Branches of the Religious Society of Friends in the Americas (see note 1)
There are five branches (see note 2) of Friends in the Americas today, each holding to part of the Quaker distinctiveness of the seventeenth century. Although there is significant overlap, the differences are sometimes deep. Some testimonies (beliefs) are shared by all, but seen in different ways. Below are simplified descriptions of the larger Friends bodies.
Friends General Conference (FGC )
Friends General Conference, organized in 1900, is a service organization which addresses the needs of Friends in the Liberal-unprogrammed (see note 3), tradition of Quakerism, in which worship is based on waiting quietly for divine leading. Most FGC Friends favor diversity in religious views, and some seek elements of shared truth from a variety of religions.
FGC provides educational and inspirational materials, outreach resources, assistance with religious education programs, and other services. FGC's annual Gathering of Friends, attended by 1,500 to 2,000 Friends each summer, offers Friends of all ages a wide variety of workshops, programs, and opportunities for worship. The FGC bookstore distributes more than $250,000 worth of Quaker books and materials each year.
Fourteen yearly meetings and associations and six monthly meetings are affiliated with FGC, encompassing more than 30,000 individual Friends in the US and Canada. For more information, contact:
Friends General Conference
1216 Arch St. 2B
Philadelphia , PA 19107 USA
(Quakerbooks of FGC Bookstore: 800-966-4556
online ordering at: www.quakerbooks.org).
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.fgcquaker.org
In recent years some independent Friends yearly meetings or groups have developed, mostly in the western US. They tend to resemble the Liberal-unprogrammed FGC Friends, and many members of these groups participate in FGC programs. A good source for more information and contact is the web site: http://westernfriend.org.
Conservative Friends split off in the mid-1800s in order to maintain unprogrammed worship with an explicitly Christian basis. They now number about 1,600, mostly in rural areas in Ohio, North Carolina, and Iowa. Some Conservative Friends use traditional plain language and plain dress. For information, contact the yearly meeting correspondents:
Friends United Meeting (FUM)
Friends United Meeting, established as the Five Years' Meeting in 1902, grew out of the western migration of Quakers in the late 1800s. When meetings grew rapidly because of new converts, pastors were hired to provide leadership and care. Today, there are both "programmed" (see note 3) and "unprogrammed" meetings in FUM. Their social testimonies are similar to those of FGC, but FUM Friends make a commitment to "gather people into fellowship where Jesus Christ is known, loved, and obeyed as Teacher and Lord." A few yearly meetings (some 12,000 Friends in all) belong to both FGC and FUM. Within FUM is a considerable range of belief and practice.
FUM is an international group, with more than 50,000 members in the United States and Canada and more than 100,000 in Cuba, Jamaica, and Africa, which were its mission fields. For more information, contact:
Evangelical Friends Church International (EFCI)
This group is the most recently organized (with the Association of Evangelical Friends emerging in the 1940s and Evangelical Friends Alliance, now EFCI, in the 1960s). These Friends take into practice George Fox's (see note 4) admonition to "let all nations hear the word by sound or writing" and the Great Commission (Mt 28:19-20). Mission fields include: Bolivia, Peru, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, Burundi, Rwanda, Rough Rock (Arizona), Nepal, the Philippines, Russia, Siberia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, India, and Indonesia.
Evangelical Quaker theology tends to have a strong scriptural basis. This basis follows George Fox's view that Scripture is to be "read, believed, and fulfilled." They subscribe to the basic beliefs of other evangelical Christians, but differ in generally not observing the outward sacraments (water baptism, etc.) and in their concern for traditional Friends testimonies such as peace, simplicity, and equality. Their worship is generally programmed, but often includes periods of unprogrammed worship for vocal prayer.
Evangelical Friends number about 35,000 in the USA and about 60,000 in their mission fields. For more information, contact:
Friends in Latin America and the Caribbean
From the nineteenth century on, many have joined Friends due to contact with Quaker missionaries in Latin America and the Caribbean nations. Most practice a programmed form of worship similar to that of their parent Yearly Meetings. There are also unprogrammed Friends meetings and worship groups in Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Nicaragua, with less formal groups meeting occasionally throughout the Western Hemisphere. There are about 105,000 Friends in the United States and Canada and about 50,000 in Latin America and the Caribbean. For more information about Spanish speaking Friends in the Americas, contact:
Committee of Latin American Friends (COAL)
Loida Fernández G. Secretaria Ejecutiva
Guerrero No. 223 Pte, Zona Centro
Ciudad Mante, TAM 89800 MEXICO
Tel & fax (52) 83 123 247 88
E-mail: email@example.com Web: www.fwccamericas.org
1. This document was prepared by staff of Friends World Committee for Consultation - Office of the Americas, updated most recently in 2006. Minor insertions and editorial changes by Quaker Information Center.
2. Friends count the number of branches in different ways. The Quaker Information Center lists four, based on general characteristics rather than affiliations. A higher number results if small, distinctive local groups are included.
3. Unprogrammed (nonpastoral) worship follows the tradition of gathering in silence to wait expectantly on the Spirit. There is no officiating clergy or planned sermon, although inspired individuals may speak spontaneously to provide messages out of the silence. (See unprogrammed worship.) -- Programmed worship is more like a traditional Protestant church service, led by a pastor, although periods of silence may be included, and "outward sacraments," such as water baptism and holy communion, are not included.