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Faith and Practice

Pacific Yearly Meeting

of the

Religious Society of Friends

a guide to quaker discipline in the experience of pacific yearly meeting of the religious society of friends.
published 2001



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Contents page

i: Pacific Yearly Meeting In Context

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Friends Relationship To Christianity

preface
pym in context
quaker faith & spiritual practice
testimony & experience of friends
organization of the society
procedures
activities & organization of the YM
glossary
bibligraphy
appendices
sources of quotations
index of sources
subject index

We gratefully acknowledge the generosity of Friends who have permitted us to use material for this Faith and Practice.

 

 As it is important to consider the place of Pacific Yearly Meeting within the entire Religious Society of Friends, it is important to consider Friends relationship to Christianity, historically and in the present.

 Friends are often asked: “Are Quakers Christians?” Whether one interprets the Quaker movement as a strand within Protestantism or as a third force distinct from both Protestantism and Catholicism, the movement, both in its origin and in the various branches that have evolved, is rooted in Christianity.

 Pacific Yearly Meeting includes many people who were not raised in the Religious Society of Friends and among them are some for whom Christianity is not part of their faith experience. There is thus a great variety of religious belief and expression. Many Pacific Yearly Meeting Friends articulate their Quaker faith in Jewish, Universalist, Buddhist, or other terms. Similarly, Friends hold diverse definitions of Christianity, interpreting and reacting to traditional Christian terminology differently. Some do not accept the defining beliefs required by the church of their youth or of current mainstream Christianity. This has been a point of lively discussion in Pacific Yearly Meeting for the past fifty years.†

 Early Friends considered themselves Christians; they interpreted and justified their unique vision in Biblical and traditional Christian terms. However, from its inception the Quaker movement has offered critiques of many accepted manifestations of Christianity while at the same time empathizing with people of other faiths. We might use the phrase “primitive Christianity” to describe more closely where Friends fit across the Christian spectrum. Primitive Christianity usually refers to those teachings which pre-date Fourth Century Christians, who had been embraced by Constantine and were becoming “established.” These earliest followers of Jesus were radical revolutionaries, representing a “new order” of faithful who lived communally, eschewed violence of all kinds, and practiced simplicity.††

 For some contemporary Quakers, the concept of the Divine Light Within emerges from the Bible, teachings of Jesus and traditional Christian doctrine; for others, it comes through different sacred sources. Quaker history demonstrates that an excessive reliance on any one perspective, neglecting the essential unity among them, has been needlessly divisive.

 In the centuries since its founding, the Religious Society of Friends has embraced a wide variety of beliefs and practices; however, there are important commonalities throughout much of the Society. As Robert Vogel said in 1993, “…[most Quakers adhere to] plainness and devotion to truth, a clear understanding of spiritled worship, and essential inwardness; the use of queries and advices in framing faith; seeking the sense of the meeting in business sessions; the peace testimony and other social concerns; and the rejection of outward ordinances and sacramental worship.”†††

 Friends in London Yearly Meeting (now Britain Yearly Meeting) spoke practically on these matters:

 We respond [here]…in Christian language, but many Quakers would prefer less specifically Christian terminology. We worship, live and work together in unity, however, valuing the variety of expressions of truth which each individual brings.

london yearly meeting
to lima with love, 1987, pp. 7-8

 

† See “Quakerism and/or Christianity” Friends Bulletin (December 1966), which is the transcript of talks at Pacific Yearly Meeting by Henry J. Cadbury.

†† See Primitive Christianity Revived in the Faith and Practice of the People called Quakers,William Penn, 1696 and Quakerism and Christianity, Edwin B. Bronner, Pendle Hill Pamphlet 1967.

††† Friends Journal, March 1993, p. 18