The Quaker Way
As Quakers, we aim to live according to our values. Our actions are shaped by an underlying belief that all of creation is sacred, precious and worthy of love. We seek to honour 'that of God' in each person. Our every action can be one of devotion and respect.
Our spiritual understandings lead us to our values or ‘Testimonies’ by which we aim to live. For more than 360 years, the Quaker way of life has been shaped by enduring values which recognise the worth of every person. Currently, our Testimonies are:
- Peace: taking care to avoid violence and all that might lead to violence; and opposing violence
- Simplicity: prioritising our relationships with others, the natural world and ourselves
- Integrity: living authentic lives, being scrupulously honest in all our dealings
- Equality: recognising that all people are of equal value irrespective of difference
- Sustainability: acting from the acknowledgement of our responsibility to care for the Planet
Peace: taking care to avoid violence and all that might lead to violence - and opposing violence
Early Quakers’ experience of civil war and persecution convinced them of the moral and spiritual power of non-violence. Since 1660 Friends have sought non-violent resolution of conflict in personal, social, national and international relations – this is our Peace Testimony. For Quakers, world peace begins at home in the building of families and communities skilled in non-violent communication and conflict resolution. Read our Statement on Social Justice here.
Historically, Quakers have been active opponents of war and militarism. Many have been conscientious objectors to war service. However, this was not a requirement of membership and some chose military service. We have acted to relieve suffering caused by war and oppression. In 1947 Quakers were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for relief work with the victims of war and famine. The peace testimony includes action against all violence – social injustice, racism, the denial of human rights, and all forms of oppression. We promote worldwide economic and cultural development on a basis of self-determination and dignity. As peace-builders we continue to mediate in world conflicts, promoting dialogue instead of the use of force.
The Quaker way to peace includes a harmonious relationship with the life-forms and diverse riches of our planet, living as one part of Earth's systems, not as proprietors. Responsible living means choosing not to waste, exploit or destroy. We encourage reverence for life and a sense of the splendour of the natural world. You can read our Yearly Meeting Peace Statement (1987) and Peace statement (2014).
Simplicity: prioritising our relationships with others, the natural world and ourselves
Living a simple lifestyle can be a source of spiritual strength. To live peacefully, to value people equally and to support the just sharing of the Earth's limited resources we are called upon to examine our choices and limit our consumption.
Quaker simplicity doesn’t mean following strict rules of dress or conduct or eschewing technology, but moderate living avoids over-indulgence and slavery to fashion. Our integrity requires that we use our personal resources to sustain ourselves but also to sustain all life on earth. Children and young people are under particular pressure to acquire, consume and do what is fashionable or aggressively advertised. Adults can help children to develop inner strength by their own example, and by working out together what is right and possible, given the family's circumstances.
Living simply is about putting first things first: the people around us, the natural world, and our spiritual lives.
Simplicity has its own beauty. It does not exclude artistic creativity, which is a deep human need, and can be an expression of the divine. Quakers look for an inner stillness in worship and in personal spiritual life, and a simplicity which lets go of inessential commitments in order to be truly centred.
Integrity: living authentic lives, being scrupulously honest in all our dealings
The testimony of Integrity comes from a deep inner commitment to being true to ourselves and to that of God within us. It prompts us to strive to be authentic: honest and straightforward in speech and in our relationships. We try to honour our financial responsibilities, as family members and as citizens. Quakers try to ensure that their own lives are clear of any practice to which they propose to object.
We aren’t perfect, so we try to approach life with humility. We remind ourselves to ‘think it possible you may be mistaken’. We are aware that authenticity is hard to achieve when our culture is pushing us to consume and compete - to the winner the spoils, the ends justifying the means. Quakers value our silent Meetings for Worship and our Meeting community that help us to stay open to the truth, and to act lovingly towards others and towards the Planet.
The longstanding Quaker testimony against oaths is based on honesty. Because Quakers believe that there is no double standard of truth we do not swear on the Bible or any other religious text if we have to make a legal statement or give testimony in court. On any occasion where an oath is expected, all citizens as well as Quakers are entitled to make a legally acceptable affirmation.
Integrity requires us to be forthrightly honest to power-holders whom we discern to be acting unjustly, oppressively or exploitatively, whilst seeking justice and reconciliation.
Equality: recognising that all people are of equal value irrespective of difference
Quakers believe that all people are born equal and worthy of love, irrespective of difference. On this basis Quakers work for equality in all areas of social, cultural, legal, political and economic life, rejecting artificial distinctions of race and social status.
Early Quakers were exceptional in according equal status to women and men – women’s ministry and writings were valued. Margaret Fell was highly esteemed as an early leader of the Quaker movement. We avoid hierarchy in Quakerism – we are all equal and every voice counts.
The principle of equality was a radical acceptance of universal human rights long before such rights were generally understood. Early Quakers were opposed to the grave inequality between the aristocratic wealthy and the poverty-stricken peasantry. Friends today oppose systems that allow the 1% to own more than 50% of the world’s wealth, or for corporate leaders to ‘earn’ huge salaries while paying their workers less than a living wage.
Recognition of the equality of all races was an early understanding of Quakers who fought against slavery. We continue to be inspired to try to change systems that cause injustice and to advocate for people who suffer injustice, such as prisoners of conscience and indigenous peoples. We strive to uphold Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
Quakers were campaigning for independent juries in the 17th-century, for marriage equality in the 20th, and today campaign for equality for all irrespective of gender, faith, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, abilities, ethnicities, wealth or class.
You may also read our Statements on:
Sustainability: acting from the acknowledgement of our responsibility to care for the Planet and all life
Quaker Testimonies – the prompts to act in accordance with our spiritual understandings – evolve as our understanding evolves. Commitment to Spirit, peace, equality, simplicity and integrity led us to adopt a new testimony in the year 2000 to recognise our spiritual responsibility to live with reverence and compassion for all of life. Read more in our Statement on Environmental Sustainability.
We are aware that western lifestyles are degrading our environment and exhausting our resources. The Earth’s systems are not resilient enough to cope with the damage that humans have done to them, and our future is daunting. To care for the environment involves a shift to an economy that nurtures rather than destroys, an ethic that respects and values all life, and a spiritual reformation that leads to an inner peace and richness beyond material gain. In 2012 at a world conference of Friends held at Karbarak University near Nakura, Kenya, The Kabarak Call for Peace and Ecojustice was approved.
More recently, Quaker activity has focused on responding to the tremendous threat to life on the Planet posed by climate change. In 2016 we signed an international Quaker statement on climate change. We have resolved as an organisation to divest from any funds invested in the fossil fuel industries, and Friends have joined demonstrations to call for an end to fracking, oil and gas exploration and for climate justice. Read more about climate change and the work of the Quaker Climate Emergency Correspondent here.
This Quaker Speak video gives further insights into Quakers' approach to sustainability work worldwide: