I’m delighted to announce that I’ve just signed a contract with a publisher for my first book – ‘Quaker shaped Christianity: How the Jesus story and the Quaker way fit together.’
‘What is Quakerism?’ can be a difficult question to answer, especially when Quakers today struggle to find a shared religious language. In this book, I answer this question from a personal perspective, telling my story of trying to make sense of Jesus within the Quaker community. Through this theological wrestling emerges a ‘Quaker shaped Christianity’ that is contemporary, open and rooted in tradition. In reflecting on how to approach the Bible, the challenges of Universalism, and the key events of the Jesus story, this book offers a creative, inspiring and readable theology for everyone who has wondered how Christianity and Quakerism fit together.
I began writing ‘Quaker shaped Christianity’ in January 2021, and it felt like the book I was ready to write. This readiness is in part due to all the writing I’ve done on jollyquaker.com since I started blogging in 2013. Readers of my blog will recognise many of the themes in the books as topics I’ve written about on jollyquaker.com over the years. I’m deeply grateful to all jollyquaker readers. This platform has been an invaluable space for me to process and try out my theological thinking. Thanks for all your support!
Here’s what some are already saying about my book:
This is a beautifully crafted book, breaking the silence on what Quakers believe in a personal, powerful and compelling way. Whatever your own theological language, this is a really important book that is full of crucial theological reflections and insights.Ben Pink Dandelion, Professor of Quaker Studies at the University of Birmingham, author of Open for Transformation
Mark Russ has given us a lovely little book that is part spiritual memoir and part spiritual invitation. He warmly invites us into exploring the Bible and Jesus and their relationship to Quaker faith and its practice. I found it enlightening. I’m certain you will, too.J. Brent Bill, author of Hope and Witness in Dangerous Times, Holy Silence: the Gift of Quaker Spirituality and other books
Always thought-provoking and a joy to read, Mark Russ challenges us to reconsider what the Christian story has to say to Quakers and others today. Mark Russ brings his passion and hard-won insights to share what he has found in the Bible and to make it available to others – including those who have been hurt or excluded by their encounters with Christianity. He offers a vision of an inclusive, welcoming and life-affirming Christianity, that draws on the best of the Quaker tradition.Craig Barnett, author of The Guided Life
The author’s clear, graceful handling of his evolving thoughts on Christianity and universalism makes for a compelling and rewarding read. Offered with humility, through a Quaker lens, the text invites the reader to reflect on their own spiritual journey, regardless of where they find themselves on the spectrum. Quakers in the United States will recognize these themes from their own experience in Quaker congregations and will appreciate both the invitational articulation and educational framework for that ongoing conversation.Deborah L. Shaw, emeriti director of the Quaker Leadership Scholars Program, Guilford College, Greensboro NC
This is a brave and challenging book, written in a spirit of tireless enquiry. Mark Russ is on a mission to make sense of his Quakerism and explain his Christianity. In the process he addresses some of the great themes of the Christian life: Jesus as a real historical figure, Jesus as a Jew, Jesus crucified, Jesus resurrected. Mark’s thought process is fascinating and his conclusions are startlingly original. I thoroughly recommend Quaker Shaped Christianity. It is a rich, surprising, stimulating read.Geoffrey Durham, author of What Do Quakers Believe?, Being a Quaker and The Spirit of the Quakers
This is an original and courageous book. Whether rehabilitating sin-talk or confronting the reality of suffering, Mark Russ does not shy away from the challenging faith questions of our time
Unusually, the book focuses not on Jesus’ teachings, but on what Russ calls “God’s arriving future”. By viewing the Bible as “a conversation partner”, by telling the story of Jesus backwards – Second Coming, Resurrection, Crucifixion, Nativity – he sheds light on the revelation of a transcendent God manifesting in a particular time and place. By viewing “The freedom of the Spirit” as “both spiritual and material, individual and social”, Russ emphasises the importance not only of contemplation but engagement with the world in which we live.
Though the author’s theological expertise is impressive, for me it is his personal faith story, and his passion for Jesus as his guiding star that illumine the book.Jennifer Kavanagh, author of Practical Mystics, The World is our Cloister etc.
Most Quaker writers who discuss Jesus focus on his humanity and teaching. Mark Russ, in contrast, wrestles with the big theological themes – incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection and the second coming – to discover what they have to say to present-day liberal Quakers. Drawing deeply on his own life experiences, he is consistently challenging, not afraid to point out wrong directions taken by Christians in the past, but equally concerned to recover insights and wisdom which Friends are in danger of losing.John Lampen, author of Twenty Questions about Jesus and Quaker Roots and Branches
In this slim book Mark Russ invites us to witness his journey as he encounters Jesus. As a cis, gay, white man he is cognizant of the multitude of ways in which the Bible has been used destructively over the centuries. I found myself responding to Mark’s chapters as a series of meditations as he sorts through aspects of Christianity that alienated him and those which drew echoes in his being. Starting with his first attendance at Quaker meeting for worship at age 17 he leads us to his discovery of joy opening his eyes to divine love. His invitation is not about converting anyone but rather to help others see the affirmation of life he has found in this complex book with its records of Jesus’ life, and to appreciate the way Friends practices and theology arise from the stories recorded therein, identifying a Quaker-shaped Christianity that he can affirm experientially.Margery Post Abbott, author of Everyday Prophets, Quakerism: The Basics and other books
By taking a personal approach and weaving in intimate memoir around his sexual identity with an exploration of Quaker and Christian theology, Mark Russ provides readers a glimpse in a practical and profound faith journey. In Quaker Shaped Christianity Russ invites us into personal reflection by modelling his own vulnerability and curiosity along with the conundrums he has faced a gay person who embraces Jesus as his guiding star.Peterson Toscano, quirky queer Quaker Bible scholar and creator of Transfigurations—Transgressing Gender in the Bible
Quaker shaped Christianity is an important addition to two ongoing conversations – one among Quakers, about the role of Christianity in our developing tradition, and one in the wider church, about what specific traditions like the Quaker Way can offer to Christian theology in general. Mark’s combination of personal experience and broad theological reading will welcome readers from a wide range of backgrounds and speak to many conditions. Highly recommended!Rhiannon Grant, Centre for Research in Quaker Studies, author of Telling the Truth about God and other Quaker Quicks books
The Quaker take on the Gospels is so refreshing because it’s a thread of Christianity which has, sometimes, been bashful about expressing itself. ‘Quaker Shaped Christianity’ offers an enjoyable combination of both simplicity and depth. The first-person guidance makes the book powerful but never solipsistic, and the author’s tone is exactly as I like in my theological guides: forthright and gentle. I’m convinced it will really speak to many people who are on the courtyard of the sacred but are scared of their next step.Tobias Jones, journalist and bestselling author of books including A Place of Refuge and Utopian Dreams
This wonderfully helpful book is accessible, yet always scholarly: it is a God-shaped book, which deserves to be re-read and cherished.Tom Shakespeare, academic, broadcaster, author of Openings to the Infinite Ocean and other books