Recording gifts in ministry is not a new practice. In the 1600's, Friends were largely built up by the efforts of "public Friends," who traveled, spoke, debated with non-Quakers both orally and in writing, visited families, set up new meetings and worship groups, and often suffered imprisonment, fines, and other hardships. Unpaid, they were nevertheless strongly supported by hospitality on their travels and, when they were imprisoned, by care for their families and even the running of their businesses. At one time in London Yearly Meeting a number of horses, called "Truth's horses," were kept for the use of traveling ministers. The special place of such Friends was acknowledged in Robert Barclay's Apology:

. . . we do believe and affirm that some are more particularly called to the work of the ministry, and therefore are fitted of the Lord for that purpose; whose work is more constantly and particularly to instruct, exhort, admonish, oversee and watch over their brethren; and that . . . there is something more incumbent upon them in that respect than upon every common believer. . . . (Proposition 10, section 26)

Friends have always held high moral and spiritual expectations for those who are recorded as ministers. The following quotation, from Samuel Bownas, A Description of the Qualifications Necessary to a Gospel Minister, makes this plain:

The Tree must be good, e'er the Fruit can be so; and right and true Ministers are to be known by their Fruits:. . .it follows, that none, without being thus qualified, can be called to the Work of the Ministry by a divine Inspiration of the holy Spirit. . . altho' some such may pretend, that either with their Learning, or by their Money, or both, they may have acquired, or made a Purchase of Orders for Liberty to Preach, and may on this Foundation undertake to expose what they have to Sale; but what they sell is no other than what they have bought. . .empty and vain, and cannot profit the Hearers. . . .

What happened to change this informal recognition of ministers into formal recognition is outlined in this quotation from John Punshon's book, Portrait in Grey,p. 141):

Since 1673, all ministering Friends who happened to be in London, were expected to attend the Second Day Morning meeting. . . .In 1722, one William Gibson arrived and entered his name, as was the custom, in the book provided to record those attending. He was unacceptable to the Meeting and the controversy that followed was resolved by Yearly Meeting deciding that it was only the properly constituted monthly, quarterly and yearly meetings that could disown a minister. No Friend was entitled thereafter to be entered in the book as a minister unless he or she produced a certificate from a monthly or quarterly meeting. . . . Ministry, then, was the recognition of a gift rather than the granting of an ecclesiastical status. . . . Many [ministers] felt a further call to travel in the ministry and this practice, universal in the Quaker world, provided the means whereby a unity of practice and profession was maintained. . . .

To be noted here is that the call to service began with the individual's call from God, that the call was confirmed by the monthly meeting, that the call often extended beyond local service, and that written recognition facilitated travel and acceptance by distant Friends.

Although there were no pastors in the 17th century or early 18th century, a large meeting might have a dozen or more recorded ministers. These Friends' concern for the spiritual vitality of the meeting led them to speak often at worship, to be concerned for newcomers, to voice the concerns of the less articulate, to make a great many visitations, and to attend (though not to officiate) at weddings and memorial meetings.

Though no formal educational requirements were set for recording, recorded Friends were expected to be deeply versed in the Scriptures and other works, both to assist in their own ministry and in answering the objections of outsiders to Friends' beliefs.

In the years after the Civil War in the United States, many new meetings were being set up, with the Friends meeting often being "the only church in town." Younger Friends and others, impressed by the spiritual depth of neighboring revivals, wanted such radical innovations as hymn singing and a prepared message rather than the "dead" silence into which many meetings had fallen. Out of this atmosphere, the first Friends pastors were called. These pastors, almost always recorded ministers and usually holding other employment, were at first not paid; but, gradually, Friends "released" them for fuller service by providing full-time support.

In New York Yearly Meeting, the first fulltime pastor was John Henry Douglas, called to serve the Glens Falls Meeting in 1875. After that, many other meetings among Orthodox Friends called either full-time or part-time pastors.