Theology and Women's Ministry in Seventeenth-Century English Quakerism Handmaids of the Lord

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Making use of a wide range of primary material, this study challenges traditional interpretations of early Quakerism as a religion of universal or mystical "Inner Light", and establishes it instead as an enthusiastic movement with profoundly christocentric beliefs and keen eschatological expectations. Part Two relates this to the issue of women's ministry, showing in detail how the Quakers' understanding of Christ and their Christocentric interpretation of Scripture enabled them to challenge traditional views of women, and how by the close of the century the eschatological vision governing these beliefs had dwindled, and with it -- to a degree -- the radical stance on women's ministry. These conclusions are supported by a wealth of quotations from early Quaker writings, many of which have not been examined in this context before.


". . . lucid, insightful treatment of Quaker theology especially as this bears on women's ministry. She effectively analyzes a wealth of primary sources in this systematic, sympathetic portrayal of early Quaker beliefs about inspiration, Christology, soteriology and, most important, eschatology. This is a splendid contribution to Quaker history as well as to theological reflection of the role of women in the Church. For the uninitiated, Wilcox's book decisively overturns a commonplace misperception that the Religious Society of Friends or Quakers (as they are commonly called) have always been creedless, relentlessly quietistic and theologically unsophisticated. Wilcox's account of Quaker history is both a good introduction to the pivotal precepts of early Quaker theology as well as an important contribution to Quaker scholarship." - Christian Scholar's Review

". . . the best historical work on early Quaker theology since publication of Aimo Seppanen's virtually unknown The Inner Light in the Journals of George Fox: A Semantic Study. . . . What gives Wilcox's study such cogency is that she is the first scholar interested in theology to take seriously the millenarianism that gripped the earliest Quaker preachers and missionaries. This approach enables her to explore how the disappointment of the Restoration caused Friends to modify their theology, even as they persisted in using the same words to describe their understanding of the new conditions they faced. . . . anyone who explores early Quaker theology will now have to wrestle with this excellent book." - Church History

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