Brethren in Christ Church
10th EDITION SEGMENT
The Brethren In Christ Church stated in its position on peace in detail at the General Conference of 1976 when it adopted a “Position Paper on Church, War and Respect for Human Life.” Following is an excerpt from that paper:
Responsible Citizenship and Military Service
The church is in the world, yet not of the world. Christians, while being part of the body of Christ, are also part of one of the nations of the world. We are called pray to for rulers, respect them, honor them, and be obedient (Romans 13:Iff). Christians can be good citizens of this world’s nations to the extent that good citizenship is defined in unselfish terms. Jesus calls us to be salt to the earth and light to the world. We obey laws, respect authority and encourage the development of constructive ways to meet the needs of all the people in our society regardless of race, origin, or economic status.
We recognize the need for the place of civil government. The Scriptures teach that government is “ordained of God” (Rom. 13:1ff), because it is necessary for the direction and control of civil affairs.
How do we relate to government and express ourselves? We obey laws to the limit of conscience, we express ourselves by voice or letter to those who are making the laws, letting them hear our concerns. We pray for them as persons, under God, needing wisdom, forgiveness, humility, insite, and divine help (1 Tim. 2: 1-2).
Christians are concerned with loyalties; therefore we must be aware of the dangers of idolizing the state. Nationalism was evident in Israel which expressed itself in national pride, ethnocentricity, and religious bigotry. The classic illustration is the patriot prophet, Jonah, who first refused to preach judgement and repentance to a pagan nation,
but who, when forced to preach, and Ninevah repented, was upset at a forgiving God (Jonah 4:1 ff). For Jonah, feelings regarding nation superseded obedience to God, love and forgiveness.
The church lost much of its dynamic vitality under Constantine, when the government determined what was Christian, who was Christian and what was the role of the church.
One of the unfortunate miscarriages of the Reformation was that the church used the state to its advantage, but was also dominated by the state. This led to great abuse and persecution of Pietists, Anabaptists, and minority groups.
In the twentieth century, we do well to remember the errors of Jonah, Constantine, and some of the reformers. Are not those who advocate a kind of nationalistic Christianity falling into the same snare? The church is not called to promote or protect any political system. There can be appreciation for one’s country or nation without the need to idolize it. When the state becomes the object of highest loyalty, this is a form of idolatry.
The call to responsible citizenship is not a call to compromise Christian convictions (Acts 5:29). It is rather to lend support to constructive and unselfish goals in service to mankind. At this point in history, some governments make way for expression of Christian conviction in some form of alternative service in lieu of military service.
When Peter and Paul found themselves in conflict with the existing powers, they both in similar ways expressed the reason for a particular point of view and each of them spent time in prison for his faith (Acts 16). Our own history has shown that the way of expressing a position and taking the consequences has been a significant stance. The church is not called to spearhead revolution nor is it called to protect any political system. It has a higher calling.
It has been our position that we cannot participate in military service in any form. The outworkings of this conviction in history took men to prison, some to constructive alternative service work ministering to the needs of others in various ways. Voluntary Service through the Menonite Central Committee or Mission Board or similar church agency has been a significant way to say we are concerned about preserving the resources God gave. It has been a good way to say that our human resource, our time, our ability and our substance must be devoted to the great purpose of helping rather than destroying.
The calling in Christ is a call to constructive service. It is a call to bring food to the hungry, clothes to the naked, healing to the sick, encouragement to the distressed and oppressed, peace and redemption to the guilty and sinful (Romans 5:1). This calling includes all of life. We cannot compartmentalize Christian conduct and declare that at a given time we are representing Jesus Christ and at another time we represent the state (Matthew 25:34).
War is also a major exploiter of resources. Mechanized warfare uses larger quatities of fuel. Valuable ores are mined and sent to battlefields as weapons to destroy and to be destroyed. A nation in which war is fought experiences great loss of property, resources, and the demoralizing insecurity war causes. Another nation, participating in that destruction, may, back home be experiencing prosperity because of the material demands of war.
Our call to follow Christ is a call to serve Him by using our material possessions to demonstrate His Spirit and compassion in the world.
Even though it may be impossible to be completely separated from the prosperity of war economy, we would be deeply concerned about profiteering because of war. Since we believe participation in war is not in keeping with our Christian commitment, we also believe that vocational activity which creates and produces weapons of destruction should be avoided. Neither can those who believe that participation in war is wrong support war by the payment of taxes without earnest searchings of conscience. We encourage the avoidance of war tax payment by giving maximum charitable contributions to reduce tax liability.
We cannot ignore the moral decay of society produced by war. Practices accepted in wartime (spying, deceitfulness, sexual immorality, etc.) become accepted in peacetime. These corrupting effects are seen not only at the time and place of war but reach deeply into the life of society.
We believe that peace-practicing Christians have a responsibility to the larger Christian community. We need to share the good news of the way to peace with the unconvinced. We commend such efforts at dialogue as the Seminar on Christian Holiness and the Issues of War and Peace (June 1973 at Winona Lake, Indiana). We also commend the emphasis of congregational peace meetings, and Sunday School literature which creates wholesome opportunity to communicate alternatives to participation in war.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: Write to John Stoner, Brethren in Christ Church, P.O. Box 27, Mt. Joy, PA 17552.
Christ loved His enemies and He calls us as His disciples to love our enemies. We follow our Lord in being people of peace and reconciliation, called to suffer and not to fight. While respecting those who hold other interpretations, we believe that preparation for or participation in war is inconsistent with the teachings of Christ. Similarly, we reject all other acts of violence which devalue human life. Rather, we affirm active peacemaking, sacrificial service to others, as well as the pursuit of justice for the poor and the oppressed in the name of Christ.
(From "Articles of Faith and Doctrine," Manual of Doctrine and Government)
Church of the Brethren
Recommendations for Congregations
Provide counseling for young men and women as they make career choices and as they face the possibility of military conscription, encouraging young people to serve as
conscientious objectors during time of war in accordance with Brethren understanding of the New Testament, while responding to the needs of people within and beyond the church who refuse to participate in the military for reasons of conscience.
Prophetic Proclamation and Action for Peace
They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nations shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more (Isa. 2:4).
In the tradition of Moses to Malachi, prophetic proclamation and action has been a distinctive part of our heritage. The prophetic, whether a word of judgement, a cry of anguish, a symbolic act of resistance or defiance, a confession, or a vision of hope and promise, always presupposes that Yahweh is active in our time. Jesus, our prophet, modeled the prophetic in the way he taught, preached, and performed miracles. Paul proclaimed this prophetic tradition as the inheritance of the church, seeing it as one of God's greatest gifts to the church and ranking the prophet second only to an apostle in honor and importance in its life (1 Cor. 12:28-29).
It is to this prophetic tradition that the Church of the Brethren aspires in its proclamations and actions for peace with justice as it:
1. declares that peace is the will of God and all war is sin;
2. calls all its members not to participate in the military in any way and to find constructive avenues of peacemaking;
3. proclaims that our first allegiance is to God even when obedience requires civil disobedience;
4. condemns the outrageous expenditures of the state for military forces and weapons of destruction, and condemns national security doctrines and strategies of deterrence that rationalize such expenditures and the militarization of societies;
5. calls for complete nuclear, biological and chemical weapons disarmament;
6. calls on government for the provision of alternatives to heavy taxes for the military and supports those who are war tax resisters;
7. encourages the boycott of products produced and sold by companies that derive large amounts of their income from military contracts;
8. provides sanctuary and refuge for those who illegally enter our country seeking a safe haven from war and/or threats to their lives because of political beliefs.
(From 1991 Annual Conference Statement, "Peacemaking: the Calling of God's People in History")
10th EDITION VERSION OF CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN
The Church of the Brethren Annual Conference views with concern the ongoing Selective Service System registration of young men. The reintroduction of registration in 1980 was opposed by our church since we do not concede to the state the authority to conscript citizens against their conscience...
... We again affirm these two positions (1) alternative service as conscientious objectors engaging in constructive civilian work, or (2) open, nonviolent noncooperation with the system of conscription—to be in keeping with the mind of Christ.
The Selective Service System on June 7, 1989, proposed new guidelines for alternative service work in the event of a future draft. These propsed regulations, as they now stand, would make it extremely difficult for the Church of the Brethren to cooperate with Selective Service System in carrying out an alternative service program. The delegate body of this Annual Conference requests our government to:
The Church and War
The church of the Brethren, since its beginning in 1708, has repeatedly declared its position against war. Our understanding of the life and teachings of Christ as revealed in the New Testament led our Annual Conference to state in 1785 that we should not “submit to the higher powers so as to make ourselves their instruments to shed human blood.” In 1918 at our Annual Conference we stated that “we believe that war or any participation in war is wrong and incompatible with the spirit, example and teachings of Jesus Christ.” Again in 1934 Annual Conference resolved that “all war is sin. We, therefore, cannot encourage, engage in, or willingly profit from armed conflict at home or abroad. We cannot, in the event of war, accept military service or support the military machine in any capacity.” This conviction, which we reaffirm in 1948 and now reaffirm again, grew out of the teachings of Christ.
(Statement approved by 1968 Annual Conference)
The Church and Conscience
The church has stood likewise for the principle of freedom of worship and freedom of conscience. The church itself respects the right of the individual conscience within its membership and has never set up an authoritative creed. Instead, it accepts the entire New Testament as its rule of faith and practice and seeks to lead its members to comprehend and accept for themselves the mind of Christ as the guide for their convictions and conduct.
We believe that no government has the authority to abrogate the right of the individual conscience. “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
The official position of the Church of the Brethren is that all war is sin and that we seek the right of conscientious objection to all war. We seek no special privileges from our government. What we seek for ourselves, we seek for all – the right of individual conscience. We affirm that this conscientious objection may include all wars, declared or undeclared, particular wars, and particular forms of warfare. We also affirm that conscientious objection may be based on grounds more inclusive than institutional religion.
(Statement approved by 1968 Annual Conference)
The Church and Conscription
The Church of the Brethren feels constrained by Christ’s teachings to lead its people to develop convictions against war. The church cannot concede to the state the authority to conscript citizens for military training or military service against their conscience.
The churhc will seek to fulfill its prophetic role in this matter in two ways: by seeking to change political structures and by influencing individual members.
The church will seek to use its influence to abolish or radically restructure the system which conscripts persons for military purposes.
The church pledges it’s support and continuing fellowship to all of our draft-age members who face conscription. We recognize that some feel obligated to render full or non-combative military service and we respect all who make such a decision.
We commend to all of the draft age, their parents, couselors, and fellow members, the alternative position of (1) Alternative Service as conscientious objectors engaging in constructive civilian work, or (2) Open, non-violent non- cooperation with the system of conscription. The church pledges itself to renew and redouble its effort to interpret to the membership of the church at all levels of the church’s life these positions which we believe are in harmony with the style of life set forth in the gospel and as expressed in the historic faith witness of our church.
The church extends its prayers, spiritual nurture and material aid to all who struggle and suffer in order to understand more fully and obey more perfectly the will of God.
(Statement approved by 1970 annual conference)
The Church and Alternative Service
The church pledges its support to the draft-age member facing conscription who chooses to engage in constructive alternate service civilian work as a conscientious objector. Such service might include participation in relief and rehabilitation in war or disaster areas anywhere in the world; technical, agricultural, medical, or educational assistance in developing countries; service in general or mental hospitals, schools for the handicapped, homes for the aged, and kindred institutions; and medical or scientific research promising constructive benefits to mankind.
The church will seek to establish, administer, and finance to the extent of its resources, projects for such service under church direction or in cooperation with other private civilian agencies.
(Statement approved by 1970 Annual Conference)
The Church and Noncooperation
The church pledges its support to the draft-age member facing conscription who chooses open noncooperation with the system of conscription as a conscientious objector. Individuals who follow the lead of the conscience to this position will need the support of the church in many ways. The church will seek to meet these needs, to the extent of its resources, by providing such ministries as legal counsel, financial support, and prison visitation. To demonstrate a sense of community and fellowship with the noncooperator, congregations are encouraged to offer sanctuary and spiritual support. All members of the church who take the position of noncooperation should seek to exhibit a spirit of humility, goodwill, and sincerety in making this type of courageous witness most effective, non- violent, and Christian.
(Statement approved by 1970 Annual Conference)
The Church and Support of National Defense
We declare again that our members should not participate in war, learn the art of war, or support war.
Although recognizing that almost all aspects of the economy are directly or indirectly connected with the national defense, we encourage our members to divorce themselves as far as possible from direct association with defense industries in both employment and investment.
While recognizing the necessity of preserving academic freedom, we find recruitment by the armed forces on Brethren college campuses inconsistent with the church’s positon.
(Statement approved by 1970 Annual Conference)
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: Write to World Ministries Commission, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Avenue, Elgin, IL 60120.
We believe that the principle of nonresistance is clearly taught in the Scriptures, and therefore has been accepted as a doctrine of the church. In support of our position we give the following: Christ is the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6); his kingdom is not of the world and his servants do not fight (John 18:36); the weapons of our warfare are not carnal (II Cor. 10:4); but we are to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44). Learning the art of war and participating in carnal warfare or service in any branch of military establishment at any time is forbidden by the Scripture; and the boy and girl scout movements and any other movement requiring a uniform , or having military features, fall under the same condemnation.
(Dunkard Brethren Polity, page 13, Section 2, 1980.)
As a Christian people, throughout more than two hundred years, we have maintained nonresistance as an integral part of our faith. Therefore, we petition that we may be granted exemption from any and all forms of military service, in case this country becomes involved in war.
Since the National Constitution grants freedom of religious worship, and since we have no code or confession of faith other than the New Testament, we follow its teachings. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” “Recompense to no man evil for evil” (Romans 8:9, and 2:17). “Dearly beloved, avenge yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore, if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst give him drink; for in so long thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evildoing, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:19-21). The Savior said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight” (John 18:36). Romans 13:9 renewed the command “Thou shalt not kill.” “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in Heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:43-45).
“And behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the highest priests, and smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and He shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:51-54).
(Approved by General Conference, Quinter, Kansa, 1940.)
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: Write to Howard J. Surbey, Executive Secretary, Dunkard Brethren Civilian Service Board, 749 West King St., Littlestown, PA 17340.
Hutterian Brethren, Church of Christ (Hutterites)
In the light of the principles of Scripture, we are constrained as followers of Christ to abstain from all means of support of war and must consider members who violate these principles as transgressors and not of fellowship with the Church. Specifically, our position entails the following commitments:
1. We can have no part in carnal warfare or conflict between nations nor in strife between classes, groups, or individuals. We believe that this means that we cannot bear arms personally nor aid in any way those who do so and that as a consequence we cannot accept service under the military arm of the government whether direct or indirect, combatant or non-combatant, which ultimately involves participation in any operation aiding or abetting war and thus causes us to be responsible for the destruction of life, health and property of our fellow men.
2. On the same grounds consistency requires that we do not serve during war time under civil organizations temporarily allied with the military in the prosecution of war, such as the Y.M.C.A., the Red Cross, and similar organizations which, under military orders become a part of the system in effect, if not in method and spirit, however beneficial their peacetime activities may be.
3. We can have no part in the financing of war operations through the purchase of war bonds and war taxes in any form or through voluntary contributions to any of the organizations or activities falling under the category described immediately above, unless such contributions are used for civilian relief or similar purposes.
4. We cannot, knowingly, participate in the manufacture of munitions and weapons of war either in peacetime or in wartime.
5. We can have no part in military training schools and colleges, or in any other form of peacetime preparation for service as part of the war system.
6. We ought carefully to abstain from any agitation propaganda or activity that tends to promote ill-will or hatred among nations which lead to war, but rather endeavor to foster goodwill and respect for all nations, peoples and races, being careful to observe a spirit of sincere neutrality when cases of war and conflict arise.
We hereby adopt the above statement as representing our position on peace, war and military service. We would likewise suggest to each of our District conferences that they endorse this statement of position and bring it to the attention of every congregation and all the members, individually, in order that our people may be fully informed of our position
and may be strengthened in conviction that we may all continue in the simple, peaceful, non-resistant faith of Scriptures as handed down to us by our forefathers of former times.
(From a statement by Montana Hutterites, 1951)
For further information, contact: Rev. William Gross, 3610 N. Wood Road, Reardon, WA 99029; Rev. Joseph J. Waldner, #1129, Havre, MT 59501; Rev. Joseph J. Hofer, Rim Rock Colony, Sunburst, MT 59482; Rev. Joseph D. Waldner, #34, Route 1, Sun River, MT 59483; Rev. Peter J. Hofer, Harlowtown, MT 59036; Rev. John J. Entz, Ulm, MT 59485; Rev. John J. Wipf, Box 417, Cut Bank, MT 59427; Rev. Paul P. Wipf, Chester, MT 59522; www.hutterianbrethren.com
Old German Baptist Brethren
In reference to participation in carnal warfare, which seems to be the great question among those who would follow Jesus, and the source of much misunderstanding among the world in general, we go again to the infallible witness of the Word of God. Jesus one time made a declaration, while facing Pilate at the judgment hall, that ought to settle the question of the relation of Christianity to war. He said—"My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence" (John 18:36). His positive statement to Pilate shows that He never intended that His humble followers should take part in carnal strife.
As the Head and Founder of Christianity, Jesus is called "The Prince of Peace." His is a kingdom of peace, and all His subjects are the children of peace. The weapons of their warfare are not carnal (2 Cor. 10:4). In their work of conquest they employ the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Their Master instructed Peter to return his sword into its place, thus forbidding the use of a carnal sword. Not only so, but He gave His disciples to understand that those who use the sword should with the sword perish together . . . .
The term "Conscientious Objector" is applied to non-resistant peoples,
especially as it refers to those who claim aversion to participating in warfare. From a Christian viewpoint this term is largely a misnomer. Conscience covers a large field and embraces many forms of politics, but the sole reason a Christian does not fight is that it conflicts with the teachings of Christ. Conscience in itself is not to be considered an authority on the right or wrong of any line of conduct. Conscience is only the inward monitor which tells the individual to do what he knows to be right and which condemns him for doing what he knows to be wrong. The knowledge of what is right and what is wrong must be obtained from the Word of God. For a Christian to violate his covenant with God is to compromise his integrity, and it leads to a defiled conscience.
From Church history we learn that the early Christians for about three centuries were practically a unit in regarding military service as unchristian and wrong. The Old German Baptist Church has accepted that viewpoint as the will of Christ concerning His followers
from her very beginning, and has not since swerved from that belief. Admission of members into the Church has always been conditional upon the promise of abstaining from warfare or training thereof, among many other scriptural requirements.
(From the Doctrinal Treatise)
For further information, contact: Old German Baptist Brethren, 6952 N. Montgomery County Line Road, Englewood, OH 45322. Phone: 937-884-7351