Who are the Quakers?
|Return to main pages|
And when all my hopes in men were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could I tell what to do, then, oh! Then I heard a voice which said, 'There is One, even Christ Jesus that can speak to thy condition.' And when I heard it my heart did leap for joy.
"George Fox on the Mount of Vision", mural, Governor's Reception Room, State Capitol, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. - Violet Oakley
The Light may illuminate a gathered group as well as an individual heart and bind the group together in a community of faith, of conscience, or of experience.
What Friends Believe
Friends have traditionally rejected creeds, but today's Quakers generally agree on these tenets:
MOCKED as trembling with religious zeal, Fox and his followers adopted the term "Quakers" as their own. Despite oppression and imprisonment, their numbers continued to grow throughout the 17th century. Missionaries volunteered in the New World, Turkey, and Russia during those first decades, and the faith has since spread around the globe.
"World Family of Friends", Final panel, © Quaker Tapestry Scheme. One of 77 panels of community embroidery made by 4,000 people from 15 countries.
Poster for Friends United Meeting's Triennial, 1999. Quaker Life, June, 1998
The Breadth, Depth and Stretch of Quakerism in North America
Number of meetings/churches per state/province, by branch
QUAKER forms of worship have diversified over 350 years, especially in response to geographical distance, scattered populations, or periods of revival and evangelism common to American Protestantism. Worship presently occurs in unprogrammed meetings where spoken ministry arises spontaneously out of silent waiting upon the Spirit, in meetings or churches with pastors and programmed worship, and in combinations of both. Each congregation (meeting or church) is autonomous but shares experience and insight by gathering annually in geographical regions called Yearly Meetings (similar to synods or dioceses) which overlap according to diversity in worship. Though methods and emphasis in worship now differ, Friends remain united in concern for traditional Quaker beliefs and social testimonies.
"The Presence in the Midst" - J. Dayle Penrose, 1916
Friends in worship: present-day unprogrammed, non-pastoral, waiting worship. - Bruce Stromberg, Pendle Hill.
Programmed, pastoral, evangelical worship - Oregon Yearly Meeting (now Northwest Yearly Meeting), 1975. The Quakers, Barbour and Frost, 1988.
|"The Message" - J. Walter West|
A Quaker testimony is a belief that stems from our fundamental understanding of religious truth. It is a corporately held belief about how we should individually act. In practicing them, we witness to our understanding of the very nature of God's spirit of love and truth.
- Jonathan Dale, English Quaker, 1996
Seeking to affirm the divine potential in each of us leads to building community. Equality needs to be implemented through social justice, as we strive to reflect God's equal valuation of us in our treatment of one another. Friends support equality, regardless of race, gender, faith, class, financial status and age.
The Religious Society of Friends is a community of faith based on experience of a transforming power named many ways: the Inner Light, the Living Christ Within, the Divine Presence, That of God Within. Friends join together in worship, in caring for the business of their meetings and churches, and in acting corporately upon their beliefs in the wider world.
We know ourselves as individuals but only because we live in community. Love, trust, fellowship, selflessness are all mediated to us through our interdependence. Just as we could not live physically without each other, we cannot live spiritually in isolation. We are individually free but also communally bound.
- Janet Scott, English Quaker, 1980
While visible outward signs such as plain speech and plain dress are rarely used, Friends still advocate sufficiency, without excess. Today "plain" means keeping mental and fiscal proportion in a very material world. Quakers aim to focus on what is essential and eternal, by exercising spiritually-led restraint in their daily lives.
The testimonies are expressions of lives turned toward the Light, outward expressions reflective of the inward experience of divine leading, differently described by various friends and in changing eras.
- Philadelphia Yearly Meeting's Faith & Practice, 1997
Demonstration regarding violence in Yugoslavia. Washington, DC, June 1999. - Terry Foss, AFSC
Since all human beings are children of God, Friends are called to love and respect all persons and to over come evil with good. This involves a range of actions, from working to remove the roots of violence through refusing to participate in physical violence - including military-related efforts, as well as psychological and economic violence, to striving to ease the sufferings of all victims of violence.
Wealth is attended with power, by which bargains and oppression, carried on with worldly policy and order, clothes itself with the name of justice and becomes like a seed of discord in the soul. ... So the seeds of war swell and sprout and grow and become strong until much fruit is ripened. ... May we look upon our treasures ... and try whether the seeds of war have nourishment in these our possessions
- John Woolman, American Quaker, c.1764
... swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay be nay.
- Bible, James 5:12
Behavior should be consistent towards every person and situation. Friends thus use fixed prices rather than haggling and refuse to take oaths. They bear witness publicly to their beliefs even if it might result in punitive consequences. Quakers try to be consistent in word and deed.