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 Laura Scattergood on 2nd mo. 2, 2015 at 9:32pm

The fellow's name that had a video on this issue is Callid Keele-Perry. Don't know if he is a member of QuakerQuaker.

Comment by Laura Scattergood on 2nd mo. 2, 2015 at 9:34pm

Just looked him up, he is a member, but I did not spell his name right, Callid Keefe Perry apparently.

Comment by Stephen Petter on 2nd mo. 5, 2015 at 12:02pm

"How did we start using testimonies like a creed?" Not so much 'How" but "Why". Answer: because unlike any other faith group I know of, we do not have a teaching ministry. We have no induction programme; no sermons to remind us frequently what we collectively stand for. In previous generations newcomers came from Christian backgrounds, and were open to being taught and transformed by God. Now we have many who positively reject God, let alone 'divine guidance'. They claim justification by pointing out they aspire to the Quaker testimonies, not informed that these are the result or effect of being Quaker, not the objective of Quakerism 

Comment by James C Schultz on 2nd mo. 5, 2015 at 5:11pm

Amen, Stephen

Comment by Paul Klinkman on 2nd mo. 7, 2015 at 3:52pm

I'll throw out an odd thought, that belief is passe. 

Religion is now the study of things for which some evidence exists, but really we're not 100% sure about these things.  For example, I can name three people who have told me that they've seen angels.  I tend to believe them, but the doubting Thomas side of me can't actually see or measure the angels.  So, I put them in a place between 100% belief and 100% nonbelief, leaning to the belief side. 

The same goes for UFOs.  Another three people have told me of their experiences with UFOs.

The Roman Catholic Church carries this enormous theological superstructure of someplace called limbo where babies go, of who gets to be a saint because they held lots of power, of the theological consequences of a mouse nibbling on a communion wafer.  I don't know anyone who really claims to understand all of this.  It's not that I believe or don't believe.  I push it over into a drawer marked "I don't have to deal with this today." 

Climate change and peace are things that I might have to deal with today.  I take positions here. 

Comment by Laura Scattergood on 2nd mo. 7, 2015 at 6:18pm

"Belief" is passe. hmm.   .  .     I don't know if I think belief is irrelevant or "passe" .   But I do "believe" or "think" that what we believe is secondary to whether we yield fruit.   I remember the story Jesus told about the two sons, one who gave verbal assent to his father's request, but took no action and one who dissented and but later took right action.  In your case Paul right action seems to be centered on two things, peace and climate, and perhaps for each of us there is a certain tugging on what our particular assignments are regardless how man angels we think might dance on the head of a pin.   .  .  I have a lot of leanings and they sometimes collapse in on each other and I have to rebuild the whole thing.  I can't seem to even agree with myself on a number of possibly creed-generating positions.   But I don't have much trouble on certain directives as to what is right and wrong.   I mean there are grey areas at times, but heart-examination often clears up what the best thing is for me to do within my human situation.   Actually queries are more useful than creeds.  .  . or slogans. I mean SPICE is really a slogan.   .   .  No one would ever seriously propose it is a creed......... Would they? .And I suppose the queries could be made into a creed with a little adjusting too.   It is the reductionism that I think troubles those who point out how dangerously close certain Quaker traditions however worthy and benign in themselves can  come to annihilating the ineffable essence of our very collective being.  

Comment by James C Schultz on 2nd mo. 7, 2015 at 6:47pm

Like too many words "belief" ain't what it used to be.

Comment by James C Schultz on 2nd mo. 7, 2015 at 6:49pm

And speaking as  a former engineer, Science ain't what most people think it is.

Comment by Keith Saylor on 2nd mo. 8, 2015 at 12:33pm

When confidence is in outward or literally expired ideological, philosophical, traditional, creedal, theological, political, secular, religious, or metaphysical constructs, such belief is literally passe in the sense that it is passing away. There is also the sense of confidence in outward forms as manque, that is, missing the mark, failed, or fallen short. In this sense, belief or confidence in something not outwardly or "objectively" verifiable, for example, eternal consciousness in Presence, which is intellectually accepted through reason or the outward teachings of other people or institutions, misses the mark because it is literally passe or passing away. All belief or confidence in outward forms is passe, including, for example, belief in outwardly constructed peace and outwardly constructed or modelled climate prediction. This belief is unsustainable.

There is another belief; a confidence in directly experienced Presence as life's anchor. This belief or confidence is in inspired Presence itself rather than expired or outwardly presented forms taught in intellectual, external, or abstract constructs or institutions. This belief or confidence is in an experience not seen by the physical eye, not heard by the physical ear, not tasted by the physical tongue, not touched by the physical nerves, not whiffed by the physical nose, not grasped through the physical brain, not felt in the physical heart. All these too will pass away. This belief or confidence is an experience that is not physically or objectively verifiable. It can only be experience or inspired through inward Presence itself. This is the essence of belief that is sustainable and inspired, therefore not passe or manque; confidence in direct experience of Presence itself that is not readily verifiable through outward bodily or intellectual means.

Comment by Carol Holmes on 2nd mo. 9, 2015 at 9:47am

"There is one, even SPICE Jesus, that can speak to thy condition?"


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