Advices, Queries, and Gospel Order

From Pacific Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice:

“Friends are committed to a way of worship that allows God continually to teach and transform us. The Advices and Queries remind us of the essential faith and principles of the Religious Society of Friends. They challenge and inspire us in our personal lives and in our corporate life. If the ideal of Christian discipleship seems impossibly demanding, and we become disheartened at times, we should remember that we seek it not with our own strength, but with the strength of the Light within.”

London Yearly Meeting (Now Britain Yearly Meeting) in 1682 asked its representatives these three questions, thus the beginnings of the use of queries by Friends:

  • What Friends in the ministry, in their respective counties, departed this life since the last yearly meeting?
  • What Friends imprisoned for their testimony have died in prison since the last yearly meeting?
  • How the Truth has prospered amongst them since the last yearly meeting, and how Friends are in peace and unity?

Before there was the first Book of Discipline Quaker elders issued a series of advices concerning expected behavior for Friends.   Early advices were more direct than we are accustomed to seeing today, but provided useful guidance to less seasoned Friends.  Often advices were used to defend the faith from accusations of heresy and to prevent “disorderly walking” at a time when Friends were being persecuted.  In the 19th century many Friends were “read out of Meeting” (disowned) for acts which today seem trivial, such as having musical instruments in the home or (worse still) being “unequally yoked” (marrying outside the faith).

The advices and queries are often seen as general recommendations these days, yet they (along with our testimonies) are the closest thing we have to a creed.  They are part of the guidance we are given as Friends to help us not only to follow Good Order, but Gospel Order as well.

By Gospel Order I mean, in the words of Friend Lloyd Lee Wilson, “… the order established by God that exists in every part of creation … the right relationship of every part of creation, however small, to every other part and to the Creator.” Gospel Order has three important elements (according to Lloyd Lee Wilson):

1. Individuals living in a way that nurtures and maintains the covenant relationship with God.
2. The life of the meeting – community, the church, must reflect the love and unity gathered Friends feel in their relationship with God.
3. Provide a prophetic witness to the larger society, or as we say among Friends – live the testimonies.

We should consider carefully (before we would disregard them) how advices and queries  might help us to be more attentive to following God’s will.

Here are links by topic to the Queries and Advices of Pacific Yearly Meeting, found in its Faith and Practice:

 

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