Quakerism is growing at its conservative and liberal edges, but showing decline at its moderate center, according to an analysis of Quaker denominational membership figures by Richard H. Taylor.
In a paper presented at the November meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, Taylor looked at the history of the various Quaker bodies and their membership and growth rates, most recently reported in the Religious Congregations and Membership Study (2010). He found that the greatest losses in the Quaker community have been in the centrist Friends United Meeting (FUM), while the evangelicals (many of whom had left the FUM) and liberals have seen growth. By 2010 over one-third of all reported Quaker members are in the Evangelical Friends Church International (about 28,000 members).
While this body has reported losses in rural areas, they have made up for it with their Quaker mega-churches, such as the Yorba Linda Friends Church and the Rose Drive Church—both in the same town in Orange County, California.At the same time, the liberal, non-pastoral unprogrammed groups (holding to silent worship), represented by the Friends General Conference, now have more meetings than any other Quaker group—almost 400 exclusively in this body and another 200 having dual affiliations (since they don’t have pastors, the meetings can be started much easier than other Quaker groups).
Although their membership lags behind the evangelicals, the fact that non-programmed meetings don’t have clear membership requirements may mean that many more people are involved in liberal Quakerism than reported. While the growth “from the edges” has taken place since the 1950s, the pattern is still evident today: the Indiana Yearly Meeting is currently in a dispute that will “probably cause it to rupture along liberal-conservative lines.” Taylor concludes by asking if “this is the future of other centrist old-line Protestant denominations.”