This knowledge database shares a wide variety of data about the churches, conciliar and confessional bodies related to the WCC (statistics on church memberships, number of churches, congregations, pastors, links, etc.), as well as information about the different regions and countries they represent.

Friends (Quakers)

Quakers - also called Friends or the Religious Society of Friends - date their origins back to 1652 in north-west England and deem George Fox, an itinerant preacher, their founder. Together with other "seekers", George Fox brought into the tumultuous times in Britain the message of the direct personal experience of God, informed by the scriptures, within a distinctly Christian framework. His theology was related to that of Anabaptist groups of the time, although the Quakers kept themselves distinct. This direct personal experience of the Holy Spirit has been characterized as "the Inner Light" or "that of God in everyone". Following on the teachings of Jesus, the sense of the kingdom in the present, and the aversion to killing "that of God" in anyone, Quakers refused military service and are generally pacifists. They are one of the historic "peace churches", along with Mennonites and Brethren. On behalf of Quakers world-wide, two Quaker organizations were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947, in recognition of international Quaker relief work.

Buoyed by a strong evangelical fervour, Quaker ministers (all unpaid) spread the Quaker message throughout Great Britain and Ireland, northern Europe, the British colonies in the Americas, and the Caribbean. In 1682, William Penn received a royal grant of a colony now known as Pennsylvania, and founded its capital, Philadelphia, which remains a centre of American liberal Quakerism. As Quakers in the colonies grew in numbers and moved westwards with the expansion of the USA, different influences affected both their faith and practice. Today there are four strands of Quakerism, which are evangelical, pastored, conservative, and liberal unprogrammed who worship in silent waiting. Each strand traces its roots back to George Fox and the early Quakers.

In the early 1900s, Quakers from America and Europe sent out missionaries to Latin America, Africa and India. Today the largest block of Quakers can be found in East Africa; they are pastored Friends. Evangelical Friends can be found in Central Africa, India, Peru, Bolivia, Taiwan and Central America. Liberal unprogrammed Friends predominate in Europe, Central and South Africa, and the north-eastern USA. The organization within the Religious Society of Friends - the usual denominational designation - begins with the local monthly meeting or church, which belongs to a wider gathering called Yearly Meeting. There are umbrella organizations known as Evangelical Friends International, Friends United Meeting (pastored tradition) and Friends General Conference (liberal unprogrammed tradition), which regroup several yearly meetings.


Last updated: 1.1.2006