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What We Believe

Quakers Have No Formal Creed

    There is a well-known story about an exchange between George Fox, the founding father of the Quaker faith, and William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania. Penn, like many of the men of his day, came equipped with a sword which he habitually wore at his side. Knowing Fox's stance on nonviolence, Penn was concerned about how to reconcile his Quaker faith with the weapon he carried, so he asked George Fox for his opinion about it.

    "Wear it," Fox replied, "for as long as thou canst."

    This story sums up what is for many people the essence and the appeal of the Quaker faith: the insistence that its followers think for themselves, weigh their decisions in the scale of their own consciences, and ultimately choose what action they know to be right. Rather than rules and dogma, Friends offer advice and queries: advice that allows itself to be weighed and taken...or not; queries that require people to consider, reflect, and think independently.

    While Quakers have no formal creed, they have distinct beliefs that make them distinct among Western religions.

    God Is Within You

    Jesus said:
    The Kingdom of God is within you and all about you:
    Not in buildings
    or mansions of wood and stone.
    Split a piece of wood and I am there.
    Lift a stone
    and you will find me.

    --The Gospel of Thomas

    One of the most fundamental beliefs of the Quaker faith is the idea that within each of us is a measure of the Divine, what Quakers call "that of God" in all beings and what the Gospel of John referred to as "the true Light" (John 1:9-10). As the ancient Gospel of Thomas expresses, it is "within you and all about you," and cannot be confined by buildings or creeds. That fundamental belief, that we each have that of God within us, gave rise to the Quaker belief in equality -- equality between men and women, black people and white, those of one faith and those of another. It logically follows that in the original expressions of the Quaker faith, there were no priests, no ministers, no pastors -- just people, equal to one another, holding each other in the Light and listening in silence for the "still, small voice" of God.
    You will say, "Christ saith this,"
    and "The apostles say this,"
    but what canst thou say?
    Are thou a child of Light
    and hast thou walked in the Light,
    and what thou speakest,
    is it inwardly from God?

    -- George Fox, early Quaker

    Four Major Testimonies

    Testimonies are central beliefs that form the core of Quaker worship and practice.

    The Peace Testimony

    This statement made by early Quakers sums it up simply and clearly:

    "We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons, for any end
    or under any pretence whatsoever. And this is our testimony to the whole world.
    The spirit of Christ...which leads us into all Truth,
    will never move us to fight and war against any man with outward weapons,
    neither for the kingdom of Christ, nor for the kingdoms of this world."
    -- A Declaration to Charles II, 1660

    The Equality Testimony

    Because Friends believe that the inner light of God is within all of us,
    they believe that all people are equal before God.
    Quakers, unlike most other Christian faiths, believe that God is neither male nor female,
    but is Light, an inward presence of the divine.
    Women as well as men assumed leadership in the Quaker faith from the beginning.
    Recognizing our common kinship with others, Quakers dealt fairly and honestly with the First Nation tribes they encountered
    and were among the first Americans to take active opposition against the practice of slavery.
    Today, the testimony of equality has led to a deep-seated commitment to social justice.
    Groups like the AFSC (the American Friends Service Committee)
    perform relief efforts worldwide and in the United States both to help those in need and to work for peace.

    The Simplicity Testimony

    'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free.
    'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be.
    And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
    It will be in the valley of love and delight.

    When true simplicity is gained,
    To bow and to bend we shall not be ashamed.
    To turn and to turn it will be our delight,
    'Till by turning and turning
    We come round right.

    --Traditional Shaker song

    The Testimony of Simplicity is in many ways at odds with the materialism of the modern world.
    Rather than giving too much importance to material things,
    Friends strive to achieve simplicity in our clothing, our possessions, our speech, and our lives.

    For what it's worth, Friends are not like the Amish and the more conservative Mennonite groups.
    We don't look like the Quaker Oats guy and we don't wear bonnets --not that there's anything wrong with that!
    If you enter a Friends meeting, you're more likely to find people in jeans than in long black coats and suspenders.

    In the early days of the Quakers, the simplicity testimony -- along with the belief in universal equality --
    led to the Quaker custom of addressing everyone, even social superiors normally called by the formal "you," as "thee."
    Some Quakers today hold to this custom, but like many other things, it's really a matter of taste.

    "May we look upon our treasures,
    the furniture of our houses, and our garments,
    and try whether the seeds of war have nourishment in these our possessions."
    -- John Woolman, Friend, 1720-1772

    The Truth Testimony

    Quakers are inspired to speak the truth always and to avoid taking oaths
    such as the oath to "tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" in a court of law.
    Taking this oath would imply that when Friends are not sworn to tell the truth, they might lie.
    Most legal jurisdictions allow Friends to affirm the fact that they are telling the truth, however.

    Las Vegas Quaker Links

    Las Vegas Quakers Homepage
    First Day School Page
    Many Types of Friends
    Books for Young (and older) Friends

    Quaker Faith and Practice

    Pacific Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice
    Southern California Quarterly Meeting Homepage
    Reno Friends Homepage