to Conscription and Militarism, 1969
Brief Statement on Mennonite Draft Resistance
The Mennonite Church, throughout
history, had held the doctrine of nonresistance as central to its
interpretation of the Christian faith. The practical application
of nonresistance by the church has taken various forms
historically, and has been met with varied responses by the
Mennonites in the United States
presently experience very little, if any, difficulty in the area of
military service. The Selective Service System has given us an
opportunity to fulfill our service obligation without directly becoming
members of the military.
A small, but growing number of
Mennonite young peope find the present arrangements with the United
States government totally unacceptable. The Vietnam War and the
continued military conscription have prompted us to examine our
individual and church relationships with the Selective Service
System. By cooperating with this agency we, in effect, are
sanctioning its actions.
We are also disturbed by the
pervasiveness of militarism and militaristic thought in the United
States. In the spirit of what we hope is a prophetic witness both
to the church and the state, we feel an obligation as Christians to
resist these tendencies.
Selective Service System must be
considered an integral part of the military. Its only purpose is
to channel men into various vocations related directly of indirectly to
killing. This channeling of men necessarily involves coercion and
therefore interferes with Christian vocation as we understand it.
Christian service and a witness of
peace cannot be coerced. They must be spontaneous in nature, and
motivated by Christian love and concern for the individual and
It is for these basic reasons that we
willfully refuse to cooperate with the Selective Service System.
We feel that this is the stance we have to assume as Christians.
We do not attempt to willfully rebel against the state, but recognize
that our first loyalty and obedience is to God.
We do not advocate that the Mennonite
Church should officially state that noncooperation is the practice it
will now assume. Certainly we accept the existing arrangements as
being viable for those unable to agree with, of accept the posistion of
We feel that God is calling the Church
to move in a new direction of prophetic witness.
response to this message we take the following action:
reaffirm our position statements of the Mennonite General Conference
made in 1937 and 1951 with regard to peace, war, military service, and
positive Christian service according to the Church's interpretation of
the life and teachings of Christ.
pledge to renew out efforts to educate the youth of the Mennonite
Church in our historic nonresistant faith.
ask the Committee on Peace and Social Concerns and the MCC Peace
Section to examine closely out present policy of cooperation with the
Selective Service System.
recognize the validity of noncooperation as a legitimate witness and
pledge the offices of our brotherhood to minister to young men in any
eventuality they incur in costly discipleship.
instruct our counseling agencies to work more closely in assisting
young men who have chosen to migrate to another country for Conscience'
ask the service organization of the church to express a willingness to
accept individuals into service programs who cannot conscientiously
cooperate with the Selective Service System.
increase our draft counseling programs both to Mennonites and
continue to support church-related alternate service as a legitimate
option for those who do not feel called to a position of
noncooperation. Even though some consider such service a
compromise in our witness against war, we will support anyone who is
willing to affirm the preservation and enrichment of life over the
destruction of life by accepting an alternate service assignment.
commend to our brotherhood the position of Christian service as
vocation not only for men conscripted by Selective Service, but also
for those young men of draft age not conscripted, for young women, and
for persons of all ages.
cousel our brotherhood to respect civil authority, to obey it in all
areas where it does not violate conscience, and to reject the spirit of
violence of our age.
Monday, August 18, 1969
Response to Conscription and Militarism
John E. Lapp called for the
distribution of a "Response to Conscription and Militarism" which
included "A Brief Statment on Mennonite Draft Resistance." Report XX,
p. 119. He stated that this was prepared, in response to Action 5
by members of the CPSC present on the grounds and others co-opted-
Harold Bauman and Douglas Baker.
17- With the urgency of the hour, I move the adoption of this as
our response to conscription and militarism. Seconded.
Carried. (Several opposed.)
A delegate read a statement calling
for the apology of the Mennonite Draft Resisters' group for their
One of the youth group responded,
expressing great appreciation for the action taken, and called for an
apology for the last statement made.
A plea was made that brotherly love be
expressed. Expressions of reconciliation were given.
Response to Conscription and Militarism. The moderator
asked the chairman of the Committee on Peace and Social Concerns to
explain how the concern of the Mennonite Draft Resisters came to the
Conference body. It was stated that the concern was first brought
to the Conference officers who referred it to the executive secretary
of the CPSC. It was then brought to the General Council to be
presented to General Conference. The CPSC was unable to review
the concern prior to its presentation becasue of lack of time.
Further discussion followed.
Appreciation was expressed for the positive witness in the presentation.
3- Moved the adoption of the statement with the suggestion made
that the Mennonite Church, through its CPSC, make a special stude of
noncooperation with the U.S. Selective Service System as a possible
more legitimate form of peace witness for the Mennonite young men
rather than the present alternate service program. Seconded.
A suggestion was made that the motion
as stated does not recognize both positions of nonparticipation in
military and nonparticipation in draft as valid.
4- Moved to amend the motion to return to the printed
document. Seconded and carried. (Exibit XX, p. 119.)
Further discussion followed.
5- Moved an amendment to the motion on the floor that we
recognize the position of this paper and that it be referred to the
members of the Committee on Peace and Social Concerns, witht the
co-opted help of others, to edit the paper for consistent and positive
statements, and that the point be added that the position does not
identify with the violence of draft-card burners, and that it be
resubmitted to the delegate body for action later in these
sessions. Seconded and carried.
Douglas Baker, representing the Mennonite Draft
Resisters, expressed appreciation for the open and brotherhood way on
which they have been received. He stated that they want to
continue to work very closely with the brotherhood in interpreting the
whole meaning of this General Conference session and their particular
concern. He apologized for any offense caused by their personal
appearance, and stated that they seek simplicity and honesty in both
life and dress. They feel their appearance should be consistent
with their whole life style. Their dress gives numerous
opportunities for dialogue and witness. They have been somewhat
less than open to the conservative brethren and asked for help.
In the past they have taken too lightly some of the things which were
so important to others of the brethren and have caused offense.
Their Christian heritage means very much to them, and they see
tremendous possibilities for brotherhood in the Mennonite Church.
Marcus Lind responded with a public apology for his attitude toward the
youth group and stated that he has misunderstood them. The Holy
Spirit works in some very unorthodox ways sometimes but they are never
contrary to the Scriptures. He expressed concern, however, as to
how the story of the youth group will go out to the press.
Opportunity was given for further sharing. Concern was expressed
about the direction of this Conference.
27- Moved that the gathering here give an expression of
forgiveness to Brother Douglas Baker and Brother Marcus Lind.
Carried by a rising vote.
Adopted at the Thirty-Eighth Mennonite
General Conference, Turner, Oregon, August 15-19, 1969.
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