Ask a Quaker


I am new here, and a lifelong Quaker. I thought it would be interesting to offer to answer any questions people had here. A quick forum search makes it appear that Quakers are sometimes used as the example of the antithetical Christian from Catholics, so I am curious to see what folks come up with. Perhaps I will even learn a bit too! :slight_smile: Nothing is off the table within the forum rules - my personal experiences and interactions with Catholics, my beliefs and training, you name it!

Looking forward to seeing what you have to ask!

Interesting. So, tell us about being a Quaker. What do you believe and why? :thumbsup:


Is this correct: Quaker services are held in a Meeting Room, not a church or chapel? And, is it correct that at your services you all sit quietly until someone is moved to speak?

VQR, thank you for your offer to answer our questions.
Could you outline the origins of the Quakers please.


I was not aware that the Quakers have been portrayed here as antithetical. Personally I have great admiration for the Quaker view on violence and the importance placed on Love. That said I don’t know that much about the faith over-all.
I must admit that when I hear “Quaker”, I almost immediately think of the movie “Friendly Persuasion” with Gary Cooper.

So I will enjoy hearing more about the Quaker faith from a Quaker. :thumbsup:


I’m wondering if Quakers have over the years gone down the same road Congregationalists and some non-demoninational churches have, and added on a lot of the structure and organization they initially rejected.

When I think Quaker I think oatmeal. :blush:

This is just a joke but do you eat Quaker Oats?

I remember reading a book about Quakers in the library and it was very interesting, but I can’t find it now.

Welcome to CAF. One of my questions would regard Christian Baptism. Why do the Quakers reject Baptism with water, considering that this was a practice from the beginning of the Church, and by what authority did they change this practice?



Wow, thanks for all the questions!

First off, a general disclaimer - Quakers are a disparate group; one of our defining characteristics is the lack of formal tenets. As such, unless I specify otherwise I am talking about my personal beliefs and experiences, and another Quaker may disagree.

Starrsmother - First off, I am a Christian. I believe that my own behavior is unworthy of God, and am dependent on his grace for salvation. What defines me as a Quaker would be my not holding to physical sacraments and symbols, which I believe have at times have become a distraction from the important concepts which they represent.

Bergon - Traditionally, Quakers used their own nomenclature for a number of familiar Christian objects - ie, “meeting house” instead of “church”. The original intent was to reclaim the focus on the underlying concept rather than the object - the church was where the congregation was, not the building itself. This practice of using distinct speech has become less common, largely because this different manner of speaking actually became itself a distraction from what was important. In my local community’s parlance, the building is referred to as our church and the group of people that meet in it are the congregation, meeting, or church group.

Sitting is silence is an important tradition, and some meetings still have services that are either fully silent or are unprogrammed (where there is no pastor and members of the congregation speak as they feel led). My church is more conventional - unprogrammed worship takes up less than 25% of our typical service, and we have a pastor who give a sermon.

dawid - Quakerism (formally “Religious Society of Friends”) started in England, in the 1600’s IIRC. A man named George Fox was dissatisfied with his religious experience in the Church of England, and felt the answers he received to his concerns were unsatisfactory. He founded Quakerism as a separate denomination, and as a group early Quakers did little to avoid standing out starkly from more established religious groups. As a result, there was significant persecution of Quakers in England and later in New England by Puritans. Pennsylvania was essentially a Quaker colony in early to mid American history.

Discerning, adawgj - according to Wikipedia the founder of Quaker Oats just used the name because it sounded wholesome (I had to look it up). Pepsi owns the brand now.

I will try to address the other questions later, thanks!

So there is no authoritative body to define doctrine. How do you separate divinely revealed truth from personal opinion (and error)?

We would hold this belief in common. :thumbsup:

Do you believe they are a distraction when properly understood? In other words, I have never been confused by understanding that the physical waters of Baptism are a sign of a very real interior cleansing, a washing away of my sins; when being immersed, of dying with Christ, and when brought out, of rising with him. Rather than a distraction, the outward sign seems to offer a deeper understanding of what has occurred interiorly. That is my view as a Catholic. I would be interested in your comments.

This is to be admired. Indeed, God is found in the silence and this is an aspect of prayer about which many of us need to pay greater attention. We have certain liturgies wherein silence and meditation are brought into great focus; i.e. Eucharistic adoration where we spend an hour or so with our Lord in complete silence. This experience can have a profound affect on one’s faith, and life in general.

I would say that the Anglican church is still objectively much more structured than any segment of Quakers. Our church (traditionally meeting or weekly meeting) is part of a “yearly meeting”, which is a regional entity covering, in our case, three states in the US. Membership of our church in this organization is voluntary, and there are “competing” Quaker umbrella organizations. There are also international organizations of Quakers, which are even more loosely associated with individual meetings. Since these larger organizations (including the yearly meeting) are not able to dictate individual churches’ actions, I would say that generally, the answer is no. I could get more specific if you had further questions on specific aspects of our structure.

What are some of the actual tenants of your faith which make it different from say Baptists, or First Christians, etc? Just curious–I don’t think I’ve ever actually met a Quaker! :thumbsup:

Historically, I think Fox rejected traditional water baptism (which he did quite vocally) because of the hypocrisy he saw in the established religion around him - essentially, he did not see evidence of a spiritual change occurring with the physical act. Quakers regard treat sacraments, particularly communion and baptism, as a personal and internal experience. Personally, I believe that the New Testament defines “baptizo” as a spiritual immersion as opposed to its mundane meaning in Mark 1:8: “I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (NIV). I attempt address the part of your question regarding authority below, but the short answer is that Quakers generally believe that authority comes from God alone.

Through the direction of the Holy Spirit. Quakers have attempted to replace the gap left by standardized doctrine with some writings, particularly Faith and Practice which includes pointed questions referred to as “queries” (examples here), but these are not binding and not really the same thing as doctrine. In practice, this has resulted in disagreements between groups and individuals - leading to very frequent splits. “Quaker” is a very broad definition with regard to belief structure.

Yup, I figured it would be good to get the common ground established at the start.

Absolutely not. Christ himself was baptized in water simultaneously as with being baptized with the Holy Spirit. Various individuals in our meeting have chosen to be baptized with water, and their church community has always been supportive of this in my experience. I personally have never been baptized, in the sense of participating in a ritual involving water, but can testify that I am immersed in the Holy Spirit.

Cool! I think most of us could do with more quiet time with God, particularly in our lives where technology and its distractions are so pervasive.

I actually am not familiar with First Christians - do you mean Christians in the first century, or is this a contemporary denomination?

Many significant aspects of Quaker beliefs vary radically between individuals, so the following list does not apply to all Quakers (including, as noted, yours truly):
*]Lack of physical symbols and sacraments. Marriages are traditionally informal and can be “officiated” by anyone, classically no physical communion or baptism, and nontraditional views on clergy (no distinction between laypeople and ministers with respect to authority, some meetings do not have ministers at all and those that do typically “record” their names rather than ordain them)
*]Classically vocal and associated with political action, particularly peacemaking (pacifism) *
*]Association with simplicity and plain speech
*]Focus on guidance and decision making through personal conviction
*]Equal standing for women (freedom to speak independently, can be recorded as a minister)

When compared with Baptists, I think the most obvious differences would be the differing practices WRT water baptism and communion, and (I think) views on women in leadership. As I understand them, Baptists would probably place more emphasis on literal reading of the Bible, while Quakers would focus more on personal interpretation and conviction.*

I would ask Mr. Fox if he believes that Baptism removes one’s free will. The fact that we all are sinners, even post Baptism, has nothing to do with the completely gratuitous gift of God that we receive in Baptism nor the effect it has on our soul. We are all free to abandon the grace received, but the fact that some do does not lessen the validity of the sacrament.

The baptism of John is different than Christian Baptism. John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance, a symbol that one was turning their direction to God. Christ had no need for baptism, but did it out of obedience and to show forth his divinity at the beginning of his public ministry. Christian Baptism is a Baptism of sanctification in which our souls are cleansed from all past sin and are infused with the supernatural life of the Holy Spirit. So the baptism of John the Baptist is not the best example to use against water Baptism.

Yes, it must be tough without any authoritative body. Does one ever ask the question as to whose interpretation is correct when two differing factions claim they have received the truth from the same Holy Spirit? As a Catholic, I would say that this is exactly why Christ founded a Church and gave that Church very specific and awesome authority. So that the faithful might have confidence in the truth given to us by the Apostles. As you are no doubt aware, it is the Church that is called the “pillar and foundation of truth” by Scripture, not the private opinions of individuals.

Always a good idea. :thumbsup:

Have you been Baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit? This was a command from Jesus, the great commission, to teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen, brother.

Sorry I’m not really aware of Quaker’s theology, so my question is do you “Quakers” believe in the Dogma of the Trinity? is there a disagreement among members about it? Thanks

I had to look the term up first to understand it. It appears to represent, in my wording, that the understanding that there is one God, and that the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) are attributes or aspects of God. If I am substantially matching what you have in mind, then yes, most Quakers including myself share this view.

Since Quakers have no central doctrine, the views of individuals vary dramatically. I personally have met a person that self-identified as an atheist Quaker, a standpoint that seems very strange to me and certainly outside of what would be considered “mainstream Quaker” if such a thing existed. But to answer the second part of your question, since some individuals consider themselves Quakers without being Christian there certainly is disagreement among members about some very core tenets of what it means to be a Quaker.

I got a definition from wikipedia for the Trinity as below

The doctrine of the Trinity defines God as three divine persons or hypostases:the Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit; “one God in three persons”. The three persons are distinct, yet are one “substance, essence or nature”. A nature is what one is, while a person is who one is

Is that what you believe?

Fox himself wrote a great deal about his views on baptism and the rejection of it was one of the largest causes of contention between Quakers and the Anglicans. My personal view is that Baptism is not a single occurrence but a continuous part of my relationship with God, and that its significance is not directly enhanced or reduced by the physical ritual of immersion in water.

I do want to be clear that I am “against” water Baptism only in the sense that I do not view it as necessary - as opposed to, for example, viewing it as wrong. The verse I quoted actually contrasted Christian Baptism with the Baptism of John - it was John the Baptist that used water. Christian Baptism is a Baptism of sanctification in which our souls are cleansed from all past sin and are infused with the supernatural life of the Holy Spirit.:extrahappy:I agree with this sentence 100%.

Here is where we likely differ in relatively significant ways. You refer to the Church as a distinct entity, while for me the Church is the body of individuals gathered to worship. Within the Quaker organization regional, national, and international levels fulfill vital administrative roles, but they do not have any particular authority.

Usually, disagreements are handled by additional time in silence, prayer, and discussion. Occasionally (but frequently on a historical scale) disagreements result in splits, which is why the “family tree” for Quaker organizations is rather fractal. I do not and cannot credibly make the claim that the Quaker manner of decision making is efficient.

Yes. Mine might differ in external form from what you envision since it does not involve water.

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