During a recent meeting for worship, I found myself seated across from my least favorite Quaker T-shirt. Yes, there was a Friend in the T-shirt, but this is not about her. It’s about my increasing discomfort with the four words on the perimeter of the design: simplicity, integrity, peace and equality.

Lately I've heard members of my meeting tell newcomers, “we believe in simplicity, peace, integrity, community, and peace.” As the words pour rhythmically off the tongue, I hear echoes from the church liturgy of my childhood - “I believe in the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints.”

When I first joined Friends, testimonies were described as “a life lived in the Spirit” and not a set of beliefs or ideals. They were the witness of our day to day actions, a testimony to how God was leading us. 

How did we start using testimonies like a creed?

I began struggling with when and why we've changed our focus to the pointing finger rather than the moon above.

What was given to me is pretty simple. By shrinking the richness of Quaker faith and practice down to SPICE, we can avoid the messiness of talking about the Spirit. No one gets uncomfortable. No controversies. No risk of conflict. Even a four star general will proclaim his desire for peace. SPICE is a nice, safe container that won't scare away or offend. 

In a word, it’s bland. Spiritual pablum. 

There’s just one problem. God is not bland. God overflows any notion that we build. Opening oneself up to the the work of the Spirit is frightening and exhilarating and changes us into someone else. We never have and never will control how God moves in and through us. 

The primary opening of George Fox was “there is even one Christ Jesus who can speak to thy condition.”  It’s time come to terms with being the Religious Society of Friends.

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Comment by William F Rushby on 1st mo. 31, 2015 at 8:43pm

Thanks, Stephanie!  SPICE is a way of avoiding the burning bush, encounter of the living God.

SPICE reduces Quaker faith to a five (or is it four, or six?) point formula, when what we really need is a personal and communal relationship with Jesus Christ.  "There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition."

Comment by James C Schultz on 1st mo. 31, 2015 at 10:03pm

In the end it doesn't matter what you believe in.  it's what you do with that belief.  Instead of telling someone what we believe in we should invite them to join us in doing something that shows them how we live whatever we believe.

Comment by Mark Russ on 2nd mo. 1, 2015 at 5:10am

I would say that, what we believe in does matter, but without a consistency between our inner and outer life our beliefs may as well be irrelevant. Some inner attitudes can be very harmful to the individual and the community, and should be challenged and changed. A transformed way of life comes from the renewing of our minds.

Comment by Christopher Hatton on 2nd mo. 1, 2015 at 1:36pm

Thank you Stephanie, I mentioned something similar at how uncomfortable I had become within German Yearly Meeting about the use of "SPICE(S)**" becoming creeds, and that I can no longer hear of the peace testimony or the testimonies to equality as stand-alone intellectual discussions coupled with some actions. I can not say if most of these actions were Spirit-led, I was not there. 

The blandness, the stripping out of the spirit of Christ however is a common theme, the fact many  German speaking Friends, shy away from using "das Licht Christi" is part of  that. 

I still have a faded blue T-shirt with "Quakers for Peace" in white, I was once asked, do we all not want "peace", back then I send, no some people like/need war. Back then I had not let Christ in to come and teach me himself, I did not understand the wider implications.

** (s) is for Sexuality 

Comment by James C Schultz on 2nd mo. 1, 2015 at 4:47pm

It was pointed out we need a renewal of our minds.  I like to emphasize there is a difference between our mind and our brain.  We are stuck with the physical brain we have but our minds, like software, can be upgraded continuously.

Comment by David John Nourish on 2nd mo. 2, 2015 at 5:23am
For me this is a crucial distinction; Creeds are prescriptions for the future, Testimonies are retrospective in that they say, "This is our current understanding about this issue, but we are open to new light." Need I say I'm not a SPICES fan.
Comment by James C Schultz on 2nd mo. 2, 2015 at 10:59am

If I wanted to defend SPICE I would say it represents principles and not beliefs.  I was a member of one church that defended tithing that way saying it was a principle and not a law and therefore wasn't abolished by the New Testament.  Giving is probably a principle but affixing a fixed percentage is probably a carryover from the old testament law.

The principles of SPICE as principles should not be considered fixed in stone for each and every situation not leaving room for personal guidance received after prayer and fervent soul searching.  A sign of their being more "law" and "creedish" would be if they were grounds for division and/or "shunning".

Comment by William F Rushby on 2nd mo. 2, 2015 at 11:53am

"There is one, [no, five,] even SPICE, that can speak to thy condition."

A poor, silly gospel!  If this is "First World" Friends' message to the world, is it any wonder that the Quaker movement is in steep decline in America and Europe? 

Comment by James C Schultz on 2nd mo. 2, 2015 at 12:39pm

:)

Comment by Laura Scattergood on 2nd mo. 2, 2015 at 4:52pm

Wow, everyone yeah. .  . That one clever fellow has a video about the very same thing, and I can't recall his name, the guy who does the "Jewels of Quakerism."  

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