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“Quakers” is the nickname for the Religious Society of Friends. The group gained the nickname when founder George Fox told a government official to quake upon hearing the name of God. Currently there are about 210,000 Quakers worldwide.

Who is George Fox?

George Fox (1624-1691) was the founder of the Religious Society of Friends. Fox wasn’t satisfied with the churches around him in England. Feeling God spoke to his heart when his heart was ready to listen, he decided people needed to listen to Jesus on their own. After challenging churches and the government with his ideals, he was imprisoned eight times; over 6,000 of his followers were also jailed. Things were not any easier when the Quakers came to America in 1656. They were persecuted and some were killed until William Penn (founder of Pennsylvania) became a follower and showed people that Quakers wanted peace.


Quakers don’t follow a set of beliefs. Instead, each person is supposed to follow her “Inner Light” or her own understanding of what God wants. This means many Quakers believe different ideas – but they all agree that Jesus is the most important belief. Therefore, many Quakers identify themselves as Christians.

  • Worship: Each week, Quakers gather for a worship meeting. It’s simple: Anytime two or three people meet in the name of Jesus, that’s considered worship. There are no rules, no schedule, and no priests or pastors. Instead, Quakers believe each person can be moved by God to figure out what’s true and good. During a service, they sit in silence for an hour, waiting to be moved by God to speak (ready to listen, like Fox). If moved, a Quaker may speak to the whole group, either reading sacred texts, praying, or talking about an experience or idea. As you can imagine, sitting in silence for an hour became a problem for some people over the years. In 1827-1828, a major separation of the Quakers took place. Some groups of Quakers began meeting in giant buildings with pastors, singing, and schedules. Others continued to hold meetings in small buildings with no leader and simple silence. The divide remains today.
  • Dress: In the past, Quakers wore “plain dress” or simple clothing that would not take attention away from God. Most people stopped wearing plain dress in the 20th century and today most Quakers dress like everyone else.
  • Peace: Quakers stand against war, injustice, racism, and all forms of violence. Instead they seek harmony, peace, justice, diversity, and equality for all people. After all, if all people have the “Inner Light” of God within them, it would be wrong to hurt people. This idea has led many Quakers to become “conscientious objectors,” refusing to join the armed forces and even refusing to make war goods and weaponry. Such refusal has led to imprisonment for some Quakers and death for others. But Quakers continue to actively work against violence and for peace. As a result, they have been successful in promoting women’s rights and human rights – and they were among the first to lead the anti-slavery movement in both England and the United States.


Quakers began founding schools around the time our founding fathers were forming our nation. They were among the first to teach pioneer children on the western frontier. After the Civil War, Quakers raised funds to educate thousands of former slaves. School usually includes a weekly service, sitting in silence for an hour. During classroom hours, students are taught to listen to God, to learn about the world, and to go out into the world to do good things.

Want to know more about Quaker life or Quaker schools? Check out Quakers in America by Thomas D. Hamm (2003).

Created by Religion Transcends, 2009. Portions of this overview are taken from an article written by Religion Transcends writer Jackie Walker for Relate magazine. Most information is general knowledge. You must seek permission to reuse this wording.

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One Response to “Quakers”

  • This article about Quakers is incorrect. They do not all agree Jesus is be most important belief. Meeting is not related to where 2 or 3 are gathered in Jesus’ name. Most or all meetings have a schedule. In unprogrammed meetings there is a brief usually 15 minute period that includes children and another 45 minutes of silent reflection. The Quaker divide is an American peculiarity. The posted description is inaccurate and superficial.

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