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
Quakerism at various ages for various reasons. Most were not what
we would call Conservative Friends. But all the different types are
Quakerisms 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
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 souls 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 persons understanding of Gods 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, Womens 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