Four Major Testimonies
Testimonies are central beliefs that form the core of Quaker worship and practice.
The Peace Testimony
This statement made by early Quakers sums it up simply and clearly:
“We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons, for any end
or under any pretence whatsoever. And this is our testimony to the whole world.
The spirit of Christ…which leads us into all Truth,
will never move us to fight and war against any man with outward weapons,
neither for the kingdom of Christ, nor for the kingdoms of this world.”
— A Declaration to Charles II, 1660
The Equality Testimony
Because Friends believe that the inner light of God is within all of us,
they believe that all people are equal before God.
Quakers, unlike most other Christian faiths, believe that God is neither male nor female,
but is Light, an inward presence of the divine.
Women as well as men assumed leadership in the Quaker faith from the beginning.
Recognizing our common kinship with others, Quakers dealt fairly and honestly with the First Nation tribes they encountered
and were among the first Americans to take active opposition against the practice of slavery.
Today, the testimony of equality has led to a deep-seated commitment to social justice.
Groups like the AFSC (the American Friends Service Committee)
perform relief efforts worldwide and in the United States both to help those in need and to work for peace.
The Simplicity Testimony
‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free.
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be.
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
It will be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shall not be ashamed.
To turn and to turn it will be our delight,
‘Till by turning and turning
We come round right.
–Traditional Shaker song
The Testimony of Simplicity is in many ways at odds with the materialism of the modern world.
Rather than giving too much importance to material things,
Friends strive to achieve simplicity in our clothing, our possessions, our speech, and our lives.
For what it’s worth, Friends are not like the Amish and the more conservative Mennonite groups.
We don’t look like the Quaker Oats guy and we don’t wear bonnets –not that there’s anything wrong with that!
If you enter a Friends meeting, you’re more likely to find people in jeans than in long black coats and suspenders.
In the early days of the Quakers, the simplicity testimony — along with the belief in universal equality —
led to the Quaker custom of addressing everyone, even social superiors normally called by the formal “you,” as “thee.”
Some Quakers today hold to this custom, but like many other things, it’s really a matter of taste.
“May we look upon our treasures,
the furniture of our houses, and our garments,
and try whether the seeds of war have nourishment in these our possessions.”
— John Woolman, Friend, 1720-1772
The Truth Testimony
Quakers are inspired to speak the truth always and to avoid taking oaths,
such as the oath to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” in a court of law.
Taking this oath would imply that when Friends are not sworn to tell the truth, they might lie.
Most legal jurisdictions allow Friends to affirm the fact that they are telling the truth, however.