Friends as a Church

The dynamic message of Friends attracted thousands of people, and the early Quaker movement grew rapidly; some have called it an "explosion". They are thought to have taken the name "Friends" from the statement of Jesus in John 15:14 that "Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you". They also called themselves "Friends of Truth" or "Publishers of Truth". The term "Quaker" was originally a derisive nickname. For legal reasons it became necessary in England to use the name "Society of Friends" as English law recognized only one established Church.

Many consider the word "church" belongs to the total invisible body of believers. Therefore some Friends hesitate to use the word to refer to any one part of the body of Christ (as a certain denomination) or to the building used as a place of worship. In a spiritual sense Fox and his followers did use "church" freely when referring to the group of believers to whom they ministered. Today, many Friends congregations call themselves the Friends Church. Others are careful to use the term "meeting" for a group of believers and "meetinghouse" for the place of worship.

The Living Witness of Friends

The beliefs of early Friends led them into practical action. Among ethical testimonies held by Friends were these: religious freedom, opposition to slavery and civil bondage, just treatment of minorities (especially American Indians), humane and remedial treatment of offenders, prison reform, compassionate care of the mentally ill, and aid to war victims and others in physical need. Friends taught and practiced peace as opposed to war, calling upon Christians to arm themselves with the Spirit rather than the weapons of this world. According to Christ's command, they emphasized a single standard for truth. Consequently, many countries now accept the affirmation in place of a legal oath.