Home > Christianity, Church, community, Jesus, Quakers, Uncategorized > Quakers, Justice and Jesus – Part 3

Quakers, Justice and Jesus – Part 3

This is third post in this series. Here is Part 1 and Part 2. Feel free to weigh in!


One of the earliest indications of Gospel order –  a Quaker understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ as something that rightly orders all of life – was seen in the important role women played from the very beginnings of the Quaker movement. From its meager beginning, women were enlisted as preachers, leaders and integral to the spread of Christ’s message as far as possible.

As is often the case in a world dominated by male voices, the success of the Quaker vision is often attributed solely to George Fox. Yet this understanding of the Quaker movement’s roots is myopic, as more recent scholarship has shown. One of the most important prophetic voices during the nascent stages of the movement was from a woman, Margaret Fell. Fell was a prophetic voice throughout the English world, writing epistles, theological treatises and leveraging political relationships in order to further the case of what she believed was a fresh work of the Holy Spirit. Her home became a center for Quaker activity, a place of “integration, where the domestic and the mundane integrated with the ministerial and ecstatic” (Bruynell, 37). From its earliest days, the Quaker movement was dependent upon the voice of women to further its cause, and it is no different today.

A century later, a woman by the name of Elizabeth Gurney, later Fry, breathed new life into her family – her brother Joseph John Gurney is considered the father of pastoral Quakers – and into a social system that failed to care for those on the fringes. Though her work within society was broad, she is most known for two specific areas of social justice – providing an excellent education for the children of some of the poorest families in Lancaster, England and in reforming the conditions of prison, especially prisons designed for women and their children. It is within these prison walls that her work is most remembered – for in them she found depravity at its greatest, women and children crammed by the hundreds into small rooms where basic human rights were neglected or ignored. She established a school for the children, found jobs for the prisoners and shared the message of Jesus Christ with them in ways that transformed not just their inner lives but bore fruit in how they began to treat each other within the prison walls. The model of reform she instituted at Newgate was soon adopted in other towns throughout England and beyond. Fry’s concern for those on the fringes of society started with small movement in her heart to respond to the Quaker message of the ever-present Christ and became, through the work of the Spirit, a model for care of all people throughout the world.

  1. Tom Smith
    November 14, 2011 at 8:58 AM

    I wonder if the belief in Justice, Equality, and Love extend to LGBT issues. It seems to me that there is clear precedence for acceptance not of life style choices but of those born of a “different” gender, race, or sexual orientation.

    • November 14, 2011 at 11:55 AM


      It very well could. For the context I am writing in, it does not. But certainly a case could be made in some Quaker circles and beyond for it to include the LGBT community. I’ll have to let someone else tackle it, though. Thanks for checking in!

  2. November 14, 2011 at 2:02 PM

    British Quakers generally accept LGBT people. I am aware of some shocking cases of transphobia, but that is not the norm.

  1. November 13, 2011 at 8:02 AM
  2. November 14, 2011 at 9:53 AM

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