Many Friends share mutual bemusement over what they call The Question, namely: “What do Quakers believe?”
In his “Among Friends” column for the January 2012 issue of Friends Journal, Gabriel Ehri describes how he learned not to preface her answer with “a set of disclaimers [about not speaking for all Quakers]…kind of like the endless legalese licensing agreements we click past when we install a new piece of software.”
As an undergraduate Gabriel realized that, for his new friends, he was “the Quaker,” the only one they knew. “I didn’t get to decide whether I was going to speak for Quakers,” he writes. “My new friends were going to get some answers from me.”
The crucial thing to consider in answering The Question, Gabriel learned, is that “Exactitude is not the point. Introduction is the point.”
More importantly, your answer must be “something you are willing to live.”
In that light, here is what Gabriel calls his version of “Quakerism in 60 seconds or less and free of disclaimers”:
Quakers believe that every person can have a direct, unintermediated relationship with the Divine Spirit, and we seek to establish and nourish that relationship through listening worship together.Gabriel acknowledges that this statement “does not capture all the nuance of what I feel it means to be a Quaker,” and he does not expect all Friends to agree with him. He simply offers us the challenge of creating our own 60-second invitations to Quakerism.
If we listen deeply enough, we find sometimes that we are led, from within, to speak. These messages are our ministry.
A set of strongly held beliefs follows from our understanding of each person as possessing something of God in them. These include the importance of peace, integrity, and equality.
Quakers seek to conduct our business in a manner that tries to follow Spirit’s leading, in a way that respects that each of us is a part of that leading.
How would you frame your own statement?