Denominational differences in Quaker relief

Mendlesohn, Farah (2000) Denominational differences in Quaker relief. Journal of religious history, 24 (2) . pp. 180-195. ISSN 0022-4227 [Article] (doi:10.1111/1467-9809.00108)


The denominational differences between American and British relief workers in the Spanish Civil War are not immediately obvious, and cannot be identified by simple reference to the ideologies of the societies with which they claimed allegiance. This is both because orthodox American Quakerism and the theology of the London Yearly Meeting were very similar in the first half of the twentieth century, and because, when we attempt to compare the two groups, we are not comparing like with like. Those who worked for the (British) Friends Service Council (FSC) – and they came from a number of countries – were representing the witness of the London Society of Friends. Those who worked for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) were representing only the theology of that committee.

In the 1920s the denominational identities of the American Quakers were beginning to settle into patterns which we recognize in the twentieth century. As part of this settlement American Quakers tentatively agreed to cooperate in matters of relief, a cooperation which produced the AFSC. However, in order to walk the precarious tightrope of interdenominational tension, the AFSC was forced to develop its own independent identity and its own distinctive character. While the AFSC is not a denomination in the usual sense of the word, it is possible to see it as possessing its own culture and theologies. It has a cohesiveness that allows us to compare practice and belief with that of the FSC where it is not possible to make a comparison between American and British workers in this context – in part, because very few of the “British” in Spain were actually British – nor to compare the British and American Societies. This paper will attempt, through focusing on the place of the Peace Testimony in the relief work in which the two sets of Friends were engaged, to indicate the differences of theology and practice displayed by the two “denominations.” However, this paper should be recognized as part of a larger and longer work engaged in considering the role played by the Testimony of Social Justice in the working out of the Quaker Peace Witness in the middle years of the twentieth century.

Item Type: Article
Research Areas: A. > School of Media and Performing Arts > Media > English Language and Literature
Item ID: 1968
Depositing User: Repository team
Date Deposited: 17 Apr 2009 16:10
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2016 14:13

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