Testimony as Consequence, Not Value by Pink Dandelion Reading Notes

Here are my reading notes of Pink Dandelion’s “Testimony as Consequence, Not Value” from Friends Quarterly Vol 35. No 5 2007. It has been progressively summarized for you. The full article can be found below.

This article has been informative for me framing the problems of reducing Quaker principles and practices down to lists over the 20th century and finally, into its resting place as the acronym “SPICE(S).”

I. Testimony as Consequence

“What, Tom, a Quaker!” “They are public, identifiable, and sprang directly from a spiritual base.”

Testimony is a) rooted in spiritual life (of the community) and b) is not discrete.

How is this different from how we understand testimony(ies today?

“The whole book of discipline is testimony because the whole book is a corporate reflection and expression of the collective experience.”

It is impossible to extract a neat list.

Plainness was transformed into simplicity in the 1850s Britain.

The short list gets divorced from the spiritual base.” – Why do you think this happens?

What Ben arguing is the difference between testimony and ideology?

“Everything that is testimony comes from God.

“There is the what and the when.”

II. Testimony as Rule

Formalization equals “increasing proscribed and prescribed activities.”

“Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” -Titus 2:14

During this period, “testimony became the outwards means of expressing what they were about.” 191

192 – “The consequences of the experiences of the first generation of Friends became rules, What Margaret Fell called a ‘silly poor gospel,’ to help nurture the second and third generations who were still waiting for the inward spiritual transformation their parents and grandparents had experienced.”

III. Testimony as Values

Liberal Quakerism moves towards being pluralistic.

“Liberal Quakerism is a seeking religion, suspicious of of theology (because the words can never match the experience) and suspicious of certainty (because the spiritual search is ongoing).” 192

The form of Quakerism binds liberal Quakers together, rather than the content.**

Today testimony works in two ways:

  1. It is part of how Quakerism defines itself. The doctrine, the given principle. It connects to what BPD calls the “conservative and conformist” part of Liberal Quakerism.
  2. As an area of interpretation, it is open to pluralistic individualism in a way that would not have been possible 100 years ago.”

ILL. 1991 Gulf War “Quaker Peace and Service” received many differing responses to Hussein.

Elaine Bishop and Jung Jiseok say there are four aspects to this (193):

  1. A loss of specificity as it moves towards a principle – plainness vs. simplicity
  2. Pluralism of our belief means we are less rooted in one faith tradition, so there is no one tradition informing faith and these practices
  3. They are less prescribed. We are less sure about what is definitely not Quaker
  4. Testimony is less enforced. Who would enforce these and how would they be enforced?

“Testimony as a nec. corporate category has become smaller as less is collectively agreed on as vital and also as the corporate experience reduces more and more to what happens at meeting, with the home life outside the control of the meeting.”

“Quakers could be invisible outside the meeting house.” 193

“That aspect of agreed corporate witness in the book of discipline reduces in line with the increased freedomafforded by Liberal Quakerism. It is the completion of shift in the operation as testimony from consequence to rules to values.”  194

Testimony is thus the fruits of the essence – it is the public expression of our faith.” 195

Some questions that arise:

  • What is the key argument going on here?
  • How does BPD define testimony and how does he argue it has changed over time?
  • They may act as an aspiration, but they are primarily a reflection. Why is this critical?
  • Where was your own thinking about the testimonies challenged here?
  • Do you think that what Ben is in any way similar or different to what is going on in your next of Quakerism?
  • Why is Ben afraid Quakers are becoming more and more invisible? Do you think this is a good assessment?
  • What is Ben calling us to?

Attachment: Testimony as Consequence, Not Value from Friends Quarterly