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Faith and Practice

Pacific Yearly Meeting

of the

Religious Society of Friends

a guide to quaker discipline in the experience of pacific yearly meeting of the religious society of friends.
published 2001

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pym in context
quaker faith & spiritual practice
testimony & experience of friends
organization of the society
activities & organization of the YM
sources of quotations
index of sources
subject index

We gratefully acknowledge the generosity of Friends who have permitted us to use material for this Faith and Practice.


a brief history

 Regularly enrolled membership as we know it was not a feature of the early Meetings of Friends; however, a recognized membership did exist. In its first years, the Society was a radical and charismatic movement, very much at odds with the civil and religious bodies of its day. Because the risks of joining involved rejection by contemporary society, imprisonment, physical abuse and economic ruin, only deeply convinced and committed people were willing to face the consequences of being considered Friends. Formal lists were unnecessary, since Friends were well aware of each other and of events in each other’s lives. The word “member” appears in early Friends’ correspondence, and lists of those “suffering for Truth’s sake” were drawn up almost from the beginning, but formal membership was not established until 1737.

 Although there was no formal membership, fanatical behavior and spiritual irresponsibility led to the practice of disownment. Those who misrepresented the group in word or deed were still welcome in worship and fellowship, but they were not allowed to participate in Meeting decisions. Thus the distinction between an active community of shared faith and an evolving institutional structure was tacitly recognized in early Quaker history.