Religious Society of Friends

Quakers, or Friends, are members of a family of religious movements which collectively are known as the Religious Society of Friends. Friends' central doctrine is the priesthood of all believers, a doctrine derived from a verse in the New Testament, 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.

In today's world, around 89% of Friends worldwide worship in churches that have programmed worship —that is, worship with singing unto God and a prepared message from the Bible, often coordinated by a pastor. Around 11% of Friends practice waiting worship (also known as unprogrammed worship or "silent 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 both styles have Recorded Ministers in their meetings. Recorded Ministers are Friends who have been recognised for their gift of vocal ministry.

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. These Quakers attempted to convert others to their understanding of Christianity, travelling both throughout Great Britain and overseas, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some of the early Quaker ministers were women. They based their 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, and a direct religious belief in the universal priesthood of all believers. They emphasized a personal and direct religious experience of Christ, acquired through both direct religious experience and the reading and studying of the Bible. Quakers focused their private life on developing behavior and speech reflecting emotional purity and the light of God.

In the past, Quakers were known for their use of thou as an ordinary pronoun, refusal to participate in war, plain dress, refusal to swear oaths, opposition to slavery, and teetotalism -- the 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.

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