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Notes from “Quaker Mobility and the Threat to English America.”

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On January 19, 2017, Stan Searl of the Adult Education Committee attended a talk by Carla Pestana at UCLA, “Quaker Mobility and the Threat to English America.” Carla Gardina Pestana is a Professor and Joyce Appleby Endowed Chair in UCLA’s history department. She’s a widely published scholar about Quakers and the early American period.

There were a few key themes:

  • The early Quakers (mostly prior to 1660) believed in the imminent end of the world.  The end time is now.
  • The early Quaker movement was chaotic and not coherent or organized at all.
  • They were fervent missionaries and thought that they could convert the world. In the 1650’s in England, 50,000 people became convinced. They were fanatical  proselytizers and scoured the world to do so in the 1650’s and little later.
  • Until 1660 and a little more, these Quakers weren’t organized and happened to be totally individualistic; these people traveled around the colonies and more based upon their individual decisions only, totally determined to convert the world.
  • All early Quakers were charismatic, such as Naylor and Pennington and many others.
  • Quakers from the early period (before 1660) moved around totally directed by the Spirit and their need to testify and convince the entire world that God/Christ had come to teach everyone immediately and directly. These were uniquely individual actions, only very loosely organized (until later).
  • The Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony were the most resistance to Quakers and wrote and behaved about them as if Quakers would contaminate them, give them a disease, poison and seduce them.
  • Quakers were assiduous in their presenting themselves as sufferers and documented their Sufferings.

Why did Quakers change?

  1. There was the Restoration and Quakers were officially dissenters.
  2. Fox and particularly Margaret Fell started to organize and regulate Quakers. They established regular worship times; they organized into monthly and quarterly meetings; they checked on doctrine to some extent; they brought order and discipline and structure to the anarchic Quaker movement.
  3. The end of the world and the New Jerusalem didn’t happen.
  4. Naylor’s excess in imitation of Christ on a donkey entering into Jerusalem was a national scandal.