Searching for George Fox

Many founders of religious groups would hardly recognize their modern-day successors. That would surely be true of George Fox, the originator of the Friends (Quakers) movement.

Unlike Fox, most American Quakers no longer wait in silence for the Holy Spirit to speak to them, but have church bulletins and paid pastors and all that. The Quakers who do wait in silence are usually not too picky about which spirit they’re waiting in silence for – many no longer even call themselves Christians. Even the more traditional Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) says, “Many believe that when we limit the divine to one gender we also limit ourselves and each other. Becoming aware of how we discern Spirit is important to our worship.” Even a raised-liberal Quaker such as Martin Kelley says that “the appearance of tolerance and unity comes at a price: it depends on everyone forever remaining a seeker.” What if somebody wants to become a finder, he asks?

Perhaps the closest thing to old time Quakerism that remains in America is found in the Ohio Yearly Meeting. But after reading the Autobiography of George Fox, it occurred to me that in some ways, the closest thing I’ve seen to George Fox’s spirituality was John Wimber, a former Quaker pastor and founder of the Vineyard movement, as he invited his listeners to wait on God. Hard to reconcile the Quaker Oats man with signs and wonders? When one of Fox’s companions broke his neck and appeared to be dead, Fox raised him up. And Fox prophesied to Oliver Cromwell’s face.

Fox had his imbalances. But read George Fox’s testimony and, like me, you may be disturbed by its simplicity and devotion.

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