In England in the mid-1600's, George Fox could not find peace in his spiritual quest. He met with numerous priests from the Church of England, and with preachers from many of the independent, or separate, churches that were springing up at the time. But none of them could satisfy his inner spiritual longings. George Fox wrote in his Journal:
But as I had forsaken the priests, so I left the separate preachers also,
and those esteemed the most experienced people; for I saw there was none
among them all that could speak to my condition. When all my hope in them
and in all 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 condiion: and when I heard it,
my heart did leap for joy.
The Quaker movement began with the strong conviction that every person can hear from God directly without the need of human mediation. This foundational belief led them to also conclude that God reaches out to everyone, not just a select few, and that any person can be a minister.
They chose the name "Friends" for this movement from the verse, John 15:14, where Jesus says, "You are my friends if you do what I command." "Quakers" was a nickname given to them because they told people that they quaked before the spirit of God. The nickname stuck. "Friends" has always been the official name - but the terms "Friends" and "Quakers" are often used interchangeably.
Other emphases or testimonies of the Quakers include:
Equality. Friends believe that God views everyone the same regardless of social station, race, gender, etc., and that God can use anyone for ministry.
Peace. Friends have felt since their beginning that war is wrong, and is contrary to the teaching of Christ. They maintain a strong witness for peace.
Simplicity. Early Friends attempted to live a simple, or plain, lifestyle without personal extravagance. Their theology and style of worship were also simplified compared to other groups.
Truth. Friends took the words of Jesus to "let your yes be yes, and your no be no" literally. They would not take oaths and tried to be completely honest in all their activities and in their personal business dealings.
Quakers are members of a group with Christian roots that began in England in the 1650s.
The formal title of the movement is the Society of Friends or the Religious Society of Friends.
There are about 210,000 Quakers across the world.
In Britain there are 17,000 Quakers, and 400 Quaker meetings for worship each week. 9,000 people in Britain regularly take part in Quaker worship without being members of the Religious Society of Friends.
Quakers believe that there is something of God in everybody and that each human being is of unique worth. This is why Quakers value all people equally, and oppose anything that may harm or threaten them.
Quakers seek religious truth in inner experience, and place great reliance on conscience as the basis of morality.
They emphasise direct experience of God rather than ritual and ceremony. They believe that priests and rituals are an unnecessary obstruction between the believer and God.
Quakers integrate religion and everyday life. They believe God can be found in the middle of everyday life and human relationships, as much as during a meeting for worship.
Among key Quaker beliefs are:
Quakers work actively to make this a better world. They are particularly concerned with:
Quakers do not regard any book as being the actual 'word of God'.
Most Quakers regard the Bible as a very great inspirational book but they don't see it as the only one, and so they read other books that can guide their lives.
Quaker communal worship consists of silent waiting, with participants contributing as the spirit moves them.
Although outsiders usually regard the movement as a Christian denomination, not all Quakers see themselves as Christians; some regard themselves as members of a universal religion that (for historical reasons) has many Christian elements.
Tolerance is part of the Quaker approach to life, so Quakers are willing to learn from all other faiths and churches.
One story says that the founder, George Fox, once told a magistrate to tremble (quake) at the name of God and the name 'Quakers' stuck.
Other people suggest that the name derives from the physical shaking that sometimes went with Quaker religious experiences.
The name 'Friends' comes from Jesus' remark "You are my friends if you do what I command you" (John 15:14).