Keithian Quakers

George Keith (1638 - 1716), a prominent Quaker leader and schoolmaster in Philadelphia, was an early opponent of slavery and criticized the close relationship of the leaders of PYM and the provincial authorities in Pennsylvania. Followers, sometimes called Christian Quakers, accused Philadelphia Quaker leaders of spiritualizing religion, making anything physical or fleshly nonessential.  Keithians considered the bodily resurrection of Jesus to be a crucial aspect of Christian doctrine, while the majority within PYM considered the resurrection to be purely spiritual.  Keithian Quakers ceased to meet early in the 18th century.  This schism, the first, is generally overlooked among Friends, perhaps because the "Keithians," calling themselves "Christian Quakers," were successfully suppressed by Friends holding the reins of power in Penn's colony. At a key juncture, they had George Keith and several supporters arrested and prosecuted for sedition. Although the jury failed to convict on the most serious charges, the Keithians were never able to build up their momentum again. Not much later, Keith went to London Yearly Meeting and asked them to endorse his position, but the Friends in London disowned him, and a few years later Keith joined the Episcopal Church.

This page updated on January 2, 2011