Creeds and Belief

Because Friends have no formal creed or dogma, many people assert that we are free to believe whatever we want.  To what degree do you agree with this sentiment?


Collected From an Open Online Survey
7/26/09 – 7/30/09


I think we are free to believe what we have experienced and tested in community.  I don’t think we are free to believe whatever we want.  In fact, we must believe what we have experienced

-Lu from Rochester, NYYM


I think, like many things that get said about Quakerism, this is a gross oversimplification.  We area Society for a reason–we need to test our leadings, our beliefs corporately.  Friends can believe anything that truly comes from a place of connection with Spirit, that causes them to live in truth.

-Liz/Savannah Friends (SEYM)


I thought it means that we’re free to believe whatever God wants. Big difference. I do take issue with those who want to shorten our name. We are the RELIGIOUS Society of Friends, not the Society of Friends. We are a worldwide faith community, not a social group, but within that there is room for many different experiences of the Divine

-Susan Lee Barton, Clear Creek MM, Ohio Valley YM


If we believe that the Light shines in all, there develops a very firm set of beliefs.  We mustrespect and honor and assist all, as led.  If we believe in continuing revelation, again, we believe that there is more than historically honored scripture – that scripture/communication is alive and continually being added to.

We are free to interpret the Creator and our interactions with this force in any way that speaks to us.

-Anonymous, Perry City Friend, NYYM


It’s absolutely true we can believe whatever we want, but that does not mean are anyone other than ourself need accept or even respect that belief. I don’t believe this is specific to the ReligousSociety of Friends. It’s hard to discern, because so many friends avoid discussions of belief because we don’t want to judge others or be judged because of our personal perception.

-Pam Rider


Although there are probably beliefs that are more useful/effective for guide one into living the life that early Friends aspired to, I suspect that one can believe whatever one wants if for no other reason that it is the experience of the Light and the Practice of dwelling in Love that really matters.  If one possesses the Truth and the Light and the Seed grows in them what does it matter the words that one uses to talk about it.  Even the “correct” words only hint at how to walk the path, how to recognize when you have arrived, and what to do when you have (or have not) arrived.

-Kenn Harper, Rochester Meeting, NY


This is the same  error in spiritual thinking that leads people thinking about politics to say, “Hey,it’s a free country, I can do what I want.” I believe that this is wrong.

We don’t have a formal creed or dogma because we believe in continuing revelation. This will always create tensions among people because some people feel that one thing is revealed to them which is right for all.

That said, we DO have a long and very vibrant history of testimonies and Faith and Practice books,and journals. Taken as a whole, these documents frame an “arena” of belief within which Friends must live. Minimally, those who consider themselves Quakers need to be able to say how what they believe, if it is VERY different from the testimonies, can be derived from the Testimonies. This is not creed or dogma; it simply requires that each person  link their beliefs to the Testimonies. Examples that have made us distinct and earned us persecution include simplicity, peace,community, etc.

All of that is to say, perhaps what we DON’T have the right to do is to judge what others believe based on how “Quakerly” they (or we) think they are

-Sue Tannehill Buffalo, NY


I do not agree in any degree at all.

I believe that anyone who is nurtured by the worship and other activities of a Quaker faith community should receive our hospitality, respect, and explanation of who we are and why.However, those who form the core of the community – who discern and articulate who we are as a people of faith – need to be convinced of the historic position of Friends as part of the (unseen) Christian church, and be actively involved in the “conversion of manners” needed to live out that position in the world at large.  I say “need” because I believe that if there is not a core of people”of like mind”, no faith community of any persuasion can long endure.  Friends understand thatChrist has come to teach us Himself:  we should always be listening to what Christ has to say forus to learn in the present day.  Anyone who wants to sit in on that process is welcome to do so,but not welcome to re-define the process to something else.

-Lloyd Lee Wilson – Rich Square Monthly Meeting, NCYM(C)


I disagree with this.  I feel that there are some essential components to our religion e.g. that there is that of God in everyone.  I would not consider someone a Friend if he/she d  did not believe this.There is a lot of room for individual interpretation; the clearness process with Friends, if done well,will help individuals decide if they belong in the Religious Society of Friends

-Susanne Ratcliffe Wilson, Redwood Forest Friends Meeting


This is a tough one. I long for a common belief in a Holy Presence among Quakers, my spiritualcommunity. Yet how do we live into that without rigidly defining God and our beliefs aboutwho/what God is? So, for example, I would like my community to be more explicit in beinggrounded in the Holy Spirit, yet I would not want to feel that I had to be defined by certain beliefs.I feel the tension of this place and hope and pray for God’s guidance as we wrestle with this question.

-Mary Kay Glazer, Ticondaroga Worship Group, NYYM


 I disagree with this. I believe that the basis of who we are, and our various practices originates (orought to originate) from the Divine Law of Love and the teachings of Jesus. I believe that, while we each have a personal necessity to listen and obey the Spirit’s voice within,Quakerism also has a fundamental belief in the corporate experience and obedience to God. To methis means that there is a corporate experience and formation of belief and practice. And a need for us to submit to the corporate wisdom in the Spirit as well, through testing and discernment within our meetings and churches.

-Anonymous, Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting