You are on page 1of 15

George Fox Evangelical Seminary

Leadership and Clergy: Early Quaker Movement,

American Transition, and Today

Quaker History and Polity

Carol Spencer

Brad Tricola

June 20, 2009

Introduction: Leadership and Clergy

Throughout Quaker history, Friends have sought to maintain a distinct expression of faith whilst

also partnering in transformational ministry. George Fox, the prophet, mystic, reformer, and founder of

the Quaker movement, railed against the institutional religious systems of his day. Through the first two

centuries of history, Quakers maintained a unique expression of spirituality that included

unprogrammed meetings and unpaid ministers. However, during the American transition, some

branches of Friends became more ecumenical. The Gurneyite branch allowed for local paid ministers

and began a trend that eventually led to programmed meetings that looked almost identical to other

protestant church meetings.

The aim of this paper is to look at leadership and clergy in the early Quaker movement and the

American transition, and how it is expressed in the Northwest Yearly Meeting (NWYM) of today. We

will look specifically at George Fox and Robert Barclay to get a sense of early opinion about clergy

and leadership. We will be using Thomas Hamm's research on the transformation of American

Quakerism in the nineteenth century. We will explore some of NWYM Superintendent Colin Saxton's

ideas about contemporary ways to lead. The thesis of this paper is that there may be a way to exercise

the office of a released minister in a way that honors the spirit of the early radical Quaker movement,

the concerns of the American transition, and the needs of the current NWYM.

Early Church Perspective

One of the most important New Testament principles about leadership has to be that Christ is

the head of His church. Orwiler says it this way, “Because Christ is the Head of His church, the

fundamental task of leadership in the church is following Jesus and leading people in the congregation

to do the same” (Orwiller, 4). Many Quakers have felt that a special pastoral position could potentially

substitute for the position of Christ as head of the church. In fact the word pastor means shepherd.
The apostle Paul was brilliant at reconciling practical realities with uncompromising ideals. “It

is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to

do” (1 Timothy 3:1). Paul then sets out some qualifications. He includes some interesting values like

overseers must be hospitable and gentle. He also includes that they must be free from the love of

money. Paul himself was careful not to need financial assistance for himself. “Surely you remember,

brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while

we preached the gospel of God to you” (1 Thessalonians 2:9). However, elsewhere he seems open to

financial support for others:

The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those
whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, "Do not muzzle the ox while it is
treading out the grain,” and "The worker deserves his wages" (1 Timothy 5:17-18).

This may be the most often quoted of verses in support of paid ministers. However, it is not

clear that Paul is explicitly referring to financial compensation; he may be referring to honor. Either

way, it is a controversial verse in light of Quaker history, and their distaste for any two-tiered system.

The strongest, and most balanced scripture in support of paid ministry is to the church in Corinth. Paul

writes of paid ministry as a right, but not one which he is personally seeking.

But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the
gospel of Christ. Don't you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the
temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way,
the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the
gospel. But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you
will do such things for me. I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of this boast” (I
Corinthians 9:13-15).

Paul was primarily concerned with effectiveness. Anything that helped the gospel (within

reason) he used. Anything that hindered the gospel, he avoided. Things get murky when pastors mix

their teaching authority with their paycheck. If a pastor strongly preaches tithing and giving because

she is concerned with her salary being in jeopardy, she may have crossed the line. When pastors argue

for salary increases, they may have crossed the line. They may at times need advocates like Paul, but
they should not preach, teach, and minister for what the Bible calls “sordid gain” (1 Peter 5:1-2).

The bottom line seems to come down to motivation. If pastors minister for profit, they are

clearly out of line. However, according to Paul, if the church chooses to compensate a pastor for her

valuable time and labor, they should feel free to do so. If that is indeed the New Testament balance,

what of the frequent quotations of Fox that “freely you have received, freely give,”? Although Fox

does not frequently include scripture references, this quote seems to belong to Jesus, recorded in


As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead,
cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Do
not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; (Matthew 10:7-9).

This is an interesting context for this reference, because it is clear that Fox did take money with

him as he traveled. Furthermore, Quakers did help to fund the missionary endeavors with financial

support for the family of the missionaries and for their travel expenses. Fox's famous quote really does

not reference pastoral ministry, but traveling ministry. Furthermore, what seems implied in this

scripture is that traveling ministers should rely on the generosity of others as they do not bring the

resources to care for themselves.

Early Quaker Perspective: Fox and Barclay

Some sixteen hundred years after the New Testament writers shaped the structures of the church,

George Fox began his ministry. He preached for perfection and he preached against the institutions of

his time.

I was to bring people off from all their own ways to Christ, the new and living way, and from
their churches, which men had made and gathered to the church in God, the general assembly
written in Heaven, which Christ is the head of, and off from the world's teachers made by men,
to learn of Christ who is the way, the truth, and the life... (The Journal of George Fox, 35).

Fox's essential message, some scholars argue, was for holiness (Spencer, 1) that began “with a mystical

experience of union with God” (Spencer, 2). Any tradition that seemed to interfere with that vision
needed to be realized, rejected, and reformed. He identified the practice of paid clergy as one such

tradition. "I was moved to declare against them all, and against all that preached and not freely, as

being such as had not received freely from Christ,” (The Journal of George Fox, 36).

Why was Fox so adamantly against it? He saw the corruption in the infusion of church and

state. Forced church attendance and legislated tithing must have disgusted one as spiritually sensitive as

Fox. Perhaps he felt and anticipated how religion and religious institutions become consumerism and

commodities – vendors of “religious goods and services” (Missional Church, 117).

But the black earthly spirit of the priest wounded my life; and when I heard the bell toll to call
people together to the steeple house, it struck at my life, for it was just like a market-bell to
gather people together that the priest might set forth its ware to sale. Oh the vast sums of
money that are gotten by the trade they make of selling the scriptures, and by their preaching,
from the highest bishop to the lowest priest! What one trade else in the world is comparable to
it, (The Journal of George Fox, 39)

It is clear that Fox is responding to greedy and deceitful church culture and climate, that he sees

as devoid of any real spiritual substance. Does Fox think that it is impossible to minister for money

with integrity, or just very unlikely? Barclay, as he often does, nuances some of Fox's concerns in a

more systematic way. He also gives some liberty for financial assistance.

Also they who have received this holy and unspotted gift, as they have freely received it, so are
they freely to give it, without hire or bargaining, far less to use it as a trade to get money by...yet
if God hath called anyone from their employment or trades, by which they acquire their
livelihood, it may be lawful for such, according to the liberty which they feel given them in the
Lord to receive such temporals (to wit, what may be needful for them for meat and clothing) as
are given them freely and cordially by those, to whom they have communicated spirituals,”
(Barclay, 256).

Is there a difference between pay for service and using the service of ministry for money? Amazingly,

Barclay is open to ministry as a profession, as they are called from their trade which they acquired their

livelihood. Furthermore, Barclay is open to church members meeting the basic needs of ministers so

long as it is done without manipulation or coercion. What would that kind of gesture translate to in

today's culture? Could meat and clothing be today's equivalent of health insurance, a modest salary, and

a parsonage? That might be a bit of a stretch. However, Barclay's message is that this is a motives
issue. Quaker tradition consistently affirms that issues of the inner life are more important than external

issues. If one is motivated by money or honor to preach or teach, then they are not fit for leadership.

They must instead be motivated by a strong conviction of their call from God. The inward experience

compels one to outward actions.

What maketh, or how cometh a man to be, a minister, pastor, or teacher in the church of Christ?
We answer; by the inward power and virtue of the Spirit of God...He comes thereby to be called
and moved to minister others; being able to speak, from a living experience, of what he himself
is a witness; and therefore knowing the terror of the Lord, he is fit to persuade men, and his
words and ministry, proceeding from the inward power and virtue reach to the heart of his
hearers, and make them approve of him and be subject unto him. (Barclay, 264).

Barclay and Fox were interested in calling people away from any practice or religion that

quenched the spirit of God or limited the direct influence of Christ the teacher. They held a firm

conviction that every detail of ministry should be ordered by the Spirit.

Ought every evangelist and Christian pastor be led and ordered in his labor and work of the
gospel, both as to the place where, as to the persons to whom, and as to the time wherein he is
to minister. Moreover, they who have this authority may and ought to preach the gospel,
though without human commission or literature; as on the other hand, they who want the
authority of this divine gift, however learned, or authorized by the commission of men and
churches, are to be esteemed but as deceivers, and not true ministers of the gospel...(Barclay,

Fox and Barclay seem as equally concerned that financial incentives do not distort one's call or

motives for ministry, as they do to the practice itself. Fox wants to make sure ministers are motivated

from a clear sense of call. He tells one priest “that experience was one thing, but to go with a message

and a word from the Lord as the prophets and the apostles did, and as I had done to them, was quite

another” (123). Fox also highlights a startling confession from an “ancient priest” that did confess “that

he had never heard the voice of God nor Christ.” (123) Judge fell was astonished in hearing this

confession, because he and “ all people” had assumed that the priest spoke for God and was clearly

called by God. Contemporary Quaker pastors should be very hesitant to let people think they speak for

God, unless they have been given a distinct message from God. They should instead consistently point

to Christ our inward light and teacher.

American Transition Perspective

“In 1886, after considerable discussion the [Iowa] Yearly meeting adopted two minutes urging

all meetings to 'call' a pastor” (Hamm, 127). This was a tectonic shift, because up to this point

essentially all meetings were led by a group of lay-elders. These same minutes suggested that meetings

authorize financial help for pastors when appropriate. Thomas Hamm, in The Transformation of

American Quakerism, describes the cultural milieu that precipitated this trend.

The pastoral debate began during a time in America when revival was hot. Quaker churches

were seeing a huge influx of converts who knew little to nothing about Christian essentials or Quaker

distinctives. “From 1881 though 1889, Indiana Yearly meeting had over nine thousand applications for

membership,” (Hamm, 125). This may not seem like that many, but prior to this, the organization

consisted of eighteen thousand members (Hamm, 125). The arguments from Revivalist Friends for

financial support for pastors was persuasive and impassioned. They pointed out that in many churches

there was not a single birthright member (Hamm, 125). Who would teach Christian basics and Quaker

distinctives in such environments? In their view, sitting in silence was simply not enough. Furthermore,

such a practice would be confusing for newcomers. Teaching pastors were necessary. Updegraff, an

especially influential friend was vehement: “Such a calling...demands the dedication of one's entire

life” (Hamm, 126). Stories of financial hardships of pastors were shared, working on the sympathies of

undecided friends. “One minister wrote, 'I have seen the time more than once in the last two years that I

have had to wait for the children to return with their day's wages to get food for supper'" (Hamm, 129).

Other arguments were more functional. “Wherever the regular ministration of the gospel has been

wanting there has been a weakness and decline...” (Hamm, 126). They were confident that in a climate

of revival, what was needed were pastors who could inspire, educate, and provide certain leadership.

Moderate friends had many concerns about some of the intended and unintended consequences

of a pastoral system. They feared that the ministers would become the focal point. Those whose
identity as a worship community was found in waiting, feared how that would change when people

began to acquire the certainty of a “good sermon.” This one word, waiting, could sum up the distinct

flavor of a Quaker meeting – a “waiting for the leadership of Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit

in everything” (Hamm, 128). Moderate friends feared that the coming of a pastoral system would also

usher in an era of programmed worship. In their view, pastors would destroy the freedom of worship

because they would exercise too much authority. Perhaps most of all, they feared that clergy would

become a special class of people who would be granted special privileges and honors.

Leadership Today in the NWYM

The Northwest Yearly Meeting is today a continuation of the Evangelical Friends movement

that transitioned to a more ecumenical practice during the revival period. Today, in the NWYM, most

churches offer a range of salary and benefits for pastors comparable to other denominations (or a little

less). Even still, they have sought to maintain and even rediscover distinctly Quaker ideals for

leadership. Colin Saxton, the current superintendent, presented a paper at a focus conference in 2003

about healthy leadership. He affirmed George Fox's conviction that first, leadership must flow out of

our experience with Christ. He points out that Fox encouraged churches to choose one or two as leaders

who “were most grown in the power of God.” We might today describe how we must not just speak the

truth, but we must first embody the truth. The challenge for pastors in the NWYM is to nurture the

inner life with Christ and not just busy ourselves with the important work of the ministry.

Saxton's second point affirms another one of Fox's convictions: healthy leadership must point to

Christ. In our positions as pastors we should shift and dodge attention from ourselves and continue to

point to Jesus as our collective and individual teacher. A healthy leader seriously considers what it

means to learn from and follow Christ for himself or herself. When this is modeled from an authentic

place, others are invited and opened to following Christ in their own contexts.

Saxton's third point affirms another Quaker distinctive: listening. “Healthy leadership creates a
culture of listening” (Saxton, 1). We listen to one another, to the sense of the meeting, to the Holy

Spirit, to Jesus' teachings, even to our own intuition.

Another of Saxton's distinctives is that healthy leadership does not confuse difference of

function with difference in value. Though a minister may be called to leadership in a unique way, this

does not mean others are not equal to him or her. Saxton also encourages us to see healthy leadership as

something that is shared. As we empower others to take ownership in a collective vision we will find a

greater spirit of participation, harmony, and collaboration. Although I am tempted to simply replicate

the entire paper because I resonate so deeply with Saxton's values, I will simply list the remaining

values. I will also weave some of these ideals together in my conclusion as I seek to reconcile early

radical Quaker leadership with contemporary leadership in the NWYM.

• Leadership is servant minded.

• Leadership is able to articulate the essential spirit, experience, and understanding of Friends.
• Leadership is faith-full.
• Leadership is thoroughly visionary.
• Leadership is shared
• Leadership is mission-minded
• Leadership is relational
• Leadership is courageous
• Leadership is fluid and dynamic
• Leadership both walks ahead of the group and is shaped by the group
• Leadership seeks to duplicate itself.
• Leadership is power for not power over.
• Leadership is function – not simply a status.
• Leadership thrives in an environment of mutual respect and goodwill.
• Leadership understands, articulates, and embraces the functional structures of the community.

Conclusion: Reconciliation of Contemporary Expression to Early Radical Movement

This paper is more than just an academic pursuit for me; it is intensely personal. I am currently

discerning a call to serve in a pastoral position with a church in the NWYM. This last section may just

be my desire to justify my own personal desire to serve in this way. However, I am going to attempt to

answer this question: How can I best serve in a paid pastoral position in a way that honors the spirit of

the early Quaker movement, addresses some of the concerns of the American Transition, and meets the
current needs of a church in the NWYM?

Missional Leadership

Spring boarding off of Colin Saxton's values for leadership, I would also like to highlight the

need for leaders to be mission-minded (missional). Early Quaker ministers were given financial help

when traveling away from home. When the ministers traveled, their hope was to bring the gospel to

those who had not heard it, or to announce the fullness of the kingdom of God to those who had only

known institutional religion. This same focus could be held in a local context. Listen to Fox's heart for

pure religion:

And I was to bring people off from all the world's religions, which are vain, that they might
know the pure religion, and might visit the fatherless, the widows and the strangers, and keep
themselves from the spots of the world. And then there would not be so many beggars, the
sight of whom often grieved my heart, to see so much hard-heartedness amongst them that
professed the name of Christ...his heavenly reign to fall upon the just and the unjust. (The
Journal of George Fox, 35)

For George Fox, the work of the church was to bring the reign of God or the Kingdom of God

into the world – to open to its reality, announcing the reign of God, and inviting others into the reign of

God. Sometimes that meant he had to call people out of the “world's religions.” Sometimes that meant

that he called men out of sin (spots of the world). Fox's vision for missional leadership was to gather a

group of people who would live the values of God in true religion which was service to others –

helping the widows, the orphans, and the poor.

I think Fox understood that this work of “pure religion” had to begin with authentic leaders who

embodied their own sense of service and calling to the world. In similar language in a letter to Justice

Bennett he writes:

Friend, Thou dost profess God and Christ in words, see how thou dost follow him. To take off
burdens, to visit them that be in prison, and show mercy, clothe thy own flesh, and deal thy
bread to the hungry; these are God's commandments. To relieve the fatherless, and to visit the
widows in their afflictions and to keep thyself unspotted of the world; this is pure religion
before God... ( The Journal of George Fox, 54).
A missional leader must not simply proclaim these as good ideals, but must embody the work of

charity and mission that they encourage others to participate in. If the missional leader waits for

permission to do what Christ has called her to do, or hesitates because she lacks support, she can all too

easily be persuaded to spend most or all of her time maintaining the spiritual needs of the church

members. If a leader's mission does not extend into the world, neither will the rest of the church body.

A leader must be credible in their testimony of simplicity, service, holiness, and charity. Fox makes this

clear in another letter to Justice Barton:

Mind the prophets, and Jesus Christ and his apostles, and all the holy men of God. What they
spoke was from the life; but they that had not the life, but the words, persecuted and imprisoned
them that lived the life, which they had backslidden from, ( The Journal of George Fox 55).

Leadership as Movement

The second value in a leader I would like to highlight is the need for creating movement. Fox

records for us in his journal his disdain for a religious institution that is more about maintenance than

movement, "And I sent him word again and could be seen and heard well enough there, for I came not

to hold up those places nor their maintenance or trade” (The Journal of George Fox, 85).

One concern with paid ministry is that they would make a trade out of maintaining the status

quo of the institution because their own livelihood is on the line. If pastors are too edgy, too prophetic,

too challenging or too innovative, it is likely that people will resist their leadership. They may do this

passively, or more aggressively. Frost and Hirsch take this even further in their book The Shaping of

Things to Come. They write: “innovators are always persecuted and their innovations resisted” (Frost

and Hirsch, 191). Fox was clearly an innovator. He was consistently challenging the status quo and

getting persecuted for it in ways we can only imagine. He was repeatedly beaten, threatened, and

imprisoned. This is what he says of others' opinions of him: “But their good report and bad report, their

well or ill speaking was nothing to me; for the one did not lift me up, nor the other cast me down,

praised be the Lord,” (The Journal of George Fox, 70). A successful innovator cannot be easily
discouraged by others' opinions. Neither should she rely on the praise of others for motivation. Courage

and self-differentiation are needed to fearlessly walk ahead of the group. If the collusive comments of

others can thwart movement and progress, those people are given an incredible amount of power. They

probably realize this on some level. Fox's strategy was not to try to change the minds of the naysayers,

but to continue with those who were “tender” to his message. Early in his ministry in Nottinghamshire,

he “met with a tender people” (9). Even “several of the priests were made tender.” (42).

Leadership as Collaboration

When those gathered as a mission-shaped movement collaborate with one another and the Spirit

of God to use their spiritual gifts to announce and embody the reign of God, revival and revolution are

possible. One of the NWYM witnesses included in their Faith and Practice is the Christian witness

through ministry, "We believe that the Holy Spirit bestows gifts on the followers of Christ for them to

use on behalf of church and society and that these gifts should be exercised in all of life, not just at

religious gatherings.”

Leadership that honors the spirit of the early radical Quaker movement, and addresses some of

the concerns of the American transition and the NWYM witness of faith and practice is collaborative.

Leaders should concentrate considerable efforts in helping others discern their gifts and calling so that

they can serve effectively and passionately “in all of life, not just at religious gatherings.” Maybe it was

Fox's gift of discernment that made him so successful as a leader. He writes in his journal: “And I had a

sense and discernment given to me by the Lord,” (Fox, p. 20). He also writes: “I should have a sense of

all conditions, how else could I speak to all conditions. And in this I saw the infinite love of God (19).”

I think Fox had a gift for calling some people out on their brokenness and an equal ability to see that of

God in each person. He could see the potential, gifts, even personality of each person. And he gave

respect to each person he met.

The fear held by moderate Friends during the American transition that clergy would become a
special class of people, could also be alleviated by the focus on teamwork and collaboration. If

leadership is fluid and dynamic as Saxton suggests it should be, then a person will exercise leadership

not as a status but for the purpose of accomplishing a specific mission. Whoever emerges as the most

capable leader may at anytime rotate into the position of leadership. It could be the person with the

most experience, most gifting, or the most passion. The job of the pastor may be to build relationship

with enough people to know how to organize, energize, promote, and equip these leaders and teams to

do ministry in various contexts. As leaders empower others to seek their own individual calls, and help

organize some of those calls that seem harmonious, they will multiply the work of the church. Not only

will the church be more effective, it will also be more spiritually mature. As we seek to listen to Christ,

embody Christ, and announce the Kingdom of Christ, we will need to return continually to nurture our

experience of union with Christ.

Leadership as Spirituality

It is clear that Fox and Barclay viewed an authentic spirituality as essential for leadership.

Throughout the history of the Quaker movement, Friends have agreed that service, ministry, worship,

and leadership must flow from an experience with Christ. Saxton refers to this as our “rootedness and

growing intimacy with Christ” (Saxton, 1). Trusting in the priesthood of all believers, we see each

Christ follower as also an emerging leader. Personal transformation is not removed from mission but is

vitally connected. We cannot hope to effect any significant, lasting change unless we are first and

continually transformed by God's spirit.

Quakers prior to the American transition practiced this ideal by “waiting for the leadership of

Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in everything.” (Hamm, 128) A truly Quaker leader does not

separate worship from mission. True worship pushes us into mission. True mission points us back to

the source of life and love and imagination – Jesus Christ. The NWYM Faith and Practice statement of

faith about the Holy Spirit states: “The Spirit enlightens reason and quickens human creativity that we
might share in the work of the Creator” (What Friends Believe).

What we need in the NWYM is a renewed sense of what Orwiler calls “an abiding immersion in

the present leadership of the resurrected Lord” (Orwiler, 6). God reigns! In that confidence we may

enter into a new value system, a new community, a new humanity - the Kingdom of God. We can use

the Queries, our shared “witness through action” values, and our doctrines as a reflective way to allow

the Spirit of God to bring continual renewal, lest maintenance replaces dynamic mission and innovative

movement. In conclusion, I believe our unique Quaker heritage, with its warnings and reflective

practice, offer a gift and a challenge for emerging Quaker pastors. They are called to lead courageously

and cautiously; to experience Christ and to equip others for the ministry; to re-imagine what the future

may look like, while reflecting on our heritage.

Works Cited

Barclay, Robert. Barclay's Apology for the True Christian Divinity. Philadelphia: Friends' Book-Store,

Hamm, Thomas D.. The Transformation of American Quakerism: Orthodox Friends, 1800-1907.
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988.

Hirsch, Alan & Michael Frost. The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st-
Century Church. Peabody Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004.

Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America (The Gospel and Our
Culture Series). Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998.

Orwiler, Charles. Leadership in Christocracy:The Nature and Concepts of Spiritual Leadership


Saxton, Colin. Healthy Leadership (unpublished). 2003.

Spencer, Carole Dale. Holiness: The Soul of Quakerism: An Historical Analysis of the Theology of
Holiness in the Quaker Tradition (Studies in Christian History and Thought). Eugene: Wipf &
Stock Publishers, 2007.

THE JOURNAL OF GEORGE FOX. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1952.

What Friends Believe; available from;

doctrine; Internet.