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The Society of Friends suffered a series of schisms in the early 19th Century. The first divided "Hicksite" Quakers, who believed the inward light was more important than scriptural authority, from "Orthodox" Quakers, who emphasized Biblical sources. The second divided the Orthodox branch into "Wilburite" or conservative Friends, who preferred a quietist approach and disavowed Biblical inerrancy, from "Gurneyite" Friends, whose approach was deeply influenced by evangelical movements in other Protestant denominations, especially the ideas of John Wesley. These Gurneyite Friends formed Five Years Meeting (renamed Friends United Meeting in 1965) as an association of yearly meetings following the adoption of the Richmond Declaration in 1877.
After World War I, growing desire for a more fundamentalist approach among some Friends began to split Five Years Meeting. In 1926, Northwest Yearly Meeting withdrew from the organization, bringing several other yearly meetings and scattered monthly meetings. In 1947, the Association of Evangelical Friends was formed, with triennial meetings which lasted until 1970. This led in turn to the 1965 formation of the Evangelical Friends Association, a precursor to today's Evangelical Friends Church International, formed in 1989.
The mission of EFCI is "to help local Friends churches around the world meet the spiritual needs of their communities." Over 1,100 Evangelical Friends churches representing more than 140,000 Friends in 24 countries are currently associated with EFI. Currently, the largest Quaker church in the world is Friends Church (Yorba Linda), an evangelical Quaker megachurch located in Orange County, California.
Evangelical Friends Church International spreads its form of Quakerism through the Evangelical Friends Mission, which recruits and sends missionaries to various parts of the world to teach people the beliefs of Evangelical Friends and to start new Friends churches.
Friends, especially in the United States, are divided today as a result of divisions that took place mostly in the 19th Century. The Evangelical branch is the one that is most similar to other Christian denominations and differs some from other branches of Quakerism. Evangelical Friends may refer to a local congregation as a church, while some other Friends call it a monthly meeting. EFCI holds programmed (i.e. planned) services, while many other Friends hold silent services in which people speak as they feel led by God. Programmed services will usually incorporate silent worship, but it is only one element in the larger service.
A key doctrinal issue that sets Evangelical Friends apart from other Quakers is their view of salvation. Evangelical Friends believe that all people are in need of salvation, and that salvation comes to a person by putting his faith in Jesus Christ. Other Friends have a wide range of views on salvation, up to and including beliefs such as Universalism. Evangelical Friends support their views on the necessity of salvation as being more in line with the meaning of the Bible. Because of evangelical Friends' origins within the Gurneyite faction during the 19th century series of schisms that divided the Society, some Evangelical Friends rely relatively less on the authority of the Inner Light and more on their belief in the authority of a literal reading of the Scripture.
Evangelical Friends Church International of North America is part of the National Association of Evangelicals, a large body of Christian denominations and groups in the United States that share evangelical beliefs.
The issue that sets Evangelical Friends apart from other evangelical Christians is that they consider themselves part of the larger Friends movement. They also feel that their particular beliefs are consistent with the beliefs of the earliest Friends, such as George Fox (other Friends assert the same about their own beliefs and practices). Evangelical Friends also generally adhere to most, if not all, of the testimonies (core beliefs and values) of Friends (see "Testimonies" under Religious Society of Friends).
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