9 Core Quaker Beliefs

As a lifelong Quaker, Arthur Larrabee was frustrated that he couldn’t answer the question, “What do Quakers believe?” So he set out to do just that.

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Jon Watts

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37 thoughts on “9 Core Quaker Beliefs

  1. I agree with most of the points which you have raised. I would want to clarify (at least from my belief system), I’m more in tune with Henry Cadbury’s view on the Bible. The Bible is “one source” not the only source. Many if not most unprogrammed Friends certainly do not accept some of Paul’s writings (ex: homosexuality and more).

    You will say Christ saith this, and the apostles say this, but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of Light and host thou walked in the Light, and what thou speakest is it inwardly m God?

    I find Henry Cadbury address “Friends and the Bible” conforms to my beliefs.

  2. Thank you Arthur for so beautifully articulating these 9 core Quaker Beliefs! I totally resonate with them and am so grateful for the wonderful way you have shared them!

  3. Jon:

    I became a convinced Quaker in the Spring of 2015 after a fairly intense initial study over an 8th month period. Since that time I have read numerous books, pamphlets, online literature, etc and have also taken a few short courses offered by various Quaker authors and teachers. All have added to my understanding and have helped me grow in my faith. But none has described what Quakers believe as well as Arthur has done in this video. I would love to be able to download this video to share with family and friends. Is it possible for me to do that? I would appreciate the guidance in making this happen. Thank you Friends, Arthur and Jon, for this gift you gave me today!


  4. Arthur Larrabee’s remarks are a lucid summary of what many unprogrammed Friends believe.

      1. There is a school called The School of the Spirit — https://www.schoolofthespirit.org/ — which has a number of different programs, some for a weekend, some for much longer. I’ve attended one week-end program. In addition to the weekly meetings, their are a number of Quaker conference centers around the country that have weekend programs. Individual Meetings often have discussion groups and other learning opportunities in addition to their regular Sunday worship.

      2. Mattie
        An ‘Unprogrammed Meeting” is one without a designated pastor or minister; worship is silent, expectant waiting, listening to one’s Inner Teacher, The Spirit, or however one refers to the Source of All.
        Yes there are Quaker Schools. The one I attended is Scattergood Friend School, near West Branch, Iowa. Westtown is in West Chester, PA, and Olney is in Barnesville, Ohio. Wellspring is in Eugene, OR. I know people who have either attended or are connected with all of the. They are easily found by Googling them.
        There are also Quaker colleges. Earlham is my alma Mater; Bryn Mawr, Haverford, Swarthmore, Will=mington William Penn are just a few of Quaker colleges in the US. bFriends Theological College is in Kaimosi, Kenya .
        One learns best how to be a Quaker by attending Quaker meetings and reading Quaker books.
        Pendle Hill is a Quaker Retreat Center with a great book store.

  5. This is by definition –untrue. Many Quakers may take issue with one or all of these points. When will the experience of being quiet (mostly) for a hour a week stop people from talking to much the rest of the time?Ben Schultz

  6. As a life long Friend, it is wonderful to hear Arthur Larrabee’s briliantly worded explanation of Quaker Beliefs that is both concise and accurate. Thanks very much!

  7. Thank you, Arthur, for sharing your beliefs; your summary strikes harmonious chords with many Friends. You speak my mind, when you say there is that of God in everyone (and perhaps every thing); we can discover our truth by experiencing the silence within ourselves; and it’s more convincing to bear witness to our beliefs through our actions than our words.

    However, for me, while recognising the roots of Quakerism are in Christianity, its not rooted there. It’s dynamic – which explains its many schism, and the tension between individualism and corporatism.

    While regarding myself as a Quaker, I, for one, don’t share your belief in God as an omniscient supernatural being responsible for the design and creation of the universe, and revealing the truth to one species on one planet. I see the Bible as a record of Jewish political and spiritual history, as the writers and subsequent Christian editors wished it to be. Like Bishop Sponge of the Episcopalian Church, I see Jesus as more a concept and spiritual experience than an historical figure or divine being.

    I cannot separate God from Nature. I find truth in inner experience, and applying both the Elephant Razor (you know it when you see it) and reason – helped by dialogue. I not only tolerate spiritual texts, other than the Bible, as sources of information and inspiration, but embrace them – as I do with alterative views.

    Likewise, I find the Quaker community both inspirational and challenging – as I believe it should be. One of these challenges is this tension between individualism and corporatism. In the pursuit of both individual and community identity, I understand the desire to say diversity or uncertainty is for the birds; “WE (my emphasis) can do better than this.” However, I see very little need for ‘we’ in my Quaker spiritual practice. If the desired outcome is a spiritual journey, it is by its nature individual, even when aided by community.

    Expousing core beliefs – no matter how well intensioned – risks introducing a creed. In this summary, as with the miss use of other summaries, I see danger in more purpose than need, through striving for identity by exclusion and discipline, and subsequent need for an intermediary interpreter.

    In peace, Jonathan

  8. Spot on
    This video will be a resource for new attenders who want to understand the essence of our faith and practice.

    Thank you, Arthur

  9. I listened to the video, “What do Quakers believe?” I am in almost total harmony with all of them. I would like to be part of such a community but the nearest one is three hours away.

  10. Well done. This should be a useful resource for presentation to those inquiring in Philadelphia and Baltimore yearly meetings (my experience).At the beginning you limit it to unprogrammed Friends. This is a very small minority of Quakers worldwide, and even a minority within Quakers in North America. This needs to be explained.

  11. I appreciate all the comments and the video. I am not a Quaker, but I find this summary very helpful in showing how Quakers are different from most Christian denominations (all of the ones I am familiar with). Yes, to promote these as a creed would not be the intent of the video. But to help other people who have no idea what Quakers are, I believe it is a great introduction to what is NOT a creed but an “opening”, as it were, to what the Jesus and Biblical traditions provide, more as a starting place rather than what one is supposed to attain. The comments that do not appreciate this summary are just as helpful for realizing that Quakers do not have to adhere to any set of beliefs; so perhaps offering these as a place from which to bounce off of is a very helpful gesture. Thanks.

  12. The nine points are very good. I’m asked the same question when people find out I am a Friend after I explain that Friend is the proper name for Quakers. Quakers is a nick name given as a slur but it stuck and Friends gladly took possession of it. Once past the short history lesson I explain we do not have a creed, sacrements nor ministers, that we all are ministers in a silent meeting for worship. Now I have their interest and wait for the question what do Quakers believe then? My answer is “that of God in every person” and everything else from that becomes self explanatory…nonviolence, and the nine points elegantly outlined above.

  13. Friend Jonathan Lee speaks my mind. “Espousing core beliefs – no matter how well intentioned – risks introducing a creed. In this summary, as with the misuse of other summaries, I see danger… through striving for identity by exclusion and discipline, and subsequent need for an intermediary interpreter.”

  14. After a few decades, I guess I and many others in my meeting have become just simple Quakers (finally). For us (if I may be allowed to speak for others without their permission), there are really just two things that are essential for Quakers; practices which go back to the very founding of the very earliest gatherings of Quakers before they were even called Quakers:

    – ‘Expectant waiting’ worship so that we might find God within us and us within God; and

    – Seeking the way forward as a spiritual community by arriving at a communal sense guided by the Spirit during ‘expectant waiting’ worship together.

    Everything else that comes forth from Friends should be a result of those two purely spiritual practices. I dare say that if more Friends considered those two as the only essentials to being a Quaker, we would have had less Quaker schisms, more ‘lives that speak’, and a more vibrant religious society as the Spirit consumed us.

    I have had many Friends over the years tell me that they believe “committees” or “Quaker tradition” or both are essential to being a Quaker. With that type of “creed”, no wonder we can not get many newcomers to stick around.

    Perhaps we are not seeing the elephant in the room because we have and enjoy too much business and drama going on  — without first routinely (read, “at least weekly”) seeking the Spirit in our lives through those two spiritual practices that centuries ago were considered essentials to being a Quaker.

  15. These may be Arthur’s beliefs and are an eloquent reflection of what many hold dear. However they are not mine. One of the joys of being a Quaker is that there is no creed. We hold the testimonies dear as values not beliefs. Words are important to friends. Many support the ideas, but not as beliefs.

  16. Well and carefully said. Ironic, though, that Larrabee’s own focus—the manner of Friends’ decisionmaking—does not rise to “core”. Maybe he considers it derivative of “belief,” or that mentioning it would violate an impulse toward humility. But without the peculiar decisionmaking practice, Quaker”ism” would have dissipated long ago along with other similar belief systems.

  17. I am with Peter Maple on this one. It is very interesting to hear what Arthur believes. But I don’t want to be told what I believe. I don’t want folk curious about Friends to assume they must share these beliefs to be a Quaker. To call them “core” beliefs feels very presumptuous. Sometimes it’s OK not to have an answer to a question. Maybe Arthur’s earlier instinct to say “this is what I believe” was a better one.

    1. I don’t know… as someone who is currently Seventh-Day Adventist, I completely understand your concern that these beliefs could be used as a creed to exclude others. However, as someone who is not Quaker (because I still don’t know if what I believe fits under the Quaker umbrella) it was helpful to read the transcript of this video. I at least have *some* sort of a lead on my investigation, regardless of whether those beliefs are true for every member of the Quaker community. (Is it a church? A federation? A group? I have no clue.)

      1. From what have just watched and followed-up with other reading, i don’t think they have a clue either. Friends, SDA, Jehovah’s Witness, and Mormon have all added to the scripture by other writings. They are in denial of Rom 10:9, John 1:1, John 14:6, Eph 2:8,9 or some combination thereof. In your investigation I suggest you try reading the Bible by itself. Try an app like Through The Word and start with their first two “courses” . These are a 28 adventure that may help you in your understanding.

        1. You say “I suggest you try reading the Bible by itself.” I did that for years. I now recommend against it. For one thing, what you are recommending is analogous to putting blinders on a horse. For another thing, although the Bible has much good to recommend it, it also has some not-so-good things, such as its positions on homosexuality and slavery, and its worship of a god with some not-so-good qualities, such as killing lots and lots of people (Noah’s flood is only one example). Finally, before accepting the scriptures you quoted at face value (or recommending to someone else that they accept them), I recommend that you take one or more of the courses taught by Professor Bart D. Ehrman, Ph.D., M.Div. which are available at https://www.thegreatcourses.com/.

        2. We will all experience a life after death. Seek first the kingdom of God, the words of man mearly reflect our own self righteousness. Remember john 3:16, only through Gods love and sacrifice, can we truly be saved. We are not a name brand, denominations are OUR creation. We to love one another, our Father commands it.

  18. Sometimes the experience of having to be quiet for a whole hour of the week leads people to overshare all the rest of the week. The number of pamphlets and explainers for Quakerism is truly amazing. I think instead of more writing and oversharing we should try to be quiet.

  19. I came to this video when trying to figure out what Quakerism was at its core, as what I have already heard has very much appealed to my sensibilities and the quiet voice within. I knew going into this video that you do not have to adhere to these tenants to be a Quaker, as there is no official creed. This was, however, a wonderful summary of what a Quaker might believe, and a good amount has rung true with me.

    I have had many struggles as of late with how aggressive and smothering people may be when passionate about their personal beliefs or that of their group. For the first time in my life, I don’t feel smothered. I feel like I can listen to what God is saying to me. And I feel as though I have been more open, patient, and kind when recognizing my own inner light and the light of those around me.

    I am very thankful for this summary and everything that you all have produced. I’m new to Quakerism and still trying to delve more into what that means but I have never been more alive in my faith.

  20. As i continue on the road of Friends, reading, listening, sharing, going deeper into unprogramed Friends Faith Practices as we live our lives in and out of MFW i experience the nine core beliefs with SPICES as guide posts way stations on my journey as a Black, Indigenous, Irish thus Multicultural Friend. I am thankful for Arthur’ sharing and encourage others to share their passion living Friends testimonies within faithful practices as he does, during this real time of our lives. ilym & Chicago Area; EFM, NFM, OFM, LFM, 57thstreet Friends.


  22. Thank you for having this informative video posted. My mental image of Quakers was that they were fairly orthodox Christians in most respects, but I now know that they are not, and I could never be a Quaker. I believe in the primacy of Scripture, that the Bible is God’s word written and is His authoritative message to humanity. I believe that all humans fall short of God’s glory and sin. I believe that the fair wages we earn from sin is eternal separation from God. I believe that Jesus is God the Son, incarnated, and that after living a sinless life and proving who He was by words and miracles, He died on the cross and subsequently rose from the dead to redeem from sin all those who repent and trust in Him (as opposed to trusting in their own ability to self-justify). I believe, as Jesus says, that he who does not believe in Him is under condemnation and in danger of eternal loss. I follow Jesus. I hope you will, too.

  23. I am trying to learn.

    While I respect the push-back against creed and exclusion, I worry as much when groups retreat to the safety of comfortable ambiguity. So I respect the open struggle to identify what is core. In fact, I think it necessary and responsible, even with its danger of being taken wrongly as creed. This allows others to respond and refine so that we all can come closer to shared understanding.

    Perhaps we will learn that the core of Quakerism can be distilled to less than these 9 points.

    I continue to listen.

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