The Evangelical Universalist Forum


Hey, who knows anything about the Quakers? I run into them occasionally in my Universalist surfing. From what I understand, they tend to believe in Universalism, or at least aren’t dogmatic about a Hell doctrine. They meet casually with no real defined clergy or structure for the meeting. They believe that a dynamic, reciprocal connection to God is possible and that we should be guided by the Spirit rather than the letter. They reverence the Bible but believe more that it is a guide to keep us on track and give us assurance that what we are hearing is actually Him. Has anyone actually had an experience at a Quaker meeting or known any? This might be something worth checking out to me. Thanks.

Can’t say I’ve ever met a Quaker, but it sure sounds like I’m one and didn’t know it.

Ha ha yeah, Sherman…Just what I was thinking! :smiley:

Richard Nixon was a Quaker. Its funny that this thread is the first one I came to. I started reading “the Kingdom of God is Within You” by Leo Tolstoy and he talks about the Quakers being pacifists.

No personal experience, but I also have Quaker leanings. They were originally called the Society of Friends (of Jesus, possibly?) and in the UK there are quite a few buildings that belong to them, or used to, with the words “Friends Meeting House” on them.

And yes they tend to be pacifists - I believe that they were persecuted by Cromwell and possibly others as a result - and they were among the first in the US to see that slavery was not God’s will. Although that could be urban myth, I suppose.

Also nowadays there are Liberal Quakers and less liberal ones - the less liberal ones still make Jesus of primary importance, where the liberal ones tend to be more pluralistic. So that might be worth checking up on before attending any meetings.

If you do go to a meeting, please let us know how it was! :smiley: I would love to attend one, but sadly there are none in our region.

They’ve typically gone back to calling themselves Friends churches, but I’ve never had the opportunity to check one out.
About 45 minutes away is George Fox University, which is a Christian liberal arts school that was started by Quakers.

Quakers sound interesting … but for me, what I like most about Evangelical Universalism, as espoused by Gregory MacDonald (AKA Robin Parry) and so many on this site, is that it IS guided by the letter of the word (once it is properly translated) and not subjective spiritual impressions.

I couldn’t resist responding to this thread…

There are a few different threads of Quakerism. There are no Evangelical Quaker meetings here in Australia, but I attend a (liberal) Quaker meeting every six months or so and find the worship mysteriously beautiful and deeply piercing. Because of the different threads and that most Quakers are largely dependent on a Spirit it’s hard to determine what they collectively believe. My experiences are that they are radically liberal and pluralist, with very few settled doctrines about anything (hell, salvation, sin and so forth — and this is why they might seem to be pro-universalist) and believe the Bible to be mostly redundant. But this is only reflective of the one Quaker community I occasionally fellowship with, and Australian Quakers generally. I have heard that America and the UK have an established community of Evangelical Quakers. I hold to some of their beliefs (radical pacifism, an anarchistic ecclesiology, individual soul sovereignty, and the universal speaking of Yahweh) but generally reject Quakerism (especially what seems to be a strong emphasis on individualism). I have an anarchist friend who is an Evangelical Quaker along with his young family, but rejects the Quakerism of Australian meetings. Anyway, as Susan said, you might have to check their Evangelical-ness before attending. But if you can and feel comfortable doing so, I recommend attending a liberal meeting at the least.

Yes, that’s right. Though Cromwell did withdraw his persecution of the Quakers upon Fox’s request, even if Cromwell retained some suspicion of the broader (and diverse) non-conformist movement. I think it’s a testimony to the power of a Yeshuan life and humble reason that Fox could befriend and influence Cromwell and even invite him to relinquish his crown for Yeshua, without the use of violence or the suffering of further persecution.

Sobornost is the man to give you chapter and verse on the Quakers.

Where are you, Dick? :slight_smile:


Hi Sherman –

Hi Johnny – I guess I’d better rise to the challenge here. My Mum has been very ill – hence my absence from the site – but I’ve got some respite care at the moment and I feel moved to speak about the Quakers/Society of Friends (both terms explained in this post) because they have been mentioned a number of times on this site; and it’s clear that people are interested in them but don’t know much about them. And Sherman –Hi to you too because you asked me about Quakers when I first joined this site ten thousand years ago – I sort of answered but hadn’t really thought about American Quakerism much at the time (I have now)

Ok – since information is thin on the ground about Friends I can’t just do you a brief post (as ever!!!). I’ll need to do a few – but I am happy to do so because I think it’s important.

First – the posts above all say accurate things about the diversity current Quakerism– which is a bit confusing. (I can talk later about current British and American Quakerism - and those of you from the Antipodes can feed back if this chimes with your experience of Antipodean Friends. And, by the way, Richard Nixon was an Evangelical Friend – who i have never been associated with -and you get sociopaths in many communities sadly – which is one of the reasons why communities should never get too triumphalist in my view). However it’s best to start with the early Friends – this is the bunch we can learn from and can see us our friends because it seems to me that they can ‘speak to our condition’. In saying this I’m not trying to suggest that we all become Friends – I was for four years once but now I’m an Anglican and that’s another story; I am simply suggesting that we can learn and be inspired y them whatever our denomination or style of worship. Indeed although you can find bits of the teaching of the first Friends in the various forms of contemporary Quakerism, but a lot of the original teaching has been discarded in different ways by different Quaker groups through misunderstanding; in my view this is a real shame.

So I’ll start with two posts on the Early Friends –one about basic beliefs and practices, and another about their views on social/kingdom justice that grew out of their beliefs and practices.

Then I will do a post on why the movement fragmented and why some of the original teachings became marginalised. And I’d advise that you don’t seek sanctuary at your local Quaker meeting until I’m finished– unless you are a robust soul and don’t have need of sanctuary - because you might get a nasty shock if they are the wrong sort of contemporary Quakers.

George Fox, Early Friends and notional versus experimental truth

You may have heard that the foremost early Quaker was one George Fox ,a seventeenth century English visionary who wore his locks ‘shaggy’ like Sampson – much to the outrage of the Puritans who favoured ‘roundhead’ crew cuts. Fox claimed that his father had been a ‘righteous Christer’ who came from the ’stock of Martyrs’ . The Fox family possessed a volume of writings by Hendrik Niclaes of the earlier Universalist sect ‘The Family of Love,’ and it appears that the writings of Hans Denk and Sebastian Frank -the Anabaptist Spirituals - and the works of the German Christian Theosopher Jacob Boheme were also know to the early Friends. So the distinct Quaker practices and spirituality did not develop in a vacuum.
As a young man George Fox went through a period of spiritual turmoil and despair in which he even contemplated disbelief – fearing at one low point that all things might have ‘come [been created] by nature’ He begged God to give him a reason for his suffering which came in later life to him when he realised that he had been led into the pit of despair so that he might have a sense of the ‘conditions of all people’ and thereby be better able to help them out of their perishing. During his prolonged period of despair he spoke with many Christians who, in his view (and he was not always the most charitable of men) had only a notional grasp of the Gospel and could not help him one jot or one tittle. He termed these Christians ‘professors’ (because while they professed certain beliefs they did not, in his view, live out the consequences of these beliefs).

Fox’s terrible despair lifted one day when he heard what seemed to be an inner voice say to him, ‘There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak unto thy condition’ and Fox added ‘and this I knew experimentally’ (‘experimentally’ in seventeenth century English meant ‘ by experience’ rather than specifically ‘by scientific experiment’). After this experience of ‘convincement’ Fox still had his dark periods but never again seems to have despaired of the light.
Although there were some fine Biblical scholars among the early Friends (Samuel Fisher and Robert Barclay spring to mind) on the whole they set little store by mere book learning which they considered ‘notional’ if this was not supported by personal experience and personal regeneration nit h way people, lived their lives. I have written about this on another thread so I quote myself here to save some time: ‘I take the critique of mere notional, intellectual knowledge given by the Anabaptist Spiritual tradition – that has influenced me - very seriously indeed. However, I note that for them this criticism was never only aimed at people with academic training – although I grant that we are very susceptible to vainglory in this respect. George Fox, founder of the Quakers, often said to his ‘godly’ interlocutors ‘Christ saith, the apostles saith, but what canst thou say? What canst thou say, and is it of the Spirit of Truth?’ – which in our modern idiom translates as something like ‘ Now you’ve rattled through all of your selected proof/clobber texts from the Gospels and the Epistles, can you please tell me what you can say as testimony of faith to me out of the truth in your own life to the extent that Christ has become a reality for you?’’ George Fox was famously rude and confrontational – and I think he was probably quite a difficult man to get along with; and it’s good that there were always gentler Quakers to moderate him. However, he bore with grace being assaulted with bricks and stones by mobs of the godly and mobs stirred up by the godly – and it’s hard not to sympathise with him’.

Indeed George Fox could be a bit of a ‘rude boy’ from time to time - along with some of the other early Friends who John Bunyan the Baptist nicknames ‘The Querulous Quakers’ (but the Baptist were also rather querulous to be fair). George was sometimes uncharitable; for example referring to Anglican ministers as ‘hireling priest’, to churches as ‘steeple houses’, and to the rite of baptism when viewed as a supposed passport to salvation as ‘outward sprinklings’. Well he’d suffered a lot for his faith so this is understandable I think. And in later life when he married Margaret Fell she had a gentling influence on the old War Horse. Margaret (Maggie) Fell actually edited Fox’s Journals after his death to present a rather gentler picture of the younger Fox than I think was probably the case. Wily and astute old Maggie in old age also spoke out against the tendency of second generation Quakers to cut themselves off from the world and make a fetish out of issues like wearing plain colours all the time. Unfortunately she lost the battle – but she did give us two memorable phrases from her fighting talk when she said – ‘Poor Friends is mangled in their minds’ to make an issue over wearing plain colours; and that ‘this is a Poor and Silly Gospel.’

Another early Friend was William Penn who joined the Friends as a young man much to the horror of his aristocratic family. Later in life he became the urbane philanthropic founder of Pennsylvania. However as a young Querulous Quaker even he was sometimes quite strong with the confrontational talk apparently. However, this is what he said in his mature years -
‘The humble, meek, merciful, just, pious and devout souls are everywhere of one religion; and when death has taken off the mask they will know one another, though the divers liveries [diverse modes of clothing] they wear here makes them strangers. This world is a form; our bodies are forms; and no visible acts of devotion can be without forms. But yet the less form in religion the better, since God is a Spirit; for the more mental or worship, the more adequate to the nature of God; the more silent, the more suitable to the language of a Spirit’

Good stuff I say – and I would only add that even Silence can become a dead form; whereas exuberant charismatic worship can be Spirit filled unlike an empty silence. But I’m sure William Pen would have been humble enough to acknowledge that in making the above statement he was speaking of ultimate things seen ‘through a glass darkly’ and thereof his words were limited by his own limitations and prejudices. I can spot Penn’s prejudices but it’s a shame I’m not so good at spotting my own! (But it’s one of the things that make us humans funny and loveable in our preposterousness – so I’m not going to knock my limitations/our limitations too severely!). ‘We are not for sect or party!’ – as another early Friend once said.

Early Quakers, Hell and Universalism

My reading of the early Friends is that they were really and truly Universalist Christians. This is what Robert Barclay – an articulate spokesperson for early Friends – has to say about UR -

‘Every man has a measure of true and saving grace – the mere measure of light, as it is given to reprove and call forth righteousness. So God has likewise poured forth into the hearts of all men a measure of the divine light and seed, that thereby reaching into the consciences of all, He may raise them up out of death and darkness by His light and life’.

‘Glory be to God for ever! Who hath chosen us as first fruits to himself in this day wherein he is arisen to plead with the nations; and therefore hath sent us forth to preach the Everlasting Gospel unto all, Christ nigh to all, the light in all, the seed sown in the hearts of all, that men [people] may come to apply their minds to it.’
Robert Barclay

So Friends seem to have viewed themselves as ‘First Fruits’ of a large and universal harvest. Barclay alludes to this in the quotation cited above as did Fox when he wrote – ‘And I saw the harvest white, and seed of God lying thick in the ground, as ever did wheat that was sown outwardly, and none to gather it; and for this I mourned with tears’. So why the confrontational rudeness in the very early Quaker movement, also alluded to above?

Well it seems to me that early Friends held to a realised eschatology (which I will say more about in my next post because it is relevant to the theme of social justice) and that they had an understanding Hell not as a warning of a future state but as a ‘Woe oracle’ revealing the true state of our souls and lives now - namely that we are perishing in our own violence and need to repent and to be saved from that ‘Christ might raise [us] up out of death and darkness by His light and life’ (se Barclay above).I n the end ‘All Shall Be Well/Christ the Seed will Reign’ - but this does not in any way lessen the seriousness of the issue in the here and now. And it is in the here and now that we face judgment in our response to the Christ as we meet him in the ‘neighbour as stranger’, when the neighbour is odd, or difficult and makes demands on our time and compassion. In responding to the ‘neighbour as stranger’, however imperfectly, we are learning in the school of Christ who has ‘love to the loveless shows that they might lovely be’ as the hymn ‘Love Unknown’ puts it. In Quaker terminology it is the light that judges us in our repose to our neighbour.

I think that there is also merit in thinking that Jesus pronounced his ‘Woe Oracles’ against the powerful, the violent, the corrupt and the oppressors - not against the poor or against children. N.T. Wright is very good on this score in my view, locating Jesus threats in the context of the anticipated Fall of Jerusalem - and this context has universal significance because it is so extreme that it mirrors back to us the moral distortion of proud religiosity that we are all prone to writ large (although I note that Nick Wright has stopped short of Universalism that is the logical conclusion of his approach to the ‘Woe Oracles’ and his exegesis of the Epistle to the Romans). So Jesus in the New Testament is giving his warnings to people who, under threat from very violent Powers, have developed an ‘insider’ idolatrous sense of cohesiveness in an ethic of exclusion of outsiders - the poor, the disabled, women, the just plain different etc - and this won’t do in God’s universal scheme of salvation.

Quakers and the Word of God

Like the Anabaptist Spirituals, early Friends had a double doctrine of the Word of God. They believed that there is the Word revealed in scripture, which is most useful for our salvation. But there is also a more primary Word written in the hearts of human beings – the Light/Image/Word/Logos of God. A much loved text of the early Quakers is from the Prologue to St John’s Gospel – which states that Christ is the true light that enlightens every person coming into the world/ or the true light that enlightens every person came into the world as Christ (depending on the translation – but they amount to the same thing). Indeed John’s Gospel was especially loved by early Friends and the name ‘Society of Friends’ comes from Jesus’ farewell discourse in which he tells his disciples that now he is risen can he call them his ‘Friends’ in a close bond of communion and intimacy.

Without the inner Word, early Friends argued, we would not have any resources to recognise the authority of the outer Word. So early Quakerism was – in a sense - the opposite of Calvinism and was congruent with the theology of Origen, Justin Martyr and Clement. Indeed the few early Quaker egghead scholars ( Isaac Pennigton and Robert Barclay for example)appealed to these Church Fathers to support the Quaker emphasis (although we should not forget that most early Friends were simple, rural working people – and early Quaker testimonies of hearing the call of the Light often begin with phrases such as ‘I was at the plough meditating one day when…’)

Their view of evangelism was that it was not about imposing the Gospel on the ignorant but rather was about ‘Being patterns and examples’ and ‘Walking cheerfully over the world answering that of God in every person’ – as George Fox put it.

They read the Bible after the tradition of the Anabaptist Spirituals. They did not see it as a text of forensic Salvationist logic/theology but rather as a text that needed to be imaginatively internalised. They certainly did not dismiss the historical level of Biblical interpretation –this was uncontested at their time by all but a few. But they did stress the importance of the spiritual level of understanding scripture –‘What does it profit me to know that Christ was born of a Virgin in Judea in the reign of Caesar Augustus if my own soul does not become the virgin in which Christ is born anew this day’.

Although they had a high doctrine of the Inner Light early Quakers were certainly not ‘pantheists’ (although some Liberal Quakers today do seem to espouse pantheism – at least ‘ notionally’ and ‘muddledly’ in my view – but we can look at this another time). Pantheists allegedly view everything as already ‘godded with God’ - that is they would have us believe that everything is already perfect, affirming both the good and the evil in the world as somehow ‘divine’, and affirming human beings also as somehow divine ( not in their divine personhood but rather in their participation in an impersonal Divinity). By way of contrast the early Friends spoke of ‘Christ the Seed’ and ‘The Seed of God’ - of the potential for growing from the image into the likeness of God/for benign ‘godded with God’ in each of us . The seed is a precious but vulnerable thing that needs nurturing. Indeed, quite rightly it was only when he was dying that George Fox felt finally able to proclaim – ‘I am glad I was here. Now I am clear, I am fully clear…All is well; the Seed of God reigns over al and over death itself. And although I am weak in body, yet the power of God is over all, and the seed reigns over all disorderly spirits’. Early Friends did not view human beings as already perfect. But they had no truck with the exacerbated Augustinian notion of Original Sin. And Fox castigated the Calvinists for ‘Roaring up for sin!’, and ‘Pleading for sin!’

The idea of salvation as a process of growth into the Life of Christ explains some early Quaker terminology. They had three different words for conversion. If a person came to meeting for the first time and was moved by the Spirit to come again, this person would be described as ‘Held’. Once the person matured in faith and became a full blown member of the Society of Friends they would be described as ‘Convinced’ (hence the term ‘Quaker by Convincement’ for those who become Quakers but are not so by birth). And it is only the life long process of nurturing the seed Christ, so the seed reigns in the escahaton that was described as ‘Conversion’.

Meetings for worship

The early Friends worshipped in unprogrammed ‘Meetings for Worship’ where anyone could get up and minister if so moved. The context for any words of adoration, edification and encouragement, prophecy and the testing of prophetic leadings of social concern etc, was always an initial attentive silence. In this practice e of shared silence early Friends were influenced by an even earlier continental movement of Anabaptist Spirituals known as ‘The Collegiants (because ‘College’ at this time was not a specifically academic word but simply denoted a Meeting of peers) who, at the height of the terrible religious wars between Catholics and Protestants in Europe - when many, many thousands were butchered over obscure points of doctrine - decided to suspended the celebration of the Lord’s Supper and meet in a silence of inaugurated mourning until people’s hearts were sufficiently pure to understand the meaning of the Eucharist as Christ’s Peace between All. However, with the early Friends the silence had become expectant/pregnant with new hope that ‘Christ had come to lead his people’ once more.

At the beginning of a Meeting early Friends took time to ‘centre down’ to the common life of the light within them and between them. They might remain in complete silence for the entire meeting for worship – or someone might minister (which anyone could do, including women, children and people of any social status. And when the early Quakers were severely persecuted in England the children kept the meetings when their parents were in gaol). Ministry at its best was delivered in a spirit of loving attentiveness to the needs of others; Friends were advised to take care to only stand up and minister if they felt moved to say something that would build up the fellowship of the Meeting by ‘speaking unto to the condition’ of at least one person, perhaps even a few people, and maybe even the entire Meeting.

Tom Story – an early Friend - had this to say about attending Meeting: ‘The Meeting being ended, the Peace of God…remained as a holy canopy over my mind in a silence out of reach of all words; and where no idea but the Word can be conceived.’

Some people in early meetings would get up shaking in the ‘power of the light’ – hence the nickname ‘Quakers’ and a view sometimes put forward today that early Quakers were liek otday’s Pentecostals being ‘slain in the Spirit’; but I think this analogy is at least partially unhelpful (and not through any partisan desire to dismiss or wound Pentecostals). As far as I know, and certainly from my experience in the UK, often in Pentecostalism there is an emphasis on/view of the Holy Spirit taking possession of a person from without (perhaps this is not always the case – but it is often the case). However the emphasis in early Quakerism was on the Spirit welling up from within after a period of attentive stillness in which people first ‘centred down by ‘stilling the busy mind’ (as the old phrase had it) so that they could wait patiently upon God and upon the leadings of his Light

Early Friends set no store by creedal formulations because they saw creeds as divisive. The important thing for them was for Christians to dwell together in their differences with Love. They did not believe that any doctrinal formula could be ultimate. ‘It is not assent to creeds , doctrines and articles of religion - be these ever so soundly worded - that makes a person a Christian’… ‘To be like Christ, then, is to be a Christian. And regeneration is the only way to the kingdom of God, which we pray for’. Having said this the early Quakers were eventually anxious to stress their agreement with fellow Christians on essential Christian doctrines- the Unity of the persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in one substance; the Divinity and Humanity of Christ; the reality of Sin and the need for Salvation; the resurrection of Christ and his redeeming work; and the Inspiration of the Scriptures. And one of the egg heads among the early Friends – Robert Barclay – produced a pamphlet known as ‘Barclay’s Apology’ to try and break down misunderstandings between Friends and their fellow Christians at a time when the latter were persecuting Friends quite savagely, In his ‘Apology’ he argued that Friends were in broad agreement with ‘mere Christianity’ - as C.S. Lewis would put it. However, he did not list a belief in Hell amongst his essentials (and in this omission followed the Thirty Nine Articles of Elizabethan settlement Anglicanism that also omitted belief in Hell from ‘the essentials’)

May the seed Christ reign!


Ask a complex question - get a complex answer!!!

Hi Dick

Great to hear from you. Sorry to hear your mother isn’t well. I will hold her and you in my heart and prayers this weekend.

Excellent and highly informative post, as always. I was particualarly interested to learn of George Fox’s ‘despair’, and the positive benefits it ultimately brought for him, as this is a subject close to my heart.

I am also very glad you expounded on the Word of God. I am standing in for my father to deliver the sermon in our church tomorrow. I had chosen as my subject ‘The Bible’ - as a precursor to a series on the parables which my Dad and I are going to do together. Trust me to choose such a narrow subject, eh? :smiley:

My main theme was going to be something about different types of Biblical ‘truth’ - and about how Jesus’ use of parables gives us a bit of a clue about how to read the Bible as a whole. I was then going to go on to talk about how the Bible *per se *isn’t the true ‘Word of God’- Jesus, as the Divine Logos, is. So I’ve just fired up the computer to start typing out my notes, and lo and behold, I find a rich source of highly germane material right there for me in your post! Providential? I reckon so. :smiley:

So, if you don’t mind, I shall shamelessly plagiarise you for my sermon!

Keep up the good work.



Hi Sass –

You started this thread and I hope you don’t mind me wading in like this. And I hope what I’ve written is useful to you and ‘speaks to your condition’ as they say.

Hi Johnny

Thanks for your good wishes old chum – yep I have actually had a pretty tough time with lots of sleep loss – but I’m really OK and have a sense of the condition of other carers that I did not have before all of this (which is useful because I often have depressed carers in my community education classes). You see George Fox’s formula for making use of the things life throws at us has endless applications. It’s certainly a vast improvement on more self centred stoic philosophies of the difficult stuff and how to cope with it – namely that suffering is ‘character building’ which has an appeal but is strongly flawed.

Very good wishes and blessings for your co-sermon. Have a look at what it says in All Shall Be Well in the section of the essay about Origen concerning the Divine Names of Christ (which is relevant to the different conditions of people, and the different ways in which they will receive the same parable or the same doctrine). FI you don’t have the book I think I’ve done a garbled synopsis of this section of the Origen chapter over at Books in the thread on Conversations with God
According to Girard’s method of interpretation - which I find compelling and is becoming standard with many in the historic Peace Churches (though I’m not sure about today’s Quakers) - Jesus’ parables such as The Unjust Steward and the King’s Wedding feast do not preach ECT but rather reveal/disclose the state of mind of people of proud and exclusive religiosity (these people believe in a God of Vengeance and this is part of their perishing from which they need to be healed by having the consequences of their fearful and grudging beliefs revealed to them - but they do need to have ‘ears to hear’ and ‘eyes to see’ the true message of God’s Peace first; otherwise they will simply read Divine Violence into the stories – a violence that is modelled on human nature in its very worst aspects.

I will continue to work on the next post on the social witness of Early Friends unless anyone wants me to do something different or not do anything more. Any questions on my first post? Post them and I will try and answer these. As I said hold your horses about modern day Quakerism – all will become clear in the end and I will recommend appropriate websites for the different branches of the Quakers in the USA (where there is a five way split, and an emergent/convergent conversation going on that is shunned by those American Quakers who have been strongly influenced by sectarian Calvinism)

All the best


Hi Dick,

Thanks for such a comprehensive crash course! I have one small, well, observance really. Just concerning being “slain in the spirit”. I’ve never heard of Quakers (today or in history) to express their mysticism/the presence of the Holy Spirit physically. I am aware that the Shakers, that celibate sect of American nonconformists (who died out as celibate sects tend to do), were known for their ecstatic worship, but not the Quakers. I was told that Quakers were given this name by their detractors from an exhortation of Fox’s to quake in the presence of God (or something to that effect). Anyway, I’m just surprised about this aspect of their worship as I’m entirely unfamiliar with it. But my knowledge of Quakerism is severly limited, so I suspect I’m simply mistaken. Anyway, thanks again for your post. I look forward to Part II!

Edit: Nope. The Shakers were English (thank you Wikipedia!). It also says they possibly developed from the Friends, so it would make sense if they shaked from a Quaker precedent. Though also from Wikipedia, “At Derby in 1650 [Fox] was imprisoned for blasphemy; a judge mocked Fox’s exhortation to “tremble at the word of the Lord”, calling him and his followers “Quakers”.”

— Andrew

@ Dick, not at all. In fact, after Johnny mentioned you were the person to ask about the Quakers, I refrained from commenting until you posted…Glad you did. I am sorry to hear that your mother is so ill and again, thank you for taking the time to post in the midst of that. You are both in my prayers. You mentioned you left the Quakers…I’m interested in the “whys” of that. Everything you wrote about them I thought was postitive but I can see how they may be a bit too doctrinally wishy washy for an Evangelical. I understand you may not be able to comment at any length right now, but when you can, I’d like to hear and also about why you chose Angelicanism over it. God Bless you bother…Sass.

Hi Sass - good to hear from you sister. Yes of course I’ll do a post on why I am an ‘Anglican Quaker’ instead of a ‘Quaker Quaker’ (so to speak) sometime soon - nothing traumatic in that and I’d be glad to clarify (there are other Anglican Quakers beside me and some actually have dual membership which I do not have). And I wouldn’t really class myself as an Evangelical as such - although I was a fundamentalist once for a time. My traditions are Christian Humanist and Anabaptist Spiritual if I am to speak broadly.

And that’s so kind of you to ask about my Mum - I’m just off to see her soon actually. See my reply to Andrew next because it may give you some clues as to why I left the Society of Friends (but there was no animosity in my leaving and they were completely wonderful to me when I was a very traumatised little ex fundamentalist - and I may well rejoin one day with dual membership of the C of E).

Hi Andrew – good to hear from you brohter (I’ve viewed some of your posts fomr time to time with great interest and I think I can touch base with some of the themes you have explored when. Please always feel easy with me. I know a lot about this stuff because I’ve been involved in it and studying it for thirty years. But I’m by no means always right – so feel free to raise any points you wish with me; and let me learn for you too. And remember that I am a teacher rather than an academic.

Yes you are right, it was a Judge that first nicknamed Friends as ‘Quakers’ - although I’m not certain that it was actually Fox who was on trial - but you could be right. Dialogues between Friends speaking plainly to power in Law Courts during the time of their persecution have become part of Quaker lore. I remember that one court clerk at a Quaker trial said– when the accused protested that they were simply acting in imitation of Christ – ‘Muckle [Much] good it did him [Jesus] –for he was hangit [hanged] for it!’

Certainly the Quakers never practised speaking in tongues or being slain in the spirit. Neither did testimony at Quaker meetings have the status of Word of Wisdom or Word of Knowledge that some power based forms of the charismatic movement practice – Quaker leadings were always more modest and carefully tested in community before being acted upon. However, there is evidence to suggest that the very early Quakers did have bouts of enthusiasm and that George Fox for a time saw himself as a charismatic healer. I think this was because at first they were a little intoxicated by the millennial expectations of the English Revolution. They were what I’ve termed on the Wall Street Thread ‘Utopian Christian Anarchists’ and I think that some were even ‘Soldiers of God’ in Parliament’s Army). However, unlike other Universalist Millennial sects of the time, the Quakers had the resources to rethink when the English Revolution quickly went sour and they became what I have termed non-Utopian Christian Anarchists on the Wall Street Thread (and I entirely approve of this shift).

Again you are right that Friends today seem to know little about the Quaker mystical tradition. For the most part this was a grounded mystical tradition because it was always linked to extraverted social concerns. Two twentieth century American Friends – Rufus Jones and Thomas Kelly – did their best to revive the old traditions, but seemingly with little success (But who knows? Some form of rediscovery may yet happen and it may not be Quakerism as such that gets the benefits). My experience of Liberal Friends with mystical inclinations in the UK – fiteen years ago -was that they have turned to more introspective and, in my view, dubious and unbalanced traditions –such as Jungian analysis– and actually know little about original Quaker mysticism, which is sad. And there is the movement of Multi faith indiscriminate Universalism that is currently big in UK Quakerism; which is fine as far as it goes - but it sees all traditions as having parity instead of discriminating between these in the light of the Gospel (and I can say more about this too later)

I will go on to describe how the ‘mystical’ tradition was lost in my third post. But for the moment suffice to say that after severe persecution the second generation of Quakers retreated from the world into an ivory tower of antiquated set forms – like continuing to wear seventeenth century clothes although it was the early ninetieth century. However it is important to understand that mainstream Quakerism never became completely cut off and sectarian – Quakers still maintained a passionate concern to be leaven in the dough and were among the very first pioneers to end slavery etc. In the nineteenth century some began to collaborate with the more powerful evangelical movement ( and these effectively became evangelicals and biblical literalists) while other allied themselves with liberal Christianity (and these became bogged down in the minutiae of biblical criticism). That’s basically how older traditions became lost.

The Shakers

Yes I understand that the Shakers were a sectarian offshoot of the Quakers in America. They practised ecstatic dancing, wrote some very jolly tunes, did some beautiful craft in wood making sublime furniture, and died out within a generation because they believed in complete celibacy for men and women. So they were a bit of a cult and cut themselves off from the world and from biological family ties. I also understand that their leader – Mother Anne – thought upon herself as a female incarnation of Christ (she’d taken the doctrine of the inner light to an extreme that George Fox always guarded against)

Here’s something I posted on the Occupy Wall Street thread about the Shakers
There is an old Shaker song, put in the mouth of King David who danced before the Ark of the Covenant -

I used to dance before the Lord, which grieved Michal sorely
But I’ll dance and dance before the Lord, this pride shall never haunt me
I’ll not be bound by any man, nor any woman’s fancy
For I am a merry, merry soul, and I’m lovely in the dances

Lovely in the dances, lovely in the dances
For I am a merry, merry, merry soul
And I’m lovely in the dances.

This song features on an album by the English Quaker Sydney Carter. He died recently and was a near neighbour to me where in was born in Herne Hill/Brixton in London 9but I didn’t ever meet him sadly). Sydney Carter also wrote a ‘Ballad of George Fox ('With your old leather breeches and your shaggy shaggy locks/You are pulling down the pillars of the world George Fox’ and., of course, rewrote the words to the old Shaker song – It’s a Gift to be simple/ ‘TIs a gift to be free’ as ‘Lord of the Dance’

Here is something I once posted on my friend Cindy Skillman’s thread about another Shaker song -
I once did a talk about Jesus’ sayings against the family that are related to the sayings about divorce etc, and found out some very interesting stuff. Obviously what Jesus is driving at is that we should not make our biological family unit our only reference point for loyalty and moral concern in our lives –even the Nazis played that card. However, I don’t believe his sayings can ever be used to justify a cult like family rejecting mentality (although they often have been and still are sometimes). But I discovered one little treasure of a verse when I was doing my research that was so extreme that it was hilarious. It was a Shaker song - you’ll probably know more about them than me. Anyway, the words to this jolly little Shaker diatribe against the family go -

Of all the relations I ever did see
My own fleshy kindred are furthest from me
So bad and so ugly, so hateful they feel
To see them and hate them increases my zeal!

Well I guess we can all feel a bit like this when the turkey gets burnt at Christmas (or at Thanksgiving) or Uncle Albert doesn’t help with the washing up. But really!

All the best Friends


Good to see you back, Rick :smiley: Sorry to hear about your mom :neutral_face: I’ll be praying for you both.
It happens to be my own mom’s birthday today. She’s turning 56 :slight_smile:
Great stuff here about the Quakers. :slight_smile: There’s a Friends meeting place not too far from me, and I’ve always been curious about the Quakers. :slight_smile:

I read a children’s book once called The Witch Of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, a Newbery Award winner, and it was quite good. The story concerns a free-spirited young lady who, sometime in the 1800s, comes to stay with her Puritan aunt and uncle, feeling, naturally, totally out of place, but she soon makes friends with the local ‘witch’, who lives alone out in some lovely meadows, and who turns out to be no witch at all, but a Quaker. :slight_smile:
Good story, and the witch’s meanderings about life and God and everything I remember were quite winsome. :slight_smile:
I believe that the author was a Quaker herself. :slight_smile:
I also read her book The Sign Of The Beaver, a Newbery Honor book, a story about a boy who finds himself having to survive in the wilderness, while making friends with the local Natives, which was also enjoyable. :slight_smile:
And she also wrote another Newbery Award winner, called The Bronze Bow, a story about a teenage boy during the time of Jesus who is looking for Him… I read the first couple chapters but never went any further… I’ll have to pick it up and try again sometime though. :wink:

Anyways, thank you for sharing Rick. :slight_smile:

You’re a good teacher, and we should send you a bag of apples one of these days :laughing:

Blessings to you bro, and I look forward to learning more about the Quakers from our resident historian. :smiley:


Thanks for the welcome back Matt – you are a top bloke! I’ll look forward to the apples at the end of term but fear that old Soboronost may be posting here for a while still to encourage the young Universalists by telling them of the older traditions (which is actually my joy and privilege if you don’t get too irritated by me!)

Interesting about the book – I will get a copy to read over the summer if I can, and I’ll get back to you about it because it sounds charming. Quakers and witches have a long history. I know that when William Penn was governor of Pennsylvania – which was near the time when the witch hunts were raging in Calvinist Salem – a mob dragged a poor confused old women in front of him accused of flying on a broomstick. So he asked her ‘Do you fly on a broomstick’, to which she replied ‘Yes I do’. And he dismissed the case with 'I see nothing in our constitution that forbids you from flying on a broomstick’.

In Quakerism there was from the start full equality of men and women in Christ as co-equal in the priesthood of all believers. And what was the legacy of this equality (something which also obtained in parts of the early church as Clement of Alexandria testifies). Well it was certainly a cause of scandal , especially after the Restoration of the monarchy when Quaker girls were often forced wear ‘scold’s bridles’ and like both scolds (nagging wives – who may well have had good reason to be nags) and witches (so called) were tortured in the ‘ducking stool’. However, Quaker equality produced healthy, confident, brave, articulate and compassionate women unafraid to follow the leadings of the Light, unafraid to be humble to God, but also to speak truth to the Powers when necessary. I’ll tell you more about two of the top Quaker girls – Elizabeth (Betsy Boots) Fry ,the prison reformer, and Mary Dyer who was martyred by the New England Calvinists in a later post. I reckon we should take note of ‘fruits’ in spiritual discernment - we are told to do this in scripture after all.

Compare the Quaker girls with the sectarian Calvinist girls living under male headship. Well I understand that many middle class Calvinist women in nineteenth century America lived lives of ill health plagued by psychosomatic illness because they had the leisure to agonise over ‘assurance’. The remedy for this came in the New Thought Movement spearheaded by Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Science. Real mind cures did happen and lived were improved as people (often women) rejected the idea of an avenging God and immersed themselves in the notion that there is only Love and Light and Health in the world and all else is an illusion. This has given birth to the positive thinking movement.

However, there is a downside to all of this. Positive thinking, as a reaction against sectarian Calvinism, seems to have reinvented the beast. Whereas in traditional sectarian Calvinism people have to scrupulously examine their own depravity to annihilate any residues of self respect (a terrible sin) so that they can be more certain of a positive outcome at the last judgement, likewise positive thinkers have to scrupulously examine themselves for negative thoughts and will often cut negative people whose lived are going nowhere out of their lives. And positive thinking seems to have taken on a rather corporate dimension in Multinational staff training and human potential movements (including ‘personal coaching’). These teach people to be positive about their corporate product and to give up critical and compassionate analysis. People get sacked from jobs for being negative these days – it is original sin rebranded. And of course positive thinking has had a huge influence on the Health and Wealth Gospel. Give me the old Quakers and Quaker girls any day. They didn’t shy way from the great ocean of darkness in life but had faith that this would be overcome by the greater ocean of light.

I have already referred to Maggie Fell (Margaret Fox) in my first post on this thread as a top Quaker and so I quote from Christian Faith and Practice about her. ‘In her late eighties, Margaret Fox became anxious about the scruples which were growing amongst Friends about wearing any but ‘plain clothes’, or attending the christening feasts or funerals of their non-Quaker neighbours. In 1770 she wrote a letter begging them to ‘stand ft in that liberty wherewith Christ made us free:

*‘Let us beware of this, of separating or looking upon ourselves to be more holy than in deed and truth we are; for what are we but what we have received from God, and God is all sufficient to bring in thousands in the same Spirit and Light, to lead and to guide them, as he doth us…

We are now coming together into that which Christ cried ‘Woe’ against; minding altogether outward things, neglecting the inward work of Almighty God in our hearts. [It appears to be happening that] we can [now] only frame [that is ‘behave’] according to outward prescriptions and orders, and deny eating and drinking with our neighbours, in so much that poor Friends is [so]mangled in their minds, that they know not what to do. For one Friend says one way, and another Friend another. But Christ Jesus saith that we must take no thought what we shall eat, or what we shall drink, or what we shall put on, but bids us consider the lilies how they grow, in more royalty than Solomon. But contrary to this [that is contrary to what Christ says] we must look at no colours, nor make anything that is changeable colours as the hills are, nor sell them, nor wear them; but we must be all in one dress and colour. This is a poor silly Gospel. It is more fit for us, to be covered with God’s Eternal Spirit, and clothed with his Eternal Light, which leads us and guides us into Righteousness. Now I have set before you life and death, and desires you to choose lie, and God and Truth.*

Atta girl Maggie I say! She was so right and spoke truth to the new Powers of sectarianism within the Society of Friends that had arisen from bitter experience of persecution. I believe we can take inspiration from the beautiful story of the early Friends – the prophets of Christian Universalism -but this does not mean I am advocating that we should all become Quakers – and you should rightly laugh me to scorn if this was my intention. And I think Maggie Fell would have agreed with me on this score; and I’m sure would forgive me for begin an Ecumenical Quaker in a global age. And I probably wouldn’t be posting here telling you about the Quakers if I still was one – I’d be posting on an exclusively Quaker site instead. Although this might be an option for some of you if you can find the right sort of meeting among the diverse Quakerisms of today – and not all of these are Universalist by any means)

At the beginning of my copy of ‘Christian Faith and Practice in the experience of the Society of Friends’ there is a lovely and affectionate page long summary of Quaker history as ‘shown forth’ in the stories of Quaker lives in the testimony of a ‘community of memory’. The summary is at pains to emphasise that most of the written testimonies given in the body of the book are from the famous Quakers who wrote and spoke movingly and did noticeable things while

*The labourers in the fields, the housewife sweeping her room, the faithful tradesman, have left few memorials –

‘Let no one think because we have omitted them that we could forget the Quaker seamen: Robert fowler, Thomas Chalky, Paul Cuffee the black sea captain and all their gallant band

There is no word here from – those pioneers of social protest – John {Free John] Lilburne the Leveller, John Bellers, Peter Bedford or Alfred Salter of Bermondsey

Here are no pictures of the women who we remember for the beauty of their person as well as their character – Guleilma Penn [William Penn’s wife] and Esther Tuke; or such glorious old men as William Tuke (who in his sixties founded York Retreat as a pioneer of humane and compassionate treatment of the mentally ill) …or our children James Parnell, little Mary Samm, and those who kept the Meeting while their elders lay in gaol.

If we could have shown Rachel Metcalfe mothering her orphans from her invalid chair; or George Swan the boy from the fairground, playing his concertina through the village of India – if only we could have shown them all!*

However, in a spirit of true humility – and this is so important - the summary ends:

But then in honesty we should have had to reveal also the extent of our failure; the light dimmed in narrow hearts and creeds, the baptism m of grace lost in torpor, the corrosion of arrogance and self satisfaction – for we have known these too. May the light prevail over the darkness; may those who are here speak for all the children of the Light, to the needs of other times as well as their own.

May the Seed Christ reign (but I’ll stop using this asa valediciotn now for fear of making it a cliche)


Thanks Dick. Really insightful and thorough posts!

Thanks for yor kind word Andrew – adn you were right about the origin of the word Quaker (thnka for focussing my wooliness on that one; we need each other so keep testing me out because its the only way I learn. I think it was you that once focussed my mind about the Anabaptists of Munster for which I am grateful because I learnt a lot from your comment)

I’d like to take you on a journey to the heart for George Fox in this post – so be patient with the initial slow building process. The first time I heard about George Fox was in William James’ ‘The Varieties of Religious Experience’ (Some of you may have read this. It is still a classic in the fields of ‘Study of Religions’ and ‘Psychology of Religion’ although it was written in the late nineteenth century (but like all classics it opens up a conversation rather than closes one down). In this book William James, the Boston intellectual and brother of Henry James the novelist, makes a distinction between two types of religious experience and religious personalities – ‘The Healthy Minded’ and ‘The Sick Soul’. Some people fall into the category of the Healthy Mindedness, The Healthy minded religious person – Christian or otherwise – only sees the good in life and experiences God in unbroken and loving relationship as if ‘swimming in clear waters’. James sees this type of religiosity as being particularly evident in the Christian Science mind cure/positive thinking movements that were popular in his day (But see my previous post – I have reason to believe he was wrong on this score: see Chapter Three ‘The Dark Roots of American Optimism’ from the marvellous and, to my mind, truly prophetic book ‘Smile or Die; How Positive thinking Fooled America and the World’ by Barbara Ehrenreich). The Christian Scientists encouraged people to think that there is only love, abundance and health and all evil is an illusion. The healthy minded are still with us in the Course in Miracles, Conversations with God, The Secret, Authoritarian Human Potential Movements, and Personal and Corporate Training. (I hope and pray that Positive Thinking has not become a big feature of the Progressive wing of the Hicksite/Liberal Quakers in America who are hard to distinguish from Unitarian Universalists – but I’m not hedging my bets (even though Quakers don’t gamble;-) nut I guess Ecumenical Quakers can be a little more free with their scruples :wink:)
According to James other religious types and movements fall into the category of the Sick Soul- those who have a deep ad dark perception of the evil in life and have to integrate this into a vision in which the evil is overcome by the Good. Fox was a prime example of the latter type for James (and reading James led me to my first Quaker Meeting). Now I think that the notion of Fox as an exemplar of ‘sick soul’ spirituality is instructive – but note the difference between his teachings and the sick soul teachings of the Augustinian tradition (and Augustine was another sick soul par excellence, but a very different animal to Fox)
This whole idea of Fox as a ‘sick soul’ can be made even more instructive, in my view, in the context that me of a contrast that Anthony Storr drew in his book - ‘Feet of Clay’ about charisma and the guru phenomena (quite a good book, although as ever, being a horribly critical person, I don’t agree with all of it). Storr argues that normal charisma has its root in the depressive temperament and its genesis when people in a depressive state find that they have the ability to raise their own spirits by first raising other people’s spirits - hence the charisma of the orator and the rather different charisma of the depressive comic genius. So charisma is actually a natural phenomena and should be distinguished from the real gifts/fruits of the Spirit which are ‘Love, Joy and Peace’ (to which charisma can be a means for some but should never be seen as an end in itself)
In addition, Storr argues that normal charisma is neither good nor bad - its moral status depends entirely on how it is used (and it helps a charismatic person if they understand how it works because they are more likely to use it responsibly). As Storr and other have made a coherent case to show that hugely charismatic people in history – for example John Wesley (see Henry D. Rack’s ‘Reasonable Enthusiast’), George Fox (see me) Adolf Hitler, Winston Churchill, Carl Jung, Bhagwan Rajneesh (see Storr) and Billy Graham, and Maurice Cerullo (Ian Cotton ‘The Hallelujah Revolution’) –etc, all seem to have suffered unusual levels of distress and devastation very early in life. We note for the list that charisma can be very dangerous when allied with the character traits of the plausible and persuasive sociopath (Hitler, and Bhagwan Rajneesh are obvious examples from this list – and I sometimes have my doubts about Maurice Cerullo)
Storr also posits a different and unmitigated charisma of goodness that is evident when a person, in the company of powerful and charismatic people, remains centred and unaffected by their pomp (and this is something that is attained by struggle rather than being inherited through disposition and /or early trauma, so it is a manifestation of the real fruits of the spirit). Ok that’s been quite a long journey to take in – but all will become apparent now regarding its relevance to George Fox.
George Fox was brimming with charisma – and this almost certainly stemmed for his heroic struggle with spiritual despair. People who knew him spoke for how he would fix people, with his gaze and bear down into their souls – if they were perishing in hypocrisy - to bring them into the judgment of the light within them. And some would cry out – ‘Take thy dreadful eyes from me George, take thy dreadful eyes from me’. I seem to remember that Fox once closed off a conversation once with an overbearing religious hypocrite with the words ‘Repent you vile swine - your words are dung’ (the word ‘swine’ suggesting the man was spiritually unclean). However, he was often more gentle in bringing people to judgement in the Light. When William Penn –how was a courtier and a gentleman – asked Fox if it was permissible for him to wear a sword, Fox replied – ‘Wear it just as long as you are able William, Wear it as just as long as you are able’. It was said of him Fox that ‘He was no man’s copy’ and that he was a faithful ‘publisher of Truth’ (another old Quaker phrase). Early on his career Fox does seem to have been almost a shaman figure who miracles were attributed to and who people sometimes thought that ‘he brought the rains with him’ in times of drought. The early Friend were simple folk – if these were the view of Friends which is actually not proven (but boy they were rich in their spirituality even if they did have some residual superstitions initially – which soon abated I have to say)
Fox had ordinary charisma in buckets and shed loads. But he also had the spirit for meekness/ charisma of goodness in him. William Blake in his The Everlasting Gospel of Jesus words which cold equally could be applied to Fox
The Vision of Christ that thou does see
Is mine’s eternal enemy
Thine is the ‘friend’ of all mankind
Mine speaks parables to the blind
Seeing this false Christ with fury and passion
I’ll make my voice heard across all the Nations

This is the race that Jesus ran
Humble to God, haughty to man
If he’d been anti-Christ, ‘creeping Jesus
He’d have done anything to please us

(I note that Blake is using ‘friend’ here ironically. He is talking of the false friend who brings a false gospel with ‘soft deceitful wiles’ - ‘the smiler with the knife’ as Chaucer put it so beautifully)
Yes Fox imitated Jesus in his testimony to the Powers –as he remonstrated with foolish judges, brought the hypocrites into the judgment of the Light, and spoke back at angry mobs intent on lynching him (he must have had the constitution of an Ox).But Fox would have been the first to say that unlike Jesus although the Christ was in him he was not the Christ but a mere broken earthly vessel – ‘to God be the glory, I’ll have none of it, I’ll have none of it’ as another early friend said when dying. IT would be foolish to sacralise George – and he did in fact manage to avoid any cult o personality gathering around his charisma.
Fox had power, but he gave away his power to empower others. It is a measure of the greatness of the man that he oversaw the development of the discipline of Friend meetings where all were equal and all had a say – and this is not only true of the meeting for worship (which I have already described in a previous post).

It is true of monthly Meeting for Business where all members and attenders are encouraged to participate in the running of a Meeting a equals – the old Quaker phrase for reaching consensus on an issue under debate is ‘I unite on this with you Friend

It is true of Meetings for Suffering. These were originally business meetings convened for the relief of Friends suffering persecution. However, persecution never seems to have made Friends resentful and Friends martyrologies do not drip in the sentimentality of prurient cruelty. And very soon Meetings for Suffering were called not for the relief of Friends but for the relief of Slaves, the relief of Native America Indians, the relief of the victims of War etc. Friends’ experience of suffering during the Restoration - when hundreds of Quakers languished in gaol and some died of disease and ill treatment - once again did not lead them to develop an angry and vengeful ‘wounded child mythology’, but rather inspired them to work for the reform of conditions in prisons for all prisoners and to agitate for the abolition of the death penalty. And all of this was part of their truly universal vision and testimony.

It is true of Meetings for Clearness where a friend has expressed a prophetic concern on an issue of social justice that requires discernment from the wider Meeting and from experienced Elders who bake known as ‘Weighty Friends. I understand that ht Quaker phrase that denotes if a concern is genuinely of the Light, however unpopular it may seem at first. It will bear fruit is ‘way will open’. The concerns of early friends about slavery must have once been tested in this way – and their concern predated that of the evangelicals by more than a hundred years. Indeed the evangelicals in Britain took this concern over from the Friends. I once read a book by an evangelical missionary who came from a traditional Quaker, non Evangelical background. He wrote movingly of how his father, on hearing of his evangelical conversion, addressed his concern saying, ‘Is this the leading of the light within thee?’ to which the young man replied ‘Yes’. And the father then replied ‘Then I have nothing to rebuke thee for. Go in peace with my blessing son’.

It is true of Yearly meetings – which in England were and are held in London – where representatives from all meetings in the country meet to touch base. The nineteenth century essayist Charles Lamb – not a Quaker himself – spoke with great warmth about Quaker girls in their clean white bonnets all descending on London town for yearly meeting. I don’t have a copy of his essay at the moment but I know Lamb spoke of his experience as an occasional attender at Meetings – where he was given warm welcome – by saying something like ‘If you would be single and alone, yet also in the good company of your fellows, come with me into a Quaker meeting’.

The Quaker system of meetings can be cumbersome and frustrating – but it has often borne good fruit. It certainly schooled Quakers in the disciplines of good citizenship in a representative democracy. And just as the early Friends numbered Free John Lilburne – the prophet of English democracy of wide franchise –in their ranks, in the nineteenth century Quaker women played an important role in the campaign for female suffrage. So I think we can all learn from the disciplines of Quaker meetings for worship and meting s for business of various kinds. I hope I have - I think have.

And I note that this whole system of Church Government and discernment arose from one man given away his powers of Charisma for the empowerment of others.

That’s my love letter to valiant George and the Quakers. Next post I’ll tell you why I am now an Anglican if you like -and how it is sometimes possible to love two masters when they have both become rather similar of late –each with different strengths and weaknesses. Certainly a little bit of ‘foxes have holes, birds have their nest ’ precariousness in life can help a boy to develop a wider charity for fellow Christians than would have been possible if he’d simply battened on to one denomination to shore up his identity.

Still following me? – I’m not fishing for compliments; I just want to know that you are still with me.

All the best


If htere are any Quakers looking in I send my love and ask your advice about any errors I may have made (although I think I’ve got the scope pretty right here - which is what matters; and you are perfectly entitled to disagree with me over details, and I would be happy to hear about these dear Friends - although I don’t think I’ve been too controversial)

Hi Dick. I haven’t had time yet to give your last post it’s due attention. Busy weekend and hubby is home sick today. Things should simmer down here tomorrow and I’ll be able to read more thoroughly through it. Sass.