Quakers, or Friends, are members of a family of religious movements which collectively are known as either the Friends Church, or the Religious Society of Friends. Friends' central doctrine is the priesthood of all believers., a doctrine which is derived from the Biblical passage 1 Peter 2:9. Most Quakers view themselves as a Christian denomination. They include those with evangelical, holiness, liberal, and traditional conservative Quaker understandings of Christianity. Over the last 25 years, a minority of Quakers in the Western world, have started to question some of the traditional orthodox Christian beliefs and practices of the Religious Society of Friends; and as a result, has caused great controversy inside of both Britain Yearly Meeting, and Friends General Conference.

The first Quakers, known as the Valiant Sixty, lived in mid-17th century England. The movement arose from the Legatine-Arians and other dissenting Protestant groups, breaking away from the established Church of England, and setting out to convert others to their unique understanding of the Christian faith. Many of the early Quaker ministers were women, who travelled both around Britain and overseas to America, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Early Quakers based their gospel message on the religious belief that Christ has come to teach his people himself: stressing the importance of a direct relationship with God through Jesus Christ, a direct religious belief in the universal priesthood of all Believers, of which every non-Christian can be a part. These Early Quakers emphasized a personal and direct religious experience of Christ, acquired through both direct spiritual experience and the reading and studying of the Bible. Quakers focused their private life on developing relationships of "holy conversation" : behavior and speech reflecting emotional purity and the light of God. The spiritualization of human relations led to a growing religious role for women, and new conceptions of family and community life, became divergent from English Puritanism.

Quakers today are organized into independent regional and national bodies called Yearly Meetings which have often split from one another because of Christian doctrinal differences. Several associations unite Quakers who share similar beliefs — for example Evangelical Friends Church International unites evangelical Christian Friends; Friends United Meeting unites Friends into "fellowships where Jesus Christ is known, loved and obeyed as Teacher and Lord"; and Friends General Conference links together Quakers that have more liberal and non-creedal, religious beliefs. Many Quaker Yearly Meetings are also members of Friends World Committee for Consultation, an international fellowship of Yearly Meetings from different Quaker traditions.

In today's world, around 89% of Friends worldwide worship God in Christian churches that have programmed worship —that is worship with singing unto God, a prepared message from the Bible, and often coordinated by a pastor. Around 11% of Friends practice waiting worship (also known as unprogrammed worship) - that is worship where the order of service is not planned in advance, which is predominantly silent, and which may include unprepared vocal ministry from anyone present, so long as it is credible to those assembled that the speaker is moved to speak by God. Some meetings of Friends have Recorded Ministers in their meetings. Recorded Ministers are Friends who have a spiritual gift of vocal ministry.

In the past, Quakers were known for their use of thee as an ordinary pronoun, refusal to participate in war; plain dress; refusal to swear oaths; opposition to slavery and teetotalism, or opposition to alcohol. Some Quakers have founded banks and financial institutions including Barclays, Lloyds and Friends Provident; manufacturing companies including Clarks, Cadbury, Rowntree and Fry's; and philanthropic efforts, including abolition, prison reform and social justice projects.

A well-known image of a Quaker, though not a portrait of an actual person, nor in any way connected to the Religious Society of Friends, is found on the label of Quaker Oats, dating back to 4 September 1877.

Read more about Quakers:  Theology, Practical Theology, Worship, Membership, Church Government and Polity, National and International Divisions and Organization, Ecumenical Relations, Relations With Other Faiths, Calendar and Church Holidays

Famous quotes containing the word quakers:

    If I could believe the Quakers banned music because church music is so damn bad, I should view them with approval.
    Ezra Pound (1885–1972)