Click on the items below for information and links to resources.
Does "Friends" and "Quakers" mean the same thing?
Yes. Officially, we are "The Religious Society of Friends." However, the term "Quakers" started out 350 years ago as a nickname for Friends -- at first it was an insult, but then Friends adopted it and have used it ever since. An original source from 1678 (scroll down to section VIII).
Are Friends Christian?
Yes. Friends began as a radical reform movement among Protestants in Britain in the mid-1600's. We proclaimed that "Christ has come to teach his people himself." Historical background.
OK, but are all Friends Christian?
There's nobody at the top of the Friends movement to enforce theological conformity. As with all non-authoritarian religious movements, we have our liberals and our conservatives, and everything in between. Eugene Friends Church comes out of the evangelical Christian community of Quakers. We're decidedly Christian, but whether the evangelical tag still applies is less certain. Take a look at our statement of belief. Here's a link about branches of Friends.
What are the "testimonies"?
"Testimonies" is Quaker word for the ethical principles and practices of Christian discipleship that we hold dear. It's an important part of what we've learned about living with Jesus at the center. Here are some of these principles:
- we choose leaders based on their spiritual gifts, not social status or other irrelevant criteria
- we make decisions together as a praying community; each member has a voice, and decisions require substantial unity
- we live simply, avoiding waste, luxury, and vanity
- we uphold nonviolence in our personal lives and as citizens
- all people are made in the image and likeness of God; we oppose discrimination of any kind.
These principles are listed in various ways by different Friends churches, but almost all such lists include features very similar to this summary. Example.
Where does the Bible fit in?
The Bible has a central role in our discipleship and discernment. Most Friends agree with early Quaker theologian Robert Barclay that the Bible is "the only fit outward judge of controversies among Christians; and that whatsoever doctrine is contrary unto their testimony may therefore justly be rejected as false." In general, Friends cherish and study the Bible but have varying views over interpretation. Historical background.
What roles do Quaker women have in leadership?
Our goal is to select our leaders based on their spiritual gifts instead of their gender, race, education level, sexual orientation, etc. From the very beginning of the Quaker movement, women have been in leadership. Has the Society of Friends always honored this principle of total equality throughout its history? Not always, but at Eugene Friends Church, women are very active in leadership. Historical/biblical background.
You say "there's nobody at the top" -- so who provides leadership for a Quaker congregation?
The Friends church is a gathering of people with Jesus at the center. We learn, and help each other learn, what it means to live—as individuals, families, and a church—a Christ-centered life.
Pastors help us by coordinating or encouraging our work, by teaching and preaching, and providing ways for the church to be open to the wider community. Elders are attentive to the emerging gifts of the people, work with the pastor to see what pastoral care and encouragement the people need, and help set priorities for the the church. The presiding and recording clerks serve the church by chairing the meetings for business (where the church as an organization is governed) and recording the decisions. More context.
Among Friends, what does a pastor do?
In general, we don't distinguish between "laity" and "clergy." In a sense, we are all ministers, each with our own gifts. Most Friends churches have one or more pastors, who have particular responsibilities to preach, coordinate worship, arrange for pastoral care, and represent the church in the wider community. (Specific responsibilities are determined by individual Friends churches.) Friends churches may recognize individuals as "recorded ministers" whose spiritual gifts are reflected in various forms of public ministry. This is roughly equivalent to ordination. _More context. Even more context_.
Do I have to be a pacifist to be a Friend?
1n 1660, George Fox wrote, "We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons, for any end, or under any pretence whatsoever; and this is our testimony to the whole world... 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 kingdoms of this world."
Quakers still reject violence and war, although we sometimes disagree on exactly what that would mean in practical terms. During World War II, for example, some American Quakers did enlist and serve in combat. However, Quakers also became conscientious objectors and served as medics or volunteered in state-side forestry camps. Here's a fascinating account from a Jewish perspective of Quakers aiding Jews in Nazi Germany. In 1947, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded "on behalf of all Quakers" to the American Friends Service Committee and the British Friends Service Council for our rescue and feeding operations during and after World War II.
Which organizations does Eugene Friends Church belong to?
Eugene Friends Church is currently a member of Northwest Yearly Meeting. However, after July 1, we will become a member of Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting instead. The term "yearly meeting" means the umbrella organization that churches, traditionally called "monthly meetings" belong to.
Friends World Committee for Consultation is an organization that keeps Friends all over the world in touch with each other. Browse the links for the regional sections of FWCC in Europe and the Middle East, the Americas, Africa, and Asia and the West Pacific.
Where can I find out more about Friends?
There are many online resources to learn more about the Friends movement. The QuakerSpeak videos are one such resource. For example:
- What is a Friends Church?
- How George Fox Fit Seven Bible References into a Single Sentence
- What is the Difference between "Programmed" and "Unprogrammed" Quaker Worship?
- The Top Ten Reasons I Am a Quaker
Each QuakerSpeak video has discussion questions and a transcript. Not every member of Eugene Friends Church would agree with everything in these videos, but they are a valuable resource.
Ready to plunge into some foundational Quaker writings? Here are some links and books to get you started:
Online texts from the earliest decades:
- Robert Barclay, Apology for the True Christian Divinity (1678)
- Margaret Fell, Six Epistles; Women's Speaking Justified
- George Fox, Selected Epistles; Journal, vol. 1; Journal, vol. 2
Published more recently on early Friends:
- Birkel, Michael Engaging Scripture: Reading the Bible with Early Friends
- Benefiel, Margaret, ed. Hidden in Plain Sight, Quaker Women's Writings 1650-1700 "An anthology of Quaker women's writings in the seventeenth century, which does an excellent job of illustrating the lives and theological perspectives of numerous women who joined what was for its time very much a radical sect. The writings are explained with a clarity that would allow even a beginner to Quakerism to understand their context."