“...The Authority of Our Meetings Is the Power of God”

By Paul A. Lacey. Pendle Hill Pamphlet 365, 2003.

This provocative pamphlet serves as an overview of contemporary Quaker approaches to issues of power and authority within the Friends community. The first half of the pamphlet summarizes the development of Quaker leadership structures in the 17th century, while the second half moves quickly through major changes of the 19th century and then focuses on “modern liberal Quakerism.” While contrasting “gospel order” and “Quaker process,” the author avoids making a value judgment. His last section sums up his approach:

“The point of this extended discussion of gospel order and Quaker process is not to beat one set of principles and practices with the other. It is to show that Quakerism is, as usual, at a crossroads in dealing with issues of authority and power in church governance; to point out the directions Quakers have taken and seem to be taking; and to offer some assessment of the costs of traveling one way or another.”

Paul Lacey has been a Friend for fifty years, having first joined Philadelphia Yearly Meeting in 1953. He has since been on the faculty of Earlham College and currently serves as the clerk of the board of the American Friends Service Committee.

By the way, don’t miss footnote 52 on the word “ancient”!

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