Quakers do not share a fixed set of beliefs. Our unity is based on shared understanding and a shared practice of worship, not on our beliefs all being the same. There is no need to be in unity with Quakers on every issue in order to be part of our meetings.
“Dearly beloved Friends, these things we do not lay upon you as a rule or form to walk by; but that all, with a measure of the light, which is pure and holy, may be guided: and so in the light walking and abiding, these things may be fulfilled in the Spirit, not in the letter, for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.”
– statement by the elders of Balby, 1656
In particular, there is a great diversity within the Quakers on conceptions of God and the use of different kinds of language to describe religious experience. Some Quakers have a conception of God which is similar to that of orthodox Christians, and would use similar language. Others are happy to use God-centered language, but would conceive of God in very different terms to the traditional Christian trinity. Some describe themselves as agnostics, or humanists, or non-theists and describe their experiences in ways that avoid the use of the word God entirely. Quaker faith is built on experience and Quakers would generally hold that it is the spiritual experience which is central to Quaker worship, and not the use of a particular form of words (whether that be “God” or anything else).
Not all our beliefs are so diverse. Some of our spiritual insights, which we call our testimonies, spring from deep experience and have been re-affirmed by successive generations of Quakers. These testimonies are to truth, equality, simplicity and peace. You can find out more about these testimonies, and how we live them out in our day-to-day lives, by reading our page on faith in action.
One of the consequences of our equality testimony is that we welcome lesbian, gay and bisexual and transgendered men and women, and have a fundamental commitment to equality and inclusion. We affirm the love of God for all people, whatever their sexuality.
You can find out more about Quaker beliefs and attitudes by reading our Queries & Advices in our Faith & Practice, which give a flavor of the Quaker approach to life.
(Video clip: “What do Quakers believe about God?” Taken from the DVD An Introduction to Watford Quakers.)