Conservative Friend

An Outreach of Stillwater Monthly Meeting of Ohio Yearly Meeting of Friends

Famous Quakers Image Gallery

People sometimes are surprised to hear how much of an influence Quakers have had on culture, science, and industry.  We present here an eclectic image gallery of noted Quakers in history, which you can see by clicking here.   Let us know if you have suggestions for other people or their accomplishments who should appear here.  Some of these folks were good Quakers, some were not-good Quakers, and some abandoned Quakerism at various ages for various reasons.  Most were not what we would call Conservative Friends.  But all the different types are here.  Take a look.

Click here for a growing collection of images of famous Quakers

Who are the Quakers?

Click for an eclectic list of related Scriptural and Quaker quotes

Quakerism’s 17th century English founders envisioned it as the restoration of original Christianity, and like the first Christians, were imprisoned, tortured, and executed for their beliefs.  In the 17th and 18th centuries, large numbers of Friends emigrated to the American Quaker colonies, where they formed prosperous settlements in New Jersey, Rhode Island, Delaware, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. 

During the 19th century, American Friends schismed into three groups that still exist:  Liberals, Pastorals, and Conservatives.  The unprogrammed Liberal Quakers maintain the traditional practice of meetings based on expectant silence, but most have abandoned Christianity to pursue various universalist philosophies. 
The neo-Protestant Pastoral Quakers introduced hired pastors and programmed (pre-planned) worship services.  They are very similar in look, practice, and belief to typical Protestant churches.  The unprogrammed Conservative Quakers rejected both departures from the original vision and still retain the Christian beliefs and the waiting worship practiced by the original Friends.  None of the surviving groups retain the wholeness of the original Quaker witness, which was a balance between relying on the Inward Light, identifying the historical Jesus as the eternal Christ, committment to mending the world, and focusing on evangelizing the Quaker revelation.  Each of the traditions left out something important. 

 The vast majority of the 300,000 Friends today are Pastoral, and about half live in Bolivia, Guatemala, and Kenya.  About 90,000 Liberal and Pastoral Quakers live in North America.  Perhaps 400 practicing Conservative Friends live in Ohio, Iowa, and North Carolina, mostly in the same rural areas we have occupied for 200 years.  Some additional Conservative meetings exist around the world.

What do we believe?
Quakerism, as Conservative Quakers practice it, is Christianity cleaned and polished down to its very essence, stripped of the theological corrosion and doctrinal encrustations added over the last 1700 years.  Like the earliest Christians, we believe that God is accessible to everyone-- now, today, here--and that Jesus Christ, the Logos, the Word of God, the Inward Light, is willing to teach us individually how to come to Him and how to live our lives.  We believe that because the Holy Spirit is willing to speak to us, personally, that it is our highest duty to listen.  It is then our immediate obligation to act in accordance with His will.

As Christians, Conservative Quakers identify the Light as both the historical, living Jesus, and as the Grace of God extended to people that simultaneously makes us conscious of our sins, forgives them, and gives us the strength and the will to overcome them.  The Light might be explained as the outpouring of the loving influence of God, extended to all people as the means of their potential salvation.   We also see the Light as  ”That of God in every man,” that measure of the Holy Spirit entrusted to us that is sufficient to work our soul’s salvation, if we do not resist it.

Because all people-- Quaker or not-- have direct and immediate access to God, we believe that all other sources of religious understanding are subordinate and not absolutely necessary, including church authority, tradition, reason, and formal religious education.  Scripture always provides significant insights and is helpful for testing a person’s understanding of God’s will, but it too is secondary and God does not require knowledge of it for acceptance as a Christian, should His people be ignorant of its value.  It is the Inward Light of Jesus Christ who is the first authority of truth, not the inspired writings of His human interpreters, however faithful.  If not resisted, the same Light will guide all of us individually, and will provide a personal relationship with God based on direct experience of His presence, guidance, and love.

Conservative Quakers believe in complete integrity in worship and in life.  All of life is sacramental, every day is holy, and the details are important.  Because they are unnecessary to God and historically have distracted people from genuine communion with Him, we dispense with rites and ceremonies, ritualized sacraments, sacred buildings, creeds, clergy, and holy days.  Our manner of daily living is an expression of worship in everything we do, and we are directed to seek divine guidance for our everyday activities.  Simplicity and absolute honesty are religious expectations.

Conservative Quaker beliefs are more similar to  historical Quakerism than either contemporary Liberal or Pastoral Quakerism.  Our theology and doctrine is quite specific and has clear premises and conclusions about God and His relationship with all people.  It was and still is sufficiently distinct from Protestant and Catholic Christianity to have resulted in the trial and execution of Quakers for heresy by misguided Christians both in Rome and in New England.

What do we do?
In formal waiting worship, Conservative Friends meet together and sit quietly, “waiting upon the Lord,” and serving Him by being receptive and submissive to His will.  Sometimes the Holy Spirit will encourage someone to rise and speak, and will supply a message.  Sometimes a Friend is called to offer a prayer or a song.  Sometimes no one speaks for the entire meeting, although Jesus may have ministered quietly or offered insights to some of those present.  Sometimes not much seems to happen.  Sometimes not much does.  We wait in expectant obedience anyway.

Friends are sensitive to what we call “leadings,” where we believe God calls us to perform certain work or tasks, sometimes without any clear understanding of the reason, and without regard to the likelihood of success.  Some larger Quaker projects of this nature have included prison reform, the Underground Railroad, Women’s Suffrage, Prohibition, the United Nations, and peace witness.

A very few Friends are led to adopt the older Quaker “plain” witness in dress, livelihood, and lifestyle, in which they withdraw from the world in certain significant ways, while continuing to work in it or through it in others.  Plain clothing resembles that worn by Friends a century or more ago, or by the modern Amish.  They may adhere to older Quaker testimonies such as the plain speech of “thee and thou,” or the refusal to take oaths or remove their hats in a courtroom.  This can get them in trouble with authorities today, just as it did 350 years ago.