Rufus Jones (1863-1948) was the most influential Friend in 20th century Quakerism. Due to his many accomplishments, at a World Conference on Religion, he was referred to as” the Quaker Pope”.
Jones was born into an old Quaker family in Maine and attended Providence Friends School and Haverford College. For 41 years he was a Professor of Philosophy and Psychology at Haverford College. With Henry Cadbury, he co-founded the American Friends Service Committee. As the editor and co-author of the Rowntree Series, several books detailing the story of Quakerism, he provided a ground-breaking summary of Friends history. Jones also helped establish Five Years Meeting, the precursor to Friends United Meeting. A main concern for him was the reunification of the various branches of Quakerism, for which he laid the groundwork. As well, he encouraged Friends to drop the plain language and dress. His main legacy for Friends was his revival of the testimony of the Inner Light, a belief among early Quakers. With that in mind, he popularized the George Fox quote that there is “that of God” in everyone. (It should be noted, however, that his emphasis on the Inner Light, to the exclusion of the Bible, is criticized by some Friends).
Jones wrote extensively on theology, mysticism and history. His books included The Abundant Life; The Luminous Trail; The Inner Life; The Eternal Gospel; The Faith and Practice of Quakerism; and Some Exponents of Mystical Religion. His Rowntree Series contributions included Studies in Mystical Religion; The Spiritual Reformers in the 16th and 17th Centuries; The Quakers in the American Colonies; and The Later Periods of Quakerism. He was also the editor of the magazine Friends’ Review.
Rufus Jones touched my life in several ways. I first encountered Friends through a photo of an American Friends Service Committee peace vigil held in front of the White House. His writings, especially the histories of the Rowntree Series, greatly influenced my view of Quakers. And the testimony of the Inner Light remains a central guide in my life.
“If we are to prove that Fox really struck a jet of living water, we ourselves must tap that same fountain”.