Did you know...?
The name "Friends" comes from Jesus' words in John 15:12-15:
"You are my friends if you do whatever I command."
The name Quaker, originally an insult, became a symbol of integrity as Quakers were known for:
- Support for religious and political freedom (including women ministers)
- Opposition to slavery
- Honesty in business
- Humane treatment of criminals & compassion for the mentally ill
- Opposition to war, but aid to war victims and others in distress
The Friends Church, originally called the "Religious Society of Friends" began in England under the leadership of George Fox about the middle of the seventeenth century, 100 years before John Wesley and 100 years after Martin Luther. His spiritual experience led him to witness to what he called the "Inner Light" of Christ (the Holy Spirit) that dwells in the hearts of ordinary people.
The name "Friends" is considered to originate with Fox's call for people who claimed to be Christians to obey the commandments of Jesus. "You are my friends if you do what I command you" (John 15:14).
Growing rapidly under strong persecution, the Friends, later called "Quakers", spread to other countries, including colonial America. The word "Quaker" originally meant as an insult to George Fox, was embraced and worn with pride by all who "quaked with the power of God."
The most profound early American Quaker was William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania.
Through the years many changes have occurred, producing differences among various groups of Friends. Some groups maintain "quiet meetings" [without pastors or musical instruments]. Evangelical Friends Church International [EFCI] churches have forms of worship similar to other Protestant denominations. However, like Fox their focus remains an individual, personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
While some other Friends churches across the country have become more liberal and non-evangelical, EFCI churches remain conservative and evangelical. They enjoy affiliation with other like-minded congregations through regional annual conferences called "Yearly Meetings." In North America EFCI Yearly Meetings (Y.M.) include Evangelical Friends Church - Eastern Region, Evangelical Friends Mid-America Y.M., Rocky Mountain Y.M., Northwest Y.M., Alaska Y.M., and Evangelical Friends Church Southwest.
EFCI carries out its joint missionary efforts through Evangelical Friends Mission [EFM]. (See their independent website at www.friendsmission.org)
For more information about the history of the Evangelical Friends Church we recommend the following books:
The Rich Heritage of Quakerism by Walter Williams
The People Called Quakers by Elton Trueblood