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The Religious Society of Friends

The Religious Society of Friends (also called Quakers) began in 17th-century England, around the time of the Puritan revolution, when many were reading the Bible for the first time. George Fox, a Christian seeker who was discontented with the hierarchical, remote religious practices of the time, experienced a spiritual opening: 

“As I had forsaken all the priests, so I left the separate preachers also, and those called the most-experienced people. For I saw there was none among them all that could speak to my condition. And when all my hopes in them and in all men were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could tell what to do, then, O 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. Then the Lord did let me see why there was none upon the earth that could speak to my condition, namely, that I might give him all the glory.” 

The Religious Society of Friends was established in response to Fox’s itinerant ministry, sharing his insight about the universal availability of a personal relationship with God, without intermediary clergy, sacraments, creeds or dogma. Each person’s direct experience of the divine is tempered through corporate reflection, group worship, and shared discernment.

Fox and Quakers after him spoke of the “inward light”—a measure of the divine or “that of God” found in every person. Quakers aspire to respond to the Light in each person and to open themselves to the guidance of the Light within.

My conviction led me to adhere to the sufficiency of the light within us, resting on truth for authority, not on authority for truth.

–Lucretia Mott, 1827

The Religious Society of Friends is one of the historic peace churches, with a rich history of working for nonviolence, social justice, and such causes as the abolition of slavery and the protection of equal civil rights for all people.

The lack of a creed has sometimes led to the misconception that Friends do not have beliefs or that one can believe anything and be a Friend. However, most Quakers take the absence of a creed as an invitation and encouragement to exercise an extra measure of personal responsibility for the articulation of faith. Rather than rely on priests or professional theologians, each believer is encouraged to take seriously the personal disciplines associated with spiritual growth. Out of lives of reflection, prayer, faithfulness, and service flow the statements of belief, both in word and in deed, which belong to Friends.

–North Pacific Yearly Meeting, Faith & Practice