Quaker spiritual authority lies not in belief systems and in creeds – but in the direct communion between individual Friends and the Divine Spirit. All other forms of authority, “be they written words, steeple-houses or a clerical hierarchy,” cannot replace this direct communion. While early Friends’ refusal to formulate a creed threatened existing religious practice and brought them great persecution, this historic witness against creeds is not fully appreciated by Friends today. The pamphlet’s author asserts that Friends too often hold Quaker testimonies as ideals, as ends in themselves, rather than as fruits of the Spirit. Without spiritual grounding, testimonies become creeds. In the absence of the profound authority of a faith that defies verbal comprehension and words, the historic Quaker witness to the world is in danger.
About the Author(s)
Robert Griswold has been a convinced Friend since 1947. Originally a member of a Friends church (Friends United Meeting), he is currently clerk of Mountain View Friends Meeting (unprogrammed) in Denver, Colorado (Intermountain Yearly Meeting). He has also been clerk of Anchorage Friends Meeting. While he served as Director of Scattergood Friends School (1991-1994), he was a member of West Branch Friends Meeting (Iowa Yearly Meeting [Conservative]). In 1999-2000, as Brinton Visitor in Pacific Yearly Meeting, he gave talks on membership, Friends’ theology, authority and discipline among Friends and his own spiritual journey at about fifty monthly meetings and worship groups. He has had several articles and book reviews published in Friends Bulletin and Friends Journal, and a recent article, “Condition,” published in Quaker Theology. Friends Bulletin has also published his pamphlet, Quaker Peace Testimony in Times of Terrorism.
Pendle Hill Pamphlet #377