The Spiritual Similarities of Quaker Silence and Pentecostal Glossolalia in Worship

By Ho Yan Au

The means for worship and liturgy vary among Christian denominations. Traditional churches such as the Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Anglican/Episcopal Church promote a sensible sacredness and solemnity through symbolic rituals with materials such as incense, bells, candles, etc. Protestant churches simplify the whole process by abandoning the use of materials and focus on preaching and scripture readings. Undeniably, they can potentially draw worshippers’ focus on God and mediate his presence.

However, I suggest that Pentecostal glossolalia and Quaker silence are distinct means for worship since ontologically, they are about the direct guidance of the Spirit and practically they usher this directness by a personal contact with the Spirit without words, music, materials and priests. Outwardly, Quaker silence seems to be different from Pentecostal glossolalia – a contrast of inward and outward in two aspects. First, as Daniel N. Maltz says, Quakers take the inner spiritual self and seek for inspiration from the Spirit by silent waiting, while Pentecostals “conceptualize the Holy Spirit as external” by regarding themselves as “vessels being filled by the Spirit.”[1]

Second, silence focuses on the inward light which is intangible while glossolalia per se is an outward manifestation which is audible. Nevertheless, implicitly, they both share four spiritual characteristics– 1. a sign of direct experience with God, 2. the Spirit’s sovereignty in worship, 3. the edification of self and others, and 4. the challenge of human language which will be elaborated in the following.

It is worth noting that in this article, “Pentecostal glossolalia” does not carry a denominational meaning, but solely refers to a spiritual phenomenon. This is for two reasons. First, the interpretation of glossolalia varies among Pentecostal denominations. The Assembly of God in the USA and the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) uphold the belief of glossolalia as an initial physical evidence of the Spirit baptism, while Elim Pentecostal Church of Britain does not have the same doctrine.[2]

Second, there is no common understanding of glossolalia between Classical Pentecostals and charismatics who experienced the Spirit baptism and gifts in the mainline protestant churches and the Roman Catholic Church. Missiologically, referring to the Lukan illustration in Acts 2, Classical Pentecostals in the early stage of the movement believed that glossolalia was a gift for world evangelization by speaking local languages without learning. In addition, from the Pauline account of glossolalia, they also find the evangelical purpose of glossolalia used in the public as a sign to non-believers so that they may know Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 14:22).[3] Eschatologically, based on their premillennial view, Classical Pentecostals consider glossolalia to be a sign of the final harvest and the imminent second coming of Jesus Christ.

Charismatics neither uphold the doctrine of initial physical evidence, nor the missiological nor eschatological views. They believe that it is a gift from the Spirit for praise and prayer, a sign of the Spirit renewing the church and uniting Christians from all traditions.

However, they both agree on the use of glossolalia for worship, and hence this article is concerned with its functions and spiritual significance in worship. The word “Pentecostal” carries a broader meaning than denominations and refers to movements of the Spirit which revives and renews churches with the outpouring and endowment of gifts from the Spirit.

British Quakerism today has become theologically and religiously more liberal than Twentieth Century Liberal Quakerism.[4] Its members do not just adhere to Christian faith, but also to Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Universalism, pantheism, atheism or nontheism. For Evangelical Quakers, some of them believe in Jesus Christ as the only true God and the Saviour, while some of them regard themselves as Christian because of their acceptance of Jesus’ ethical teachings or based on their own definitions. Pink Dandelion proposed the term “post-Christian” to describe the diverse spiritualities within the Society.[5] Nonetheless, they still worship together at Meetings through silence, which they insist is the only medium for direct guidance of the spirit(s).

Their reasons for silence are almost the same as the early Quakers in the seventeenth century: the redundancy of preaching and a distrust of human language.[6] They believed that God’s Word was not solely represented by scripture preached by ministers, but was rather an “ongoing and progressive process to be realized in every man.” It is absolutely possible for every individual to directly receive divine revelation from God without preaching.[7] Therefore, there is no need to keep such a role-separation of preacher from listeners, but instead, everybody can play these two roles simultaneously through listening to God silently.

Moreover, as preaching is communicated through human language which can easily be used in “trivial, irreligious or untruthful matter…which gratified the earthly but not the spiritual side of man,”[8] they think that spiritual messages can be distorted by earthly ideas and consequently the edifying power is diminished. Hence, complete silence with a well-prepared heart that waits for God’s word and the glow of the inward light is the best way to receive the purest and truest inspirations. As the founder George Fox urged his adherents,

Be still and cool in thy own mind and spirit from thy own thoughts, and then thou wilt feel the principle of God to turn thy mind to the Lord God, whereby thou wilt receive his strength and power from whence life comes, to allay all tempests, against blusterings and storms. That is it which moulds up into patience, into innocency, into soberness, into stillness, into stayedness, into quietness, up to God, with his power.[9]

Nowadays at Quaker Meetings, silence is still “the central part of its ritual” and believed to be a “…medium through which God’s will is heard, voiced and discerned.”[10] After understanding the definitions and meanings of Pentecostal glossolalia and Quaker silence, we can explore their spiritual similarities during worship under four headings.

1. Signs of direct experience of God.

Both Pentecostal glossolalia and Quaker silence lead to a direct experience of God through three processes: self-disclosure, intimacy, and transcendence.

Firstly, they usher a divine-human self-disclosure which is due to a mutual pursuit for each other. The American Quaker scholar Rufus Jones believes that “God is seeking for persons even as persons are seeking for God”.[11] Seeking implies a self preparation of the seeker for communication with others. Quakers prepare themselves for the spirit(s) by intentionally maintaining a physical and spiritual stillness while Pentecostals worship in tongues, the utterances of which are seen as a desperate cry to God to reveal himself more and more.

For Friends, the divine disclosure comes when “the Inner Light begins to glow–a tiny spark”. It will “blaze and illuminate our dwelling” and “make of our whole being a source from which the Light may shine out” if attention is paid to it with love.[12] The divine discloses himself in a status of silence which becomes “the welcoming acceptance of the other.”[13]

For Pentecostals, glossolalia implies humans speaking to God–a human disclosure. S/he speaks mysteries in his/her spirit (1 Cor. 14:2) because God discloses himself to him/her. Hence, the divine and human disclosures take place simultaneously once glossolalics start speaking.

In addition, the self-disclosure happens because silence and tongue speaking create a huge freedom for the divine and the human. Since both Quakers and Pentecostals insist on divine spontaneity, they believe that either silence or glossolalia is the best means for guaranteeing the freedom of the divine beings. As the American Quaker Francis B. Hall claims, “The Spirit is free, like the blowing wind, and worship that is an opening of hearts to that Spirit is also an opening to that freedom”, and silence is “one of the surest means of guaranteeing the freedom of the Spirit.”[14] The mutual disclosure prepared by mutual seeking and mutual respect of freedom brings the divine and human into each other’s presence and subsequently reaches the second step of the direct experience with the divine: intimacy.

Intimacy is related to two concepts: God’s presence and in-depth communion. Elaine Storkey defines the reality of intimacy as “the reality of God” which is God’s presence.[15] To experience God’s presence is to be invited to remain in a personal relationship with Him.[16]

Quakers and Pentecostals are not satisfied with a shallow and superficial experience of God, but they seek for a close relationship with the divine which leads to an intimate and deep communication. Silence and glossolalia are believed to be the most effective means to bring about the divine presence and a profound level of intimacy. An English Quaker of the 19th century, Edward Grubb, claims that silence brings a “real” presence of Christ that worshippers “can trust Him to direct and control their gatherings.”[17] Another Friend attests that the profoundness of silent worship enables him to hear “…a still, small voice in the depths of my being that began to speak with an inexpressible tenderness, power and comfort.”[18]

The Yearly Meeting of 1928 also officially affirmed the intimacy of silent worship as the transformative and renewing effect of personal character and love through the direct contact with the spirit(s).

In silence, without rite or symbol, we have known the Spirit of Christ so convincingly present that his grace dispels our faithlessness, our unwillingness, our fears, and sets out hearts aflame with the joy of adoration. We have thus felt the power of the Spirit renewing and recreating our love and friendship for all our fellows. This is our Eucharist and our Communion.[19]

For Pentecostals, glossolalia is a visible linkage of the individual to God’s presence.[20] It is like a “private language” building up the divine-human relationship[21] and leads to a deep presence of God which is “as close as one’s own larynx and vocal chords.”[22] This intimacy prepares glossolalics to receive God’s words and works such as healing of memory and deliverance from psychological and spiritual turmoils.

In addition, glossolalia ushers intimacy through bringing the historical Jesus into the present and bringing the physically absent God into a heartfelt spiritual presence. Catholic Charismatic Kilian McDonnell explains that glossolalia produces an anamnestic effect in that it recalls the historical Jesus to the glossolalic’s memory and subsequently brings about his actual presence.[23] It reaffirms to him/her that Jesus who died and was resurrected two thousand years ago is still a living Christ who continues to restore the relationship between humans and the one true God through salvation. His Spirit deepens this relationship by giving angelic utterances to communicate with the risen Lord.

The glossolalic is once again reaffirmed that the God of Emmanuel is still accompanying him/her because Jesus, as Tom Smail, says, “is not two thousand years away in the past, remote and retired in heaven, or reserved for an apocalyptic future, but lives to keep his promises to all who turn in expectant faith toward him.”[24]

Finally, intimacy leads to the final stage of the direct experience of God: transcendence. As God is a transcendent being, mutual self-disclosure and intimacy bring about transcendence to individuals’ ordinary lives. Silence and glossolalia not only lead Quakers and Pentecostals to have communion with God, but also, to participate in God’s transcendent life.

For Pentecostals and some Evangelical Quakers, it is specifically about participating in the “Trinitarian God’s life”.[25] To participate in another’s life is about knowing that person–not just cerebrally knowing his/her past, present and future events, thoughts, personality, likes and dislikes, but also experientially knowing the emotions, working out plans and achieving goals together. All the knowledge is supported by the steadfast love. They both expect to live together not temporarily, but eternally; not intermittently, but continuously. A Quaker rightly describes this transcendent sharing of life as “marriage–a closeness of living, A constant receiving and giving.”[26]

For Quakers and Pentecostals, silence and glossolalia are the gateway for entering into this committed participation in the transcendent life from their normal lives. In silence, Quakers “…become aware of a deep and powerful spirit of love and truth that transcends their ordinary experience.”[27] Through glossolalia, Pentecostals experience “an extension of the Spirit’s indwelling presence and causes inner knowledge of God to grow.”[28] They become more sensitive to God’s divineness, holiness, righteousness, graciousness and ultimately, lovingkindness.

At the same time, the human weaknesses and sinfulness deep inside the heart are reflected and resultantly, believers are prompted to repent, seek for forgiveness and for more of God’s image. Participating in the transcendent life of God is about being cleansed, purified and pruned by the holy God; in other words, it is a sacrifice of the old life. The direct experience of God mediated by silence and glossolalia triggers a sense of sweet intimacy and deep communion, but it also reveals an unwanted fact of the ugly human face and causes a painful but eventually fruitful sanctification.

2. A representation of the divine’s sovereignty

Quakers and Pentecostals highly respect the freedom of the spirit(s) and hence, silence and glossolalia are regarded as the means of worship enabling the spirit(s) to reign in the individual and the whole congregation. This approach is opposed to the institutional authority of churches through programmed liturgy. Both groups are skeptical about liturgical rituals which represent the “temporal and limited nature of our institutional boundaries, theological, and cultic expression.”[29]

Quakers particularly object to the practice of outwared sacraments[30] and the proclamation of creeds which “take on an authority of their own, belying the authority of God.” They also deny the preaching authority of priests but uphold the universal priesthood, as the spirit(s) can directly speak, teach and be revealed to individuals in silence. As Grubb asserts, “All have the priestly privilege of direct access to God and of responsibility for the souls of others.”[31] This universal priesthood also challenges the traditional male-dominated priesthood and affirms women’s equal status with men in front of God and hence their right to convey divine inspirations and prophecies received in silence.[32]

Although Pentecostals celebrate the eucharist, practice baptism with full immersion and preserve preaching, they are conscious of being sensitive to the Spirit during worship and allow for his unexpected interventions. Glossolalia is a tangible way to enable the Spirit to flow spontaneously so that he can minister to the congregation through prophecy and revelations. To some extent, Pentecostals also implicitly support the universal priesthood, but it is not actualized as thoroughly as among Quakers.

Silence and glossolalia also represent a sacrifice of self-will to enable the Spirit to reign. For Quakers, being silent is a choice between obeying the flesh or spirit; between letting the spirit(s) guide oneself or imposing self will on the spirit(s). It is a matter of dying to oneself in order to gain a renewed life or remaining as the old self which leads to a death of the spiritual life. Richard Bauman perceives that the choice between silence for their spiritual edification and speaking to satisfy the natural human urge as a constant battle for Quakers.[33] But this battle is a necessary spiritual exercise for their lives to grow and become mature. Robert Barclay rightly observes,

As there can be nothing more opposite to the natural will and wisdom of man, than this silent waiting upon God; so neither can it be obtained, nor rightly comprehended by man, but as he layeth down his own wisdom and will, so as to be content to be thoroughly subject to God.[34]

Grubb believes that the humble sacrifice of being silent can “facilitate the offering” of oneself and “remove the barriers that restrict the Divine liberty”.[35] When the divine is regarded as the highest authority within oneself, the self becomes an instrument for the divine to use as blessing for others. Proclaiming the divine’s words at Meetings is one of the major ministries that requires a complete self-sacrifice.

As Douglas Gwyn explains, “Ministry is not a human office, but an event of God’s grace working through his chosen vessels…Christ should be the only one to speak in the church”.[36] Sacrificing self-will for the divine during silent worship and prayer is only the beginning of maturity. Once Quakers achieve it, they can sacrifice every aspect of their lives on a daily basis.

Glossolalia signifies Pentecostals’ obedience to the Holy Spirit’s guidance by sacrificing their will. In prayer, Pentecostals also have two options before them: speaking in incomprehensible utterances given by the Spirit or speaking in their own language.

When one prays in a human language, s/he tends to pray according to his/her will which may not be coherent with God’s, or prioritize one’s needs rather than letting his kingdom and righteousness be fulfilled. In contrast, glossolalia is the utterance of the Spirit allowing him/her to pray according to God’s will (Rom 8:27), and hence glossolalic prayers are not mainly about one’s own concerns but God’s.

When a Pentecostal speaks in tongues, s/he not only surrenders his/her natural physical linguistic function, but also the self will and personal concerns to the Spirit. The Spirit is then no longer restricted by the limited expressions of human language and self-centredness, but he can praise, intercede and proclaim mystery through the individual according to God’s will.

For Pentecostals, it is a process of self-emptying and refilling by the Spirit–to be refilled by God’s plans for one’s life, the church and the world. As Pentecostal theologian Frank Macchia claims, “Tongues signifies the radically free power ‘of the age to come’ (Heb 6:4), liberating us to respond to God in new and unforeseen ways” and “the new relations and communities transformed and empowered to witness of the Gospel to the world.”[37]

3. Edification for self and others

The direct experience with the divine and the complete sovereignty of the spirit(s) during silent and glossolalic worship bring about edification for self and subsequently enable one to edify others. Edification is about being built up in many aspects of one’s life. Cerebrally, Quakers and Pentecostals are built up by enhancing their knowledge of the divine. A Quaker claims that silence “has the promise of the knowledge of God” but not “dreamy musing, no dolce far niente of the soul”.[38] For Pentecostals, glossolalia enables them to speak “mysteries” in their spirits according to Paul’s teaching (1 Cor 14:4). Although they cannot understand the exact content of the prayer, they are still proclaiming knowledge of God. If they are granted the interpretation, they can be especially edified.

Psychologically, their souls rest in the divine and hence are refreshed. An early Quaker, William Penn wrote in 1699, “True silence…is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment.”[39] Rachel Needham in 1987 exhorted her fellow Friends, “Don’t feel restricted by the silence, it is there to set you free from the pressure of life…No moment of silence is a waste of time.”[40]

For Pentecostals, completely surrendering in the Spirit when speaking in tongues relaxes their souls so that they can rest in the Spirit from the dryness of their daily lives in the secular society. Moreover, some Pentecostals experience healing of emotion and memory through glossolalia. Glossolalic prayers can retrieve memory of childhood traumas into one’s subconsciousness which may still adversely be affecting adulthood.[41] McDonnell identifies glossolalia as having a “memory function, a retrieval responsibility” that it links up the forgotten past with the present.[42] The Spirit does not just want to provide reasons by revealing the past for the current emotional afflictions, but more vitally to deliver and restore a joyful heart.

Spiritually, Quakers and Pentecostals are empowered by the transcendent during silence and glossolalia. A Friend, Ben Barman, believes that “the energy of the eternal” is released during silence. With this power, one can perform healing and “spread the ocean of light over the ocean of darkness” in this world.[43] For Friends, the power released during silent worship is a transforming power of one’s physical and spiritual life as well as for the world with truth and hope.

For Pentecostals, the Spirit not only grants but also renews the existing power through glossolalic prayers. They may be given new vision for ministry and hence new power for them to achieve it, new strength to fast and pray for the kingdom, or “a stirring up of that power already present”.[44] The power can be outward or inward; for manifesting the mightiness of God or enduring hardship, sufferings and martyrdom. The ultimate purpose is to glorify God, not oneself.

Once an individual has received the divine cerebral, psychological and spiritual edifications during silence or glossolalic prayers, s/he is equipped to build up others in these three ways as well. As mentioned above, since Quakers uphold the concept of universal priesthood, each member who communes with God in silence has the possibility to give verbal ministry to other Friends. There is a paradoxical relation between silence and language in Quakerism. Although they value the former and distrust the latter due to the corrupted nature which spoils the purity of God’s words, they still rely on language to convey divine messages received in silence within the congregation.

Through verbal ministry, firstly, they relate to one another with the same message. As R. Melvin Keiser claims, “Language establishes relations. It relates us to others and the world as well as to ourselves.” Spoken words “intensify and give concrete form that coordinate and enhance these relations” which have already existed in silence.[45]

Secondly, verbal ministry assists mutual edification. Cerebrally, the proclamation of the divine message is like spreading the seeds of truth into others’ hearts. They grow within individuals, enhance their knowledge of the divine, nurture and transform their lives and the whole group grows together. Psychologically and spiritually, one’s deep closeness to the divine during silence may enable him/her to be sensitive to the spiritual states of others, such as sadness, distress, or anguish.[46] Verbal ministry from the divine may be given to comfort, encourage or deliver the distressed spirit.

The mutual edification through verbal ministry in silent Meetings promotes oneness among Friends. Their common goal and practice–”we meet in silence to dig, to read the depths where we ought to be living”[47]–are achieved through mutual “giving and receiving”.[48] In such worship with friendship, they “live and move and have their beings” within this oneness [49] and help each other to reach a deeper life and experience of the divine. As a result, they can build each other up in a much deeper way.

In Pentecostal worship, glossolalics may edify the congregation cerebrally, psychologically or spiritually through glossolalic speeches with interpretation. The prophetic words may concern the whole church or individuals; relate to God’s plans, comfort for sadness or warnings for sinfulness.

Moreover, the transformation of life during the direct experience with God through glossolalia can also influence others’ lives. Being purified by God, glossolalics become a living witness through their good deeds and gentle words flourishing from renewed love, joy and peace. Their lives are actually spreading out the fragrance of God’s goodness among others, and they may pursue similar transformation from God.

Consequently the body of Christ is renewed and strengthened, and God is shown visibly to the world. Undoubtedly, glossolalia enables Pentecostals to express themselves beyond the scope of human languages in worship, to proclaim prophecy for others, and to enjoy divine intimacy. And although the inner transformative effect that this “lowly gift”[50] produces is less explicit and demonstrative, its edification for oneself and others can be more influential and longlasting.

This mutual edification resulting from glossolalia subsequently brings about a sense of unity. Contrasting the divisions caused by God’s confusion of language at the Tower of Babel as a punishment for human pride, glossolalia, the angelic voice from the Spirit for praise and adoration to God, brings God’s people together.

This ecumenical effect of glossolalia was particularly spectacular during the charismatic renewal in the 1960-70’s where both Protestants and Roman Catholics experienced the outpouring of the same Spirit and discovered their common identity as Christians. The presence of God brought by glossolalia cultivated a sense of togetherness, acceptance and hence openness to one another. They then mutually served and edified one another with the charisms endowed from the Spirit, and thus minimising the ecclesiological differences.

4. A challenge of human languages

Silence and glossolalia as alternative means for communication with the divine reflect the limitations of human language for worship. First, they both represent a pursuit for a purity of religious life through avoiding impure human language for religious expression. Early Friends such as George Fox condemned human beings who “have mouths full of deceit and changeable words”.[51] Contemporary Quaker scholar Pink Dandelion also asserts, “Words are deemed inappropriate to the nature of belief.”[52]

For centuries, Friends distrusted human language and relied on silence for divine communion. They also believe that silence has a purifying function on corrupted human language when they are about to proclaim the divine’s words. As Pierre Lacout wrote in 1969, “Words must be purified in a redemptive silence if they are to bear the message of peace…Speech has no meaning unless there are attentive minds and silent hearts.”[53]

Similarly, Pentecostals experience God’s absolute holiness and sanctification by glossolalia, which is God’s pure speech. As Harvey Cox, who is sympathetic with Pentecostalism, claims, “Our corrupt and inadequate language is transformed by God’s love into the tongues of angels”.[54]

Moreover, silence and glossolalia also represent a free emotional expression and religious experience. Since language itself is a product of rationality requiring the accuracy of grammar, the appropriateness of word retrieving from mental lexicons, the acceptable sentence structures and semantic correctness, emotional expressions cannot be entirely conveyed by means of the rational-oriented languages.

In fact, in-depth experience and divine-human relationship require one not to speak by words but to know by heart. For Quakers, worship and prayer are something “deeper than words or busy thoughts” and through silence, “there is a power known only by experience, and mysterious even when most familiar”.[55]

Pentecostals also discover that “the closer one draws to the divine mystery, the more urgent it becomes to express itself and the less able one is to find adequate expression” from their own language.[56] However, glossolalia surpasses the rational constraint of human language and enables one to express oneself from the depth of the heart and to experience the divine. Although the glossolalic prayer is incomprehensible for humans, it makes one know that s/he is with God.

Furthermore, silence and glossolalia can be regarded as a protest against the linguistic fluency possessed by the elite who are mostly the minority in the society and the church. In contrast, the illiterate or laymen who are ignorant of “ecclesiastical language and clerical argot” are not considered as capable of conveying God’s messages. [57]

However, silence and glossolalia revolutionize the whole scene of worship. To adopt Cox’s phrase, they can be regarded as a “radically democratizing practice”[58] by which all can communicate with God and all can proclaim God’s speech whenever they truly receive a message from God. They also represent a process of de-clericalization[59] and challenge the conventionalized practice of preacher-dominated ministry and the ecclesiastical hierarchy which deprives the uneducated and laymen of being God’s vessel.

The pursuit of purity and free accessibility of emotional expression and religious experiences as well as democratisation and declericalisation entail a restoration of primal spirituality realized by silence and glossolalia. Without so much considering the accuracy of grammar, logicality of meaning and aesthetic beauty of wording, through silence and glossolalia, Quakers and Pentecostals get “beyond the levels of creed and ceremony into the core of human religiousness”.[60] And that is the desire embedded deep down in human souls of reaching the transcendence and the satisfaction of this desire being fulfilled by direct communion with the ever-loving God.

This primal spirituality only requires a child-like faith, which is about trusting in the divine’s guidance without sophisticated analysis and explanation, feeling his very actual presence, expressing his mind with the utterances given by him and finally, resting in him. This primality of silence and glossolalia is “pre-cognitional and pre-conceptual”[61] and therefore, human languages which convey ideas of the cognition and conception cannot completely translate the transcendent experiences and emotions.

Ecumenical implications

Despite the four spiritual similarities of Quaker silence and Pentecostals glossolalia for worship, their differences cannot be denied. First, ontologically, silence is a physical and psychological state controlled by self-discipline, a choice of means of worship according to personal preference while glossolalia is a gift from the Holy Spirit that does not require any human effort to be obtained.

Secondly, for the Religious Society of Friends in Britain nowadays, being a Quaker is not necessarily about being a Christian; therefore silence at Quaker meetings is not a practice exclusively for those who have Christian faith. However, glossolalia from the Holy Spirit is a gift only for Christians as the outpouring of the Spirit is just for those who confess Jesus as Saviour and God.

Despite these differences, silence and glossolalia can serve as a vantage point for ecumenical dialogue between Quakers and Pentecostals. Tracing back through church history, they are both undoubtedly renewal works of the same Holy Spirit. The spiritual similarities elaborated in this article are all related to a desire for a true and real relationship with the divine. This reconciling desire is initiated by God, and he poured out his Holy Spirit upon the church in the 17th century that gave birth to Quakerism and the 20th that gave birth to the Pentecostal revival and charismatic renewal.

Both Quakers and Pentecostals criticize the ecclesiastical hierarchy for disguising the royal priesthood possessed by every believer, and assert that the institutionalization of the church replaces the domination of Jesus Christ as the head of the body, and that the programmed liturgy hinders the spontaneous flowing of the Holy Spirit. They discover silence and glossolalia as the ways to restore the sovereignty of God and the universal priesthood of his people during worship and in the church.

Hence both Quakers and Pentecostals uphold the originality of Christian faith as a relationship with God and share a common goal of seeking for a genuine experience with the divine. Based upon the common reasons for the movements and the parallel spiritual emphases of silence and glossolalia, Quakers and Pentecostals can go on to “exchange gifts”[62] such as the role of the Holy Spirit and the Inward Light, the practice of healing, the manifestations of signs and wonders, etc. They can not only enrich each other’s theologies and practices but also hopefully accept each other as the people of God.

For the wider ecumenical scene, both Quakers and Pentecostals can offer their gifts to other churches. Their shared experience-oriented heritage, practices and theologies can complement those churches which focus on preaching or liturgy. They also remind churches worldwide that the functioning of the church relies not only on the institution, but also the direct guidance of the divine. If Quakers and Pentecostals can open themselves to each other and to other churches, they will discover more surprises of commonalities and will benefit abudantly from mutual learning.


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McDonnell, Kilian, “The Function of Tongues in Pentecostalism”, One in Christ, Vol. XIX, No. 4 (1983), pp. 332-348.

Quaker Faith & Practice: The Book of Christian Discipline of the Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain. London: The Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain, 1999.

Smail, Thomas A., The Forgotten Father. Eugene OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2001.

Synan, Vinson, “Speaking in Tongues”, One in Christ, Vol. XIX, No. 4 (1983), pp. 323-331.

The Fundamental Truths (accessed on 24 April 2008)

The General Council of the Assembly of God: Statement of Fundamental Truths (accessed on 24 April 2008)

“Your First Time in a Quaker Meeting?”. London: Quaker Home Service, 1987.


1 Daniel N. Maltz, (“Joyful Noise and Reverent Silence: The Significance of Noise in Pentecostal Worship,” in Deborah Tannen and Murial Saville-Troike (eds) Perspectives on Silence (Norwood: Albex Publishing Corporation, 1995), pp. 143-145.

2 The General Council of the Assembly of God: Statement of Fundamental Truths states, “The baptism of believers in the Holy Spirit is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives them utterance (Acts 2:4). The speaking in tongues in this instance is the same in essence as the gift of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:4-10, 28), but different in purpose and use.” (The statement emphasizes that this truth, together with the other fifteen truths listed are “non-negotiable” that all Assembly of God churches uphold.“(accessed on 24 April 2008)

Declaration of Faith (Church of God, Cleveland TN). “We believe in speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance, and that it is the initial evidence of the baptism of the Holy Ghost.” (accessed on 24 April 2008)

The Fundamental Truths of the Elim Pentecostal Church does not even mention baptism in the Holy Spirit and glossolalia in its twelve items. The only evidence that is mentioned is the one of salvation, as it says, “This justification is imputed by the grace of God because of the atoning work of Christ, is received by faith alone and is evidenced by the Fruit of the Spirit and a holy life.” (accessed on 24 April 2008)

3 Vinson Synan, “Speaking in Tongues,” One in Christ, Vol. XIX, No. 4 (1983), p. 326.

4 Pink Dandelion, An Introduction to Quakerism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 134.

5 Pink Dandelion, An Introduction to Quakerism, p. 135.

6 I make this claim that because there are still some quotes on silent prayer and worship written by Friends of the 17th and 18th century in Quaker Faith & Practice: The Book of Christian Discipline of the Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain (London: The Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends [Quakers] in Britain, 1999).

7 Daniel N. Maltz, “Joyful Noise and Reverent Silence,” p. 122.

8 Daniel N. Maltz, Ibid., p. 121.

9 Quaker Faith & Practice, 2.18.

10 Pink Dandelion and P. Collins, “Wrapped Attention: Revelation and Concealment in Non-conformism,” (BSA Sociology of Religion Study Group Conference, 2001), p. 7.

11 Francis B. Hall, “The Renewal of Worship is From the Spirit.” in Francis B. Hall (ed) Quaker Worship in North America: A Faith and Life Study Book (Richmond: Friends United Press, 1978), p. 143.

12 Quaker Faith & Practice, 2.12.

13 Ibid.

14 Francis B. Hall, Ibid., p. 143.

15 Mark J. Cartledge, Charismatic Glossolalia: An Empirical- Theological Study (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Ltd., 2002), p. 191.

16 Kilian McDonnell, “The Function of Tongues in Pentecostalism,” One in Christ, Vol. XIX, No. 4 (1983), p. 341.

17 Edward Grubb, What is Quakerism? An Exposition of the Leading Principles and Practices of the Society of Friends as Based on the Experience of “The Inward Light.” (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1949), p. 50.

18 Quaker Faith & Practice, 2.53.

19 Christian Faith and Practice in the Experience of the Society of Friends (Euston: London Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, 1960), 241.

20 Frank Macchia, “Tongues as a Sign: Towards a Sacramental Understanding of Pentecostal Experience,” PNEUMA: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, Vol. 15, No. 1 (Spring 1993), p. 66.

21 Rene Laurentin, Catholic Pentecostalism (London: Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd, 1977), p. 81.

22 Harvey Cox, Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Pentecostal Spirituality and the Reshaping of Religion in the Twenty-first Century (New York: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1995), p. 95.

23 Kilian McDonnell, “The Function of Tongues in Pentecostalism,” p. 341.

24 Thomas A. Smail, The Forgotten Father (Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2001), p. 13.

25 Mark J. Cartledge, Charismatic Glossolalia, p. 193.

26 Quaker Faith & Practice, 2.25.

27 “Your First Time in a Quaker Meeting?” (London: Quaker Home Service, 1987).

28 Mark J. Cartledge, Charismatic Glossolalia, p. 189.

29 Frank D. Macchia, Tongues as a Sign, p. 74.

30 Based on Mark 1:8 “I indeed have baptized you with water but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.” The early Friends believed that baptism was only spiritual. Baptism was an inward rather than outward experience. Besides, they did not celebrate the eucharist as they believed that there was only one supper that they had to partake in and that was the “marriage supper of the Lamb,” (the second and real Last Supper). For them, those who celebrated suppers other than this only one neglected the second coming of Jesus. Due to this traditional teaching, Friends nowadays still do not practice outward sacraments during worship. Cf. Pink Dandelion, Liturgies of Quakerism (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Ltd., 2005), p. 24, 27.

31 Edward Grubb, What is Quakerism? p. 61.

32 Edward Grubb, What is Quakerism? pp. 61-62.

33 Richard Bauman, Let Your Words Be Few: Symbolism of Speaking and Silence among Seventeenth-Century Quakers (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), p. 136.

34 Quoted in Leif Eeg-Olofsson, The Concept of the Inner Light in Robert Barclay’s Theology: A Study in Quakerism (Lund: CWK Gleerup, 1954), p. 189.

35 Edward Grubb, What is Quakerism? p. 50.

36 Douglas Gwyn, Apocalypse of the Word: The Life and Message of George Fox (Richmond: Friends United Press, 1984), p. 169

37 Frank D. Macchia, “Tongues as a Sign,” p. 71.

38 Quoted in Edward Grubb, What is Quakerism? p. 51.

39 Quaker Faith & Practice, 2.13.

40 Quaker Faith & Practice, 2.17.

41 Richard A. Baer, “Quaker Silence, Catholic Liturgy, and Pentecostal Glossolalia: Some Functional Similarities,” in Russel P. Spittler (ed) Perspectives on the New Pentecostalism (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976), p. 153.

42 Kilian McDonnell, “The Function of Tongues in Pentecostalism,” p. 344.

43 Ben Barman, “Meeting for Worship: A Dynamic Trinitarian Silence,” in Rex Ambler (ed) The Presence in the Midst: Proceedings of the Quaker Theology Seminar 1995-6 (Birmingham, England: The Quaker Theology Seminar in Association with Woodbrooke College, 1997), pp. 43-44.

44 Kilian McDonnell, “The Function of Tongues in Pentecostalism,” p. 343.

45 R. Melvin Keiser, “Gathered Inward to the Word: The Way of Word and Silence,” in Tony Adams (ed) Experience & Language in Quaker Theology: Proceedings of the Quaker Theology Seminar 1997-8. (Birmingham, England: The Quaker Theology Seminar in Association with Woodbrooke College, 1997), p. 154.

46 Richard Bauman, Let Your Words Be Few, p. 122.

47 Harold Loukes, The Quaker Contribution (London: SCM Press, 1965), p. 40.

48 Quaker Faith & Practice, 2.11.

49 Quaker Faith & Practice, 2.36.

50 Kilian McDonnell, “The Function of Tongues in Pentecostalism,” p. 348.

51 Quoted in Richard Bauman, Let Your Words Be Few, p. 21.

52 Pink Dandelion, A Sociological Analysis of the Theology of Quakers: The Silent Revolution. (Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press, 1996), p. 96.

53 Quaker Faith & Practice, 2.12.

54 Harvey Cox, Fire from Heaven, p. 96.

55 Quaker Faith & Practice, 2.23, 2.39.

56 Mark J. Cartledge, Charismatic Glossolalia, p. 194.

57 Rene Laurentin, Catholic Pentecostalism, p. 80.

58 Harvey Cox, Fire from Heaven, p. 95.

59 Yves M. Congar, I Believe in the Holy Spirit II: He is Lord and Giver of Life. (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1983), p. 208.

60 Harvey Cox, Fire from Heaven, p. 81.

61 Kilian McDonnell, “The Function of Tongues in Pentecostalism,” p. 343.

62 Dialogue as an “exchange of gifts” was firstly suggested by Pope Paul VI and later adopted by the Vatican II. The late Pope John Paul II also mentioned about it in his Ut Unum Sint.

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