In the England of today the church has found itself included in the critical examination of all previously held
social values and standards of personal behaviour. Serious questioning is going on within the Church itself on
its real faith and its true role and message in a rapidly changing world.
A numerically small group, the Society of Friends, usually called Quakers, is making an
increasingly relevant contribution to this re-thinking by its emphasis on simplicity and the deeply-held
belief that there is 'that of God' in every man.
Whereas the Roman Catholic faith is based on the authority of the Church, and for most Protestants the final
authority is the Bible, Quakers, whilst respecting the rich heritage from the past, and finding great inspiration
in the Bible, believe that they must follow the 'Inner Light' of the spirit of God in their own lives.
The Quakers have no paid ministers or priests; they observe no outward sacraments such as Holy Communion or
Baptism; they are not bound by fixed creeds or doctrines; they have no predetermined order of service, but meet
for worship on a basis of silence. Any number of the group can rise or speak to pray if he or she feels they
have a message for the meeting; they practise full equality between men and women. From the earliest days of their
formation in the 17th century, Quakers have been deeply concerned for the sufferings of mankind; above all,
they have steadfastly refused to fight in wars. 'We utterly deny all outward wars and strifes and fighting
with outward weapons....for we certainly know and testify to the World that the Spirit of Christ which leads
us into all Truth will never move us to fight and war against any man with outward weapons, neither for the kingdom
of Christ nor for the kingdom of this World.' This is a quotation from 'A declaration from the harmless and innocent
people of God, called 'Quakers', addressed to King Charles II in 1660, a time of great persecution of the Quakers
and all dissenting religious groups.
Though they did not fight, they have always been ready to help and relieve the misery and privations of the victims
of war. In every movement for social reform the Qakers have provided pioneers - in fighting slavery, in ordering
the humane treatment of prisoners and of those suffering from mental illness, in housing improvement, in creating
better industrial working conditions, and many other forms of service. All these practices are explained by the
central belief of the Quakers that in every man and woman God has planted the capacity to respond to His spirit;
therefore all men are members of God's family, and as such have to be treated with love and consideration.
Those who do the will of the Father are brethren of Jesus Christ; therefore the Quakers are Christians although
they are not baptized.
The Anglican prelate wrote about them: 'The Quakers, of all Christian bodies, have remained nearest to the teaching
and example of Christ.