Friends General Conference

Together we nurture the spiritual vitality of Friends
an unprogrammed Quaker meeting in Knoxville, Tennessee

What we believe

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WKFM meeting room

Friends have no creed, but when asked about our beliefs, we often point to Quaker Testimonies. Testimonies are not statements of beliefs to be subscribed to, instead, they are recognized values based on the evidence of actions and emphases of Quakers throughout our history. Some commonly recognized testimonies are:

Integrity - Integrity is wholeness. Integrity requires consistency of action and straightforward and honest speech. “Do all aspects of your life bear the same witness?” From the beginning, Friends have sought unity in their private way of acting, their public stance, and their relation to the natural world, seeking to live under divine guidance.

Peace - Friends affirm that the best way to relate to people is to appeal to that of God within them. Trusting to the leadings of the Spirit and respecting the Inward Light in all others can avert violent conflict. Denying the legitimacy of war, Friends support those led by the Spirit into a conscientious objection to military service, resistance to conscription or a military draft, war tax resistance, or other acts of civil disobedience that witness against war-making. Friends do not recognize “just” wars since war represents a refusal to pursue other ways of resolving conflict. We work to gain wider support for nonviolent solutions. Friends aid victims of violence, whether from war, crime, community, or family strife out of the belief that each person is uniquely valuable. For the same reason, Friends also reach out to the perpetrators of violence. Support for prisoners, refugees, programs for economic justice, and similar efforts serve not only to remove the causes and aid those touched by violence and oppression but also to encourage nonviolent means of solving problems, locally and globally. We recognize that violence can manifest itself in words as well as deeds. As Friends, we endeavor to bring all aspects of our lives into harmony with this testimony. The peace we seek starts in the individual heart and its relation to God. It is expressed in all our relations.

Equality - Friends believe that all people have the capacity to bear and respond to the Light and that all forms of human relations should reflect this spiritual truth. Friends avoid behaviors that grant superiority based on social status or wealth. They reject the use of honorific titles. Friends believe that we are called to work to end prejudice and oppression.  In the last two centuries, many Friends have worked and are working toward honoring and expanding the rights of women and people of color. More recently, Friends are beginning our work to expand equal rights regardless of sexual orientation. Friends reject stereotyping, discrimination, and artificial barriers that separate people from one another. Equality has been the foundation of Friends’ approach to each other and the world.

Simplicity - Seeking the inner light calls for recognition and removal of distractions and ordering of priorities in order to be more open to the leadings of the Spirit. Simplicity need not mean stark denial but can create joy and beauty in our lives. In the use of time, habits of consumption, sharing of world resources, and indeed every aspect of daily life, simplicity is central for us because it both mirrors and deepens spiritual centeredness.

Community -  Friends are bound together in community by a continual process of common seeking and experience of the Light within. The community provides spiritual and emotional nurture. It also stimulates our thinking and challenges us to put into practice our convictions. In the meeting, we share fundamental ideals and values, and the meeting affirms and inspires us. Within this fellowship, divergent leadings are often present. Friends seek a balance between the needs of the individual and those of the group. Open recognition of and respect for differences, forthright sharing, and sincere reflection can lead individuals to new insight and strengthen the meeting as a whole. Friends strive to be sensitive to others’ spiritual and material needs. Both requesting and giving assistance are essential aspects of Friends’ life together. Friends also provide spiritual support by holding in the Light those experiencing special hardship or joy.