Prophecy and Social Testimonies

"Prophecy" is the traditional term used to describe witness and action that point towards God's vision of how human communities could live together - and the sharp contrast with the values and institutions of our world today.

Resources on Prophecy

Five Dimensions of ProphecyThis is an adaptation of an earlier article by two Catholic priests on interfaith work for economic justice.

"Testimonies" is the term that Quakers use to refer to the widely-held positions that the Religious Society of Friends holds on how Friends should live and also positions that Friends take on important public social issues.  There is no definitive list of these testimonies but a widely used list is:

Peace - opposition to violence and especially participation in wars. George Fox wrote in 1651 that "I told (the Commonwealth Commissioners) I lived in the virtue of that life and power that took away the occasion of all wars and I knew from whence all wars did rise, from the lust, according to James's doctrine... I told them I was come into the covenant of peace which was before wars and strifes were." (See James 4:1-2)

Equality - Friends were revolutionary in having women taking an active co-equal role by women in church government and preaching during the 17th century.  Friends did not immediately recognize the inconsistency of slavery with their belief in "that of God in every person" but later became active opponents of slavery and racism.  More recently Friends have also worked to oppose inequality based on social class, disabilities or sexual orientation.

Integrity - This testimony deals with honesty and the need for consistency between beliefs and lifestyle.  Early Friends took terribly seriously Jesus' admonition to "let your yea be yea and your nay be nay".  Thousands were imprisoned for their unwillingness to take loyalty oaths of various kinds (against the exiled king, against the Pope, for the restored king, etc.)  Often when they were released from prison they were tendered the same oath and ended right back in prison.  Many died there.

Simplicity - This heart of this testimony is to stay clear of activities that interfere with one' ability to discern God's voice.  Early Friends resisted fancy clothes, music, plays, and what they considered to be "pagan" holidays like Christmas.  John Woolman cut back his business when he felt it was interfering with his faithfulness. Modern Friends are often concerned about the potentially spiritually damaging effects of TV, video games, and addictions of all kinds including over-involvement in work.

Earthcare refers to the need to turn away from the many ways in which human overconsumption and callousness is threatening our planet.


Here are some of Peter's writings on this subject:

1968 Richmond Declaration on the Draft  was a corporate statement agreed upon at the National Friends Conference on the Draft & Conscription that offered strong support to Friends taking the noncooperator stance, as I did, in response to the Vietnam-era draft.  (I was on the drafting committee that prepared this declaration.)  

Holy Obedience: Corporate Discipline & Individual Leading  is an article that originally wrote after appearing in a panel at the Friends and the Vietnam War conference held at Bryn Mawr in 1998.  It focuses on the ways in which meetings have - and have not! - acted together as a body to support our testimonies against war and for social justice.

Christ's Jubliee Challenge  Jesus proclaimed "good news to the poor" when he embarked on his ministry 2000 years ago in Palestine. I wondered whether the new millenium would be good news for the world's poor today?  A shorter version of this reflection was printed in Quaker Life in 2001

Jubilee: Proclaim Liberty Through Out the Land was written in preparation for the 2010 annual sessions of New England Yearly Meeting.  NEYM's 350th year was dedicated as "jubilee year" for our YM and the usual business of annual sessions were set aside to help us hear God's call for us today.

This Is Our Testimony is a curriculum I developed as a 7 week course that I taught for many meetings in Philadelphia YM.

Facing Fears of Shared Accountability is a reflection in response to a called session of Philadelphia YM on the subject of climate change.   

Nonviolent Fighters for Bangladesh Freedom is an article by Richard K. Taylor (a member of Philadelphia YM) on the use of nonviolent direct action by members of Movement for a New Society, a movement started by Friends in the 1970's to promote fundamental social change through nonviolent action.  I (Peter) was also involved in MNS, although not this particular action.

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Quote that speaks to me

Death Cannot Kill What Never Dies

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They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it.  
Death cannot kill what never dies.  
Nor can spirits ever be divided that love and live in the same Divine Principle; the Root and Record of their friendship.
If absence be not death, neither is theirs.  
Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still.  
For they must needs be present, that love and live in that which is omnipresent.
In this Divine Glass, they see face to face; and their converse is free, as well as pure.
This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal.
 - William Penn, More Fruits of Solitude, 1702.

Note: This passage was quoted by J.K.Rowling as the epigraph of her novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Braithwaite on Outreach

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Men & Women with a Message of Power

It is as a "religion of life" that Quakerism will be presented in the future and is being presented now.

Its distinguishing note will be its resolve to bring all this human life of ours under the transforming power of spiritual life.  It will stand out against all divisions and compartments that separate the sacred from the secular, the sanctuary from the outward world of nature, the sacrament from the days' common work, the clergy from the laity. 

It will tell of a Christian experience that makes all life sacred and all days holy, all nature a sanctuary, all work a sacrament, and gives to every man and woman in the body fit place and service.  Its concern will be to multiply men and women who will have a message of power because they are themselves the children of light.  It will claim the whole of man's life, and the whole of life, individual, social, national international, for the dominion of the will of God.

William C. Braithwaite and Henry T. Hodgkin, The Message and Mission of Quakerism (Philadelphia, Winston, 1912), 25-26.

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