Advices & Queries No: 31: The Peace Testimony A&Q.
First introduced in 1682, as three direct queries or questions, Advices and Queries has been gradually modified, extended and revised over the centuries. The changes offer one window, through which some of the corporate concerns of the Society of Friends can be viewed. This is perhaps exemplified no better, than in the development and changes to the A&Q relating to the ‘Peace Testimony’. In its present day form it states:
We are called to live ‘in virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion for all wars’.
Do you faithfully maintain our testimony that war and the preparation for war are inconsistent with the spirit of Christ?
Search out whatever in your own way of life contains seeds of war.
Stand firm in our testimony, even when others commit or prepare to commit acts of violence, yet always remember that they too are children of God.
Turning the clock back to its first appearance in 1742, the then newly formulated query incorporated a prior addition to the 1721 version, which had warned Friends against ‘giving or receiving tithes’. In its new form the Query directed attention to a twin focus for or dual testimony in the life of the Society:-
Do you bear a faithful and Christian testimony against receiving and paying tithes? and against bearing arms? and do you admonish such as are unfaithful therein?
In 1758 its strictures were extended further and for the first time in a separate Query; ten years later in 1768, marking a subsequent and more peaceful era, some strictures were dropped. Such changes not only give a clear indication of the historical times in which the Queries were set but may also suggest that there was a basis for genuine concern about behavior exhibited by some Quakers:-
Do you bear faithful witness against bearing arms, or paying trophy money, or being in any way concerned in privateers, letters of marque, or in dealing in prize goods as such?
Not until 1875 was this query simplified and then developments in 1928 begin to present a shape to the testimony, which makes it easily recognisable today.
Are you faithful in maintaining our testimony against all war as inconsistent with the spirit and teaching of Christ?
Do you live in the life and power which takes away the occasion of wars?
Do you seek to take part in the ministry of reconciliation between individuals, groups and nations, and in the breaking of class barriers?
Quite early equality and diversity needs have begun to surface but gendered language in-sensitivities remains in evidence in additions to the 1953 version,
Do you behave with brotherly love to all men of whatever race and colour?
Reflecting on these developments and on our existing 1994 version, one wonders what changes might be introduced to this A&Q, in a possible 2020(?) version.
We began our programme of reading an ‘Advice and Query’ in Meeting for Worship, consequent on being quite inspired by studying them in our 4th Sunday study group.
The following A&Q is the one, which was shared in Meeting for Worship today.
Are you following Jesus’ example of love in action?
Are you learning from his life the reality and cost of obedience to God?
How does his (Jesus’) relationship with God challenge and inspire you?
The word ‘root’ is interesting, it’s Latin source is ‘radix’ and from which come words like ‘radical’ and ‘radicalization’.
In the present climate, the latter word has come to mean something frightening, odious or even evil.
One core use of the word is about ‘returning to roots’ – exactly what radical Quakerism attempted to do in the 17th century.
In the course of challenging the church at that time, early Quakers learned a great deal about ‘the reality and cost of obedience’.
Perhaps then, ‘in the light of our heritage’, worship, on 05.02.17 [Geoffrey]
Advices and Queries No: 4.
As well as ‘advices’ (essentially suggestions for living in the light of Quaker teaching)) and ‘queries’ (questions or challenges on which to think and reflect),
“Advices and Queries’ provides statements of fact. In this case about the origins of Quakers and it’s ‘roots’, with accompanying questions.
The Religious Society of Friends is rooted in Christianity and has always found its inspiration in the life and teaching of Jesus.
How do you interpret your faith in the light of this heritage?
How does Jesus speak to y should always stop and ask questions about such labels as ‘radical’ and give some thought to those described as being ‘radicalized’.
The main point I would highlight from A&Q 4 however, is the first statement in which we are reminded that ‘The RSoFs is rooted in Christianity’.
Let’s not forget our origins, nor that in those early days Friends ‘learned from his life the reality and cost of obedience to God’.
But today is neither the 1st nor 17th century, so what does it mean to ‘interpret your faith in the light of this heritage?