- Introduction – prophecy as a foreign concept
George Fox – whom many consider to be the founder of the Religious Society of Friends – had a very specific goal in mind for the movement he spearheaded according to Quaker author Lewis Benson. “Fox’s mission,” he says, “was to restore prophecy to the central place in the life of the Church.” While some might point to active prophetic voices within the Society of Friends today, it seems unlikely that many would describe prophecy as holding the central place in the life of this religious body. If Benson was indeed correct regarding Fox’s intent, then how is it possible to reconcile this original purpose with the present day reality?
Admittedly, such reconciliation may prove impossible. Certain aspects of early Friends simply do not translate into modern contexts. Prophecy, however, is not such an aspect. Other Christian traditions continue to hold a place for prophecy in some form, and most Friends today would likely agree to a similar position. So again we are left with the question of centrality. Are there any Quakers who grant prophecy a central place in their lives?
As it turns out, there is at least one. In late summer 1996, Quaker Heritage Press editor Licia Kuenning received a prophecy that Christ’s New Jerusalem would arrive soon in the small town of Farmington, Maine. Since that time, she has moved from Pennsylvania to Farmington, published her prophecy in a variety of print and online outlets, published a novel based on the prophecy, and discussed the prophecy widely among internet discussion groups.
While few, if any (including Licia herself), would argue against the point that this is an unusual prophecy, its broad dissemination and discussion has led Friends to examine and clarify their understanding of prophecy more generally. As such, the Farmington prophecy offers a unique opportunity for study and reflection. The purpose of this paper, then, is to 1) provide an overview of prophecy and understandings of prophecy among Friends historically, 2) explain the background of the Farmington prophecy and examine its contents, and 3) consider the implications of this prophecy for Friends today.
2. What is prophecy?
According to The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, “prophets were the inspired deliverers of God’s message not only about the future, but to their contemporaries, to whom they declared God’s will, and whom they called to God’s righteousness.” As this definition explains, prophecy can include aspects of future forecasting, present calls to action, or both. Often, this can come in the form “if / then” statements – “if you do / do not do x, then y will or will not take place.” Biblical examples of such figures abound, including Amos, Joel, Jonah, Nathan and, as many maintain, Jesus.
Prophecy, though, need not be limited only to these conditions. Friends in particular have sought to expand upon that understanding. As Howard Macy explains, “Contrary to popular misunderstandings, the prophets were not primarily engaged either in predicting the future or correcting social ills. Their service grew directly from their personal encounter with God as an overwhelmingly present reality.” Such direct, personal and immediate encounter with God arguably forms the core of Friends theology.
“Christianity was itself a revival of prophetic religion after a long period of priestly domination in Israel,” argues Quaker author Howard Brinton. “Doctrinal elements were subsidiary to the one great experience shared by every convert, the outpouring of the Spirit, the divine energy permeating the soul.” Thus, while the prophetic certainly has been a model of witness in the secular arena from politics to economics, within a Christian framework such pronouncements take on the utmost importance. The authority that allows for prophetic witness is not merely human research or insight, but Divine will.
The stakes, in other words, are quite a bit higher. Perhaps because of this, most seem reluctant to claim such authority. “Prophetic voices” still emerge, but typically this is a label applied rather than asserted. Even then, predictions of future events are generally limited to trend-spotting rather than identifying specific developments or incidents.
Such reticence is not universal, however. While mainstream secular and Christian society tends to shy away from future prophecy, there remains a strong undercurrent of interest in such predictions. From a secular standpoint, this is evident in the continued interest in psychic readings and figures such as Nostradamus. Within religious circles, this is often associated with end-times scenarios regarding the end of the world as it is and the ushering in of a new era directed by God.
3. The approach to prophecy among Friends historically
As indicated above, prophecy has arguably played a larger role among Friends than in more mainstream Christianity. In fact, Brinton’s discussion of Christianity as a prophetic response to Judaism is echoed in Benson’s comments about Quakerism. “In Fox’s preaching about Christ the prophet he identifies himself and the Quaker movement with the Hebrew prophetic tradition,” he says, “and he regards his oppressors as standing in the priestly tradition.”
The prominence derives from the Quaker claim to unmediated experience and revelation of the divine. Brinton states that “The term prophetic indicates in a single word the basic theory of Quaker ministry. He who appears in the ministry in a Quaker meeting is, at least theoretically a prophet, in the sense that he or she is an instrument through which God speaks to the congregation.”
Further, this experience of the prophetic includes future forecasting. “Prophecy is not an unknown feature of Quaker witness,” explains Chuck Fager. “George Fox did it, a New Hampshire Quaker farmer Joseph Hoag foretold the Civil War in an 1802 vision, and there are others, among them some who claimed the title, and some who did not.” Over time, however, this emphasis waned. According to John Yungblut:
In the long drought of quietism which afflicted Friends, the accepted
theological position of man’s inherent depravity and of the Inner Light as
an element divinely infused but foreign to man’s nature, tended to
condition Friends against genuine mystical experience and against
recognizing and trusting its imperious, prophetic demands when it was
Since this time, prophecy among Friends has arguably been restricted to a far less significant role – both in terms of prevalence and scope. But as Fager suggests, there have been exceptions.
4. Licia Kuenning and Quaker Heritage Press
Before delving too deeply into the specifics of the Farmington prophecy, it might be helpful to provide some background on its author so as to better understand the context out of which she writes. Prior to the publication of her prophecy, Kuenning was perhaps best known for her role as editor of Quaker Heritage Press. According to the website, Quaker Heritage Press is “a project of the members of Glenside Friends Meeting, a small independent Quaker meeting located in Glenside, Pennsylvania.” The organization “aims to make available various historical Quaker writings that have been allowed to go out of print.”
Despite running the Quaker Heritage Press, however, Licia and her husband Larry cannot be described as residing within the mainstream of the Society of Friends. “Outside their publishing venture, the Kuennings’ relationship with other Quaker bodies has long been problematic,” comments Fager. “The Kuennings adopted plain dress, and in 1978, Larry published a book, Exiles In Babylon, making the case that the Society of Friends, which had once embodied the restored true Christian church, had fallen into utter apostasy…. after quarreling with some Ohio Friends, they withdrew to a tiny, unaffiliated worship group in Glenside, Pennsylvania, and turned their attention to the publishing venture.”
Others have been less generous regarding Licia’s Quaker affiliation. In a paper on the Farmington prophecy, Susan Robson stated that it “seems suitable” to qualify Kuenning as “sort of” Quaker. Bill Samuel, who maintains the website QuakerInfo.com, even goes so far as to say that “she is not part of the Religious Society of Friends. And her faith outlook is so far from any normal Christian one that I think it is debatable whether she should be considered a Christian.”
Kuenning sees such background information as unimportant to understanding her message. “My personal history is in a sense irrelevant to the Farmington prophecy,” she states, “since I claim no credentials as a spokesperson for God other than my own unverifiable inward experience.” She does, however, defend her Quaker affiliation. While she acknowledges not being a member of any yearly meeting, she states that she has
been some kind of Quaker since 1967, am on nearly all the Quaker
internet forums, am a member of...Quaker Studies Research Association,
am the sole editor of Quaker Heritage Press well known for reprinting
classic Quaker texts, wrote a novel in which the main characters are
Quakers, and have never professed membership in any other
Kuenning’s mention of internet forums is particularly important for the purposes of this paper, for this is one of the primary outlets she used for the initial distribution of her prophecy. Further, the forums have served as a community discussion center among Quakers to air their responses to the prophecy and for Kuenning to respond and clarify her position. As such, much of the primary research for this paper relies on internet-based discussions between Kuenning and others.
5. The Farmington Prophecy
That Licia Kuenning is committed to her prophetic opening is without question. In fact, at this point she has been carrying the prophecy for over ten years. “I received the Farmington prophecy in partial or incomplete form in late summer 1996,” she explains. What was the nature of God’s revelation to Kuenning? Below is the text of her prophecy:
In the town of Farmington, Maine, a new state of affairs will soon exist which the world has never seen before. This change will occur within the next few years.
Thereafter, there will be no death and no illness (except the remnants of earlier illnesses which will go away in three days or less) within the municipal limits of Farmington. Nor will there be any crime or bad behavior. You will be safe in Farmington; nothing will harm you here. The rest of the world will still be the way it has been for millennia, so if one goes outside the borders of Farmington at that time one will not be protected in this particular way, though one will be no worse off than before.
Farmington will, of course, remain as free as any other American town. Anyone may stay or leave as they choose. Nobody will try to make anyone stay or make anyone leave. Nor will we in Farmington try to keep anyone out. We will all do whatever God leads us to do.
Kuenning’s clarity about the prophecy, as well as her sense of urgency about its fulfillment, however, has waxed and waned. Kuenning traveled to Farmington after receiving the prophecy in 1996 and ran an ad in the local paper there. But she soon lost hope after none of the expected changes took place. “I [went] through a long dry spell… [after] I stopped believing what Christ had told me about Farmington,” she writes. “I figured I would probably spend the rest of my life in Glenside, and die there. But in mid-January of 2005, to my great astonishment, God re-opened the Farmington prophecy to me even more powerfully than He had in 1996.” In addition to beginning the widespread distribution of her prophecy, one month later she committed to a specific date for its fulfillment – June 6, 2006. So strong was her leading that she even wrote Florida Governor Jeb Bush during the Terri Schiavo controversy, asking that he keep her alive until after June 6, when she could be brought to Farmington and healed.
6. The Quaker response
“I never expect anyone to believe my prophecy,” states Kuenning. “I do expect them to treat it with the same respect they would treat any other communication from a Friend.” Respect, however, proved difficult. Despite the historical importance of prophecy among Friends, Kuenning’s announcement received little support among Quaker circles.
Controversy, it turned out, was far easier to come by. “It is hard to think of any other specific event or prophesied event, past or future, which has been the subject of more posts in Quaker online forums than Licia's Farmington prophecy,” writes Bill Samuel. Kuenning was in no small part responsible for this volume of postings. In addition to posting the prophecy itself on numerous Quaker forums, she also posted on completely unrelated forums such as a WebServerTalk.com discussion of the Linux computer operating system and regularly returned to review responses and engage in lengthy discussions.
These discussions varied widely, from nit-picking the finer points of the prophecy to debating the role of prophecy among Friends both historically and today. Not all responses were negative, however. Richard Accetta-Evans was one of the few responders who offered a more sobering analysis of the controversy:
Judging by the reaction in some internet forums, I gather that many Friends find Licia's prophecy to be deeply unsettling and even frightening. I think this reaction comes in part because we are threatened by visions that seem ‘crazy.’ The possibly manic energy of Licia's promotion of her prophecy is understandably off-putting, as is her impatience with those of us who don't ‘get it.’ I'm not sure that Licia is any ‘crazier’ than George Fox or William Blake, but they are conveniently dead and she is very much alive.
Rejection was not limited to the internet, however. The fellow members of her own Glenside Meeting had already disowned her for “prophesying on the Internet without corporate approval.” This was followed later by a minute of disownment from the Farmington Friends Meeting in December 2005. Further, when Kuenning sought to publish her prophecy in Quaker magazines, she was generally turned away – even after sending in funds to print the prophecy as a paid ad.
In addition to the dissemination and discussion of the prophecy itself, Kuenning also soon revealed that she would be releasing a novel, Farmington! Farmington!, that would provide a perhaps more accessible way to approach her message. For many, the lines between the fictions portrayed in the novel and the assertions Kuenning made concerning the truth of her prophecy seemed to blur. While maintaining that the novel was indeed fiction, Kuenning did contribute to this confusion to the extent that she stated that the novel was dictated to her by Christ and that it offered guidance on both how the fulfillment of the prophecy might play out and how to best prepare for that fulfillment.
The novel provided further fodder for detractors. Questions arose regarding the number of controversies personally related to Kuenning herself that Christ seemed to address in the novel, the universalism embraced in the tale, and the quirkiness of a God who would eliminate insects from the New Jerusalem.
But it was the claim of dictation that arguably resulted in the greatest controversy. In his review of the novel in Quaker Theology, Fager zeroed in on this claim and argued that such a “personally-generated mediumistic agenda” fell into a long line of similar discredited “channeling” phenomena. “The work of Licia’s ‘Christ’ is barren of the cries for justice which make the oracles of the biblical prophets echo compellingly down the centuries,” Fager comments. “I could detect no sense here of any discernment of the ‘signs of the times,’ beyond a fear of illness, death, and bugs. ‘Christ’ needs to do better than that to hold my attention.”
7. Kuenning’s defense
As those Quakers who chose to engage with Kuenning online quickly discovered, though, she was not only committed to her opening but unwilling to back down against even the most withering attacks. In addition, she is so well-versed in early Quaker history that she was often able to turn the table on her critics. Kuenning became a nearly ubiquitous presence wherever the prophecy was being discussed, even performing internet searches on her name and Farmington to track down any conversation in which to engage.
Rather than taking off on tangents or responding solely out of emotion, her sometimes intimidating style of rebuttal involved point-by-point dissections of previous comments. Such a style may have its roots in the pamphlet wars of early Quakers, in which they fiercely debated theological minutiae with other emerging religious movements. Through it all, she held that it was always her opponents who misunderstood Scripture, revelation and early Quakerism.
Her defense consisted of four basic points. The first was that her prophecy could not be dismissed as merely the product of insanity. “People who know me only from my historical and publishing work usually respect both my intelligence and my integrity,” she pointed out. “Questions about whether I am crazy arise only when someone is looking for an excuse to disrespect a very unusual prophecy.”
Second, the prophecy was not the product of her imagination or simply wish-fulfillment, but came instead from beyond her. “I wouldn't trust myself to be able to figure out the future by analyzing the obscure eschatological material in the Bible,” she said to distance herself from dispensationalists. “I got my prophecy directly from Christ.”
Third, in response to the repeated questions put to her about clearness committees and community discernment, she asserted that early Quakers did not wait for committee approval before heeding divine leadings.
I do not find in early Quaker writings this idea that one must ‘test’ one’s leadings with other people before acting on them. I would go so far as to say that the Society of Friends would not exist if its founders had refused to obey their leadings until confirmed by some committee–there was no such committee; and ministering Friends were constantly on the road, dealing with intense social pressures which would have made consultation among them very difficult or impossible. This was the most powerful period of the Society’s history–so I think we should not disregard their example. Most leadings require only the individual who receives it to act upon it–they don’t require a corporate statement in support of whatever that one individual has been led to do.
Finally, she argued that Friends’ reluctance to embrace her prophecy was symptomatic of a larger issue - the rejection of prophecy among Quakers generally. As she put the matter, “the only reason anyone ever gives for rejecting this prophecy is that they don't believe anyone knows the voice of Christ. Which means that they do reject prophecy ‘per se’ unless they believe in prophecies given by some other deity.”
8. 6/6/6 and beyond
On June 6, 2006, 99.3 FM, KTJ Radio for Western Maine issued the following report:
The only miracle visible on Tuesday in Farmington was the appearance of sunshine, a temporary bright spot in a spell of rainy weather. Licia Kuenning, author of Farmington! Farmington!, had predicted that on 06/06/06, the town would receive a blessing from God which would heal the sick and eliminate death. She had also predicted that, around dawn, Center Bridge would move four feet. None of the prophecies seemed to materialize, but at a gathering in Meetinghouse Park, a number of people expressed their support for her, with many saying they enjoyed the conversations and debate sparked by the book. Kuenning said she was: disappointed.
News of the prophecy’s failure spread rapidly on the internet – the very medium Kuenning had so effectively used to spread news of her revelation. In a statement posted the next day on Quaker-B, the British Quaker email list, she said “I promised to apologize on this list if my prophecy didn’t come true–so this is my apology–though it isn’t much of one, since I have not as yet seen anything to blame myself for.” Four days later on the Quaker-L e-list, she offered more of an explanation:
I think the only error I made was in thinking June 6, 2006 was the date when the Farmington prophecy…would be fulfilled…. When my nerves had calmed down a bit after the upsetting experience of June 6 I was able to see that my Farmington prophecy had two distinct parts: (1) the important things which were to happen, and (2) the date when they were supposed to happen. The two parts came to me at different times and in quite different manners…. So the first does not automatically fall with the second.
Despite remaining committed to the prophecy, though, Kuenning became more reticent online than she had been in the past. “I think it is unlikely she will ever give up the underlying prophecy,” says Bill Samuel of the episode. But, he continues, “I suspect she will never be as firm on a date as she was about 6/6/06.” Fager agrees, comparing her to radio evangelist Harold Camping, who simply said his math was mistaken and continued broadcasting after his prediction of Christ’s return for September 1994 failed to come true.
Kuenning has largely met these expectations. In addition tothe above comments, she wrote in November 2006 that she expected the prophecy to be fulfilled “before 2008.” When asked about how firm this date is, Kuenning responded that the reference “was just a statement of my feelings at the time, not a new prophecy for which I had a divine revelation… I do expect it to be fulfilled soon--but ‘soon’ is a rather flexible
9. Theories on the Kuenning prophecy
As there do not appear to be any adherents of Kuenning’s Farmington prophecy other than herself, the remaining observers seem to fall into one of two camps: either she is insane or she is not, but she does exhibit symptoms of psychological phenomenon perhaps best described as delusion. Nonetheless, few have engaged in serious analysis of the incident beyond the level of internet forum comments. Chuck Fager and Susan Robson stand out as the only examples thus far.
Fager’s take on Kuenning is covered to some extent above, and basically involves the concept of “automatic writing” outlined in his review of her novel. As Fager explains, numerous cases along these lines have been researched in the past that also utilize the “ideomotor effect" - where “other parts of our mind than our everyday conscious personality can produce various effects, including writing, painting, speaking, and other activities, in styles beyond our usual range.” He makes sure to point out that the nature of this phenomenon is such that those who experience it do not necessarily seek to deceive, but instead “are often entirely sincere.”
Fager explains that he is familiar with the ideomotor effect in part as a result of his own research into a similar example among Quakers in the nineteenth century. In 1852, Isaac Post published Voices From the Spirit World, a book in which he recorded messages he had received from George Fox and others. As with Kuenning, Fager detected in Post’s “supernatural” writings “a very heavy overlay of wish fulfillment, and little that pointed to actual communications from disembodied spirits.”
In October of 2006, Susan Robson presented a paper on Kuenning and the Farmington prophecy at a meeting of the Quaker Studies Research Association. Her take on the incident relies primarily on the work of Leon Festinger and others and the concept of “cognitive dissonance.”
In their 1956 book, When Prophecy Fails: A Social and Psychological Study of A Modern Group that Predicted the Destruction of the World, Festinger and his colleagues presented a case study of one woman’s prophecy and the impact upon her and her followers when it failed to come true. In it, they suggest that there may be a psychological explanation for why people hold to prophecies even after their failure. This is because the natural reaction to correct one’s perception of reality when faced with new information can become distorted by strong belief. Jon Stone, editor of Expecting Armageddon, explains:
Theoretically, cognitive dissonance arises when the beliefs, values, or opinions individuals hold (that is, their cognitions) come into conflict with their experience of reality. When dissonance occurs, there tend to arise countervailing psychological pressures within persons that cause them to seek ways of reducing or eliminating dissonance. In most cases, people respond to dissonance by bringing their thoughts in line with their experiences. In some cases, however, the dissonance between beliefs and experience is not so easily resolved, especially if the conflicting beliefs or opinions have arisen from deeply held religious convictions.
While the concept of cognitive dissonance and its application to religious groups has proven popular, both the research methods employed in the Festinger study and the broad application of their conclusions have met with skepticism in the intervening decades since the book’s publication. In November of 2006, Kuenning issued a paper in response to Robson’s work that called into question not only Festinger’s research but also Robson’s depth of knowledge of the prophecy, her understanding of prophecy among Quakers, and her familiarity with Kuenning’s life history. Robson’s reliance on the 1956 Festinger research and Kuenning’s questions regarding the validity and applicability of that particular case, however, do not end the discussion.
This is because since the publication of When Prophecy Fails, numerous other case studies have been performed by researchers in a variety of contexts and employing improved methods of analysis. While certain aspects of Festinger’s thesis have not held up – specifically, the claim that evangelism increases in the wake of failed prophecy – others have. The “case studies have demonstrated [that] more often than not believers will reaffirm their faith by reinterpreting its substance and meaning,” states Stone. “As [Festinger et al] put it, individuals presented with undeniable evidence that their beliefs are wrong ‘will frequently emerge, not only unshaken, but even more convinced of the truth of [their] beliefs than ever before.’”
Kuenning herself is willing to admit that cognitive dissonance applies in the case of her commitment to the June 6th date. “[T]he more often I published the date, the more committed to it I became,” she says. “I even reasoned that if the date were not correct, Christ would not have let me mail out thousands of copies of the Farmington prophecy giving the June 6, 2006, date for its fulfillment.” Kuenning refuses, however, to acknowledge the application of the concept beyond that limited role.
The above case studies, whether of cult-like belief in specific prophets or lone individuals engaging in automatic writing, present an image of prophecy as an isolated phenomenon. A quick review American popular culture presents a different perspective. The massively popular Left Behind film and novel series is perhaps only the most well-known example of a subculture fascinated by Biblical end-times scenarios.
In his book When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture, Paul Boyer sets out to examine this phenomenon. In the process, he points out much that may be instructive in understanding the Farmington prophecy. In other words, while Kuenning may feel far more at home in the writings of early Quakers than with those of premillenial dispensationalists, their impact upon the broader culture forms a part of her experience that cannot be dismissed as part of the context out of which her actions arise. Further, even though she distances herself from what Fager deems the “vulgarized pop scholasticism” of some end-times prophets, it seems she may have more in common with these figures than she might like to think.
First, Kuenning is not alone in claiming direct revelation from God. And, the manner and style of comments from end-times prophets about the experience echo her own. For instance, Kuenning states that “The very first time that I was given a prophecy about Farmington came in the summer of 1996, and I remember almost exactly where I was standing in the upstairs hall of what was then my home in Glenside, Pennsylvania.” Boyer comments, “Many of these writers told of the precise moment when God spoke to them. ‘In January 1980, while kneeling in prayer in my bedroom,’ Relfe related, ‘the Lord interrupted my praying, and spoke very clearly inwardly.’”
Second, Kuenning makes a point of her lack of Biblical training. “Unlike some people who write about eschatology,” she says. “I did not get my convictions by analyzing bible texts–God just revealed them to me, and occasionally he draws my attention to one or another text of Scripture, without giving me a systematic course in all of them, which he apparently doesn’t think I need.” In one example Boyer cites, “‘The Lord ‘quickened’ to me that it was now time to write. But, it was not to be written scholarly, or even systematically…, it was to be oriented toward the lay person, the businessman, and the unchurched.’” In another example, Lu Ann Bransby says that when God told her to write a prophecy book, she responded with the following: “I was very careful to remind God that I was somewhat limited, because I take care of my grand-baby eight hours a day and it is difficult to go places with a baby, diapers, and bottles. God understood my limitations; yet that didn’t prevent Him from giving me a very big job!”
Third, Kuenning emphasizes that she is alone in revealing her prophecy and has no followers, and that though the events will take place regardless of her telling others, she feels an obligation to spread the word – even at her own expense. “I have never had any corporate statement of support for my prophesying about Farmington–from any group– and I doubt I could find such a group to endorse it, since God tells me he has not given the prophecy to anyone else.” And, “I feel Christ wants the information published so that Friends will understand…that this event was prophesied [and] is a work of God.” Similarly, Boyer notes:
At the outer fringes of this genre were the photocopied expositions and self-published treatises in which obscure folk earnestly explained their theories. Joe Civelli of Pensacola offered a ’50-page type-written report on the Second Coming’ for $5.00; another Floridian identifying himself only as ‘Ted,’ distributed a 333-page, densely packed typescript complete with 6,283 biblical references. ‘We are in the last generation,’ he began, ‘and this book proves it.’
Fourth, Kuenning focuses on the joys that will come during the reign of God on earth. “Everyone who reads public news media will know that death has ceased in Farmington, that anyone who enters Farmington will be healed of all illnesses and disabilities, that there is NO crime in Farmington.” There is no mention of standard apocalyptic fare of brutal wars and pestilence. As Fager notes, “All those unpleasant preliminaries are skipped here.” Premillenialists, in contrast, are often noted for their focus on coming tribulation. But a common feature is also the blissful state that follows upon the heels of this suffering. It is difficult to read Boyer’s comments on this aspect of end-times prophecy and not have the pages of Farmington! Farmington! come to mind:
Everyday existence will be richly fulfilling. The coming age, observed Billy Graham, ‘will be much like the present life,…but missing all the imperfections that have destroyed the true meaning of life.’ Christ’s reign will not bring mere empty leisure, he went on, but ‘labor, adventure, excitement, employment, and engagement.’
Shattered relationships will be mended. As one writer put it, ‘Our Lord will have the happy ministry of reuniting broken families and friendships.’ ‘The aged will be treated with respect, and little children will laugh and frolic without fear,’ added Herbert Vander Lugt. A lonely God’s ‘yearning for companionship’ will be satisfied in the Millennium, suggested another author appealingly, when ‘the family of God’ is together at last.
Christ’s kingdom will have a specific geographical locus: ‘And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.’ The Bible, which begins with a narrative of Utopia as a garden, ends with a vision of Utopia as a city…. All problems that plague today’s suffering metropolises will be solved… 
10. Where do we go from here?
As the Faith and Practice of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting explains, the basic message of George Fox consisted of “his own dramatic and life-changing experience of a direct, unmediated revelation from God,” and a conviction that “this same possibility was available to every person.” This emphasis on individual and ongoing revelation means that Friends then and now believe “that no creedal statement can adequately describe spiritual reality.” As the foundation for a religious movement, these beliefs remain as radical today as they were when initially proclaimed over three hundred years ago.
Indeed, the egalitarian character of such beliefs soon led to the establishment of some structures of authority within the movement to prevent abuse. “If the Quakers had been religious anarchists with no outward controls it is unlikely that they would have survived,” argues Brinton. “If they had been more authoritarian than they were the spring of prophetic ministry would probably have dried up.”
While Friends have gone through periods of greater and lesser exercise of communal control, though, the basic premise of a non-creedal faith based on unmediated revelation has remained constant. Given such a perspective, it is in some ways surprising that even amidst the diversity of modern Friends there remains as much of early Quaker understandings as seems evident. But can such understandings continue to retain their hold in the face of non-normative understandings that lay claim to the same sources of spiritual authority to which Friends adhere?
Kuenning’s example certainly raises this question. This is especially so in light of her extensive knowledge and understanding of early Quaker context and writings. As we have seen, where Friends have suggested community discernment – one method of exercising control over aberrations – she is able to counter them with evidence that such methods were not widespread historically. Kuenning thus presents significant challenges, the meaning of which Friends faithful to their tradition must confront and wrestle with if they are to maintain another of their core testimonies – that of integrity.
This is certainly the case if Friends wish to retain a role for the prophetic among their numbers. Currently, Macy’s definition of the prophetic as witness to personal encounter with God tends to dominate Friends understanding of the concept. But this understanding is not exclusive. In fact, evangelical Friends have shown an increasing interest in so-called “Fivefold Ministry,” an attempt to revive all offices of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers among their congregations. First Friends Church in Canton, Ohio, for instance, not only engaged in a course on the subject but brought in a prophet by the name of Jan Nel to deliver congregation-wide as well as personalized prophecies to individual congregants.
So, as Friends move more fully into the twenty-first century how can they best balance a continued desire for prophecy with the prevention of possible abuse? Cindy Jacobs, author of The Voice of God, offers some advice. “Teaching needs to be done about prophecy so it is defined and there are opportunities for talking about who prophets are and their role in the faith community,” she states. Jacobs cites the I Thessalonians 5:21 recommendation to “test everything” as an important step for anyone in carrying a message, and any community receiving one, to follow. She offers six key questions to weigh as part of this testing process:
Is what has been shared as a prophetic word scriptural? Does the prophecy display the character of Christ? What is the fruit in the life of the person giving the prophecy? Is anything tainting the word? (Cindy suggests that critical or condemning, frightening or harsh words seldom come from the Holy Spirit.) What is the Holy Spirit giving me in the way of an inward witness? Is the prophecy from God?
Howard Brinton makes a similar case. “I think Quaker history shows that the optimum conditions for prophetic ministry are realized when there is an appropriate balance between outward control and the sense of inward inspiration,” he suggests. “By outward regulation I mean not only the judgment of the congregation expressed through its members appointed for the purpose, but all objective standards which embody the insights of previous prophets and teachers, especially those of Biblical times.” But, he cautions, “It is better to err on the side of too much rather than too little freedom.” 
If Benson is correct regarding Fox’s mission as being one of restoring “prophecy to the central place in the life of the Church,” then Licia Kuenning’s prophecy offers both a challenge and an opportunity to modern Friends. The nature of her prophecy and her unwillingness to submit to any corporate discernment or testing certainly calls into question the divine origins of her leading. If, however, Friends use this episode as an example as a way to further distance themselves from the prophetic or to dismiss it entirely rather than as a learning and growth experience, then they will have perhaps missed that of God in the event.
 Yungblut, John. “Quakerism Of The Future,” Pendle Hill Pamphlet 194 (Wallingford, PA: Pendle Hill Publications, 1974), 13. Available at: http://www.pendlehill.org/resources/files/pdf%20files/php194.pdf. Accessed 12 November 2007.
 Benson’s interpretation of Fox is certainly not the only one. Rufus Jones emphasized Fox’s mysticism, for instance, and Doug Gwyn has highlighted his apocalypticism. Others claim him for a variety of other outlooks. The purpose of this paper is to at least acknowledge the interest of early Quakers in the role of the prophetic among them, and to examine this interest among modern Friends through attention to a specific prophecy.
 Kuenning, Licia. Blog comments, Noli Irritare Leones blog, 4 February 2006. Available at: http://notfrisco2.com/leones/?p=1787#comment-17263. Accessed 8 November 2007.
 Cross, F.L., ed. “Prophecy,” The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1997), 1136.
 Macy, Howard R., “Prophecy,” in Margery Post Abbott, Mary Ellen Chijioke, Pink Dandelion and John William Oliver Jr., eds. Historical Dictionary of the Friends (Quakers) (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2003), 229-30.
 Brinton, Howard H. “Prophetic Ministry,” Pendle Hill Pamphlet 54 (Wallingford, PA: Pendle Hill Publications, 1950), 24-25. Available at: http://www.pendlehill.org/resources/files/pdf%20files/php054.pdf.
 Admittedly, this brief section on Friends and prophecy merely scratches the surface of available materials and certainly overlooks important contributions to understanding. The limitations and focus of this paper, however, prevent additional coverage of the relationship between the two.
 Yungblut. 13.
 Brinton. Foreword.
 Fager, Chuck. Review of Farmington! Farmington! A Novel (Sort of) by Licia Kuenning, Quaker Theology #12 Fall-Winter 2005-2006. Available at: http://www.quaker.org/quest/issue-12-farmington-1.htm.
 Yungblut. 14.
 See http://www.qhpress.org. Accessed 14 November 2007. Kuenning has been involved in a number of controversies over the years. While a complete overview of her biography would be a valuable pursuit, such an effort is beyond the scope of this paper.
 Fager. For more information on the Glenside Friends Meeting, see http://www.voicenet.com/~kuenning/fot/index.html.
 As quoted in Kuenning, “Festinger, Prophecy, and Farmington,” unpublished paper (Farmington, ME: Licia Kuenning, November 2006). Available at: http://www.megalink.net/~klee/fpf.html.
 Samuel, Bill. Email correspondence with the author, 10 November 2007.
 Kuenning. “Festinger, Prophecy, and Farmington.”
 - . “About the Coming New Order in Farmington.” Available at: http://www.megalink.net/~klee/neworder.html. The entire prophecy and FAQ section – as printed in Quaker Theology – is included at the end of this paper.
 - . “Festinger, Prophecy, and Farmington.”
 Kuenning. soc.religion.quaker Google Group comments. 3 March 2005. Available at: http://groups.google.com/group/soc.religion.quaker/browse_thread/thread/1e6e15b365e41c3f/0b46ca32803531b7?lnk=gst&q=farmington#0b46ca32803531b7. Accessed 8 November 2007.
 - . “Prophecy--why is it taboo among Friends?.” Evangelism and the Friends Testimonies Project forum comments. 23 October 2005. Available at: http://www.network54.com/Forum/261660/message/1130071247/&pp=x. Accessed 29 November 2007.
 Samuel. “Prophecy--why is it taboo among Friends?.” 24 October 2005. Accessed 29 November 2007.
 Kuenning. “About the Coming New Order in Farmington,” Web Server Talk forum, 26 March 2005. Available at: http://www.webservertalk.com/message975984.html. Accessed 8 November 2007.
 Accetta-Evans, Richard. “A Kinder, Gentler Apocalypse,” Brooklyn Quaker blog, 23 November 2005. Available at: http://brooklynquaker.blogspot.com/2005/11/kinder-gentler-apocalypse.html. Accessed 29 November 2007.
 - . “Festinger, Prophecy, and Farmington.” Glenside Meeting appears to be composed entirely of Licia’s family, including her husband Larry and his mother.
 See Kuenning. Farmington! Farmington! A Novel (Sort of) (Farmington, ME: Licia Kuenning, 2005).
 Fager. “Festinger, Prophecy, and Farmington.”
 Kuenning. Farmington! Farmington! The absence of insects in Farmington is discussed on pages 319-320.
 Kuenning. Blog comments, Noli Irritare Leones blog, 4 February 2006.
 - . QuakerInfo.com forum comments. 13 March 2005. Available at: http://www.quakerinfo.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=5777&sid=f0b6854df1ec8f9f0725dc8ab8cdaf73. Accessed 29 November 2007.
 - . Blog comments, Noli Irritare Leones blog, 4 February 2006.
 - . ”Why prophesy?” Evangelism and the Friends Testimonies Project forum comments. 25 October 2005. Available at: http://www.network54.com/Forum/261660/thread/1130071247/last-1130357456/Prophecy--why+is+it+taboo+among+Friends-. Accessed 29 November 2007.
 “Licia Kuenning Does The Right Thing.” soc.religion.quaker gatago forum comments. Available at: http://www.gatago.net/soc/religion/quaker/95912802.html. Accessed 29 November 2007.
 Fager. “Apocalypse – Later,” Quaker Theology #13 Winter 2007. Available at: http://www.quaker.org/quest/Issue13-9-01.htm. Accessed 25 September 2007.
 Samuel. Email correspondence with the author, 10 November 2007.
 Fager. “Apocalypse – Later.”
 Kuenning. “Festinger, Prophecy, and Farmington.”
 - . Email correspondence with the author, 10 November 2007.
 Fager. Review of Farmington! Farmington!
 Ibid. According to Fager, Kuenning dismissed his analysis shortly after its publication by saying “I never get letters from either Mars or George Fox–so I don’t fit your theory of ‘automatic writing.’” See his postscript, “Apocalypse – Later,” cited above.
 Robson, Susan. "'One Woman's Ministry': a 21st Century Prophecy," presented at the QSRA conference, 21 October 2006. While this paper was originally intended for publication in the journal Quaker Studies, the author has since withdrawn it. Neither the author, the editor of the jounal, nor Kuenning were willing to release a copy upon request. Others have requested copies in online forums, but thus far none appear to have surfaced. The only access to this paper at this point seems to be through Kuenning’s rebuttal, “Festinger, Prophecy, and Farmington,” cited above.
 Stone, Jon R. Expecting Armageddon: Essential Readings in Failed Prophecy (New York, NY: Routledge, 2000), 4.
 Ibid., 25.
 Kuenning. “Festinger, Prophecy, and Farmington.”
 The “Left Behind” novels have sold more than 60 million copies worldwide. See Cummings, Betsy. “Praise the Lord and Pass the Joystick,” The New York Times, 2 March 2006. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/02/technology/02sbiz.html. Accessed 2 December 2007.
 Fager. Email correspondence with the author, 12 November 2007. It should be noted that Fager states that he is “personally dubious about the applicability of the premillenialist
framework and paraphernalia,” precisely because of this common characteristic of end-times prophecy.
 Kuenning. “Festinger, Prophecy, and Farmington.”
 Boyer, Paul. When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1992), 308.
 Kuenning. Blog comments, Noli Irritare Leones blog, 6 February 2006. Available at: http://notfrisco2.com/leones/?p=1787#comment-17265. Accessed 8 November 2007.
 Boyer. 308.
 Ibid., 309.
 Kuenning. Blog comments, Noli Irritare Leones blog, 4 February 2006.
 Boyer. 308.
 Kuenning. QuakerChristian.net forum comments, 17 September 2005. Available at: http://quakerchristian.net/pipermail/friends-theology/2005-September/000059.html. Accessed 8 November 2007.
 Fager. Review of Farmington! Farmington!
 Boyer. 320-321.
 Faith and Practice: A Book of Christian Discipline (Philadelphia, PA: Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, 2002), 2.
 Ibid., 34.
 Ibid., 3-5.
 Brinton. 22-23.
 Hisrich, Jackie. Email correspondence with the author, 5 November 2007. The book used in the course was Ron Myer’s Fivefold Ministry Made Practical: How to Release Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors And Teachers to Equip Today's Church (Ephrata, PA: House to House Publications, 2006). Apparently, the new emphasis on exploring prophecy and other gifts has led to some division within the congregation.
 Hadley, Mary Glenn. “The Voice of God: An Interview with Cindy Jacobs,” Quaker Life, July 1997. Available at: http://www.fum.org/QL/issues/9707/jacobs.htm. Accessed 1 December 2007. Jacobs’ book is The Voice of God: How God Speaks Personally and Corporately to His Children Today (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2004).
 Brinton. 22-23.