The “Quaker Testimonies”

What are the Quaker Testimonies?


Collected From an Open Online Survey
7/5/09 – 7/9/09


  • Harmony.
  • Equality.
  • Simplicity.
  • Community.

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


The Quaker Testimonies are the expressions of the experience shared by Friends of basic ways in which living in The Light will show in our lives.  They are not like doctrines, imposed from without,but what understanding each individual will come to about conducting life in The Light when contemplating how to implement the love we share.  For that reason each person will have a personal understanding of each testimony, but also for that reason the testimonies should serve as basis for self-examination.

-Nate Swift, Medford Friends, NWYM


Quaker Testimonies started out as individual leadings of the Spirit that became widely accepted as guidelines for Quakers.  They have changed over time.  For example there used to be a testimony about how one decorated pie crust.  Relatively recently they have been formulated in to a shortlist.  This concise list makes it easier to teach the Testimonies but also makes it easier to think of them as rules, which they are not.   Someone trying to follow them as rules runs the risk of practicing the very thing that Fox taught against – i.e. professing something that they do not profess.  Testimonies are a sign post but not the destination.  The destination is walking a Spirit filled life.  When one does that then one tends to live into the Testimonies as a byproduct and asone lives into the Testimonies one walks more deeply in the Spirit.

-Kenn Harper, Rochester, NY


The testimonies arise individually and corporately out of our life in the Spirit.  Individually, they arewhat we testify to as demonstrative of the working of Spirit within us, Truth as we have beengiven it, how our lives speak.  Corporately, they are what we understand to be demonstrative ofliving in gospel order, what we try to live into.  A dynamic balance holds both the individual leading and the corporately discerned wisdom that we can name when we are in unity.

-Lu from Rochester, NYYM


I embrace eight core values, which are similar to the Quaker testimonies. They are love, freedom,equality, peace, justice, wholeness, truth, and empowerment.

-Charley Earp – Northside Friends (Chicago)


I understand that the testimonies are called “testimonies” because we can testify that God wills us to act in these ways.  We do not say that we have decided to act in these ways.  We say that weknow by personal experience (not by thinking about it) that God wants us to act in these ways.(Readers might want to go back and read how Fox actually talks about the peace testimony for anexample.)The main testimonies are that God wants us to be peaceful–we are not to use violence toaccomplish our goals.  God wants us to be truthful–to say exactly what we believe to be true andnot to embellish or engage in idle speculation.  God wants us to keep it simple–making thingscomplex is to depart from God’s will and to follow our own.  God wants us to see all people asequals–we should not flatter the rich, powerful or famous.  We should not treat them as in anyway more special or more important than ordinary people.  In fact the whole idea of special people and ordinary people should be thrown out.

-Anonymous, NCYM-C


Friends have found that a relationship with God has led different Quakers to similar expressions in our lives of the faith and truth that He offers us.  The way we live testifies to our relationship with God.

Friends have found that they are called out of participation in wars and into a life that treats all people evenly.  The manner of life is simple and all aspects are considered and held up to the Light.   This leaves minimal impediments to relationship with Christ.   The life found in the community of a Friends meeting can help us in responding faithfully to the calling of Truth in our hearts.

The testimony of our lives is described in different ways, but the importance of having a life that reflects our experience of  God remains.

-Jay Thatcher, Corvallis Friends Meeting, North Pacific YM


Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, Unity (with God, with each other and all of creation).  I know I missed one and it escapes me now!  These are guidelines for living – easy tolist and I feel much more complex than is apparent.  For example, just figuring out what it means to live in simplicity can take a life-time of thought, behavioral change, and de-conditioning

-Susanne Ratcliffe Wilson, sojourning in Homer, Alaska


I understand testimonies as the accumulated experience of Friends: when we give our will over to G-d, this is where G-d leads us.

  • Integrity is a linchpin or keystone, foundational to the others: Are we living our lives in accordance with what we understand to be true?
  • Simplicity is another foundational one: Are we freeing ourselves up to follow G-d?
  • Equality (respect) and Peace (encompassing justice, reconciliation, and nonviolence) flow out of our understanding that we all have a seed within us from G-d that grows in relationship with G-d.
  • Community: an understanding that G-d’s gifts and leadings are given to communities and aremost fully realized in community

-Judy Goldberger, Beacon Hill Friends Meeting & Jamaica Plain Worship Group


the testimonies i’ve been told are integrity, simplicity, equality, community and peace.   at the beginning of my quaker journey these were beautiful, these were enough.  now i see them more as a precursor to what i consider to be the singularly most important thing we can do as quakers, as humans and that is to stay in the light, to remain connected to god and all of creation throughout our day, throughout our lives.

-Anonymous, Sandpoint Friends Meeting


Early Quaker Testimonies were very specific guidelines for living a faithful life.  They were usually prohibitive, and made Friends quite “peculiar.”  One was the Testimony Against Mince Pies.  Mincepies were seventeenth century fast food.  They were a meat pie, made of mince meat (better not to ask), and they were baked in dough.  Whatever dough was left over after the pie was closed was cut off and fashioned into an angel which was put on top of the pie to become a crispy treat. Or else a graven image!  So, Friends would not eat the mince pies.  This may seem silly, but Howard Brinton accidentally created the modern Testimonies in his book, Friends for 300 years. These testimonies could better be called “Friends Glittering Banalities,” since they are so general as to be nearly meaningless.  The Peace Testimony is NOT the core of modern Quakerism.  Oh, no.

-Carl Magruder, Pacific Yearly Meeting


San Francisco had a fine meeting-house in what had come to be an expensive district, with a beautiful view of the bay. They sold it and bought a place in  a lively, economically-mixed area downtown

-Forrest Curo, San Diego Meeting


Gandhi’s epiphany on the train to St. Moritz.

-Sue Tannehill Buffalo, NY