Sonntag, 8. Januar 2012

Quäker der Woche (2): Christopher Atkinson

Christopher Atkinson stammte aus Kendal, Westmorland, wo er um 1610 geboren wurde. Über seine ersten Jahrzehnte ist nichts bekannt. 1652 wurde er nach einer Begegnung mit George Fox (1624-1691) zum Anhänger der Quäkerbewegung. Bis zu seinem Ausschluss zählte er zu den „Valiant Sixty“, zu den 60 ersten und bedeutendsten Quäkern, die in England für ihren Glauben einstanden, öffentlich Zeugnis ablegten und Verfolgungen zu erleiden hatten.
Die zweimal verheiratete Elizabeth Atkinson, die später ebenfalls die Quäkerbewegung verließ und sich zu den Muggletonianern hielt, war möglicherweise Christopher Atkinsons Ehefrau. 1655 hielt er sich mit zwei Predigerinnen in Frankreich auf. Noch im gleichen Jahr gelangte er mit Richard Hubberthorne (1628-1662) nach Norwich, wo sich eine kleine Quäkergemeinde von etwa 20 Personen zusammengefunden hatte. Nach einer kurzen Gefangenschaft 1655 im Stadtgefängnis bezeugte eine Dienstmagd des Buchdruckers und Quäkers Thomas Simmons, mit Atkinson eine sexuelle Beziehung eingegangen zu sein. Von der Gemeinde zu Norwich wurde er sofort ausgeschlossen, und in einer öffentlichen Versammlung nahmen alle führenden Quäker von Atkinson Abstand. Zu der Schande kam die Heimlichkeit, mit der er seine Beziehung vor seinen Glaubensgenossen verschweigen wollte. Problematischer aber als sein persönliches Verhalten war die kollektive Schuld, die die Gemeinschaft empfand. Um nicht den Zorn Gottes auf sich zu lenken, musste nach Ansicht aller führenden Quäker der Ausschluss vorgenommen werden. Schon frühzeitig hatte Margaret Fell (1614-1702) Bedenken und Zweifel an der Rechtschaffenheit Atkinsons geäußert. Es schien besser, einen Einzelnen leiden zu lassen, als die Quäkergemeinschaft mit Verwirrung und Schande zu belasten. Atkinson wurde mit Verfluchungen belegt, galt als Verworfener und wurde den Rantern zugerechnet. Angeblich soll er sogar wegen diesem oder einem anderen Vergehen gehängt worden sein, wofür es jedoch keine Beweise gibt. Den Skandal machten die Quäker als Ursache für die schwache Akzeptanz der Quäkerbewegung im Osten Englands verantwortlich. Ob Atkinson sein Verhalten bereute, ist unklar und bleibt umstritten. Ähnlich wie im Falle des James Nayler (1617-1660) hatte die Quäkerhistoriographie des 19. Jahrhunderts ein Interesse, Anzeichen von Reue oder Einsicht zu vermuten oder zu konstruieren. Atkinson hatte den Kontakt zu den Quäkern verloren und verstarb irgendwann nach 1655.

Werke: The standard of the Lord lifted up against the kingdom of Satan. Or, an answer to a book entituled „The Quakers Shaken“, written by one John Gilpin, with the help of the priest of Kendal. Wherein is discovered his life, and how the judgment of God was and is upon him, and how he hath been led by deceit and filthiness to blaspheme the name of the living God, and is returned with the dog to the vomit, and with the sow to her wallowing. London 1653; The sword of the Lord drawn, and furbished against the man of sin, or something in answer to a paper set forth by three of the chief priests of London, whose names are Thomas Goodwine, and one Nye, and Sydrach Sympson, which they have put forth to the propagating of the Gospel, signed by him that is the clerk of the Parliament, whose name is Henry Scobell, with their deceits and deceitfull actings laid open and cleared from Scripture, that they have no example in Scripture for their practice. Therefore I was moved by the Lord God of life to lay open their deceit by the spirit of truth, as it was made manifest in me from the Lord, that the simple might not be deceived by them, but might have knowledge of the truth, from that which is for ever, and shall not change nor fade away. London 1654; An epistle written in the bonds of the gospel. In: Hubberthorne, Richard: The testimony of the everlasting gospel witnessed through sufferings. O.O., um 1654, 6-8; Atkinson, Christopher; Whitehead, George; Lancaster, James; Simonds, Thomas: Ishmael, and his mother, cast out into the wilderness, amongst the wild beasts of the same nature. Or a reply to a book entituled, „The Scriptures proved to be the word of God“, put forth by one of Ishmael’s children, who calls himself a minister of the gospel, and a pastor of S. Austins and Savours parish in Norwich, but is clearly made manifest by the light of God in his servants, to be a scoffer, and an enemy to the Gospel, which the saints of God are ministers of, and sufferers for, by such as he is, who Ishmael-like, hath laid his folly open, and is discovered to the faithful, who are of Abraham, and of the seed of promise. Also, a cleer distinction between the ministers of Christ, who are of the seed of Abraham, and the priests of this generation, who are of Ishmaels root, who with the truth are plainly manifest, by the light of Christ in us, who for the testimony of God do suffer by the sons of Hagar, and this generation of the priests in Norwich. Given forth for no other end, but that the truth may be cleered from such as scoff and deny it. Given forth from the spirit of the Lord in us that do suffer in goal of Norwich for the truth’s sake, which is persecuted and slandered by the priests and rulers of this city. London 1655; Atkinson, Christopher; Whitehead, George: David’s enemies discovered. Who of him make songs, but without the spirit and without understanding, as the drunkard did which he declares of in Psal. 69.12. or, a true discovery of that custome and forme which the priests of this generation would make an ordinance of, to blind the eyes of the simple, as this priest Clapham: in his 6 arguments, which is here answered, by us who suffer for the truth, whose names according to the flesh are Christopher Atkinson, George Whitehead. Also a brief reply unto Frederick Woodall's three principles and resolves, from one, whose name in the flesh is, Richard Hubberthorne. London 1655.

Bibliographien: Smith, Joseph: A descriptive catalogue of Friends’ books, or books written by members of the Society of Friends, commonly called Quakers, from their first rise to the present time, interspersed with critical remarks, and occasional biographical notices, and including all writings by authors before joining, and those after having left the Society, whether adverse or not, as far as known. I. London 1867, 142-144.

Lit. (Auswahl): Farmer, Ralph: The great mysteries of godlinesse and ungodlinesse. The one opened from that eternall truth of the un-erring Scripture of the ever-blessed Jesus, the other discovered from the writings and speakings of a generation of deceivers, called Qvakrrs (sic!). Wherein their sathanicall depths, and diabolicall delucions, not hitherto so fully known, are laid open (...). London 1655; - Gilpin, John: The Quakers shaken, or, a warning against quaking: being I. A relation of the conversion and recovery of John Gilpin, of Kendall in Westmorland, who was not only deluded, but possessed with the devill. II. A vindication of the said John Gilpin, from the aspersions of the Quakers. III. Twelve lying blasphemous prophecies of James Milner of Beakly in Lancashire, delivered by him Novemb. 14, 15, 16. IV. A relation of a horrid buggery committed by Hugh Bisbrown, a Quaker, with a mare. V. A relation of one Cotton Crosland of Ackworth in York-shire, a professed Quaker, who hanged himself. London 1655; - Berckendall, Johann: Der Quäcker Hertzengrundt. Das ist: Jhr Glaubens bekäntnis, in zwei Theil vorgestelt. Erstlich, Was sie lehren und treiben. Zum Andern, Was sie verwerffen, verlohren achten, verachten und gegen sprechen. Aus ihren eignen Schrifften getrewlich jederman zum nachdenckung (sic!) vorgestelt. Altona 1663; - Leslie, Charles: Satan dis-rob'd from his disguise of light, or, the Quakers last shift to cover their monstrous heresies, laid fully open. In a reply to Thomas Ellwood's answer (published the end of last month) to George Keith's narrative of the proceedings at Turners-Hall, June 11, 1696, which also may serve for a reply (as to the main points of doctrine) to Geo. Whitehead's answer to „The snake in the grass“, to be published the end of next month, if this prevent it not. London 1697. London 16982. London 16983; - Bugg, Francis: A modest defence of my book, entituled, Quakerism expos'd. As also, of my broad sheet, with a scheme of the Quakers yearly synod, and other books, presented anno 1699 to the Parliament. And G. Whitehead's inside turn'd outward, by reprinting his ancient book Ishmael, &c. intirely, shewing thereby the Quakers ancient testimony of contempt of the Holy Scriptures, and blasphemy against the blessed trinity, and they tell us they are not chang'd. London 1700; - Whitehead, George: The Christian progress of that ancient servant and minister of Jesus Christ, George Whitehead. Historically relating his experience, ministry, sufferings, trials and service, in defence of the truth, and God's persecuted people, commonly called Quakers. In four parts. With a supplement to the same. London 1725; - Moore, Rosemary: The Light in Their Consciences. Early Quakers in Britain, 1646-1666. Diss. University Park 2000.

(Erstveröffentlichung BBKL, Bd. 20, 2002, Sp. 71-74.)