What do Quakers do today in order to move towards a ‘true social order’?
Contemporary Quakers remain interested in the key issues raised by the Foundations, and look for ways to build a more equal society. This will be especially obvious during Quaker Week 2016, when Quaker meetings across Britain will reach out to people to talk about the theme of “Working together to build a better world“. It has also been evident in the first two of three Yearly Meetings which explored ways to “Live out our faith in the world” – examples of this can be seen in what was said to the Yearly Meeting by Lee Taylor and Tim Gee among others. Yearly Meeting 2017 will continue work on this theme, including looking at ‘movement building’ – the ‘working together’ aspect of the contemporary Quaker vision.
More specifically, the New Economies project – which our interviewees Cait Crosse and Suzanne Ismail work on, among others – is producing a series of resources to help Quakers discuss ways in which their ideas might be put into practice. The Principles for a New Economy is central here, but an ongoing series of booklets on topics such as ‘Good work in the new economy‘ are expanding these ideas. The paid work done by staff in this area is supported by voluntary work of Quakers across the country and especially members of the Quaker Peace and Social Witness Economics, Sustainability and Peace committee.
Related to this is ongoing Quaker work on sustainability. This includes changes made to individual and corporate lifestyles, in response to the vision of a better, more sustainable community which Britain Yearly Meeting received in 2011: the clerk of that meeting, Lis Burch, said in her interview with us that this was not a practical vision but “we had very much a glimpse of the spiritual nature of what that [low-carbon sustainable] community could be like”. Since then, much practical and spiritual work has been done to move our community in that direction, which you can read about on quaker.org.uk.
This ongoing work is all rooted in the Quaker business method. When Quakers choose to speak out publicly on an issue, this follows a long period of discernment within the community. This process is often cyclical, Quakers discerning and speaking out on situations as they arise, and over time forming a body of core ideas and commitments which are then used to inform future discernments. The Foundations have been used in this way, and as the Yearly Meeting continues to pray about and explore ways to “live out our faith in the world”, future statements are also likely to speak to the issues of equality, truth, and social justice.