The Quakers in America

The Quakers in America

Thomas D. Hamm
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    The Quakers in America
    Book Description:

    The Quakers in America is a multifaceted history of the Religious Society of Friends and a fascinating study of its culture and controversies today. Lively vignettes of Conservative, Evangelical, Friends General Conference, and Friends United meetings illuminate basic Quaker theology and reflect the group's diversity while also highlighting the fundamental unity within the religion. Quaker culture encompasses a rich tradition of practice even as believers continue to debate whether Quakerism is necessarily Christian, where religious authority should reside, how one transmits faith to children, and how gender and sexuality shape religious belief and behavior. Praised for its rich insight and wide-ranging perspective, The Quakers in America is a penetrating account of an influential, vibrant, and often misunderstood religious sect.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50893-3
    Subjects: Religion, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. CHAPTER ONE Meeting for Worship and Meeting for Business
    (pp. 1-12)

    “Plain” is a word that resonates with many meanings for Quakers, but the Stillwater Meetinghouse near Barnesville, Ohio embodies most of them. Approaching it from the west, one might not immediately realize that it is used for religious purposes. Outwardly, it appears to be an unusually solid red-brick barn, or a small warehouse or Victorian factory. But coming closer, one notices the tombstones in the graveyard (none more than two feet high) alongside, and a sign that identifies this as the site of a Friends meeting.¹

    Inside, the lack of ornamentation, of anything that most visitors would perceive as denoting...

  5. CHAPTER 2 The Origins of American Quakerism, 1640–1800
    (pp. 13-36)

    The story of American Quakerism begins, as do the stories of many American faiths, on the other side of the Atlantic. The first Friends were English men and women, visionaries caught up in the tumult of the political, religious, and social upheavals of the 1640s and 1650s in the British Isles.

    It was a “world turned upside down,” in the words of one contemporary. These were men and women suffering from inner torment, trying to work out for themselves, and seeking others who could help them answer, what seemed to be the most important question that anyone could ever confront:...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Their Separate Ways: American Friends Since 1800
    (pp. 37-63)

    In the spring of 1828 the Quaker settlements in Henry County, Indiana were still new and raw. Friends had been there about ten years, most of them migrants from North Carolina, some with roots in the Delaware Valley by way of eastern Ohio. Only for two years had they had their own monthly meeting, called Duck Creek. Those two years had been occupied mainly with dealing with errant Friends who married out of meeting or danced or drank to excess. But in April the Duck Creek Friends found themselves confronting an unprecedented problem. William Bond, a lifelong Quaker who had...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Quaker Faiths and Practices
    (pp. 64-119)

    Generalization about American Quakers today is almost impossible. The process of division that began in the 1820s has carried them down divergent paths. Sometimes these paths are close enough that communication among them is possible. Friends move from one to another, occasionally even making dramatic changes in course. At times in the last thirty years, hopeful Friends have seen differences lessening. For example, in 1986 a Philadelphia Quaker wrote confidently that “the spiritual realities which underlie the division within the Religious Society of Friends are the same and . . . if divested of the superstructure the Spirit would be...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Contemporary Quaker Debates
    (pp. 120-155)

    Relations among Quakers often suggest a tempting comparison to the theater: the script does not change, only the actors. Certainly anyone who knows Quaker history, looking at the debates taking place among American Friends, will find many that are familiar. Some of them, such as the place of Christ in Quakerism, the sources of authority for Friends, or leadership, or unity, continue century-old discussions. Other disputes, such as those over sexuality, are relatively new. These debates, moreover, do not simply separate pastoral from unprogrammed Friends or pit Friends United Meeting (FUM) against Friends General Conference (FGC). Very often they are...

  9. CHAPTER SIX Quakers and the World
    (pp. 156-183)

    Early in 2002, two groups of American Quakers found different ways to witness to the world. In February, a “team” from the Riverside Friends Church in Iowa traveled to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. They were not there for pageantry or parties. They went to “minister to the lost.” The pastor took his banjo to draw a crowd and was aided by a baton-twirling Friend from another Iowa church. They stationed themselves near a line of portable toilets, singing and “proclaiming the Gospel,” under banners proclaiming Know God, Know Peace. They spoke to anyone who would listen, from self-identified drug...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN “A quarterly meeting in herself”: Quaker Women, Marriage, and the Family
    (pp. 184-199)

    Delphina Mendenhall was, by all accounts, a formidable force among North Carolina Friends from the 1840s until her death in 1881—perhaps the wealthiest single member of the yearly meeting and a weighty elder. Her opinions had considerable weight among her fellow members. The Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier was once heard to exclaim: “Delphina? She is a quarterly meeting in herself.”¹

    One of the distinctive features of Quakerism that invariably drew the attention, and sometimes the ire, of observers before 1900 was the standing of women. Almost unique among Protestant denominations, Quaker women spoke in worship and served as...

    (pp. 200-202)

    In 2002 Quakers celebrated what most regard as their 350th birthday—1652 marking the emergence of Quakerism as a distinct religious movement. Their history has been paradoxical. On one hand, they were pioneers in movements that most Americans today find attractive: opposition to slavery, fair treatment of Native Americans, equality for women. On the other hand, for almost two centuries, Friends have been a divided people, often declining in numbers, their growth uneven and erratic. The separations that began in the 1820s have been only partially healed. Today, although they number only about 100,000, American Quakers are found on a...

    (pp. 203-213)

    The following biographies are not intended as a listing of the fifteen best-known Quakers in American history, nor even the fifteen Friends who have been most central to the development of American Quakerism. Instead, I have chosen Friends who exemplify three groups: those who before 1950 made an impression on the larger American society (Woolman, Hicks, Mott, Whittier, and Paul); those who have been central figures among American Friends since 1950 (Steere, Trueblood, Willcuts, Boulding, and Foster); and Friends who have become well known to the larger American society (Rustin, Michener, Simon, Turrell, and Raitt). None can be considered a...

    (pp. 214-216)
    (pp. 217-219)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 220-260)
    (pp. 261-268)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 269-294)