Summer 2024
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Happy 400th Birthday, George

By Paul Anderson, Professor of Biblical and Quaker Studies

He’s the founder of the Quaker movement, the namesake of our university, and this July, we’re celebrating the life and legacy of George Fox on what will be his 400th birthday.

George Fox, the Person

Born in a devout Christian home in 1624, as a young adult Fox became a seeker after God’s truth but was disenchanted with what religious leaders could offer. Then, he experienced a personal transformation – a spiritual encounter with Christ. He describes it this way in his Journal:

“And when all my hopes in them [religious leaders] and in all men were gone … I heard a voice which said, ‘There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition,’ and when I heard it my heart did leap for joy.”

That encounter led to his preaching throughout northwest England, and in 1652 he felt “moved of the Lord” to climb Pendle Hill, where he received a vision of “a great people to be gathered.”

Soon after that, he stood and preached to a gathering of over 1,000, who then set out to reach the world for Christ. Fox describes the heart of his passion:

“… that they might all come to know Christ their teacher, their counsellor (sic), their shepherd to feed them, and their bishop to oversee them and their prophet to open to them, and to know their bodies to be the temples of God and Christ for them to dwell in.”

The Quakers then organized to evangelize the world with the gospel message that Christ has come to teach his people himself, through the power of the Holy Spirit (John 14-16).

Quakers in the Pacific Northwest

Despite persecution and over 17,000 Quakers being jailed over the next three decades, the movement grew to over 100,000 by the end of the century. Fox’s vision, later carried forward by William Penn, helped form a foundational basis for American democracy, including freedom of religion and the full equality of all humans, regardless of gender, race or creed.

In the mid-to-late 1800s, Quakers came to the Pacific Northwest, forming Oregon Yearly Meeting in 1891, now Northwest Yearly Meeting. That was also the year that Pacific College, now George Fox University, was established.

What’s in a Name?

In 1949, Pacific College alumnus Arthur Roberts heard that the board was considering a name change to avoid confusion with nearby Pacific University. One of the options under consideration was “Friendswood.”

That name didn’t sit well with Roberts, who at the time was a seminary student in Kansas City, studying Quaker history. He wrote a letter to his alma mater making the case for George Fox, and the board agreed. Later, Roberts would come to teach at the newly renamed college for 34 years as one of its most distinguished professors.

The Continuing Vision

Though much has changed since the transformative experience of a young George Fox nearly four centuries ago, his vision – that the present Christ continues to “speak to the condition” of all who are open to knowing and being known by God (1 Cor 13:12) – still resonates with George Fox University students and staff today.

So, Happy Birthday, George! We thank God for the privilege of sharing in his legacy in the Pacific Northwest, and beyond.

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Summer 2024 Journal Cover

Cover of Summer 2024 issue

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