British Quakerism, 1860-1920: The Transformation of a Religious Community
Professor Kennedy's book chronicles the metamorphosis of the British Society of Friends from a tiny, self-isolated body of peculiar people into a theologically liberal, spiritually vital association of activists. Defined by a strong social commitment and enduring pacifist ethic British Quakers assumed an importance in society out of all proportion to their minuscule numbers. This transformation was, first and foremost, the product of a spiritual and intellectual struggle among Quaker factions-evangelical, conservative, and liberal-seeking to delineate the future path of their religious Society. Inspired by the leadership of a remarkable band of intellectually acute, theologically progressive, and spiritually committed men and women, London Yearly Meeting was both reformed and revitalised during the so-called Quaker Renaissance. Simultaneously embracing advanced modern ideas and reiterating their attachment to traditional Quaker principles, especially the egalitarian concept ofthe Inner Light of Christ and a revived peace testimony, liberal Quakers prepared the ground for their Society's dramatic confrontation with the Warrior State after 1914. Official Quaker resistance to the Great War not only fixed the image of the Society of Friends as Britain's most authentic and significant peace church, it also brought a group of talented and determined Quaker women into the front lines of the Society's struggle against war and conscription, a position from which twentieth-century female Friends have never retreated. Quakerism emerged from the war as the religious body least tainted by spiritual compromise. Thus, when British Quakers hosted the first World Conference of All Friends in 1920, they could take satisfaction in their struggle to keep alive the voce of pacifist conscience and express renewed hope in their enduring mission to create the Kingdom of God on earth.
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