The Spiritual Equality of Women: The Quaker Understanding

For early Quakers, the spiritual equality of women was based on three key convictions:

1. Divisions and conflicts between men and women were a result of the fall. However, when Christ lives through the regenerated person, the effects of the fall are reversed and men and women again become 'help-meets' as they had been in the Garden of Eden.

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: (Gal. 2:20)

2. When a person turns to the light of Christ and is transformed by it, their old self dies and there is a new creation through which Christ lives. This transcends the limitations and divisions of physical existance (including those of gender)

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28)

3. At Pentecost the Spirit was poured out on all flesh. In such circumstances God may choose to speak through any person regardless of age, gender or social status. 

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: (Joel 2:28)

Women's Spiritual Equality in Early Quakerism

Based on the fulfilment of Joel’s prophesy at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-21) Early Friends asserted that the Spirit of Christ might speak and act through anyone regardless of gender, age, education or social standing. They believed that Christ’s return in Spirit made possible the restoration of the ‘Imago Dei’ in both male and female (Bruyneel 2010, p.149). This was particularly significant in terms of the freedom it conferred on Quaker women to fulfill the roles of prophet, preacher and minister by the direct call of the Spirit. Friends argued that if Christ spoke through a woman, those who sought to prevent her from doing so were in fact attempting to silence Christ himself (Bruyneel 2010, p.150).


Bruyneel, Sally (2010)        Margaret Fell and the end of time: the theology of the mother of Quakerism (Baylor University Press)


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