Quaker Faith and a `Right Relationship’ with Creation.
Quakers who refer to themselves as the Religious Society of Friends are best known for their strong social justice ethic and their anti – war stance. For much of their 350 years of existence Quakers have lobbied the establishment on social issues including the humane treatment of prisoners, the abolition of slavery and votes for women. In the 18 and 19 century when big business was still largely family owned, Quaker businessmen had a reputation for dealing with integrity and offering fair prices as well as ensuring healthy working and living conditions for their employees. A well-known example of the latter is the village of Bourneville built by George Cadbury in the early 1900s to provide quality community oriented housing to accommodate the workers at his nearby chocolate factory.
With the growing awareness of and concern for the state of the environment, Quakers across the world are starting to apply their values of peace and justice to actions to promote care of the earth. Increasingly, Quaker writers and organisations have argued that their core values and the future of our planet are threatened by an economic system that encourages people to consume in excess with disregard for the increasing scarcity of natural resources. The consequences they predict are environmental devastation, increasing economic inequality and wars for resources.
“Our religious experience of the natural world is pervaded by a strong sense of God’s presence immanent within it ….and so we have come to look upon nature as a temple God created for Himself, and as deserving not of “stewardly” exploitation, but of healing and humble respect. And we have come to recognize that the non-human creatures are our fellow worshipers in that temple, our fellow inhabitants of God’s Kingdom, and to realize that as such they are entitled to all the rights, all the gentleness and consideration, that Christ himself would give them.” (Marshall Massey a co-founder of the Friends Community on Unity with Nature now called the Quaker Earthcare Witness in Quaker Environmentalism.)
Earth aware Quakers propose living in a “right relationship” with the Earth to preserve the integrity, resilience, & beauty of the commonwealth of life. This requires radically changing our individual behaviour and our social structures to a way of life that honours all of God’s creation. (Read Building A Whole Earth Economy by Peter Brown and Geoffrey Garver. Their book presents a proposal for bringing our world into alignment – a right relationship – and is a project of the Quaker Institute for the Future. See also papers presented at the Right Sharing of World Resources Quaker Conference namely: The Spiritual Basis for the Right Sharing of World Resources, Stewardship of the Earth, and Towards a New Social Order.
What is the essence of Quaker Faith?
“The world is God’s creation. How we treat the earth and all its creatures is basic to our relationship with God, and of fundamental religious concern to the Society of Friends.” (Proceedings of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting in 1988)
Quakers or the Religious Society of Friends are a Christian community of believers who acknowledge Jesus Christ as `a man through whom the divine light shone undimmed’. Most Quakers believe that the qualities of Christ as he lived his life are more important than the scriptures about his life. Their founder, George Fox (1624 – 1691) the son of Christian parents, was inspired by his belief that there is something of God in everyone – an inner or divine light – and that God is directly accessible to all. Through the Quaker practise of mysticism which is essentially a practice of deep spiritual listening for the presence of the Holy Spirit, Quakers have a direct sense of God’s presence in themselves and of His will for them. While Quakers acknowledge the Bible as inspired words from God they rely as individuals on their direct communication with God for guidance. As a result of this direct relationship with God they have dispensed with the traditional outward forms of religion such a strict adherence to a creed or professional clergy to interpret God’s word and traditional texts to be used in worship. When Friends (Quakers ) have a spiritual meeting, they do not rely on priests or leaders. The meeting begins in living silence in which the clamour of daily life is stilled to hear God’s voice. Then anyone present may offer prayers or ministry.
Individualistic Character of Quakerism encourages Actions for the Environment.
Quakers who are environmental activists explain that their independence from the formalized authority of a religious order gives them the freedom to respond to guidance they receive directly from God. This individualistic nature combined with the Quakers legacy of “passion for doing the right thing and going inward to discover what the right thing is” is providing the drive and energy to engage more vigorously on environmental issues. “We are people who recycle and re-use, who drive hybrids and bicycles, who take buses and shorter showers, and at the same time know that the sum of individual actions cannot make up for the destructive decisions taken by large structures. We realize we must turn to the power of collective action.” (Earth Quaker Action Team website)
Quakers are a relatively small Faith community. This makes their significant contribution to social justice issues over the centuries all the more remarkable. Now they are increasingly turning their attention to environmental issues and to non-violent direct action to lobby for a right relationship with the Earth. “ Quaker religious-environmental organizations are self-organized which gives them an important freedom, the freedom to keep complete faith with guidance from the Spirit, which includes freedom to rock the boat of convention, and freedom to challenge the world to reform, without hindrance from those who do not yet understand. I believe that this freedom of action just might prove decisive in time. But we shall see.” (Marshal Massey)
Quaker Environmental Organisations:
Earth Quaker Action Team – EQAT was founded in 2009, as a direct result of conversations among Friends during Sessions about sustainability, Right Relationship, and environmental justice. As part of that process, founding members of EQAT felt Led to work in the wider world, using the Quaker tradition of nonviolence to transform society. http://www.eqat.org Watch the excellent video on the effectiveness of non- violent direct environmental action at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMXM3WbgWog&feature=related
Quaker Earthcare Witness seeks emerging insights into a right relationship with Earth and unity with nature. Quaker Earthcare Witness is a network of Friends (Quakers) in North America and other like-minded people who are taking spirit-led action to address the ecological and social crises of the world from a spiritual perspective, emphasizing Quaker process and testimonies. QEW’s primary calling is to facilitate transformation of humans’ attitudes, values, identity, and worldview that underlie much of the environmental destruction going on in the world today. http://www.quakerearthcare.org/
Right Sharing of Worlds Resources URL: http://www.rswr.org/rswr-storyboard/
Quaker Environmentalism by Marshall Massey Originally published April 1, 1999 http://www.quakerinfo.com/quak_env.shtml
THE QUAKERS A Brief Introduction by George Ellis (a South African)