"To Renew the Covenant"

Religious Themes in Eighteenth-Century Quaker Abolitionism

Author: Jon R. Kershner
In “To Renew the Covenant”: Religious Themes in Eighteenth-Century Quaker Abolitionism, Jon R. Kershner argues that Quakers adhered to a providential view of history, which motivated their desire to take a corporate position against slavery. Antislavery Quakers believed God’s dealings with them, for good or ill, were contingent on their faithfulness. Their history of deliverance from persecution, the liberty of conscience they experienced in the British colonies, and the ethics of the Golden Rule formed a covenantal relationship with God that challenged notions of human bondage. Kershner traces the history of abolitionist theologies from George Fox and William Edmundson in the late seventeenth century to Paul Cuffe and Benjamin Banneker in the early nineteenth century. It covers the Germantown Protest, Benjamin Lay, John Woolman, Anthony Benezet, William Dillwyn, Warner Mifflin, and others who offered religious arguments against slavery. It also surveys recent developments in Quaker antislavery studies.

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Jon R. Kershner, Ph.D. (2013, University of Birmingham) is Honorary Researcher in Quaker Studies at Lancaster University and Visiting Assistant Professor in Theology and History of Christianity at Pacific Lutheran University. His publications include, John Woolman and the “Government of Christ”: A Colonial Quaker’s Vision for the British Atlantic World (Oxford University Press, 2018), the co-authored Quaker Studies: An Overview, The Current State of the Field (Brill, 2018), and numerous articles on Quaker theology in journals such as Quaker Studies, Quaker Religious Thought, and Quaker History, and chapters on evangelicalism and global theology in The Cambridge Companion to Quakerism, and John Woolman’s apocalypticism in Quakers and their Allies in the Abolitionist Cause, 1754-1808 (Routledge, 2015).
Students, scholars, and general audiences interested in Quakers, colonial American theology, and the history of antislavery ideas.