The Religious Society of Friends was founded by George Fox and others amid the religious turbulence of the seventeenth-century England, and swiftly spread to the New World. (The prominent Friend, William Penn, founded Pennsylvania.) Early Friends conceived the Society as a revival of first-century Christianity. It has always been grounded in the conviction that there is that of God in everyone – often referred to as the Inward Light or the Christ or Seed or Teacher Within – to which we can turn for immediate and continuing revelation. This conviction has underlain Friends' longstanding, historic opposition to war, slavery, capital punishment, subordination of women, and other forms of social oppression.
A strength of the Society has been that Friends learned early to rely on corporate worship in addition to individual inspiration and to base decisions on “the sense of the Meeting.” Nevertheless, over the years different groups have come to emphasize different parts of Friends' tradition. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, some Meetings decided to hire ministers and develop more structured forms of worship. Generally, however, we all adhere to the personal and social values and concerns that have characterized Friends since their beginning.