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and Conscription Statement, 1979
We, the delegates of the Mennonite
General Assembly, meeting in Waterloo, Ontario, August 11-16,
1979, are gathered at a time of expanding militarism and escalation
of the worldwide arms race. Despite efforts by world leaders
to agree on strategic arms limitations, the powers of the world
continue in their development of increasingly destructive weapons
and their probable readiness to use them.
The Bible teaches that governments derive their proper authority
from God. We commend governments in their many humanitarian efforts
to promote freedom, justice, and well-being. As Mennonites in
North America we acknowledge with particular. appreciation the
freedom of conscience granted by the Canadian and United States
govemments to groups with special convictions such as ours. We
believe that when governments promote such freedoms, pursue justice,
and allow a climate in which God's work can flourish, they are
doing what God ordained them to do.
Modern militarism, however, tempts the nations to assume the
power of God. With their devastating arsenals of nuclear weapons,
nations today hold destructive power over every living cell on
earth. Even without war the arms race diverts resources from
urgent needs, destroys community, and
devastates the human spirit. In the United States the militaristic
mood is evident in a renewed willingness to conscript young people,
possibly women as well as men, for military service. In such
times the church must give prophetic warning, calling its members
and all people to trust the God who is Sovereign rather than
the gods of war and military technology.
Our biennial meeting in Canada reminds our members in the United
States that the church is not confined within national boundaries.
Participation in this Assembly by representatives of many ethnic
backgrounds, reports of international witness by our Mission
Board, and memories of Menonite World Conference a year ago all
confirm the transnational character of the church.
In this Assembly we have celebrated the "story begun"
by Jesus through the church in the Acts of the Apostles. As we
find our place in the story and as we seek to be faithful witnesses
in a militaristic world, we are led to proclaim the following:
A. On Peace and Obedience
We desire to grow in obedience to our Lord, as we witness to
the saving power of Jesus Christ and against the demonic power
within militarism. Acknowledging that the lines of our involvement
are not always clear, we seek not a legalistic stance but the
mind of Christ.
I. We claim anew the heritage of our spiritual forebears who
expressed through costly discipleship their commitment to Jesus
Christ, the Prince of Peace.
2. We commit ourselves and call our members to a continuing scriptural
study of the gospel of peace.
3. We commend to our conferences and congregations special peace
studies as recommended and facilitated by our churchwide and
conference peace and social concerns agencies.
B. On Use of Material Resources
We recognize that a major cause of militarism and war is greed
(James 4:1-2). We confess that as North Americans we have been
too much enslaved by our cravings for material wealth.
1. We commend to our conferences and congregations for study
and action the January 27,1979, statement by Mennonite Central
Committee entitled " An Agenda on Militarism and Development"
which also reflects the counsel of the 1978 Mennonite World Conference.
2. We counsel our members to refrain from investments and employment
which divert natural resources from use for human betterment
to use for human destruction. Where response to this counsel
produces material hardship, we remind ourselves and all our members
of the biblical call to join in bearing each other's burdens.
3. We commit ourselves and call all our members to a reexamination
of lifestyles which create economic disparity and separate rich
from poor, region from region, and nation from nation. We seek
instead an experience of Jubilee in which all share equitably
in the earth's resources.
4. We urge our members to seek out ways to open our communities
and resources to those throughout the world who may be uprooted
and displaced by war and other circumstances.
C. On Christian Service and Conscription
We view with alarm legislation proposed in the U.S. Congress
to reestablish Selective Service registration, the military draft,
and/or national service. As Christians committed to the teachings
and example of our Lord,
1. We commend to all members of every age a lifestyle of service
to all persons, constrained by the love of God.
2. We affirm our historic understandings that the Scripture allow
no circumstances when a follower of Christ may bear arms against
another human being or participate in any supporting role as
a member of the armed forces.
3. We declare our opposition to any program of national registration
and conscription. We believe that conscription in any form imposes
unwarranted regimentation by a government upon its subjects and
that military conscription in particular is a violation of Christian
conscience against militarism and war. We call upon our members
and agencies, especially in the United States, to find appropriate
ways to express this concern.
4. Should a program of conscription be activated in spite of
our witness against it, we appeal to governmental authorities
to provide exemption from military service for anyone who by
reason of conscience is opposed to participation in or support
of warfare. Should no other alternative be provided, we counsel
our members who may be drafted for military service to refuse
induction in obedience to God's law rather than to human laws.
We commit ourselves to stand with those who may be called to
this witness and pledge the offices of the church to assist in
responding to the costly demands of obedience.
5. We ask the service organizations of the church to expand organized
service programs and opportunities which are motivated by Christian
love rather than by government coercion and which give a clear
witness against militarism and war-making. We urge our members
to respond by volunteering for a year or more of special service
assignment. Where such service programs are also acceptable as
an alternative in meeting requirements of conscription, we ask
our service organizations to facilitate legal recognition for
those who request it.
6. We express our concern about existing and potential encroachments
of military control into areas of civilian activity such as demands
for access to personnel data from church schools, administration
of a program of registration and conscription under military
rather than civilian direction, etc. We urge our members to be
on the alert regarding such developments and we ask the appropriate
agencies of the church to give leadership in responding to the
7. We urge all our young people to participate in a church-sponsored
service program. Should some under the coercion of conscription
choose other alternatives to express their conscience, we also
pledge our readiness to provide counsel and spiritual support.
8. For those members who may for reason of Christian conscience
find it impossible to cooperate with a system of registration
and conscription, we reaffirm the position taken by Mennonite
General Conference at Turner, Oregon, in 1969, recognizing the
validity of noncooperation as a legitimate witness and pledging
the offices of our church to minister to young people, whether
men or women, in any eventuality that may incur in costly discipleship.
9. We call all our members to share generously with those upon
whom renewed conscription would make its heaviest demands. We
encourage congregational processes in which members, both male
and female, can clarify their commitment to costly discipleship
and record it for future reference.
10. We affirm our support of Mennonite Central Committee and
the MCC Peace Section in its coordination of the witness of our
various Mennonite bodies to governments regarding militarism
D. On Militarism and Taxation
We recognize that today's militarism expresses itself more and
more through expensive and highly technical weaponry and that
such equipment is dependent upon financial resources conscripted
from citizens through taxation. Therefore,
1. We encourage our members to pursue a lifestyle which minimizes
such tax liability through reduction to taxable income and! or
increase of tax deductible contributions for the advancement
of the gospel and the relief of human suffering.
2. We endorse efforts in support of legislation which would provide
alternative uses for taxes, paid by conscientious objectors to
war, which would otherwise be devoted to military purposes.
3. We encourage our congregations to engage in careful biblical
study regarding Christian responsibility to civil authorities,
including issues of conscience in relation to payment of taxes.
4. We recognize as a valid witness the conscientious refusal
to pay a portion of taxes required for war and military efforts.
Such refusal, however, may not be pursued in a spirit of lawlessness
nor for personal advantage but may be an occasion for constructive
response to human need.
5. We encourage our congregations and institutions to seek relief
from the current legal requirement of collecting taxes through
the withholding of income taxes of employees, especially those
taxes which may be used for war purposes. In this effort we endorse
cooperation with the General Conference Mennonite Church in the
current search for judicial, legislative, and administrative
alternatives to the collection of militay-related taxes. In the
meantime if congregational or institutional employers are led
to noncompliance with the requirement to withhold such taxes,
we pledge our support for those representatives of the church
who may be called to account for such a witness.
God loved the world enough to give us the Son. God continues
to love the world and uses the church as a channel of divine
love. It is incumbent upon the church to be faithful stewards
of God's creation and to seek shalom (peace) for all creation.
While we are confident that the ultimate destiny of the world
is in God's hand, we cannot ignore humanity's apparent capability
of annihilating God's creation via nuclear weapons. The church
must plead and pray for reversal of the world's collision to
course in manufacturing and deploying the most destructive weapons
in all history.
It is our prayer that unborn
generations may enjoy the greatness of God's love and the bounties
of creation. We pledge ourselves as faithful stewards under the
power of the Holy Spirit to follow in the way of peace as taught
by Jesus and demonstrated by faithful people throughout the history
of the church.
Revised and approved by the Fifth Mennonite Church General Assembly,General
Assembly August 16, 1979, University of Waterloo and Conrad Grebel
College, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, Proceedings, pp.100-103.
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