Friends General Conference

Nurturing faith and Quaker practice

Early Quakers in Business: Debt and One Price

Workshop Number: 
Karen Tibbals
Who may register?: 
Adult Only (high school with permission)
Experiential Activities: 
half gathering attenders welcome
First half (Monday-Wednesday)

Early Quakers wrestled with applying the testimonies to their entire lives, creating new ethical standards in business. We will learn what they said about trade and how it changed, specifically about debt, honest weights, and no negotiation of price. We will discern how Quaker practices apply to today's life.

Workshop Description

During this workshop, participants will be immersed in what the Quakers of the 17th and 18th centuries said and did about their business life. By lecture, discussion and role play, participants will understand how the Religious Society of Friends moved from the Balby Elders quoting Romans 13:8 ("Owe no man anything but love") to the advice for meetings to review the financial status of all members annually.  We will work to understand the dilemmas each of them were in, and see how each worked through the issue of what it meant to let their lives speak in a trade or business. By the end, attendees will start to think about what it means to apply these principles to the issues facing businesses today.

This workshop will draw on a number of sources to illuminate Quaker thought about business practices:

1. Early writings of George Fox, the Balby Elders, Stephen Crisp, Ambrose Rigge and Hugh Turlock about trade,

2. the Monthly and Quarterly meetings minutes and the Advices from London and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting

3. What Quaker business people had to say about applying the testimonies to their own business/financial life and their witness to others (Luke Cock the Butcher, William Stout of Lancaster, Joseph Pike, Samuel Bownas and more)  

This workshop will use a mix of lecture, discussion, and exercises or role play. Advance reading suggested: Wilmer Cooper’s Pendle Hill Pamphlet on the Testimony of Integrity, George Fox’s pamphlet The line of righteousness and justice stretched forth over all merchants, etc. (Available from the Earlham College Digital Quaker Collection). 

Leader Experience

Karen is a former business person who has been struggling with discernment of Quaker testimonies in business for several years. She recently left her long time career to explore this issue at Earlham School of Religion where she has completed her MA thesis on this topic. She led a similar work shop in 2013 and has led several workshops using this material for her monthly meeting. She is an experienced workshop leader, having led both spiritual retreats as well as professional workshops.