Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Religious Society of Friends, commonly known as Quakers, was founded in England in the 17th century as a Christian religious denomination by people who were dissatisfied with the existing denominations and sects of Christianity. Historians generally credit George Fox with being the principal co-founder or most important early leader..

Beliefs and practices of Friends
George Fox and the other early Quaker preachers believed that direct experience of God was available to all people, without mediation (e.g. through hired clergy, or through outward sacraments). Fox described this by writing that "Christ has come to teach His people Himself."

Experiencing God
Quakerism is often termed a mystical religion because of its emphasis on the personal experience of God, however it differs from other mystical religions in at least two important ways:
First, Quaker mysticism is primarily group-oriented rather than focused on the individual. The Friends' traditional meeting for worship (see Unprogrammed worship below) may be considered an expression of that group mysticism, where all the members of the meeting together listen for the Spirit of God, speaking when that Spirit moves them.
Second, Quaker mysticism as it has been expressed after the late 19th century includes a strong emphasis on its outwardly-directed witness. Rather than seeking withdrawal from the world, the Quaker mystic translates his or her mysticism into action. They believe this action leads to greater spiritual understanding — both by individuals and by the Meeting as a whole.

Early Friends believed that Christ, instead of the Bible, is the Word of God; Robert Barclay wrote in his Apology that the scriptures "are only a declaration of the fountain, and not the fountain itself, therefore they are not to be esteemed the principal ground of all Truth and knowledge, nor yet the adequate primary rule of faith and manners".
Early Friends believed that Christ would never lead them in ways that contradicted the Bible; this belief prevented conflicts between Friends' leadings and their understanding of the Bible.
As time passed, conflicts between what the Bible appeared to teach and how many Friends believed they were being led by the Spirit began to arise. Some Friends decided that in these cases the Bible should be authoritative. Today Evangelical Friends believe the Bible is authoritative, for the Bible is the word of God inspired by God's Spirit and this belief is affirmed in the Richmond Declaration.
Other Friends, partly under the influence of movements such as liberal Protestantism, decided that it was possible to be truly led in ways contrary to scripture, and that in such cases scripture should give way. Still other Friends rejected (or neglected) the Bible altogether; hence in many liberal Friends meetings one might encounter non-Christian Friends or those who question some or all of the traditional doctrines of Christianity. In nearly all cases, modern Friends believe in the necessity of being continually guided by God. Divine revelation is therefore not restricted to the Bible, but rather continues even today; this doctrine is known as continuing revelation.
A common set of practices emerged which spoke of key principles and beliefs held by Friends. These are "Testimonies", for Friends believe these important principles and practices should be expressed (testified as truth) among Friends as well as to others, in both words and deeds. (see Testimonies for a list and description of several testimonies.) Rooted in the immediate experience of the community of Friends, for many Friends these values are verified by the Bible, especially in the life and teachings of Jesus.

The Bible
Generally, Quakerism has had no creed. George Fox dismissed theologians as "notionists", and modern Quakers are generally little concerned with theology, and are more concerned with acting in accord with the leading of the Spirit. Quakers have historically expressed a preference for understanding coming from God's Spirit over the knowledge derived from objective logic or systematic theology.. Doctrinal statements which seek to objectify deity fail to communicate the essence of the "holy spirit", "inner light", or "that of God within us", that "speaks to us" and can also compel "witness".
As a public statement of faith, many Yearly Meetings publish their own version of a book often called Quaker Faith and Practice which expresses their sense of truth and purpose; these documents are generally revised every few years.

Early Friends did not believe in the reliance upon practice of the outward rites and sacraments, believing that holiness can exist in all the activities of one's life—all of life is sacred. They experienced baptism by the Holy Spirit as an inward, transforming experience and knew communion with Christ in the midst of gathered worship in the expectant silence. Thus they did not perform baptism as a rite of membership. These Friends also believed that any meal with others could be a form of communion.
At various times some individuals or small groups of Friends have published corrective cautions against adopting the prohibition of some rite as itself being creedal. The focus should be upon God as Present Teacher, rather than on some human ritual, or the absence of a ritual. Most Friends therefore do not prohibit rites or ceremonies, but they do counsel against allowing these human inventions to take the place of direct experience and leading by God.


For more details on this topic, see Testimony of Simplicity. Plainness

For more details on this topic, see Testimony of Equality. Egalitarianism
Friends have founded many schools and colleges and have never engaged in anti-intellectualism; however Friends have often cautioned against the admission of education credentials as either a form of honoring humans instead of God or as a substitute for a relationship with God.


For more details on this topic, see Testimony of Integrity. Oaths and fair-dealing
a historical term for those Friends born into families that are members of a Friends Meeting. (This term is not always officially recognized by Friends.)
a process undergone to discern the true leading of the Spirit of God, especially in ambiguous or complicated situations. Friends often work with Clearness committees when struggling with a difficult issue.
the only officer of most meetings (as they have no clergy); the person charged with making and keeping the records of the meeting (including the records of births, marriages, and deaths).
Friends believe that anyone may feel called by God. Friends consider carrying out a concern to be a form of ministry. Often there may be a meeting for clearness to test the concern after which the meeting may well support the person in their concern. Many well-known organisations, such as the American Friends Service Committee, Don't Make a Wave Committee (the predecessor organisation to Greenpeace), Oxfam and Amnesty International, have been founded by Friends 'acting under concern'.
a historical term for those Friends who were not born into Quaker families, but who came to Friends because of the Truth of Quaker teaching and practice. The process of deciding to become a Friend is known as "convincement."
A meeting for worship, where those present feel that they were particularly in tune with the leadings of the Spirit.
Older meetinghouses often have benches on a raised platform which face the rest of the congregation where Weighty Friends (see below) who might be expected to speak would sit. Historically (and in some meetings still) these would be the recorded ministers and elders.
To recognize concern in one's self for another person or situation. This is often considered to be synonymous with praying for someone.
(British term) during a meeting for worship for business, when the clerk asks those present if they agree with a minute, Friends will usually say "I hope so" rather than "yes". It is meant in the sense of "I hope that this is the true guidance of the Holy Spirit".
the action properly taken upon a committee, meeting or ministry that is no longer needed; "to lay down" a meeting is to disband it.
a course of action, belief or conviction that a Friend feels is divinely inspired.
the act of speaking during a meeting for worship. (Many Friends use the term more broadly to mean living their testimonies in everyday life). "Vocal" or "proclamational" refer to ministries that are verbal.
A nontheist Friend is one who does not experience or accept belief in a supreme being, the divine or the supernatural, often while engaging in and affirming Silent Meeting, and other Quaker processes and practices.
An unfounded, unspiritual position. (Used by George Fox, often to refer to teachings or doctrines that were expressed but not fully understood or experienced)
to undertake a service or course of action without prior clarity about all the details but with confidence that divine guidance will make these apparent and assure an appropriate outcome.
A person whose vocal ministry (spoken contribution in meeting) — or another spiritual gift — is recognised as helpful and probably faithful to Divine leading, by the body of Friends to which they belong and formally recorded by that body. Not all Friends' organisations record ministers. Other Friends have adopted a defined process prerequisite for "recording."
has to do with proper conduct of a meeting for business. The term is often used in the negative, that is, if someone senses that something about the conduct of the meeting is not proper, they may object that 'this meeting is not in right ordering'.
Commonly used during meetings for business to express that another Friend has spoken what is in the mind of the speaker; used to help add weight to the statements of others.
the belief in the presence of God within all people. Also referred to as the Inner Light.
a Friend, respected for their experience and ability over their history of participation with Friends, whose opinion or ministry is especially valued.

Quaker terminology
Friends treat all functions of the church as a form of worship, including business, marriage, and memorial services, in addition to regular meeting for worship. The two main forms of Quaker worship are often referred to as "programmed" and "unprogrammed".
While the different styles of worship generally reflect the theological splits, with unprogrammed meetings generally being more theologically liberal and programmed Friends churches more theologically conservative, this is not a strict rule. Many meetings hold both programmed and unprogrammed services or other activities. Some "Conservative" meetings are unprogrammed yet would be generally considered to be theologically closer to most programmed meetings.

Quaker worship
Unprogrammed worship is the more traditional style of worship among Friends and remains the norm in Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and parts of the United States and Canada. During an unprogrammed meeting for worship, Friends gather together in "expectant waiting" for divine leadings. Sometimes a meeting is entirely silent, sometimes quite a few people speak. Meeting for Worship generally lasts about an hour.
When they feel they are led by the spirit a participant will rise and share a message (give "vocal ministry") with those gathered. Typically, messages, testimonies, ministry, or other speech are not prepared as a "speech". Speakers are expected to discern the source of their inspiration — whether divine or self. After someone has spoken, it is expected that more than a few moments will pass in silence before further Ministry; there should be no spirit of debate.
Unprogrammed worship is generally deemed to start as soon as the first participant is seated, the others entering the room in silence. The Meeting for Worship ends when one person (usually predetermined) shakes the hand of another participant. All the members of the assembly then shake hands with their neighbors, after which one member usually rises and extends greetings and makes announcements.

Unprogrammed worship
Programmed worship resembles a typical Protestant worship service in the United States. This tradition arose among Friends in the United States in the 19th century in response to large numbers of converts to Quakerism during the national spiritual revivalism of the time. Typically there are readings from scripture, hymns, and a sermon from the pastor. A period of silence (similar in practice to that of unprogrammed meetings, though generally shorter) is included in some Programmed Friends worship services. Most Friends in the southern and central United States worship in this way.
The Friends meetings started in Africa and Latin America were generally started by Friends from programmed elements of the society, therefore most African and Latin American Friends worship in a programmed style.
Some Friends also hold what is termed Semi-Programmed Worship, which brings programmed elements like hymns and readings into an otherwise unprogrammed worship service.

Programmed worship

Main article: Quaker wedding Quaker weddings
Business decisions on a local level are conducted at a monthly "Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business", or simply "Business Meeting". A business meeting is a form of worship, and all decisions are reached so that they are consistent with the guidance of the Spirit.
Instead of voting, the Meeting attempts to gain a sense of God's will for the community. Each member of the meeting is expected to listen to that of God within themselves and, if led, to contribute it to the group for reflection and consideration. Each member listens to others' contributions carefully, in an attitude of seeking Truth rather than of attempting to prevail or to debate.
A decision is reached when the Meeting, as a whole, feels that the "way forward" has been discerned (also called "coming to unity") or there is a consensus. On some occasions a single Friend will hold up a decision because they feel the meeting is not following God's will; occasionally, some members of the Meeting will "stand aside" on an issue, meaning that these members do not share in the general sense of the meeting but are willing to allow the group to move forward.
Many Quakers describe the search for unity as the gathering of believers who "wait upon the Lord" to discover God's will. When seeking unity, Friends are not attempting to seek a position with which everyone is willing to live (as is often the case in consensual models) but in determining God's will. It is assumed that if everyone is listening to God's Spirit, the way forward will become clear.
The business conducted "in the manner of Friends" can seem time-consuming and impractical. The process can be frustrating and slow, but Friends believe it works well, allowing the group to come to decisions even around the most difficult matters. By the time a decision is recognized, the important issues have been worked out and the group supports the decision; there is no "losing" side.
Many non-Friends express doubts as to whether this process of decision making can work in a large group; although many yearly meetings have successfully employed this practice for generations. Some Quaker-related organizations, such as Haverford College in Philadelphia, also utilize traditional Quaker form practices of governance.

Decision making among Friends
Traditional Quaker memorial services are also held as a form of worship. Friends gather for worship and offer remembrances about the person who has died. Memorial services often last over an hour, particularly if there are a large number of people in attendance. Memorial services give everyone a chance to remember the lost individual in their own way, thus bringing comfort to those present, and re-affirmation of the larger community of Friends.

Memorial services
Like many movements, the Religious Society of Friends has evolved, changed, and split into various smaller subgroups.

Basic divisions and organization
The highest concentration of Quakers is in Africa. The Friends of East Africa were at one time part of a single East Africa Yearly Meeting, then the largest Yearly Meeting in the world. Today, this region is served by several distinct Yearly Meetings. Most of these are affiliated with the Friends United Meeting, practice programmed worship, and employ pastors. There are also Friends meetings in Rwanda and Burundi, as well as new work beginning in Morocco. For more information see Quakers in Kenya.

In Africa
Considerable distances between the colonies, and a low immigration of Quakers, meant that the organization of Friends in Australia was quite dependent on London until the twentieth century. The Society has remained unprogrammed and is constituted as the Australia Yearly Meeting, with local organization around seven Regional Meetings: Canberra (which extends into southern New South Wales), New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia (which extends into Northern Territory), Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia. There is an annual meeting each January hosted by a different Regional Meeting over a seven year cycle, with a Standing Committee each July or August.

In Australia
Friends in Britain have maintained a high level of unity throughout the history of the Society. In very recent years, however, small Quaker Meetings have come into existence which are characterised by a more avowedly Christian faith.

In Great Britain
Friends in the United States have diverse practices, though united by many common bonds. Along with the division of worship style (see "Quaker Worship" above) come several differences of theology, vocabulary and practice.
A local congregation in the unprogrammed tradition is called a meeting, or a monthly meeting (e.g., Smalltown Meeting or Smalltown Monthly Meeting). Several local monthly meetings are often part of a regional group called a quarterly meeting, which is usually part of an even larger group called a yearly meeting.
In programmed traditions, the local congregations are often referred to as "Friends Churches". Currently, the largest Quaker church in America is Yorba Linda Friends Church, an evangelical Quaker church located in Orange County, California.

In the United States
Various names have been used for the Friends movement and its adherents. These include:
In the first few years of the movement, Quakers thought of themselves as part of the restoration of the true Christian church after centuries of apostasy. For this reason, during this period they often referred to themselves as simply the "saints". Other common names in the early days were "Children of the Light" and "Friends of the Truth", reflecting the central importance in early Quaker theology of Christ as an Inner light that shows you your true condition.
The name "Quaker" was first used in 1650, when George Fox was brought before Justice Bennet of Derby on a charge of blasphemy. According to Fox's journal, Bennet "called us Quakers because we bid them tremble at the word of God." Therefore, what began apparently as a way to make fun of Fox's comment by those outside the Society of Friends became a nickname that even Friends use for themselves.
The name "Religious Society of Friends" came many years later, in the 18th century. This remains the most widely-accepted name to this day, although often "Quakers" is added in parentheses for the sake of clarity. However, there are some Friends who prefer other names: some evangelical Friends' organizations use the term "Friends Church", and some Friends (usually in unprogrammed meetings) object to the word "religious" and refer to themselves as part of the "Society of Friends". There are some monthly meetings that for this reason do not include "religious" in their name, while most larger Quaker organizations, such as yearly meetings, use the full name.

Children of the light
Friends among friends
Friends of the Truth
Publishers of Truth
Quiet Helpers
Religious Society of Friends
Seekers of Truth
Society of Friends Names

Main article: Quaker history Hicksite-Orthodox split
The Orthodox Friends in America were exercised by a transatlantic dispute between Joseph John Gurney of England and John Wilbur of Rhode Island. Gurney emphasized scriptural authority and favored working closely with other Christian groups. Wilbur, in response, defended the authority of the Holy Spirit, as primary and worked to prevent what he saw as the dilution of Friends tradition of Spirit-led ministry. Wilbur was expelled from his yearly meeting in a questionable proceeding in 1842. Over the next several decades, a number of Wilburite-Gurneyite separations occurred. The Wilburite tradition is carried on today to varying degrees by the conservative yearly meetings of Ohio, Iowa, and North Carolina; Ohio Yearly Meeting (Conservative) is generally considered the most traditional in this regard, retaining more rural Quakers who use the plain language and continue wearing plain dress more than the other two.

Gurneyite-Wilburite split
Joel Bean was an Orthodox Friend who opposed the extreme evangelicalism that was creeping into his branch of Quakerism. He formed a new branch of Quakerism in the western part of the United States when his membership was terminated and his meeting was laid down by Iowa Yearly Meeting.
The "Beanite", or independent, Quakers resemble an amalgam of Hicksite and Wilburite Quakerism. During the 1980s some of them adopted the label "Christ-Centered Universalism".

Quaker testimonies are an expression of "spirituality in action"
Some Friends also include other testimonies, such as Unity, Community, Compassion, Justice, Truth, Stewardship and Sustainability; the environment is regarded by some as an "emerging testimony" in the UK. Children and Friends school students are often taught the acronym SPICE, which stands for Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, and Equality.

Simplicity Testimonies

Main article: Peace Testimony Peace

Main article: Testimony of Equality Equality

Main article: Testimony of Integrity Integrity

Main article: Testimony of Simplicity Simplicity
Throughout their history, Quakers have founded organizations for many causes they felt are in keeping with their faith. There are many schools around the world founded by Friends (see List of Friends Schools). Several organizations centered on education have continued amongst Friends, including Friends Council on Education (FCE) an organization supporting Friends schools (typically primary through secondary, often boarding) and Friends Association for Higher Education (FAHE) which supports Friends post-secondary institutions and those who resonate with Friends' teaching and traditions who serve in higher education.
There are various organizations associated with Friends including: a US lobbying organization based in Washington, DC called the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL); several service organizations like the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), the Quaker United Nations Offices, Quaker Peace and Social Witness, Friends Committee on Scouting and the Alternatives to Violence Project.
Additionally Friends have founded organizations to help maintain order and communication within the society. Some yearly meetings belong to larger organizations, the three chief ones being Friends General Conference (FGC), Friends United Meeting (FUM), and Evangelical Friends International (EFI) (in all three groups, most member organizations are from the United States). FGC is theologically the most liberal of the three groups, while EFI is the most conservative. FUM is the largest of the three. Some monthly meetings belong to more than one of these larger organizations, while others are independent, not joining any. Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) is the international Quaker organization which loosely unifies the diverse groups of Friends; FWCC brings together the largest variety of Friends in the world.

Quaker organizations

Category:Quaker organizations
American Friends Service Committee
Conservative Friends
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Friends World Committee for Consultation
A Quaker Action Group
Quakers in Europe
Quakers in Kenya
Quakers in Latin America
World Gathering of Young Friends
Alternatives to Violence Project
Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade
Movement for a New Society
Peace churches
List of Friends Schools
List of Quakers
List of Quaker businesses
List of pacifist faiths
Abolition of slavery
Friends' Ambulance Unit
Friends meeting house
Nontheist Friends
Pendle Hill
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Quaker Bible
Quaker tapestry
Quaker views of homosexuality
Quaker views of women Religious Society of Friends See also

Further reading

De Angeli, Marguerite Thee, Hannah! ISBN 0-83619-106-4
Turkle, Brinton

  • The Adventures of Obadiah ISBN 0-67010-614-3
    Obadiah the Bold ISBN 1-89310-319-6
    Rachel and Obadiah ISBN 1-89310-318-8
    Thy Friend, Obadiah ISBN 0-14050-393-5 Information on Quakers and Quakerism

    Quakerbooks: Friends General Conference bookstore
    Barclay Press (Evangelical Friends)
    Pendle Hill Press and Bookstore
    Quaker Electronic Archive
    Quaker Heritage Press Online Texts

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