His Work Is Alive in Africa

A conference for pastors of Friends Church–Nairobi Yearly Meeting at the St. Francis Spiritual Center in Nairobi. Photo courtesy of the author.

Who was George Fox, the founder of Friends Church (Quakers)? Who was the wife of George Fox? How many times was George Fox imprisoned? How did George Fox get saved?

Such are the questions one is expected to get in the first two catechism classes. As the Quaker world is celebrating 400 years of the birth of Fox, there is a lot that Kenyan Quakers need to deepen their understanding of the life of Fox, as a majority of them just know of his basic life.

When I enrolled for the first catechism class at Friends Church Mbale Monthly Meeting in Chavakali Yearly Meeting, Vihiga County, we were only taken through the basics of Quaker history, which told us that the founder of the Religious Society of Friends was George Fox. Pastor Stanley Amuliodo gave us a one-page summary of the life of Fox. I learned that he was born in 1624 and that his father was Christopher Fox and his mother was Mary Lago. He was disturbed by incidents around his cousin’s drinking. He married Margaret Fell; they never had any children together, although Margaret Fell had seven daughters and one son from her previous marriage. Fox and his parents were members of the Anglican church, and Mary Fisher assisted him in ministry. The second catechism class’s emphasis was on the history of Quakerism in Kenya. I could boast that I knew Quakerism when I really just knew a slice of it.

When I later joined Friends Theological College in Kaimosi, Kenya, I came to realize that there was a lot that I didn’t know about Quakerism and Fox. I came to understand that you cannot talk of the history of England in the seventeenth century without Fox. He was a very influential personality of his era, a man who loved peace and never sought revenge on those who assaulted him. He was a physical man with a loud voice. I learned that his parents were members of the Puritan movement, a splinter group from the Anglican church of England. He empowered women with the ministry of preaching at a time when no one cared for their gift of spreading the good news. He was a close ally of Oliver Cromwell, who brought hope to the dissenters and seekers in England. Four-hundred years down the line, his testimony stands out across the world with the nickname that has become a name: Quakers.

In his time, Fox had contacts in the Middle East, Europe, Barbados, Jamaica, and America but not Africa. If Fox had been alive in more recent times, he would have set foot in Africa. He would have visited Kenya and maybe tried to reach the legendary king Prester John. He would have visited Quakers in Tana River, Turkana, Embu, and Samburu Maralal. He would have visited Quakers in Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, and Republic of South Africa, just to encourage them. He would have written more about the truth. Many of the sick would have been brought to him, as in the days of the Apostles, and they would have received healing in Christ’s name. He would have called them his “sons and daughters in Christ”  because he would be their spiritual father. His dream to expand Quakerism was carried by one young Quaker Willis Hotchkiss, from a rural area of America to a rural area of Kenya. The small seed of that time has now grown.

As chief ambassador of the kingdom of God here on earth, Fox would have called upon Africans to pursue and follow peace rather than engage in war activities. He would have called upon the Children of Light not to take up arms in revenge. In The Story of Quakerism, Elfrida Vipont talks about a prison guard who severely mistreated Fox, beating him almost to the point of death. Fox got up and looked straight into the prison guard’s eyes. The guard became terrified, but to his surprise and to the surprise of other prisoners, Fox started singing in glorifying God. He was not for war but for peace, through Jesus’s third way of solving conflicts.

Fox would have reached out to the Tutsi and Hutu in Rwanda to prevent the Rwanda genocide of 1994 by calling upon all Quakers to preach peace. He would have reach out to the governments of Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo to pursue love and shut down the open arms. He would have reached out to Sudan and called them to stop the blood flow of innocent people in Darfur and Khartoum. He would have called Kenyans to stop the nuisance politics and avert the 2007 post-election violence and accept the will of the people. He would have sent a letter to Nigeria calling the government and Boko Haram to know God is against the evil acts of violence. He would have called upon South Africans to embrace the peace of freedom and never to look back at the dark days in the past.

He would have strongly suggested to the African Union to be strong and courageous in advocating for peace and development in Africa and stop being like a dog that barks without acting. He would have condemned the military coups witnessed in Egypt, Mali, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Sudan, and other counties in recent times. Quakers in Africa have a great responsibility to promote peace initiatives now at the 400th anniversary of Fox’s birth. Much responsibility falls to the Quakers of Kenya, as they are now the hub of Quakerism in Africa; there’s a clear need for Kenyan Quakers to dig deep and understand the history of Quakers apart from the basics given in catechism classes.

I believe Fox would have brought unity, rather than separation, when Quakers of Kenya were rocked with theological schism at Kaimosi from 1926 to 1936. He would have reached out to the Roho (Holy Spirit) movement and the Quaker elders to be one and not bring divisions in the body of Christ. He would have reminded the wrangling groups about the gifts of the Holy Spirit and how they manifest in believers hence needs to be used with great care in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

In conclusion I can say that one man, born in England, defied all odds of secular world fame and concentrated on his calling in Christ. What started as a humble religious movement has now grown into a great harvest in the Kingdom of God. This man needs to be known more by the many Quakers of Kenya and Africa at large. His legacy continues to remain strong and will in the future centuries after we have gone home. An advocate of God’s word, ambassador of God’s peace, and healer in Christ name, George Fox has a stake in the African continent. Let Africa arise and take the mantle of Quaker spirit to the faces of darkness still here in the world. Africa is no longer the dark continent of Quakerism but the Light of the Quaker world.

Happy 400th birthday to George Fox.

George Busolo Lukalo

George Busolo Lukalo is a pastor with Friends Church–Nairobi Yearly Meeting serving at Friends Church Bura Mission in Tana River County under Mombasa Meeting. He is interested in research work about African Quakerism.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Maximum of 400 words or 2000 characters.

Comments on Friendsjournal.org may be used in the Forum of the print magazine and may be edited for length and clarity.