Image: Hartz Mountains, Tasmania, Emily Chapman-Searle
Quakers have never had a creed that sets out what to believe. We are each different, our different life experiences and spiritual experiences mean that belief (our understanding of how the world works) is different and needs to evolve with us.
Quakers talk about what we each believe but not with a drive to bring each other into alignment. We accept the diversity that necessarily results amongst us. Discussion brings new questions, new ideas, new understandings.
Some Quakers are theistic and understand God to be important in their lives. Some speak more easily about the Spirit which connects them, whilst not holding that there is a divine entity.
Quaker belief is more a set of questions and challenges, than a set of well-formulated answers. The answers are individual, as are the questions. We seek in company with each other, and recognise the importance of doing life's journey in community with each other. Quakers tend to get on with what they see needing to be done towards making the world a better place, even if they have not worked out the theory. Find out more about this by learning about our concerns.
Quaker testimonies and some other original statements express what attracts people to Quakerism and guides what they work for. A core statement is that "there is that of God in everyone". This expresses an important idea, yet Quakers will describe its meaning in a range of ways. Some do not relate to the word "God", yet would understand the guidance to treat each other with equality. Most people (Quakers included) are challenged to find "that of God" in someone who we see as visibly "evil", but the challenge brings positive struggle.
The founders of Quakerism were certainly Christian, and well-schooled in the Bible. Yet they recognised the "inner light" that is in each of us. Quakerism respects and uses the Bible as a core text, yet we know that other writings (and media) contain profound truths, often expressed more fittingly for non-Biblical times and cultures. Trusting our inner light means we value what our experience teaches us. Quakers are more likely to base judgments on what they have learned in experience than reliance on "authority".
LISTEN: To listen to David Bevan from ABC Radio Adelaide's "Meet God" program interviewing Australia Yearly Meeting's Presiding Clerk Jo Jordan about Quaker beliefs and testimonies, click here.
READ: The ABC News article From eco-activists to anarchist allies, Quakers are redefining what it means to be Christian (ABC News, May 2019), here.