Quaker unity is based on shared understanding and a shared practice of worship, not on our beliefs all being the same. In particular, there is a great diversity within the Quakers on conceptions of God and the use of different kinds of language to describe religious experience.
Quakers have a conception of God that is similar to that of orthodox Christians, and they would use similar language. Others are happy to use God-centered language, but would conceive of God in very different terms to the traditional Christian trinity. Some describe themselves as agnostics or humanists or non-theists, and describe their experiences in ways that avoid the use of the word God entirely.
Quaker faith is built on experience and Quakers would generally hold that it is the spiritual experience that is central to Quaker worship, and not the use of a particular form of words.
Our Quaker faith is experienced through action in our lives. This action cannot be imposed in any way, but it flows from the spiritual experience of each individual. Quakers search for ways in which we can live out our faith through the values that guide our daily lives. No two Quakers live out their faith in the same way, but as Quakers, each of us is open to the leadings of the Spirit. Being part of a supportive community encourages us to try to make our daily lives an affirmation to our spiritual beliefs.
Some of our spiritual insights, which we call our testimonies, spring from deep experience and have been re-affirmed over the last 400 years by successive generations of Quakers.
These testimonies are simplicity, peace, integrity (truth), community, equality, and stewardship (remembered by the acronym of SPICES).
Simplicity - Quakers are deeply concerned about using financial and natural resources carefully and value the spirit of material possessions. We try to keep life simple so we are free to live in harmony and alignment with our soul’s purpose. We understand there is a connection between the choices we make as consumers and the business practices that take unfair advantage of people or resources and therefore contribute to inequalities throughout the world.
Peace - Quakers commitment to peace stems from the knowledge that everyone has a precious, divine spark within. We are led to practice peace in the way we relate to others, the choices we make, and the work we do to help others, especially the victims of war and violence, both in our community and in the world. We work to raise awareness of economic and social injustice, and support alternatives to violence. We have an abiding commitment to change the circumstances that lead to war and strive to live peacefully at home and in the wider world.
Integrity - Quakers have always been clear that honesty in all our dealings was fundamental. Early Quaker artisans and shopkeepers soon acquired a reputation for honesty and fair prices.
Another manifestation of this testimony is often called ‘speaking truth to power’. Quakers are exhorted not to stand by, but to speak out about injustices we see. We intend to speak the truth to all, including to people in positions of power, people with whom we disagree, and in situations where we must stand as a grounded dissenting voice, and to do so in a genuine loving and caring way. We seek to let our lives speak in ways that our outer lives reflect our inner lives.
Community - This is fundamentally about responding to the welfare of others, both within one’s immediate circle and in the extended human family. Working for criminal justice and rehabilitation and for victims of crime, is part of this. The relief programs Quakers have undertaken in times of famine, disaster and conflict, are another aspect. Seeking justice for refugees and asylum seekers, also witnesses to this.
Equality - Quakers recognize the equal worth and the unique nature of every person. There are no exceptions. This means valuing with people who are experiencing injustice, illness, prejudice, and people we have difficulty understanding. The Quaker value of equality moves us to work to change the systems that cause injustice and help to bring this light of understanding to our relationships with others. One of the consequences of our equality testimony is that we welcome lesbian, gay and bisexual and transgendered men and women, and have a fundamental commitment to equality and inclusion, regardless of age, ability, education, wealth, ethnicity, race, or religion. We affirm the love of God for all people.
Stewardship - Quakers are aware of the gifts of the natural world with which we are blessed. We have a strong commitment to live in a sustainable way, being mindful of our responsibility to share these gifts with our global village as well as generations yet to come.