Historical Introduction

Commitment to a life of obedience to the Spirit has been of essential importance to Friends both as individuals and as Meetings. This commitment has led us to support much that is creative in public life, education, business, and concern for the oppressed. It also has led us to oppose practices and institutions that result in violence and exploitation in the world around us. Our history, however, demonstrates that our discernment has not always been complete: we have not always been united in our perceptions of what obedience to the Spirit requires, and we have fallen into conflict and misunderstanding even among ourselves. Yet out of such conflicts, painful as they have been, have come greater clarity of commitment and unity in witness.

The following account divides our history into five periods, from the origins of Quakerism in England to recent developments within Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.

  1. Beginnings 1652-1689
  2. Consolidation & Withdrawal 1689-Circa 1800
  3. Schism and Reform Circa 1800-1900
  4. Reconciliation Circa 1900-1955
  5. Unity Amidst Diversity 1955-