from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Quakerism refers to the entirety of the Quaker worldview, organizations and customs.

The word Quakers ( English Quaker "Shakers") was an early nickname that the members of the Religious Society of Friends ( English Religious Society of Friends was), the formal name of the organization of the Quakers used. However, the term was soon adapted by the members themselves and is now normal usage.

Quakerism is a religious group with Christian roots in England in the 1650s. George Fox is the founder , but Margaret Fell , Francis Howgill and James Nayler were also of central importance in the founding phase. Today Quakerism can be described as a Christian denomination , although not all Quakers see themselves as Christians and there is a minority interpretation of Quakerism as a universal religion .

Religious life moves around different poles. A foundation of the Quaker worldview is the belief that the light of God dwells in every person . In this respect, religious truth is sought in inner experiences, which also emphasizes the importance of human conscience and human dignity . As a result, each and every human being has a unique value, from which one can understand the Quakers' intense efforts to prevent humiliation and discrimination against individuals and groups. On the other hand, one is partly a strict believer in the Bible to the point of literal interpretations and preaches reverence and obedience to the will of God. Since the focus is on one's own religious experience and direct reference to God, rites and clergy play a comparatively minor role. Instead, religiosity and everyday life are closely linked.

While the original unified church has been preserved in countries like the United Kingdom and Germany , there was a split in Quakerism in the United States into the three main currents, liberal , conservative, and evangelical , which has in some cases set a precedent elsewhere.

In 1947 the Quakers, represented by the American Friends Service Committee (Philadelphia) and the Friends Service Council (London), were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their aid.


Quakerism was originally an eschatological awakening movement that emerged from Dissenters and Seekers after the end of the English Civil War in 1649 . In the early days of Quakerism, a whole series of other names were in use, some of which also reveal the eschatological character of the movement. These were among others:

  • Friends
  • Friends Among
  • Friends of the Truth
  • Publishers of Truth
  • Quiet helpers
  • Saints
  • Seekers of Truth
  • Society of Friends

There is no reliable knowledge about the origin of the name “Quaker” (or “Quaker”). George Fox gives the following explanation in his biography:

“It was Judge Bennet at Derby who first called us Quakers because I told them to tremble at the word of God. This happened in 1650. "

One often reads or hears the claim that the Quakers were so named for their ecstatic behavior at gatherings. This myth seems to go back to a footnote by the translator of the German edition of George Fox's diaries. There it says:

"Quaker, that means 'tremor', the mocking name that the opponents attached to friends because of the convulsions that set in at their first meetings ."

At another point in his autobiography, George Fox gives the content of a letter he wrote on the basis of the mockery:

“A word from the Lord to you who mock at trembling and trembling; and you those who tremble and tremble mock, strike, threaten, and utter curses against them. You all do not know the apostles and prophets! […] Moses, who was judge over Israel, trembled and trembled when the LORD said to him: 'I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob' (Exodus 3). […] King David trembled; and they mocked him (Ps. 38) […] Job trembled, trembled; and they laughed at him (Job 21) […] The prophet Jeremiah trembled; he was shaken, his limbs trembled, and he stumbled to and fro like a drunk man (Jer. 23: 9) when he saw the deceit of the priests and prophets who had turned away from the LORD. […] Isaiah said: 'Hear what the LORD says, you who tremble at his word'; and further he says: 'I see in the afflicted and the broken spirit and who trembles at my word' (Isa. 66,2) […] Habakkuk, the prophet of the LORD trembled. […] And Joel, the prophet of the LORD said: 'Blow the trumpet in Zion, all the inhabitants of the land shall tremble' (Joel 2,1) […] Daniel, a servant of the Most High, trembled and had no more strength ( Dan. 10.16); and he was trapped, hated, and persecuted. […] Take care, you great men of the earth, who persecute those who are mockingly called Quakers, but who are in the power of God, so that the hand of the Lord does not turn against you and destroy you. The word of the Lord comes to you: be afraid, and tremble, and be on guard. For the LORD looks on him who trembles at his word (Isa. 66: 2); but you who are of this world mock, laugh at, mock, persecute him and take him prisoner. From this you can see that you are acting contrary to the prophets and apostles if you hate those whom the LORD looks on, while we who you call Quakers in derision respect them. We honor and praise the power that makes the devil tremble, makes the earth shake and crushes pride and arrogance, [...] We honor and proclaim this power; but all who mock and mock and whip and plague, we abhor them; for all who do this and do not regret it will not inherit the kingdom of God, but destruction (2. Tess. 1). But blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness; they will have their reward in heaven (Matt. 5:12) [...]. "

Voltaire describes this type of naming in his 3rd letter on the Quakers in his Lettres philosophiques (1778).

From this it can be seen that the Quakers were mocked primarily for warning others about God's judgment and judgment, which they should fear as sinners. The eschatological influences that the early Quakers were under also play a role here. The judgment of God was not expected in the distant future, but in the foreseeable future. Fox does not answer dogmatically the question of whether a person will be held accountable during their lifetime, after their death, or on a Judgment Day. The letter also is the concept of the sufferings very clearly, that the suffering of the just cause due.


Swarthmoor Hall , made available to the Quaker Movement by Thomas Fell as the first meeting place

After the Quaker Act 1662 banned the gatherings of Quakers in England, the Toleration Act of 1689 made a sustainable constitution possible . Already in 1676 the formulated Apology of Robert Barclay theological principles at an academic level and thus contributed to profiling. In the same year, the Meeting for Sufferings was organized by the London Yearly Meeting , founded a year earlier , in order to coordinate measures against the persecution. Until then, Margaret Fell's brisk missionary work was being organized at Swarthmoor Hall. As early as 1657, the missionary trips extended to the Sultan of Constantinople . And a year later an attempt was even made to convert Pope Alexander VII himself in Rome (which ended fatally for one of the two missionaries, while the second could only be liberated with great difficulty through diplomatic channels). An important milestone was the so-called Holy Experiment , when William Penn was bequeathed a huge area in the North American wilderness by King Charles II in 1681 to settle a large debt and was appointed governor there. Religious freedom now applied here , not just for Quakers.

Around 1827 there was the first major split in North America between the so-called Hicksites and the Orthodox Quakers. In the course of time further divisions and reunions arose.

Today one can divide three main currents: evangelical, conservative and liberal. These groups differ considerably in their views. This is shown in the following table:

Today's main currents of Quakerism
Evangelical Conservative Liberal
Spiritual experience is on par with the Bible. Spiritual experience is more important than the Bible. Spiritual experience is all that matters.
is defined by faith is defined by belief and form defined by methods / form
You see yourself primarily as a Christian. One sees oneself primarily as a Quaker.
Christian Christ-centric Christian, post-Christian and non-theistic
Biblical salvation history is considered completely and irrevocably true. Leave it to the individual to decide whether he or she understands biblical texts literally or not
There is a liturgy or a program in the service . No liturgy or program
There is a personal pastor's office to lead the church. Priesthood of all with invisible guidance (of the Holy Spirit)
Christian mission is seen as a duty. Limited public relations work is understood as a duty. Public relations work is considered dispensable.
traditional Christian attitude to sexual morality partly traditional, partly liberal views on sexual morality liberal views on sexual morality

Because of the wide range of theological views, it is difficult to make general statements about Quakerism. The lowest common denominator is likely to be what is known as Quaker products . The "Historical Peace Certificate" is the only thing that was also recorded in writing. The “testimony of simplicity”, that of equality and that of truthfulness are generally recognized among Quakers as further testimonies .

Quaker product

The reason for the barely developed dogmatics in Quakerism can be seen in the emphasis and weighting of personal experience / revelation . A remark often quoted (among Quakers) should clarify this:

“You may say Christ saith this, and the apostles say this, but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of the Light and hast thou walked in the Light, and what thou speakest is it inwardly from God? "

“You might say: Christ said this and the apostles said that - but what can you say yourself? Are you a child of light and have you walked in the light, and what you say is it in the heart of God? "

The Bible ranks second only to personal revelation among the early and conservative Quakers. For the liberal Quakers, the Bible is sometimes optional in addition to their own spiritual experience. With evangelical Quakers, the Bible is on a par with personal experience and must not contradict it.


The so-called advice and questions , through which the members and assemblies are asked to examine themselves and their actions , also have an identity- forming effect . This advice and questions are not, however, uniform among the various wings of Quakerism. And they are also constantly being developed. Originally, at the time of the violent persecution, the advice and questions of the Meeting of Suffering were created by the London Yearly Meeting and sent nationwide. The focus of the questions at that time was whether the members held on to the testimonies despite the persecution. It was also asked how many were in prisons or had been slain, whether goods had been confiscated and whether money was needed, be it for boycotting traders, for legal proceedings or for survivors. When the persecution was no longer a priority for most Quakers - for them personally - the questions and advice were adjusted.

There are roughly two camps in the Quaker beliefs today. The evangelical Quakers with their so-called programmed worship and the pastor's office are opposed to the conservative and the liberal Quakers, who hold on to the original form of worship of the early Quakers and have a so-called unprogrammed worship and continue to forego full-time preachers - i.e. pastors. A programmed church service has a planned sequence, an unprogrammed prayer contains long phases of silence, spontaneous speeches and no (planned) musical elements.

Customs and Organization

Due to the fragmentation in the last century and a half, there are numerous Quaker organizations, each trying to capture one or the other current. In addition, there are a number of lobbying organizations that work for certain social or political goals and that stand above internal theological differences. An example is the Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO).

For the organization of Quakerism in Germany see:

See also



  • Katharina Provinski, Ilse Wandrowsky: The religious society of friends (Quakers) . Quäkerhaus, Bad Pyrmont 2002, ISBN 3-929696-29-0 .
  • Quakers, Faith & Work. German translation of the manual for the Christian way of life. Bad Pyrmont 2002, ISBN 3-929696-29-0 .
  • Religion without dogma. Depiction of the Quaker Faith . Bad Pyrmont 1995, ISBN 3-929696-13-4 .
  • William Taber: Four doors to prayer, our worship service . Quaker House, Bad Pyrmont 1992, ISBN 0-87574-306-4 .

Other publishers


  • Manfred Henke: "We don't have a beggar among us". Studies on the social history of the early Quaker movement . be.bra verlag, Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-95410-027-9 .
  • William Penn: There is no crown without a cross. A study edition , ed. by Claus Bernet, Olaf Radicke. Books on Demand, Norderstedt 2009, ISBN 978-3-8391-2608-0 .
  • Claus Bernet : German Quaker writings of the 18th century. Olms, Hildesheim 2007, ISBN 3-487-13408-X .
  • Claus Bernet: Quakers from politics, science and art. - 20th century. A biographical lexicon . Bautz, Nordhausen 2007, ISBN 3-88309-398-X .
  • Claus Bernet: Deutsche Quäkerbibliographie, complete list of writings of German Quakerism from the beginnings around 1660 until today . Bautz, Nordhausen 2006, ISBN 3-88309-363-7 .
  • Sünne Juterczenka: About God and the World: End Times Visions, Reform Debates and the European Quaker Mission in the Early Modern Age (= publications of the Max Planck Institute for History , Volume 143). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2008, ISBN 978-3-525-35458-2 ( Dissertation University of Göttingen 2006, 367 pages).


  • Jack D. Marietta: The Reformation of American Quakerism, 1748–1783 . University of Pennsylvania Press, Pennsylvania 2007, ISBN 0-8122-1989-9 .
  • Howard H. Brinton: Friends for 350 Years. The history and beliefs of the Society of Friends since George Fox started the Quaker movement . Pendle Hill Publications, Philadelphia Penn 1996, ISBN 0-87574-903-8 .
  • H. Larry Ingle: First among Friends. George Fox and the Creation of Quakerism . Oxford University Press, Oxford NY 1994.
  • Douglas V. Steere: Quaker Spirituality. Selected Writings . Paulist Press, Mahwah, New Jersey, 1984, ISBN 0-8091-2510-2 .

Web links

Commons : Quaker  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Quakers  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikibooks: Introduction to Quakerism  - Learning and Teaching Materials
Wikisource: Quakerism  - Sources and Full Texts

Individual evidence

  1. ↑ In his book Gebauten Apokalypse ( ISBN 3-8053-3706-X ) , Claus Bernet proves that the early Quakers (not only in Germany) can be classified as an " eschatological awakening movement" .
  2. a b George Fox - Notes and Letters of the First Quaker. Translator: Margrit Stähelin, Verlag ICB Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tübingen 1908, p. 34.
  3. George Fox - Notes and Letters of the First Quaker. Translator: Margrit Stähelin, Verlag ICB Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tübingen 1908, pp. 101-102.
  4. ^ Voltaire: Letter on The English Or Lettres Philosophiques . Ed .: Generic NL Freebook Publisher. Hoboken New Jersey, ISBN 978-0-585-05039-3 , pp. 4 .
  5. ^ Pink Dandelion: An Introduction to Quakerism. 2007, ISBN 0-521-60088-X , p. 29.
  6. The surviving missionary is John Perrot and the one killed is John Luffe (Love). See Claus Bernet:  PERROT, John. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 20, Bautz, Nordhausen 2002, ISBN 3-88309-091-3 , Sp. 1160-1167.
  7. ^ Pink Dandelion: The Quakers: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2008, ISBN 0-19-920679-1 , p. 108.
  8. The "Advice and Questions" online
  9. At some point the situation turned into the opposite, and the Quakers became very popular as trading partners, as word got around that they did not cheat. George Fox - First Quaker's Notes and Letters. Translator: Margrit Stähelin, Verlag ICB Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tübingen 1908, Chapter 7, p. 83.