What is the Quaker faith? It is not a tidy package of words which you can capture at any given time and then repeat weekly at a worship service. It is an experience of discovery which starts the discoverer on a journey which is life-long. The discovery in itself is not uniquely a property of Quakerism. It is as old as Christianity, and considerably older if you share the belief that many have known Christ who have not known His name. What is unique to the Religious Society of Friends is its insistence that the discovery must be made by each man for himself.
No one is allowed to get it second-hand by accepting a ready-made creed. Furthermore, the discovery points a path and demands a journey, and gives you the power to make the journey.
Elise Boulding, 1954
Faith and Practice
The Religious Society of Friends does not define itself by
formal creedal statements. Instead, Quakers prefer to set down our
religious experience in the form of testimonies, general statements
about practices and beliefs on which most Friends can unite. These
testimonies represent our ideals.
- Equal treatment of women and men is accepted practice because
Quakers believe all people have the potential to receive spiritual
leadings and are equal in the eyes of God.
- Because Quakers believe in the common humanity of all races,
race relations are an active concern of Friends in America.
- Quakers encourage participation of young people in all aspects
of the life of our faith community as a form of nurture.
- Quakers aid the non-violent efforts of the exploited to attain
self-determination and social, political and economic justice. This
mission often requires persuading exploiters, some of whom may be
Quakers, to change their ways, not only for the sake of the
exploited, but also to strengthen their own goodness.
- We seek both to bring to light and to counteract or expunge
structures, institutions, language and thought processes that
subtly support discrimination and exploitation.
- We examine our own attitudes and practices to test whether we
contribute as much as we ought to social, political and economic
- We encourage others to adopt consensus decision-making that is
- Quakers are sensitive to the spiritual as well as the material
needs of those in prison.
- We recognize that the penal system often reflects the
injustices in our society.
- We offer support services to the victims of crime as well as
conflict resolution training for both offenders and prison
- We act out of the conviction that redemption and restorative
justice, not retribution, are the right tasks of the criminal
- We strongly oppose capital punishment.
- In a world torn by strife and violence, our peace testimony
expresses Friends’ commitment to love and respect all persons
and to overcome evil with good. We avoid not only physical
violence, but also more subtle forms—psychological, economic,
- In our own lives, Friends see conflict as an opportunity for
loving engagement with those with whom we disagree. Love can be
manifested by acknowledging the sincerity of the other, while
forthrightly expressing our own convictions.
- We can reflect the peace testimony in our manner of living: our
employment, our investments, our purchases, our payment of
- We should take care to avoid benefiting from the manufacture of
arms and from business practices that do violence to employees,
consumers, or the natural world.
- We support those who resist cooperation with the military draft
or those who oppose war by performing peaceful service as
- We work as we are able to alleviate the suffering caused by
war, and are troubled that nations use military forces rather than
non-military units to engage in this work.
- Friends work to promote nonviolent resolution of conflict, from
the kindergarten to the United Nations, and the conversion to
peaceful uses of facilities built for war.
- Friends examine decisions about obtaining, holding and using
money and other assets, to see whether we find in them the seeds of
self-indulgence, injustice, conflict, or ecological disaster.
- We need to consider our roles as stewards of the earth,
recognizing that we citizens of technologically advanced nations
now contribute more to the problem than to the solution. We must
not only change our lifestyles, but also give serious thought to
the size of our families.
- Friends seek wholeness and harmony in the various aspects of
our lives. We strive to limit the material circumstances of our
lives in order to open the way to divine leadings.
- Friends call for honesty in whatever we say and do. Friends do
not swear judicial oaths, but rather affirm that our witnessing is
Friends seek to follow these testimonies but acknowledge that
our practices are sometimes flawed. However, these testimonies
remind us to be true to that of God within ourselves and to be
mindful of carrying out these ideals in our lives.
This compilation by Mike Ciul is based on the 1997 document,
Practice, of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the
Religious Society of Friends. For more information, visit www.pym.org