George Fox was a 17th-century Christian leader who rejected the formal trappings of religion, encouraged believers to follow their "inner light" and became the leader of the Society of Friends, known as the Quakers. Reared in the faith of the Church of England, Fox began an itinerant public ministry in 1647 after experiencing visions and voices as messages from God. Convinced that all people possess light granted by Jesus of Nazareth
, Fox assumed leadership of a worshiping community ("friends") about 1652. Eventually dubbed Quakers by those who ridiculed their emotional exuberance, they had no professional ministers, refused to take oaths, opposed slavery and war, emphasized mutual respect and equality before God, and sought lives transformed by inward spiritual experience. Many Quakers were punished and some were executed for their public critiques of political violence and of established churches; Fox was imprisoned eight times. The movement grew nonetheless. The American Quaker colony of Pennsylvania, known for its religious freedom, was founded by Fox associate William Penn
. The Fox tradition lives on in three major networks -- Friends General Conference, Friends United Meeting, and Evangelical Friends International -- and in the distinctively simple, egalitarian style of local Quaker meetings.