Despite all the issues with the “ownership” of the Foundations, it seems to mark the beginning of a major shift. Quakers were corporately committing themselves to work for social change – not just on specific “testimonies” (like opposition to war, or gambling, or slavery) but across political and social life. Quakers were collectively committed to spiritual activism – being “builders of the Kingdom” and “fellow-workers with Christ” as the 1920s Books of Discipline put it.
- Nineteenth-century Quakers were still being advised to be cautious about taking on public office of any kind, because of the risks and temptations involved. Twentieth-century Quakers were urged into the fray – and encouraged to equip themselves well for all kinds of service in the world.
- The 1920s Book of Discipline told Friends that their main task was to “work for the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth”. Many earlier generations of Friends would have thought that was not just unrealistic, but dangerously arrogant.
- In 2016, Quakers are “working together to build a better world” – in the words of the theme of ‘Quaker Week‘, an event intending to publicise Quaker views. Corporate activism on a range of issues is important to Quakers today. In the area of social testimony, this includes work on social security systems, such as the ‘Welfare: Fair Wealth for All‘ campaign, and explorations of economic issues, such as the New Economies project.