If there’s one thing you can definitively say about all Quakers, it’s that there’s almost nothing you can definitively say about all Quakers.
There are Conservative Friends, Evangelical Friends, Holiness Friends, Liberals, Universalists, Gurneyites, and even Non-theists Friends. They have different ways of worship and different ways they relate to God and the Bible.
But if there is one thing that most Friends do agree on, it might be the Quaker testimonies.
In their 2021 ‘Guide to Our Faith and Practice’, the Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting and Association (SAYMA) says that testimonies “help mold our conscience and outward behavior.”
But the testimonies are not commandments or rules or measuring sticks for judging people. They are spiritually-based principles that we can use to guide our lives. How Friends manifest the testimonies in their own lives is for each individual to decide.
The Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) website said this:
“They arise from an inner conviction and challenge our normal ways of living. They exist in spiritually-led actions rather than in rigid written forms. They are not imposed in any way and they require us to search for ways in which we can live them out for ourselves.”
Not suprisingly, different Quakers have different lists of the specific testimonies, although there are more similarities than differences between them. In the United States, many meetings refer to the testimonies of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship. These testimonies are frequently referred to by the acronym SPICES.
We’ll take a look at each of the SPICES testimonies in upcoming Reflections.