Friends General Conference

Together we nurture the spiritual vitality of Friends

Social Concerns

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Quakers have a long and venerable history of working to make the world a better place, and our meeting continues to seek ways to build a more peaceful, just, and sustainable society. At the same time, we must confess that we continue to struggle to release ourselves from the legacies of privilege, including our roles in displacing indigenous people and slaveholding, and our ongoing complicity with racism. We are actively engaged in the struggle, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to achieve healing and integrity in our community, and to continue to bring our faith values to the healing of the world.  

The Testimonial Life and the “Testimonies”

That is the heart of the Quaker approach to social change: to follow the leadings of the Spirit, which seeks always to lead us into right word and action. Our goal is to live our outward lives in accordance with the inward guidance of the Spirit.

Over the centuries, this guidance has manifested in some ways so consistently and broadly among us that certain “testimonies” have become settled elements of our faith. They have evolved and matured as new truths are revealed to us. For instance, we once addressed all people as equals, regardless of whether we were below or above them in social station, using thee and thou; now we have a “testimony” of equality.

Lists of such “testimonies” vary, but they commonly include the following:

  • Peace and nonviolence. We are opposed to wars and embrace nonviolent methods of social change; we encourage our young people to seek conscientious objector status in times of war.
  • Equality and social justice. We seek equality for women, for people of all races, ethnicities, and religions, for LGBTQ folks and all gender identities, for immigrants, and for all oppressed and marginalized people.
  • Criminal justice reform. We seek to end mass incarceration and an end to the death penalty.
  • Care for the earth. We seek not just the preservation of our mother earth but the restoration of a stable and life-sustaining climate and whole and healthy ecosystems everywhere. We seek environmental justice and access to clean, affordable energy for all. We seek a sustainable economy and energy system. We seek the end of mass extinction, the health of our oceans, and the reversal of our climate catastrophe.
  • Simplicity. We seek to live as lightly on the earth as possible and we embrace a plain religious architecture without religious accoutrements and a radically simple form of worship, sitting only in silent, expectant waiting on the Spirit without other worship service elements.
  • Honesty and integrity. Following Jesus’ injunction (Matthew 5:34), we do not take oaths in court or elsewhere; rather we affirm our truthfulness, seeking to “let our yay be yay and our nay be nay,” to be honest and truthful in all of our dealings. In general, we seek to “let our lives speak,” to be authentic and genuine in our personhood, and to be faithful to our conscience.

Social Concerns Committees of the Meeting

Peace and Social Concerns Committee—Explores and engages in social concerns on behalf of the meeting, encourages participation in social change work and faithfulness to their witness leadings.

Racial Healing and Wholeness Committee—Facilitates opportunities for the meeting to increase its awareness of the impact of racism on all of us and supports creating a strongly welcoming environment for vistors, attenders, and members who are people of color.

White-Richardson Trustees—Recommends disbursal of income from a trust dedicated to supporting enhanced educational opportunities for children of color in Philadelphia.

Witness Ministries

Several Friends in the meeting pursue what we call witness ministries under the meeting’s care. These are sustained efforts by these Friends to effect change in areas of deep concern to them. They include:

  • Helping the Religious Society of Friends Become More Welcoming to People of Color—Vanessa Julye (pronounced like the month), author of Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship: Quakers, African Americans, and the Myth of Racial Justice. Vanessa conducts retreats for Friends of Color; leads workshops and gives presentations to increase awareness of White Supremacy and its effect on Quakerism; and provides a place where Friends who work for racial justice can come together and support each other in their work within their meetings and other communities.
  • Love and Respect Transform, .O: .O conducts support groups, develops curricula, delivers workshops, builds relationships in North Philadelphia and Grays Ferry, and facilitates educational programs to unite Philadelphians around our Right to Breathe, health and safety over profit, no fossil fuel expansion, and a green economy for all.
  • Fair Trade—Yoko Koike Barnes. Yoko works to educate the Philadelphia community on the reasons for fair trade policy and to provide access to fair trade goods. She founded Fair Trade Philadelphia, which led to Philadelphia becoming a Fair Trade city.

Resources on the Quakers and Social Concerns

Concerns, Leadings and Testimonies,” Faith and Practice, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.

Friends Witness in the World,” Faith and Practice, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.

Videos on the Quaker approach to a number of social concerns.

Getting Involved

If you would like to get involved in the meeting's work for peace, justice, and earthcare, contact the office ( and someone on Peace and Social Concerns Committee will get in touch.