Letters - 05 May 2023

From Membership to Population issues

Editor’s note: An incorrect version of the below letter was published in our 28 April edition. Somehow, in the blur of editing, wording from a letter published in the previous week’s edition was carried over and used as an additional sentence. Our profound apologies. Here is the letter as it should have appeared.

Some Friends have found it a difficult letter to read, and we know that our republishing exacerbates that. Many apologies here, too.


I admire those attenders who are devoted to our Religious Society, who serve it in many ways, but who refrain from applying for membership because in all honesty they cannot accede to our God-centred religious basis. I deplore the fact that our procedures are such that avowed and even evangelical atheists can be and are admitted into membership.

I consider that far too many attenders are permitted to attend Yearly Meeting. Once there, our decision-making process gives them as much weight as members. This will be particularly incongruous when the subject matter is in effect the fundamental basis of our form of Quakerism, or the basis of our membership. These topics will be inherent when we seek to approve a new version of our book of discipline.

We have gone too far in accommodating ‘refugees from Christianity’. For at least thirty years we have refrained from using religious language for fear of upsetting them. Any expression of our religious basis is now so unusual as to seem almost offensive.

In the 1990s we almost entirely dropped ‘Jesus’ from Quaker faith & practice. If we now drop ‘God’ shall we still be able to present ourselves to Churches Together and to the interfaith community as ‘Religious’? Must we adhere to our Testimony to Truth by renaming ourselves ‘The Spiritual Society of Friends’?

Stephen Petter

Darlington Quakers

In response to the nickname of our local football team, ‘The Quakers’, which was founded in 1883, as far as I can tell there is no connection with the Society of Friends. The name perhaps recognises the importance of local Quaker business families at the time.

The term ‘Quaker’ is very much used as a demonym for people from Darlington. Not far from our early nineteenth century Meeting house was the Quaker distillery. Not far from the Quaker house pub, and due to refurbishments, we see the sign ‘Quaker Scaffolding’ outside our front door.

Many years ago, our warden went through the phone book and wrote to all the companies using the name Quaker to tell a little of our history and suggesting a small donation. The minutes do not record any success.

David Simpson

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