The Quaker testimonies as our collective wisdom wiki


My sort-of response to Callid's great Youtube piece on the Quaker testimonies, I compare the classic testimonies to a wiki: the collective knowledge of Friends distilled into specific cautions and guides. "We as Friends have found that...." I do talk about how the recent "SPICE" simplification (simplicity, integrity, integrity, community and equality) has robbed our notion of testimonies of some of their power.

  • Tom Smith

    I appre­ci­ate your thoughts and one of th ways I mea­sure how much oth­ers have made an impact on my thoughts is by how much I am moved to respond. In this case I wrote a new post on quak­erseek­er in response. I believe we need to empha­size the pos­i­tive intent of fol­low­ing the Spir­it of Christ as our tes­ti­mo­ny as much if not more than not fol­low­ing the ways of the world. Rather than pro­hi­bi­tions of actions we need to empha­size the DO unto oth­ers, Love God, Love your neigh­bor more than the “Thou shalt not.” It seems that the “Qui­etis­tic” peri­od of Friends came about as a result of focussing on the NOTs rather than the DOs. How­ev­er, I strong­ly gree with you that far too often the DO becomes “license” rather than “Dis­ci­pline.” I par­tic­u­lar­ly was struck with one advice regard­ing alco­hol use. I am away from home and do not have the ref­er­ence avail­able but will try to do jus­tice in spir­it if not in let­ter to the advice. We dare not take away the light of friend­ship and com­pan­ion­ship, no mat­ter how dim, of the win­dows of the (pub) unless we have some­thing bet­ter and brighter to put in its place.

    I think the Friends tes­ti­monies need to be artic­u­lat­ed from doing the will of God or fol­low­ing the Spir­it of Christ more than as a set of rules telling us what not to do.
    One of the best expres­sions of this atti­tude I know is that Friends are not so much AGAINST the “Sacra­ments” as FOR Sacra­men­tal Liv­ing in all that we say and do 24/7.-

    • Hi Tom: thanks for your reply here and on your blog. I sus­pect we aren’t so far apart. Hav­ing not grown up very reli­gious, I’m attract­ed to the dis­ci­pline Friends offer; hav­ing grown up a preacher’s kid you’re more attract­ed to the free­dom Friends offer. Both togeth­er are need­ed, of course. 

      Most on my mind these days are var­i­ous Quak­er bod­ies that I know that have become end­less­ly dis­tract­ed by a few clearly-transgressive Friends. I’ve seen com­mu­ni­ties torn apart because the peo­ple who should be lead­ers just let trou­ble­mak­ers hijack all of the atten­tion. Cer­tain­ly, you’re right that the main part of our work is love. But I think we do need some stan­dards too. The body of Christ isn’t healthy with­out both.