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George Fox's Legacy

Commenting on an earlier posting on New Light on George Fox, Martin Kelley suggested that I look into the more recent collection, George Fox's Legacy: Friends for 350 Years. The first was the result of a conference marking the 300th anniversary of Fox's death. The latter is the result of a conference marking 350 years since Quaker preaching took off.

While New Light on George Fox focused sharply on Fox himself and early Quakers, George Fox's Legacy explores the ways that Quakers have related to Fox. There are two excellent essays, one on Fox and Penn and another on Fox and Penington, that could probably have appeared in either volume, but overall the two collections are very complementary.

Running down the list of essays, here's a thumbnail sketch of my perspective on each:

George Fox and William Penn: Their Relationship and Their Roles within the Quaker Movement

Melvin Endy challenges the notion that William Penn took Quakerism in a very different direction than Fox had intended, exploring the relationship between Fox and Penn and concluding that differences are smaller than they are often described.

Liberal Friends (Re)Discover Fox

Chuck Fager looks at how far FGC Friends had drifted from Fox by the early 1900s and explores rising interest in Fox from the 1950s onward. There's some amazing stuff in here about what Quaker psychics reported Fox (and Jesse Holmes) as saying, as well as a general story that raises all kinds of questions about what it means to be a liberal Quaker.

"New Light on Old Ways": Gurneyites, Wilburites, and the Early Friends

Thomas Hamm, whose Transformation of American Quakerism I'll be visiting soon, examines the uses Orthodox Quakers made of early Friends' writings, especially the dwindling interest the Gurneyite wing had for them and the increasing interest of the Wilburites.

The Search for Seventeenth-Century Authority During the Hicksite Reformation

H. Larry Ingle examines the interest Hicksites took in the early Quakers, and how their perspective biases toward the early Fox and his companions, rather than the later more conservative Fox.

Early Friends and the Renewal of British Quakerism, 1890-1920

Thomas Kennedy examines a subject I know little about, British Quakerism's shift from the evangelical toward a more liberal approach, and how the early writings of Friends factored into that.

Isaac Penington and the Authority of George Fox

Rosemary Moore writes a provocative piece following Isaac Penington's shift from support for a more open, individualist approach to the more centralized, communitarian approach that Fox created after the Restoration. Penington's own journey illustrates many of the splits that Ingle describes as inspiration for the Hicksite split. Moore's final question - "Pope George Fox?" - is a difficult one.

"Come in at the Door!" - How Foxian Metaphors of Salvation Speak to Evangelical Friends

Arthur Roberts does something different here. In some ways he demonstrates what others are describing here, by reading Fox and excerpting Fox with an eye to reinforcing his own evangelical perspective. It's an excellent telling, but in the end it doesn't convince me that Fox would have agreed with Roberts or show me the path from Fox's perspective to Roberts'.

Holiness: The Quaker Way of Perfection

Carole D. Spencer here writes an essay that I'll keep coming back to. I like the whole book, but Spencer does an amazing job of connecting early Quakerism with the later holiness movement (citing Hannah Whitall Smith as a key example). The article ranges from Smith to Fox to Catholic and Orthodox perspectives on holiness, integrating Quaker perspectives with a broader Christian framework.

Jerry Frost's introduction helps tie them together and point out where they differ. It's an amazing collection, well worth the $10 for anyone who'd like to explore the diverse perspectives Quakers have taken toward their origins.


Hi Simon,
Whew, you've passed me in the reading. I'm somewhere in Kennedy's article, except I need to find where I put the book down. Your description of Rosemary Moore and Carole D Spencers's pieces makes me want to uncover it (no disregard to Roberts, I heard his talk at the conference and know what he has to say!).