Earlier in the year, this writer presented in these columns something of an overview of the Society of Friends (February 26 issue). At that time it was noted that within the older brandies of the denomination, there were evangelical currents and movements. It is the purpose of this essay to survey this evangelical movement and to note the impact of it upon the Society as a whole.
Friends in America, particularly those on the extending frontier, were profoundly affected by evangelical revivals and revivalism in the nineteenth century. Spiritual awakening left its most lasting mark upon Friends within the following Yearly Meetings (the equivalent of synods or conferences): Ohio (Damascus), Kansas, Nebraska, and Oregon. (The evangelical elements of Nebraska Yearly Meeting have been “set off” into what is now known as Rocky Mountain Yearly Meeting, established in 1957.)
The same forces affected significant elements in Wilmington (Ohio), Indiana, Western, Iowa, and California Yearly Meetings. Here the evangelical thrust was conserved mainly in the rural congregations. These frequently maintained their witness in the midst of liberal influences emanating from larger centers and from institutions of learning. They frequently lacked the encouragement that Friends in the more specifically evangelical Yearly Meetings found in their common associations.
In recent years, evangelicals among the Friends have felt an increasing need for a clearer framework within which to articulate their common concerns. In response, there was established the Association of Evangelical Friends, which held its initial conference in Colorado Springs in 1947. This was, as its name indicates, an informal fellowship rather than an official organization. Membership ...1
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