Faith and Practice
This manual of Faith and Practice of Baltimore Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends is composed of statements of faith and of advice on organization and practice considered relevant for this present time. It is issued in the expectation, however, that another generation of seekers on the road toward Truth will make changes.
1988 Approved by Baltimore Yearly Meeting in Session
2001 Revised by Baltimore Yearly Meeting in Session
2019 Reprinted with minor updates to reflect Baltimore Yearly Meeting organizational changes and to correct typographical errors
2020 Revised by Baltimore Yearly Meeting in Session
Dearly beloved friends, these things we do not lay upon you as a rule or form to walk by, but that all, with the measure of light which is pure and holy may be guided; and so in the Light walking and abiding, these things may be fulfilled in the Spirit, not from the letter, for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life. The [Quaker] Elders at Balby: 1656 (quoting 2 Corinthians 3:6)
Baltimore Yearly Meeting is a worshiping community, gathered in the presence of the Divine, affirming that of God in every person. The Yearly Meeting knits Friends from the Chesapeake to the Appalachians into the larger Religious Society of Friends. As Quakers, we seek to know and follow God’s will for us as a gathered people, to speak the truth that is revealed to us, and to listen to the truth that is revealed to others.
We aspire to listen deeply and inclusively to each other, to actively welcome all, and to attend in joy and faith to the Inward Teacher, whom some call Light, some call Spirit, and some call Christ.
We Friends are of many skin colors, ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, gender identities, sexual orientations, abilities, stages of life, and socially constructed racial identities. We are all seeking the Spirit’s presence in our lives, and in our life together. We recognize that some of us have experienced oppression and marginalization in ways that others have not. We aspire to live as members of the blessed community, which is one of liberation, equity, and great diversity across all differences.
We aspire to teach and nourish Quaker ways of worship and service for this and future generations, to uphold and promote Quaker values and to support Friends Meetings in our region.
We seek to expand opportunities for Friends to meet together and know each other in that which is eternal.
We seek to serve others in love, to share our gifts and resources, to reach out to those in need, both friends and strangers, and to witness in the world to our shared experience of the infinite love of God.
Vision Statement approved by Baltimore Yearly Meeting in Session 2011 and revised in Session 2016
The Religious Society of Friends holds as the basis of its faith the belief that God endows each human being with a measure of the Divine Spirit. The gift of God's presence and the light of God's truth have been available to all people in all ages.
Friends find this manifestation of God exemplified in Jesus of Nazareth. The Divine Spirit became so wholly Jesus' own that his teaching, example and sacrificial life reveal the will of God to humanity.
As within ourselves we become conscious of the same Spirit (the "Inward Light" or the "Christ Within"), and as we submit ourselves to its leadings, we are also enabled to live in conformity to the will of God.
Love, the outworking of the Divine Spirit, is the most potent influence that can be applied in human affairs, and this application of love to the whole of life is seen by the Society of Friends as the core of the Christian gospel.
The immanence of God implies that all persons are children of the Divine and brothers and sisters one of another. All have the capacity to discern spiritual truth, and to hold direct communion with God. No mediator, rite, or outward sacrament is a necessary condition of worship. Inspiration and guidance may be realized through meeting with others in group worship where vision is made clearer by the shared experience of those present.
The Society of Friends has no formal creed. Over the years Friends have made many attempts to set down the nature of their faith. Some of these statements, like the letter of George Fox to the Governor of Barbados in the 17th century or the Richmond Declaration drawn up by one group of Friends in the late 19th, have been grounded in Christian orthodoxy. Others, like the writings of Isaac Penington in the 17th century or of Thomas Kelly in the 20th, have a close kinship with the insights of mystics of many ages and many religious traditions. None speaks for all Friends or for all times. We are a religious fellowship based on common religious ideals and experiences rather than on creed or liturgy.
Each person must prayerfully seek individual guidance and must follow the Light found within. Each will be helped by studying the developing interpretations of God in the Bible and the ideas of the great spiritual leaders of all faiths. Especially will help be found as one ponders the life and the teaching of Jesus.
All seekers who in spirit and in truth try to find and follow the will of God and who are in sympathy with the principles and practices of Friends, we welcome to our fellowship.