The Religious Society of Friends is a community of faith based on an experience of a transforming power named many ways: the Inner Light, the Spirit of Christ, the Guide, the Living God, the Divine Presence.
Membership includes openness to an ongoing relationship with God and willingness to live one’s life according to the leadings of the Spirit as affirmed by the community of faith. For generations of Friends, membership has been an outward sign of an inward experience of Christ, the “true light which gives light to everyone” (John 1:9).
Friends have proclaimed from the beginning that every person is endowed with the capacity to enter directly, without mediator or mediation, into an empowering holy communion with God.
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Quakers have no dogma or officially mandated doctrine. We believe that continuing revelation is available to everyone.
However, we value certain principles known as testimonies. These include simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality and stewardship. Friends try to embody and live up to these testimonies in all aspects of our lives.
The Religious Society of Friends arose in England in the middle of the seventeenth century. This was a time of turbulence and change in both religion and politics. In the established Church of England, great emphasis was placed upon outward ceremony; there, and in such dissenting churches as the Baptists and Presbyterians, religious faith was also generally identified with the authority of the Bible or the acceptance of a formal creed. Many individuals, however, became increasingly dissatisfied with ceremonies and creeds and broke away from these churches. Singly or in small groups, they turned inward in search of a religion of personal experience and direct communion with God. They rejected, therefore, the assumption that this communion, which is essential to spiritual health, occurs primarily in the presence of designated persons in an established religious institution using sacred language and rituals.
Friends, both in individual worship and in meetings for worship and for business, continue to experience the presence of the living God not only as awe and healing but also as guidance for conduct. Like the prophets of Israel, we proclaim the unity of religious faith and social justice.
The Religious Society of Friends continues to affirm that refreshment of spirit and the ability both to know and do right come when families and individuals, in daily life and in meeting, trust in the Light that enlightens and empowers everyone who comes into the world.
Quakers have traditionally been wary of creedal statements as limiting our understanding of God. The rejection of creeds, however, does not imply the absence of doctrine or statements of belief. From the earliest times of our society, individual Friends, as well as small groups of Friends and Friends’ meetings have issued written statements of their beliefs to the world. Among the doctrines finding wide acceptance by Friends are a universal saving light and belief in continuing revelation.