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Quakerism

John Wesley's churchmanship inevitably led him to repudiate many aspects of Quaker belief and practice, especially its use of Scripture, its theology of salvation, its abandonment of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord\'s Supper, its silent worship and, not least, its willing acceptance of women preachers. In his 'Letter to a Quaker' he writes: 'Friend, you have an honest heart but a weak head - come back, come back to the weightier matters of the law, to spiritual, rational scriptural religion.' So, at a formal level the relationship between Methodism and the Society of Friends was cool; but the larger picture is more complex and more positive.

John Wesley himself rejoiced at receiving a substantial contribution from a rich Quaker towards the cost of building the Newcastle Orphan House and one of his earliest evangelical bases in the north was a Quaker farmhouse at Hindley Hill in Allendale. In day-to-day contacts there was a good deal of mutual interest and attraction between Quaker and Methodist layfolk. Some Methodists turned Quaker, but in general the trend was in the opposite direction, largely owing to the attractions of the vigorous young Methodist movement to Quakers aware of the decline in zeal of Quakerism. In this process Methodism began to learn from the Quakers. The first Methodist quarterly meeting (a Quaker practice) was held in a Quaker house near Todmorden.

Quaker influence was stronger on the more radical non-Wesleyan Connexions, especially Independent Methodism and Primitive Methodism. Hugh Bourne, though never persuaded to throw in his lot with them, adopted some Quaker practices. The first PM Conference (1820) was described as an 'Annual Meeting' and was preceded in 1819 by a 'Preparatory Meeting' - both terms being in Quaker use. The PMs also adopted a Quaker simplicity and plainness in dress and a 'natural' hair style for men. Both Bourne and William Clowes were described as like Quakers in appearance. But perhaps the most radical Quaker influence on the PMs was the example they offered of the potential of women preachers and the divine legitimacy of their call.

See also Sticklepath.

Sources

  • John Wesley, Letters, ed. John Telford, (1931), vol.2 pp.116-28
  • F. Baker in London Quarterly and Holborn Review, October 1948 pp.312-23; July 1949 pp.239-48
  • J.C. Bowmer, 'The Relations between the Society of Friends and Early Methodism', in London Quarterly and Holborn Review, 1950 pp.148-53, 222-27
  • Geoffrey Nuttall, The Puritan Spirit (1967) pp.204-13
  • G.E. Milburn in WHS(NE), Feb 1981, pp.13-17
  • Peter W. Gentry, Inner Light and Warmed Heart: a study of the contrasts and similarities between the Quakers and the early Methodists (Weston-super-Mare, 2001)

Entry written by: GEM
Category: Denomination

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