|Moving Together in the SPIRIT|
|"A Quaker Church"|
The Quaker Peace Testimony
Approved by Whitewater Monthly Meeting, May 15, 2005
Our Testimony to the
World First Friends Meeting
upholds the traditional Quaker testimony to Jesus Christ, the Prince
of Peace, whose teachings, living example, and inner guidance
consistently lead us away from the use of violence. This Quaker
understanding of Christ goes back to the beginnings of our movement
in England in the 1650s. It was given its first definitive
expression by Friends in a 1660 Declaration to King Charles II. That
statement includes the following:
Our Testimony to the World
First Friends Meeting upholds the traditional Quaker testimony to Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, whose teachings, living example, and inner guidance consistently lead us away from the use of violence. This Quaker understanding of Christ goes back to the beginnings of our movement in England in the 1650s. It was given its first definitive expression by Friends in a 1660 Declaration to King Charles II. That statement includes the following:
Our peace testimony is not only a matter of Quaker tradition, but a deep understanding of the Christian faith. It is discipleship to Jesus, who said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God" (Matt. 5:9), and who laid down his own life to show us the fullness of God's love for all. God's love working in us is a carefully nurtured disposition of heart and mind to love, to do no harm to others. Even so, we sustain it only by God's grace. Mere human wisdom, strength, or even love will not suffice in a moment of confrontation and crisis. Even Jesus sweat blood and asked God for a way out when confronted by the human savagery of the cross. Even Jesus despaired of God’s presence with him in the final hours of his life. And we know that we servants are not greater than the Master.
There is no room for pride in the Quaker peace testimony. Only humble hearts may carry it safely forward into the world. So we hold this testimony best when we pray with Jesus, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” We pray that our faith will not be put to the test. But we also know that if we study the ways of peace and practice nonviolence in the small measures of daily living, more grace shall be given, and we may be better prepared when crises arise, whether they be personal confrontations or international conflicts.
Our Continuing Commitment
So we commit ourselves to a life motivated by agape. We will resist all forms of emotional, sexual, or physical abuse, whether in the home, at school, in the workplace, or elsewhere. If we find ourselves in danger of breaking this commitment, we will seek help from others to find different means of resolving our conflicts. We know that peace begins at home and in our meeting.
There are several among our most long-standing and faithful members who have served in the armed forces. Some served before becoming Friends; others served out of a sense of duty to nation or a belief that international evils would overwhelm all peaceful responses. We lovingly acknowledge and respect the risks taken and sacrifices made by these Friends and so many others. Their sacrifices remind us that pacifism cannot be passive, a mere reluctance to confront the evils and injustices of human societies. A full-bodied Quaker-Christian peace-making is prepared to take equal risks and make equal sacrifices, even if the means of our struggle for justice and peace are nonviolent. The Quaker peace testimony is not a smug “we know better” attitude toward international affairs and the work for a just and equitable society.
When the young George Fox refused a role in the Parliamentary Army in 1651, he witnessed that he lived “in the virtue of that life and power that took away the occasion of all wars.” We recognize that we are among the privileged of a wealthy and powerful nation. A holistic Quaker peace witness is actively engaged in promoting social and economic justice, meeting basic human needs, advocating human rights, and mediating conflicts within and between nations. Progress in these areas goes far toward removing the reasons for war. We cannot simply opt out when war breaks out.
Given these realities, let us be watchful and faithful in our words and actions. In our communications at First Friends, let us commit ourselves to the following:
Rather than engage in political speculation and villainization, let us strive toward greater self-examination, personal reformation, and positive action for peace. Let us also draw upon the expertise of the American Friends Service Committee, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, and other organizations to keep our peace witness alive and speaking truth to power.
Advices and Queries for Consideration
The traditional Quaker use of queries for self-examination are useful to keep us honest with ourselves, with one another, and with our Lord. With regard to the broader Quaker peace testimony, these Advices and Queries from Britain Yearly Meeting’s Quaker Faith & Practice (1995) can be useful to each of us as participants at First Friends:
#22. Respect the wide diversity among us in our lives and relationships. Refrain from making prejudiced judgments about the life journeys of others. Do you foster the spirit of mutual understanding and forgiveness which our discipleship asks of us? Remember that each one of us is unique, precious, a child of God.
#31. We are called to live “in the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion of all wars.” Do you faithfully maintain our testimony that war and the preparation for war are inconsistent with the Spirit of Christ? Search out whatever in your own way of life may contain the seeds of war. Stand firm in our testimony, even when others commit or prepare to commit acts of violence, yet always remember that they too are children of God.
#32. Bring into God’s light those emotions, attitudes and prejudices in yourself which lie at the root of destructive conflict, acknowledging your need for forgiveness and grace. In what ways are you involved in the work of reconciliation between individuals, groups and nations?
We conclude with a query from our own Indiana Yearly Meeting's Faith & Practice (1998):
#9. As Christians do you consistently practice principles of love and good will toward all God's people, toward the earth and all creation? Do you work actively for peace and justice by living in such a way that harmony results? Do you endeavor to make clear to all whom you can influence, that war and the preparation for war is inconsistent with the spirit and teaching of Jesus Christ? How do you observe the testimony of Friends that leads toward creative, life-affirming ways of resolving conflict and away from violence and destruction?
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