3. Arch Street Meeting House
At Loxley Court Methodists would have spoken passionately about how they were experiencing God and how they longed to grow more holy. On this, they shared a great deal in common with the Quakers who would have been meeting across the street in the 18th century as they still do today.
Quakers and Methodists alike were critics of more staid expressions of faith. Although the beginnings of the Quakers in the late 1640s pre-dated the rise of Methodism by almost a century, their respective founders – George Fox and John Wesley – were both young Englishmen who desired to live more seriously Christian lives.
Both movements also appealed a great deal to women. Between 1794 and 1801 women comprised up to 64% of Methodist society membership. Quakers were alone among Christian groups for affirming the ability of women to speak freely in services of worship. Methodists did as well but more as an exceptional circumstance than as a regular part of their belief in these early years. Methodists also shared a similar arrangement to Quakers in separating men and women in their preaching places. This was in contrast to family pews which existed in Anglican and Congregationalist churches in the city of Philadelphia.
Quaker leadership in the anti-slavery movement was also something many early Methodists held in common with them. Superintendent of the Methodist movement in America in 1773 Thomas Rankin befriended famous abolitionist Quakers like Anthony Benezet and Israel Pemberton. Anthony Benezet’s anti-slavery pamphlet was so well-liked by John Wesley that he drew from it extensively in his own more emotionally-charged condemnations of slavery.
Eighteenth century Methodists were also quick to point out their differences with Quakers. John Wesley, for example, thought they went too far in dismissing church traditions which he loved. The enthusiasm Quakers had for mysticism also worried him. John Wesley tried to be kind though in a letter to a Quaker friend even if he also couldn’t help but take a jab at Quaker founder George Fox in the process:
“O be content!” John Wesley urged, “ I love you well; do not constrain me to speak. I do not want to say anything of George Fox; but I hope he was stark mad when he wrote that medley of nonsense, blasphemy, and scurrility styled his 'Great Mystery.' But I love and esteem you and many of the present Quakers; and am, Your real friend.”
Methodist evangelist George Whitefield – whom we will speak about at our next stop – shared his cabin with a Quaker onboard a ship going to America. He too expressed concern about some Quaker beliefs but these were outweighed for him by the practical benefits of what he liked about life in the Pennsylvania colony which the Quakers had shaped. The Quakers’ belief in religious tolerance allowed him to preach to his largest crowds here.