Who Are the Quakers?

A brief summary of Quaker ideas and history, with links to more information

What is the Religious Society of Friends?

The Religious Society of Friends is the name of the group commonly known as Quakers. Friends are a Christian group who believe in the presence of God within each person, often referred to as the "Inner Light." Quakers emphasize a personal commitment to God and humanitarian causes.

When was Quakerism founded?

The Religious Society of Friends was founded in the mid-17th century in England by George Fox (1624-1691).

Where did the names "Friends" and "Quaker" come from?

The Society of Friends took its name from the New Testament gospel of John, which says, "You are my friends if you do whatever I command." (

John 15:12-15

). The original Quakers called themselves "Friends of Truth" after this verse. They were also known as the "Children of Light."

The Society of Friends is commonly known as Quakers because the original Friends were mocked for "trembling with religious zeal."

What are the major Friends groups currently in the U.S.?

There are three major organized groups of Friends in the U.S. today:


  • Friends United Meeting claims about 100,000 members worldwide, including 40,000 in the U.S.
  • Friends General Conference claims about 33,000 members in the U.S. and Canada
  • Evangelical Friends Alliance claims over 100,000 members in 20 countries.

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    Where are the largest number of Quakers in the U.S.?
    According to Adherents.com, the five states with the largest number of Quakers are: Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California, in that order.

    What happens in Quaker meetings?
    Friends meetings can be programmed or unprogrammed. Programmed meetings are usually led by a pastor and are more like a church service than unprogrammed meetings. Unprogrammed meetings are based on the idea of "expectant waiting." Members sit in silence until someone has a message they want to share with the group, and there are no prearranged prayers or readings. Read more about unprogrammed Friends meetingshere.

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