New Worldwide Quaker Map Released

Where are the Quakers in the world? The World Office of the Friends World Committee for Consultation released a new map of worldwide Quaker population figures, its first such release since 2012. The figures released show a Quaker population worldwide of approximately 380,000. A map showing the 2017 Quaker figures can be downloaded from the FWCC World Office.

An earlier version of this Friends Journal article compared 2017 numbers with figures from FWCC’s 2012 map, which gave a misleading indication of growth and decline in various yearly meetings. FWCC wrote to us that the “numbers are so small that the kind of simplistic statistical analysis” won’t give accurate results. They explained:

We collect the data that is available from all kinds and sizes of monthly and yearly meetings who count Friends in many different ways. We gather the data with an appreciation for differing definitions and even levels of membership. In our non‐hierarchical relationship with the Quaker family, we work with what we are given. It is far from being an exact process; rather, we offer the gift of helping us all see a visual representation of where Friends live and worship.

This inconsistency exists within each Section, including in North America, where meetings do not have a standard way to count their members, attenders, and children. FWCC has the task and the good fortune to be inclusive and appreciative of differences within and across Sections, and indeed around the world. We would invite a similar generosity of spirit among Friends.

In this iteration, we made some decisions in the collecting and reporting of data to reflect the fact that yearly meetings acknowledge who is part of their community in different ways. Even when there are reported statistics, they do not line up categorically making comparisons difficult. Therefore there was no intention to construct “trends” by producing this new map.


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10 thoughts on “New Worldwide Quaker Map Released

  1. Rodney Perkins says:

    City & State
    Sorry, but I do not believe the UK figures. Attenders have been counted in, where not previously included? Britain YM 2016 tabular statement shows 13,272 members only. Please re‐check.

  2. simon gray says:

    City & State
    This is a completely misleading article, with respect to Britain Yearly Meeting; the number quoted for 2007 relates to just members, whilst the number quoted for 2017 relates to the combined members and attenders; rather than having had our numbers increase by 50% in the last 10 years, we’ve actually shrunk by about 2,000 members and attenders, or about 10%, in the period.

    I suggest FWCC should withdraw this census entirely and check all the numbers before reissuing it.

  3. Linda Evans says:

    City & State
    For numbers quoted for the UK 2007 relates to just members, whilst the number quoted for 2017 relates to the combined members and attenders; rather than having had our numbers increase by 50% in the last 10 years, we’ve actually shrunk by about 2,000 members and attenders, or about 10%, in the period, I’m hearing the numbers for Baltimore Yearly Meeting are similarly wrong. Are you misreporting what’s on the map? I’d check, but the only way to get the map electronically appears to be by signing up for a newsletter, can you clairfy?

    1. City & State
      Silver Spring, MD
      The map uses the inflated member & attender numbers. Friends Journal is not the one playing with the numbers.

      I suspect it’s miscommunication. Instead of “how many members, specifically, do you have?” they may have asked “how many of you are there?” and allowed the yearly meetings to interpret things differently than they have in the past. With such an unusual reversal in trends (you know, from downhill to sharply uphill), I would’ve expected a call back saying, “wait, are you sure?” but alas.

    2. City & State
      Silver Spring, MD
      Oh, and I’m the one in Baltimore Yearly Meeting saying “wait a second, I know there was an argument in Chuck Fager’s comment section because Baltimore YM changed its reporting a few years ago.” You can see that here: http://​afriendlyletter​.com/​w​h​y​-​i​s​-​n​c​-​q​u​a​k​e​r​i​s​m​-​v​a​n​i​s​h​i​n​g​-​w​h​i​l​e​-​b​a​l​t​i​m​o​r​e​-​y​m​-​f​l​o​u​r​i​s​h​es/

      If Baltimore YM reported that way this time, it’d account for 75% of the “growth” in the US.

  4. Greg Hinshaw says:

    City & State
    Farmland, Indiana
    Religious statistics are notoriously bad, and it appears that some of this malady affects this report. For example, Britain Yearly Meeting is lauded has having grown by 46%. A quick internet shows shows that the 2017 is almost certainly membership and attendance combined, while Britain Yearly Meeting’s membership only, at the end of 2015, was barely 13,000, a decline that is more in line with the 2012 statistics. My article on American Quaker statistics will be published in Quaker Studies soon. I show that, in 2014, American Friends had 75,000 members. Attendance statistics are even more unreliable. In short, I don’t think FWCC has done a very good job of defining its terms or being consistent in comparing “apples to apples.”

    1. City & State
      Silver Spring, MD
      I look forward to your article!

      Recently a friend mentioned that in his church (he left Friends a few years ago), all members must renew their membership every few years. This seems like a great idea to me. We can do it for attenders too. That’s fine. But regularly saying “do you still wish to be affiliated with the meeting?” sounds like a good idea. How many ex‐Quaker Methodists or UCCers are out there, still on our rolls? How many dead people are still on our rolls, because they left 20 years ago and nobody ever told us they died? How many “birthright” members are there who’ve never set foot in a meetinghouse? How many people are listed as “attender” in the directory of 2, 3, or 4 meetings, because attenders are never deleted without an explicit request, and these higher numbers look good?

      We’re known for having had such *great* records in the 19th century. And now our records are utterly lacking in integrity.

    2. Greg Hinshaw says:

      City & State
      My research shows that Baltimore Yearly Meeting is, in terms of membership, essentially the same size as it was twenty‐five years ago, which is probably something of a victory since nearly every other “large” yearly meeting declined during the period. In terms of attendance, Eastern Region (with an average attendance of over 15,000/week) and Southwest (with an average of over 9,000/week) are the largest and “fastest growing,” though membership numbers are not as positive. The newer, smaller yearly meetings are also growing modestly. My central argument is that, basically, the creation of new congregations (“church planting,”) is the one factor most connected with growth in size of the yearly meeting. I would also be very reluctant to draw any conclusions about trends in Africa, where statistics are even harder to track.

  5. Randal J. Ott Espinoza says:

    City & State
    Columbus, OH
    As other commenters have noted, these statistics are extremely misleading. The comparison of current numbers including attenders to past numbers excluding them gives a false image of a growing Quakerism rather the shrinking that every US and UK YM has experienced AFAIK.

  6. Rodney Perkins says:

    City & State
    Hope Valley, UK
    Frankly, I expect Britain YM will soon be three piles:
    * a pile of money,
    * a pile (building) on Euston Road,
    * and a pile of lawyers haggling over the the first two..

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