Friends and Some of Their Organizations

Rather than being a cloistered society, Friends have always tried to carry their work and witness into the world. Such initiatives enable Friends to work with others, including Friends from different branches of Quakerism, on issues of mutual concern.

Quakerism in the United States includes four major traditions or branches, all tracing their lineage from earliest Friends in 17th century England. Monthly and yearly meetings and churches affiliate with one or more of these traditions. These groups intersect and even overlap in their mission and service work. Philadelphia Yearly Meeting is primarily affiliated with Friends General Conference.

Friends General Conference is an association of regional Quaker organizations in the United States and Canada. Created in 1900 by seven yearly meetings intending to hold a general conference periodically, Friends General Conference is now an association of fourteen yearly meetings and various regional groups and individual meetings. Friends General Conference continues to sponsor an annual Gathering of Friends and provides services and resources to meetings and to individual Friends. Those affiliated with Friends General Conference emphasize the authority of the Inward Light and include people who identify themselves as Christians and those who do not. The Friends General Conference website lists all of its affiliates. fgcquaker.org

Conservative Yearly Meetings embrace the Christian beliefs and silent worship introduced by the founders of the Religious Society of Friends. Some members practice plain dress and speech. There are three main conservative yearly meetings and each has a separate website: Ohio Yearly Meeting (Conservative) ohioyearlymeeting.org or quaker.us; Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) iymc.org; and North Carolina Yearly Meeting (Conservative). ncymc.org

Evangelical Friends Churches International includes six yearly meetings/regions in North America that are drawn together through a shared commitment to Jesus Christ and a common desire to change the world for Christ. evangelicalfriends.org/north-america

Friends United Meeting, originally established as Five Years Meeting in 1902, includes thirty yearly meetings in Canada, Cuba, Jamaica, Kenya and the United States. Friends United Meeting’s focus is on evangelism, leadership training, global partnership and communication so that the power of the Holy Spirit is known, loved and obeyed as Teacher and Lord. fum.org

Over the years, many organizations have developed out of the impulses of Friends to address problems in the community and the world. For some of these organizations, yearly meetings, including Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, continue to name members to the organizations’ governing bodies. Other organizations appoint a broad group of Friends to identify and recommend members for the governing board. Still others rely on the nominating committee of the board to recommend new appointments. Since Friends seek to be led by divine guidance in reaching decisions, the members of the governing body of a Friends organization engage in an open discernment and decision-making process and do not represent a fixed position of the yearly meeting or other body that appointed them.

Philadelphia Yearly Meeting appoints Friends to the governing boards of a number of these groups and approves the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting members of the boards of George School and Westtown School:

George School, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, was founded in 1893 and serves students in grades 9-12. The school has incorporated separately from Philadelphia Yearly Meeting after an extended period when it was ‘under the yearly meeting’s care.’ However, its Philadelphia Yearly Meeting board members are still approved by the yearly meeting. georgeschool.org

Westtown School, in Chester County, Pennsylvania, was founded in 1799 and serves students in grades pre-kindergarten-12. The school has incorporated separately from Philadelphia Yearly Meeting after an extended period when it was ‘under the yearly meeting’s care.’ However, its Philadelphia Yearly Meeting board members are still approved by the yearly meeting. westtown.edu

For Friends called to board service in Quaker organizations, there is a very useful resource titled Principles of Good Practice for Boards and Every Trustee of Quaker Organizations. (See Section VIII.)