt that we had been offered an entire though as-yet-unwritten book in a single presentation. While Hugh did not go on to devote an entire volume to the topic, he visited the theme in several essays and papers that he composed in the early 1990s. Taken together, the published essays constitute a tour de force of historical and linguistic scope, ranging from the New Testament (considered in its Greek original) and late twentieth-century scholarship on the Sermon on the Mount (much of it in German) through medieval sources (in Latin, German and Middle English), with particular focus on the Radical Reformation, the Quakers, the German Pietists and John Wesley, and Paavo Ruotsalainen, the founder of a lay Pietist awakening in Finland in the early nineteenth century. Early Friends are thus examined in a wide scope, to discover both what they had in common with other movements of perfectionist awakening and what was peculiarly Quaker.
It is humorously said of Thomas Aquinas, the master of subtle distinctions, that if you handed him a loaf of bread he would return it to you sliced. Hugh’s treatment of Christian ideals of perfection borders on the Thomistic, sliced five ways.
The first is perfect discipleship or perfect obedience. Hugh traces this theme to the ancient monk Antony the Great, whose Life, attributed to Athanasius of Alexandria, records his turn to the ascetic life as a response to hearing read in church Jesus’ admonition as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew: ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come follow me’ (Matt. 19:21). Antony took this counsel with heroic literalness, and early Christian monasticism began - although Hugh also suggests influence from Stoicism on dispassionateness and perhaps ‘Buddhist and Hebrew monks’ (the latter probably a reference to the apocalyptic community at Qumran as well as Philo of Alexandria’s account of the Therapeutae in his On the Contemplative Life). Vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, however, became the monastic prerogative, the ‘evangelical counsels’ beyond the scope of ordinary believers. This prevailed until circa 1200, when Peter Waldo and Francis of Assisi, without and with ecclesiastical endorsement, respectively, promoted such perfection among laypersons, eventually resulting in condemnation as a heresy or a new religious order. Each aroused a massive awakening of popular religion. Perfect discipleship or perfect moral obedience was continued by the Anabaptists, who used the Sermon on the Mount as a rulebook for community life. As Hugh noted, ‘Their pacifism came from obeying the Bible, not from belief that love always wins. They depended on each other and on the power of God to help them keep a standard beyond ordinary humanity’ (Barbour 1994a, 4).
A second species of perfection is perfect humility. Different preachers of perfection may aspire to more than one kind of perfectionism, and both Francis, who rejoiced when humiliated, and Peter Waldo, whose group merged with the humiliati, a lay group in northern Italy, sought such humility. Such humility intends not simply to reject and protest the power and wealth of corrupt leaders in both church and society - as both groups did, at least implicitly - but also to avoid self-righteousness. In this regard, humility is akin to the Gelassenheit of the great Dominican mystic of the late thirteenth and early fourteenth century, Meister Eckhart, a term rich in connotations of yieldedness or resignation to the will of God, of detachment from desires (hearkening back to ancient monastics) and of interior serenity. Since this Gelassenheit is achieved by experience but not by human effort, it appealed to Martin Luther, who probably encountered the concept through the writings of Eckhart’s disciple Johannes Tauler, whose vernacular sermons were also known among some early Anabaptists.
The third in Hugh’s taxonomy of perfection is perfect surrender of one’s own ambitions to the perceived will of God. This he attributes to Calvinists, including English Puritans, who sought first the glory of God and were suspicious of any claims to individual perfection. In this this they reflected Reformed teachings on predestination and depravity, although this notion of perfect surrender is admittedly close to Quaker practices of introspection.
In contrast to the potential harshness of some Calvinists, Hugh posed the ideals of John Wesley on perfect love. Hugh described this as ‘purity of emotion as well as intention’ (Barbour, 1994a, 4). Wesley and his more perspicacious followers ‘made clear that perfect love did not rule out errors, ignorance and human weakness, or further growth in grace by those sanctified’ (Barbour, 1994a, 4). Thus perfect love requires ongoing discernment, lest mere human love be taken as divine.
Such need for discernment takes us to Hugh Barbour’s fifth model of perfectionism, and the one that he sees as the most distinctly Quaker - although the other four ideals could be seen in the writings and experiences of various Friends. He described it as ‘perfect openness’ (Barbour 1994a, 4) or ‘perfect response to the Light, as it guides each person’ (Barbour 1994c, 5). Early Friends were ‘willing to subject every thought or motive - as well as daily decision - to the light’ (Barbour 1994a, 3):
The Light can give ‘Leadings’ that teach directly Truth about a person’s ‘state’ of soul, and prompt specific actions. For Quakers, Truth meant a way to live, not a set of ideas or laws. Early Friends did not claim to possess perfection, since their hope was to respond perfectly in each new minute. (Barbour 1994c, 6)
Early Friends, however, did write vigorously defending the infallibility of the Light to Puritans who saw only the Bible as worthy of being so designated. Hugh notes that while George Fox and James Nayler found it difficult to admit that they had not responded perfectly to the Light, the next generation of Friends, ‘notably Robert Barclay and William Penn, stressed instead that each person received the Light according to his or her “measure,” and should simply obey it perfectly until more light was given’ (Barbour 1994c, 6).
George Fox was severe with any early Friends who thought God’s spirit could lead anyone to evil, to dishonesty, to cruelty, or to violence. When he called the Light within each person infallible, he also assumed it was consistent with itself. It would not lead anyone to violence in any situation. He assumed that it would thus lead ‘Children of Light’ into consensus with each other and with Jesus and the Bible writers. He discovered instead, as Friends do today, that the meaning of the Bible is often the very center of our disagreements, and that even the consensus of a large group is not immune to the blindness of a collective ego. It would be hard to base a mass movement of Awakening on the imperfect morality of Quakers today. (Barbour 1994c, 6)
He continues, with the same candor:
Friends’ more perfect openness to new moral insights, such as about war, slavery and women’s rights, moved them ahead of churches with a fixed authority or code of moral perfection. Yet Quaker pioneers in social ethics, like Hannah Barnard and Lucretia Mott, risked disownment as curmudgeons by their Meetings, that clung to long-established customs of Quaker life. (Barbour 1994c, 6)
Hugh offered these conclusions about Quaker insights into the nature of human perfectibility.
The Quaker message is ‘about the power of the Spirit within individuals, visible even when it works in non-Quaker groups’;
The Spirit may ‘guide a group beyond the leadings of every individual’;
Quakers have ‘kept the insight that the perfections of truthfulness, non-violence, all-inclusive love, and personal simplicity are not simply commands of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount’, but descriptions of how Quakers believe God works (Barbour 1994c, 7).
Given the human propensity for cruelty, and the violence of the galaxies, the third point is an act of faith. Hugh believed that Jesus showed that he knew this when he spoke of the Tower of Siloam that collapsed on 18 people who deserved it no more than their neighbors (Luke 13:4). Hugh then offers some theological reflections on Scripture that are rare in his published works:
Jesus was wrestling with the seeming injustice or indifference of God in human history. He lived in a cruel age, when the pious expected the Kingdom of God on earth could only come by a cataclysmic act of God’s justice. Though Jesus had a dynamic sense of what God might do soon, his central and original message was that already ‘the Kingdom of God is in your midst.’ But he said that it takes faith to see it. The fact that God seems not to judge evil, Jesus saw as a sign that God loved equally both the righteous and the wicked. This love does not keep them from suffering and dying unjustly, as Jesus himself was about to do. For the present, God’s Kingdom is hidden like seed in the ground, except to those with faith in it. (Barbour 1994c, 8)
To return to the Sermon on the Mount, whose who are pure in heart, those who are peacemakers, those who mourn and those who hunger for righteousness yet are persecuted are indeed blessed, not as a future reward in a coming apocalypse or in the afterlife, but as a present fact. Those who did not live this way do not receive divine punishment but are ‘simply left behind as God’s Spirit moves forward. We choose our own irrelevance’ (Barbour 1994c, 8).
Just as Hugh’s insights on Quaker notions of perfection evolved over the decades, so did his understanding of religious awakenings, through comparison with other regional religious revivals across the history of Western Christianity. He observed that often ‘one or another form of perfectionism has set fire to a religious Awakening’ (Barbour 1994a, 5). The popular movements associated with Peter Waldo and Francis of Assisi have already been mentioned. Many could be added, included the rise of early Christian monasticism, the English Lollards, the followers of Jan Hus, the early Anabaptists, German and Methodist Pietisms, and the Holiness movement of the nineteenth century. (See Barbour 1994c for a detailed account of all these movements.) Just as he parsed perfectionism, Hugh analysed awakenings, proposing four principal criteria:
An awakening takes place ‘in a region culturally isolated or self-aware where religious life and leadership has been dormant for more than a generation’ (Barbour 1994b, 7). Often, the established church has ignored the area or neglected it, sending only incompetent or largely absent clergy. The awakening is thus the first experience of religious vitality to its participants.
The experience of transformation usually begins in a painful individual crisis but comes to change lives not only for individuals but for entire communities, inspiring hope for social change. The power of this transformative experience persuades those who receive that it cannot be the fruit of their own efforts and therefore must be the power of God. This can lead to eschatological hopes.
Rather than a sect that gathers around a charismatic leader, large numbers of participants feel called to spread the message of the movement. ‘A regional Awakening will usually spread into neighboring or similar regions with varying success, and attempt to capture the national capital which it has condemned as the center of corruption (thus usually drawing disinherited city groups)’ (Barbour 1994a, 7). Hugh notes that, as the movement spreads, an awakening is like ‘the corona of gas around the sun, hotter than the core it surrounds’ (Barbour 1994a, 8).
‘Despite its original regionwide inclusiveness, the polarising nature of the inner struggle of God against Self by which initiates enter membership, tends to be reflected in an outlook polarising the Spirit or the Saints against “the world” and all other churches’ (Barbour 1994a, 8). The initial struggle, however, is within the person, not the nation. Theologically, since people must choose to join the movement, concepts of predestination are not endorsed. Eschatologically, there is a sense that the reign of God has already come in part.
Clearly Hugh Barbour’s grasp of movements of awakening became more nuanced as he compared the Quaker Galilee, as he put it, with other mass movements that were inspired by intense, individual experiences of divine presence that led to a desire for a more perfect life.
Hugh Barbour was ever simultaneously the scholar and the churchman. His intellectual interests overlapped with his ecumenical concerns that different kinds of Christian come to understand one another more fully and with his commitment as a Friend to promote greater understanding and relationships among different kinds of Friend. Friends influenced by the Holiness movement can tend to read early Quakers in light of nineteenth-century revivals, and Hugh’s schema of both perfectionisms and criteria for awakenings can challenge that perspective: the Holiness revival resulted in changes in patterns of Quaker worship, pastoral leadership and a centralised concept of authority, but not a transformation of moral demands. Instead, the revival offered strength to persevere in goals to which evangelical Friends were already committed. Similarly, the concept of Quaker perfection as perfect openness to moment-by-moment leadings challenges the Holiness notion of perfection as perfect love, as preached by John Wesley. In the same way, that notion of perfection also challenges liberal Quakers, whose moral commitments can seem guided by wider liberal political ideas that are not as radically open as early Quaker ideals. Hugh hoped that his work would provide food for thought for both ends of the Quaker theological spectrum, as well as offer tools for overcoming how each can fail to understand the other.
It is widely agreed that The Quakers in Puritan England is Hugh Barbour’s most enduring contribution to the study of Quaker history. He did not rest on the laurels of that achievement, however. This essay, which explores some of the lesser-known works of his later scholarly career, shows that he revised and improved upon elements of his early opus. In so doing, he modelled the humility and the openness to new insight that he praised among early Friends.
Tributes by Quaker Studies Scholars
I knew Hugh Barbour mainly through his many important publications, our occasional appearances together on panels or as commentators at conferences, and some personal correspondence. Although we differed in ways in our interpretations of early Quakerism, he was always gracious in dealing with critiques of his work. That, I suspect, was not only because he was a very gracious person but also because he recognised the complexity and sometimes conflicted nature of early Quaker thought. He believed that scholarly progress in understanding the movement would come through open-minded scholarly dialogue among scholars of differing perspectives.
His The Quakers in Puritan England (1964) drew upon a generation of scholarship that put forth a renewed appreciation of Puritanism, including the radical spiritualist Puritans on whom the English scholar Geoffrey Nuttall had focused in The Holy Spirit in Puritan Faith and Experience (1946). Hugh Barbour built on this scholarship to write a broad-ranging study of early Quakerism that became the foundational book in a new interpretation of early Quakerism stressing its Puritan roots. This interpretation countered the school of thought headed by Rufus Jones that had viewed Quaker thought primarily as a form of mysticism that escaped the confines of the Calvinist and even liberal Christian thought world. Hugh Barbour not only wrote the book that headed up this new school of thought on the Puritan roots of early Quakerism but used his astounding knowledge of early Quaker sources to remind his scholarly followers that some early Quakers escaped the confines of even their radical Puritan roots. The movement included figures such as William Penn, who raised fundamental questions about the ways in which most Christians had understood Christ’s saving work.
Since my own scholarship on Quakerism focused on the thought of William Penn, I especially appreciate the enormous contribution Hugh Barbour made to Penn scholarship, especially in his two-volume William Penn on Religion and Ethics (1991). Drawing on the work on Penn sources of those scholars associated with the Papers of William Penn project, Hugh Barbour reprinted - minus repetitious and tangential passages - most of Penn’s works. Each of the sections of this collection starts with the editor’s introductory essay. These essays, Barbour’s few paragraphs on the setting for each work printed, and his extensive footnotes drew on his vast knowledge of the primary and secondary works of early Quakerism and of its social and intellectual milieu. These two volumes are absolutely essential for anyone attempting to understand the growth and development of Penn’s thought.
I once had the privilege of hosting Hugh Barbour at Hamilton College, where I had invited him to give a lecture. The combination of his warm presence and brilliant lecture was a highlight in a scholarly relationship that spanned many decades and from which I benefited immensely. I am deeply grateful.
Hugh Barbour: A Teacher Remembered
For many years Hugh Barbour taught at Earlham College and also at the School of Religion. I remember watching him as he got ready to go to class. His briefcase was full of books and lecture notes, and his other hand held maps and a slide projector and slides. He began class by sharing insights into some aspect of Quaker history or theology that had been covered in the assigned readings. He then invited us to share our views, and he shaped his lecture around our comments and questions.
Here’s what was remarkable: if you met him later on campus throughout your time at Earlham he would ask you about ‘your research’ and recommend a recent book or article that related to a comment or question you had raised in class - maybe one, two or even three years earlier. Also amazing: between semesters he could be observed in the Religion section of Lilly Library, looking up your footnotes. He was always open to discovering new resources, which he added to his (already lengthy) syllabus. For Hugh teaching and learning were deeply connected, and his enthusiasm never seemed to waver.
Hugh Barbour was also an important spiritual presence at Clear Creek Meeting, at College Meeting for Worship and during worship at ESR. These were times of political turmoil and global suffering, and the spoken ministry would often fill up with expressions of concern. Hugh spoke infrequently in worship, but his words, although few, were Spirit-infused. He regularly reminded us of God’s infinite love and encouraged those who were inexperienced and afraid. One Sunday he observed my sighs over recent losses and approached me with comforting words and the suggestion that I share my spiritual struggles with the Meeting. His kindness extended across generations of Clear Creekers: from time to time Hugh volunteered to teach the youngest members, and, many years later when our son went to law school in the Boston area, Hugh greeted him warmly at the Cambridge Meeting.
The stories of Hugh’s chronic absent-mindedness circulated on campus and all through the Quaker world. He was, we used to say, a citizen of ‘Planet Hugh’. I remember especially a Sunday morning when he had been invited to speak at College Meeting. The planning committee, faced with the weighty task of introducing him before his sermon, came up with a brilliant solution. Instead of listing his publications and scholarly contributions, as might be expected, each person was invited to recall a favorite ‘Hugh story’. We sat together in stillness and waited. One person began to chuckle out of the silence, and another and then another, and then another. As we sat laughing together in Stout Meetinghouse we felt deep gratitude for Hugh: an enthusiastic, generous and thorough teacher and scholar, a compassionate and empowering community member, a generator of delight.
A Memorial for Hugh Barbour
Many who were Hugh Barbour’s students and colleagues at Earlham had more extensive contact with him than I did. But our shared interest and sustained research into early Friends brought us into some conversation over the years. His Quakers in Puritan England (1964) was foundational to my early studies, and Hugh very generously gave me a copy of Early Quaker Writings (1973), the large anthology he had edited with Arthur Roberts, which has been a valuable resource to me ever since. We did not have many conversations, but Hugh always made some beautifully distilled remark that stayed with me and guided my continuing research and reflection.
Hugh Barbour was part of a generational cohort of Friends arising after World War II who were concerned to deepen the historical, theological and spiritual foundations of Friends in order to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world. They included T. Canby Jones, Sandra Cronk, Wilmer Cooper and Arthur Roberts - all of whom completed doctoral studies and made important contributions in teaching, writing and mentoring the next generations of Friends and others. That cohort was also core to the founding in 1957 of the Quaker Theological Discussion Group and its journal, Quaker Religious Thought (some other key participants included Lewis Benson, John McCandless, and Ruth Pitman). QTDG is a wonderful blend of academics and other concerned Friends. Until the 1990s, its annual conferences were usually held at some Quaker site between Philadelphia and Richmond, Indiana. I was a baby-boom generation Friend blessed to stumble onto QTDG in 1975. I learned from and was encouraged by Hugh and others at their gatherings. Their sustained faithfulness, scholarship, and prophetic witness shall forever reflect the eternal Presence that called and led them.
I recall these things all the more gratefully and poignantly now, with Hugh’s passing.
Some claim that all philosophy, at least Western philosophy, is a footnote to Plato. A quarter of a century ago, Damon Hickey wrote that all writing about early Quaker thought since 1964 has been a footnote to the work of Hugh Barbour. Like most things in the Quaker history, there will be arguments about that. But there can be no question that, with Hugh Barbour’s death, we have lost one of the most important and influential Quaker historians of the past century.
Three things come to mind when I think of Hugh. The first is his kindness. Hugh was sometimes forgetful and absent-minded. But it is impossible for me to conceive of Hugh being consciously unkind toward another person. Many can speak of his gentle wit, the humour that was always light, never at the expense of others. And he was unfailingly generous. He and I first met almost 40 years ago, when I had begun research on what would become The Transformation of Quakerism. I contacted Hugh for advice on sources and he invited me to Earlham. When I got to campus he escorted me to the library and, in the Friends Collection, immediately began pulling books and boxes of manuscripts off the shelves, commenting on their potential usefulness.
Hugh will probably best be remembered for the book based on his Yale dissertation, The Quakers in Puritan England. But I doubt that anyone will ever attain the breadth and depth of knowledge that Hugh had of Quaker history. He was equally comfortable discussing the theology of George Fox, the evolution of Quakerism in Kenya, Elias Hicks as an abolitionist and the personality of Joseph Bevan Braithwaite. It strikes me that with the almost simultaneous death of Hugh’s friend and contemporary Kenneth Carroll, we have seen the last of the generation of Quaker scholars who knew Rufus Jones and Elbert Russell.
Finally, Hugh was an active Friend who attempted to understand and appreciate all varieties of Quakerism. That made him a regular at meetings of the Friends World Committee, and he gave considerable time to both Friends General Conference and Friends United Meeting. He was likewise active in both Indiana Yearly Meeting and Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting before his own monthly meeting, Clear Creek, ended its affiliation with Indiana. His desire for understanding and unity, or at least understanding, among Friends sometimes took him to some uncomfortable places. Perhaps the most memorable example was when he appeared at the Realignment Conference in Des Moines in 1991 to argue against the whole concept.
What William Penn wrote of George Fox is applicable to Hugh: ‘He was no man’s copy.’
I personally have very good reason to be grateful to Hugh Barbour. I first met him at the George Fox Tercentenary Conference at Lancaster University in 1991, and he asked about my work, which consisted of constructing a database of early Quaker pamphlets and then analysing it. Shortly afterwards a package arrived by post, containing a copy of the raw data compiled by Hugh’s pupil David Runyon for the appendix ‘Types of Quaker Writings Year by Year 1650-1699’ in Early Quaker Writings. I have used it again and again, saying ‘Thank you’ every time.
My engagement with Hugh’s work has mainly been in connection with The Quakers in Puritan England, a notable contribution to the reassessment of early Quakerism that took place in the middle of the last century. By that time the weakness of Rufus Jones’s mystical theory of Quaker origins had become apparent and recent research was throwing new light on Puritanism. Geoffrey F. Nuttall’s The Holy Spirit in Puritan Faith and Experience appeared in 1946 and placed Quakers firmly within the Puritan spectrum, albeit at one end of it. It is in relation to this background that one must see The Quakers in Puritan England, published in 1964. It remains a major study of early Quakers. The historical chapters contain detail not readily found elsewhere. The chapter heading ‘The Terror and Power of the Light’ has been quoted by me, and probably by others, as precisely encapsulating one aspect of the early Quaker experience. The chapter on doctrinal controversy is a valuable and valid discussion of early Quaker theology. It has since become clear that there is more to both Quakerism and Puritanism than was apparent 60 years ago, but this is still a book to refer to.
I only met Hugh once again, in 1994 at a ‘Consultation on the First and Second Reformations’ in Geneva. ‘First Reformation’ denotes early reform movements such as those associated with Peter Waldo, Jan Huss and John Wyclif, and ‘Second Reformation’ divides into ‘Magisterial’, Lutheran and Calvinist, and ‘Radical’, Mennonites, Quakers and the like. Hugh had attended previous conferences, held in Prague during the late 1980s, when members of First and Radical Reformation churches had met to learn something about each other’s traditions and their contemporary relevance. The Geneva conference included representatives from a number of other Christian traditions, with the intention of arriving at a more comprehensive understanding of the Reformation and considering how this might help to renew the churches and enrich ecumenical discussion. I was there as a replacement for the British Friend who usually attended and was unable to go. Hugh’s paper was one of three on the Sermon on the Mount, and is a comprehensive survey of how the call for perfection in the Sermon has been understood in the radical churches. There were three further conferences in this series, and Hugh was involved with them all. His major publications were in the field of history, but he was much more than a historian.
I had the wonderful privilege of meeting Hugh Barbour in person only a few times towards the end of his long scholarly career. He was probably in his eighties by the time I met him. No longer doing new research, he was still attending Quaker conferences and encouraging and mentoring younger scholars. When I was working on my dissertation his work proved foundational to the development of my thesis on Quaker holiness. Of all the living Quaker scholars at the time, his work was most critical to my own studies. I had one face-to-face conversation with him at a conference that proved to be pivotal to my research. I felt he had an intuitive understanding of what I was attempting to formulate, and he encouraged me to pursue my thesis of Quaker holiness. He promised he would send me an unpublished paper of work he had presented at a Conference of Biblical Theologians some years earlier that related to my work. I was thrilled! His paper on Perfectionist Movements provided the basis for a model I created for my study. It was the last time I saw him and, while I thanked him in a note later, I always wished I could have thanked him in person for the inspiration he gave me at that meeting as I built on groundwork he had laid. A footnote in my dissertation seemed wholly inadequate for the lifeline his unpublished paper meant to me. His groundbreaking 1964 book, The Quakers in Puritan England, was, of course, also seminal, as it was to so many Quaker historians who followed in his wake.
I appreciated his irenic spirit within the great diversity of Quaker branches and his life-long role as a bridge between Quakers of all persuasions. I especially valued his partnership with Arthur Roberts (another mentor of mine) on Early Quaker Writings - a liberal and an Evangelical Friend collaborating together across traditions on a pioneering historical project.
I only recently read his autobiographical essay ‘Spilgrimage’ in the Festschrift The Lamb’s War, published to honour him back in 1992, and learned so much about his many-faceted life that I had not known. His father went on field trips with Pierre Teilhard de Chardin - one of my spiritual heroes! What amazing stories he must have heard from his father!
Hugh represents to me the ideal Quaker spiritual teacher and leader and a life of ministry, scholarship, travel, contemplation and action, a person who poured his life into the greater Quaker community. I wish I had met him earlier in my life and experienced more of his vast wisdom, but am so grateful for the few times I did get to interact with him. We have all been gifted by the wisdom of his legacy and, though now beyond the veil, he will always be connected to us and we can continue to build on the gifts he has left us.