For three centuries, members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) have regularly met to worship in extended times of silence punctuated by vocal testimony. Anyone can stand and share. This practice reflects the Quaker rejection of hierarchy and the belief that God can speak through any person, regardless of gender, race, or class. But in the late nineteenth century, revivalism swept through America, and some Quaker meetings began to hire pastors to preach and teach for the benefit of new members – a practice that spread rapidly. Today, many Friends’ meetings have pastors, and in those congregations, the sermon has largely replaced or severely limited traditional Quaker worship.
These changes have not been without controversy. There are those who feel that a professionalized clergy is entirely incompatible with the ethos of historic Quakerism. On the other hand, there are some who believe that the pastoral system saved American Quakerism. In this study, Derek Brown identifies patterns in those Friends churches that have embraced a pastoral system, and he also demonstrates how a Christ-centered Quaker pastoral theology might strengthen a church’s Quaker heritage while simultaneously increasing the effectiveness of its pastoral leadership. As Friends seek to adapt to the needs of twenty-first century America, they must enter into an ecclesiological conversation with their past practice, their present context, and their current condition. Consider this book a frame and a guide for those discussions – the beginning of a journey.