During the 19th century Friends in the United States suffered a number of separations. These separations have resulted in the formation of different branches of the Society of Friends. Despite the separations, Friends remain united in their commitment to discover truth and promote it. There are perhaps 400,000 Quakers in the world today, the overwhelming majority of them Evangelicals in Africa and Latin America.
How about this George Fox character? What’s his deal? The following excerpt is from William Penn’s preface to the Autobiography of George Fox (the full preface is included with this e-book):
The blessed instrument of and in this day of God, and of whom I am now about to write, was George Fox, distinguished from another of that name, by that other’s addition of younger to his name in all his writings; not that he was so in years, but that he was so in the truth; but he was also a worthy man, witness and servant of God in his time.
but, in general, when he was somewhat above twenty, he left his friends, and visited the most retired and religious people, and some there were at that time in this nation, especially in those parts, who waited for the consolation of Israel night and day, as Zacharias, Anna, and good old Simeon did of old time. To these he was sent, and these he sought out in the neighboring countries, and among them he sojourned till his more ample ministry came upon him.
At this time he taught and was an example of silence, endeavouring to bring people from self-performances, testifying and turning to the light of Christ within them, and encouraging them to wait in patience to feel the power of it to stir in their hearts, that their knowledge and worship of God might stand in the power of an endless life, which was to be found in the Light, as it was obeyed in the manifestation of it in man. “For in the Word was life, and that life was the light of men.” Life in the Word, light in men, and life too, as the light is obeyed; the children of the light living by the life of the Word, by which the Word begets them again to God, which is the regeneration and new birth, without which there is no coming unto the kingdom of God; and which, whoever comes to, is greater than John, that is, than John’s ministry which was not that of the kingdom, but the consummation of the legal, and opening of the gospel-dispensation. Accordingly, several meetings were gathered in those parts; and thus his time was employed for some years.
In 1652, he being in his usual retirement to the Lord upon a very high mountain, in some of the hither parts of Yorkshire, as I take it, his mind exercised towards the Lord, he had a vision of the great work of God in the earth, and of the way that he was to go forth to begin it. He saw people as thick as motes in the sun, that should in time be brought home to the Lord, that there might be but one Shepherd and one sheepfold in all the earth. There his eye was directed northward, beholding a great people that should receive him and his message in those parts. Upon this mountain he was moved of the Lord to sound out his great and notable day, as if he had been in a great auditory, and from thence went north, as the Lord had shewn him: and in every place where he came, if not before he came to it, he had his particular exercise and service shewn to him, so that the Lord was his leader indeed; for it was not in vain that he travelled, God in most places sealing his commission with the convincement of some of all sorts, as well publicans as sober professors of religion.
Again from Wikipedia:
Quaker meetings (called Meeting for Worship) are unprogrammed, last about an hour and consist primarily of silence, interupted only when an individual is “moved to speak”. Here’s a quote about Meeting for Worship:
“A Friend’s meeting, however silent, is at the very lowest a witness that worship is something other and deeper than words, and that it is to the unseen and eternal things that we desire to give the first place in our lives. And when the meeting…is awake and looking upwards, there is much more in it than this. In the united stillness of a truly ‘gathered’ meeting, there is a power known only by experience, and mysterious even when most familiar.” Caroline Stephen, (1908).