The Quaker Journey and the Framing of Corporate and Personal Belief:

Douglas A. Kline

Abstract

The British Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) illustrates the management of personal and corporate belief and experience without the use of creedal statements or centralized religious authority. This builds on the work of anthropologists like James Fernandez and Peter Stromberg who introduce forms of consensus responsible for maintaining unity in religious communities. While their work expanded anthropological understanding on diverse interpretations of common symbols, this article builds on their observations to show how the use of tropes also encourages unity. Quakers incorporate diversity and a notion of continuing revelation into their communal belief system, and individual participants are encouraged to explore personal belief. Since the Quaker corporate belief model accommodates change, tensions shift to maintaining identity among the theologically diverse interpretations of truth. To accomplish some homogeneity Friends also employ a journey trope to frame diversity and manage the potential tension between corporate and personal understanding.