Although this website is mostly about Quakers in Britain and others in the Liberal tradition, it is worth us spending a few pages now we’re near journey’s end considering the rest of the world – because although many Quakers outside Britain are broadly similar to us here, there are also many who are quite different in many respects.
Worldwide, there are about 360,000 people going by the name of Quakers, in all four corners of the world. The big concentrations outside Britain are in Canada, Bolivia, Mexico, the United States of America, and Kenya. There are also Quakers in many countries in Europe including Belgium, France, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, and Russia, and also in India, Japan, South Africa, Palestine, Australia, and Aotearoa New Zealand. Although Quakers started off in Britain, by far the majority are actually now in Kenya.
The diversity of beliefs to be found in Britain is expanded widely in the rest of the world, with Quakers in some areas resembling more of a campaigning social organisation than a church as such, and in other parts a very strong Christian faith reminiscent of Baptist, Pentecostal, or other evangelical Protestant churches manifests.
The largest organisational unit of Quakers anywhere is what is usually called a Yearly Meeting – this refers to both the legal organisation itself and how often it meets together as the complete body. Thus Quakers in Britain belong to Britain Yearly Meeting, and as well as the local meetings meeting together for worship and administration purposes weekly and monthly, the main annual general meeting or conference of all Quakers in Britain is referred to as the yearly meeting in session. In many areas the yearly meeting is part of a country such as Britain Yearly Meeting, Ireland Yearly Meeting, or France Yearly Meeting. In the USA the yearly meetings are organised more along state lines such as Ohio Yearly Meeting, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, or New York Yearly Meeting, remembering that when many of them were set up there was no such thing as the USA – rather each state was a separate colony. And in other countries such as Mexico, Bolivia, and Kenya where the numbers of Quakers are comparatively huge there are many yearly meetings in that country simply to cope with the numbers. Some yearly meetings in some places split off from larger yearly meetings because of numbers, but others split off due to at the time irreconcilable differences in theology.