The Church of the Brethren works on a number of other peace and justice issues.
"God calls for justice and fairness for all people. Therefore, it seems particularly clear that in the richest nation on earth. God expects access to adequate health care to be a basic right for all citizens, regardless of gender, race, or financial status. While good health cannot be assured to everyone, good health care can and should be guaranteed."
--1989 Annual Conference Statement on Health Care in the United States
Annual Conference statements on health care
Ad Hoc Committee of former board members of Association of Brethren Caregivers
Health Care and the Bible
As each person is created in the divine image of God, the Church of the Brethren endorses believes that each person shall have their health protected. Just as Christ’s ministry involved physical healing, we shall strive to ensure that all people have access to life-giving treatments. Good health is a part of the overall well-being, and part of the call to honor the body as a temple to God.
Health care reform is a vital piece of a just society where each person may attain health, wholeness, and dignity. As such, health care reform must include policies that are inclusive, accessible, affordable, and accountable.
Ecumenical and interfaith partners
Since 1977 over 1,200 people have been executed in the United States. As of January 2010, 38 states have over 3,200 inmates sentenced to the death penalty, according to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund report (PDF). The average stay on death row is 12 years.
Related Annual Conference statements
The death penalty and the Bible
The Bible includes passages that can be interpreted as both for and against the death penalty. Mosaic law in the Old Testament calls for death as a punishment for murder (Gen. 9:6, Ex. 21:12-14, Lev. 24:17), adultery (Lev. 20:10) and many other offenses. And yet Jesus tells the woman accused of adultery to go and sin no more (John 8:7-11). He steps in on her behalf. Jesus also advocates for non-violence and “turning the other cheek” (Matt. 5:38-39). In the Old Testament, redemption was attained by restoring justice through the courts; however, Jesus comes as God’s form of renewing, life-giving redemption. God is the only one without sin; the giving and taking of life belongs to God (Gen. 9:5).
"You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous." (Matthew 5:43-45 NRSV)
The only way to rid our world of violence is to recognize that only God can make decisions of life and death.The death penalty is not keeping us safer. In fact, the death penalty only perpetuates the cycle of violence. We should seek mercy and redemption for all children of God.
We seek stronger efforts in crime prevention and finding ways of healing and reparation for the victims of crimes. This begins with addressing the systemic violence that oppresses the poor and under-educated. Abuse prevention and care for those who have been abused is necessary, including providing psychiatric care for those in need.
Overall, the Brethren commit themselves to non-violence. The death penalty does nothing to restore the life of the victim. Revenge, although understandable, is not in Jesus’ teachings. Therefore as a church our response to violence of all kinds is healing mercy and self-giving love.
Death Row Support Project
The Death Row Support Project was formed in 1978 and continues today to pair members with persons sentenced to death. As Jesus calls us to visit the imprisoned, this correspondence is a form of visiting. The project asks that you begin writing letters, and continue as faithfully as possible with openness.
As a "Nation of Immigrants," this country is filled by those who left their homelands for social, religious, political, or economic reasons. With the exception of Native Americans and captives brought here against their will, we or our ancestors came seeking a better life. Even so, the U.S. has a checkered history toward immigrants. In times of prosperity we offer hospitality: in times of recession or depression we react with hostility.
Immigration and the Bible
"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it." (Hebrews 13:2 NRSV)
From the Exodus of the Israelites, Moses calls to his people to be good to the aliens and immigrants because they too were aliens in Egypt (Exodus 22:21, Deuteronomy 24: 14-15 NRSV). Hebrews also calls for hospitality to strangers and sojourners (Hebrews 13 NRSV).
In the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus calls us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves and, by extension, to care for others in every way. God's actions culminate when all of God's people are "reconciled one to another, no longer strangers and sojourners, but fellow citizens with the saints and workers of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:19 NRSV).
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God ” (Ephesians 2:19 NRSV).
As citizens of God’s kingdom the Brethren recognize that tensions surrounding the issue of immigration must be solved in the context of Stewardship of God’s gifts, and the understanding that all things come from God and are meant for the benefit of all humanity.
Official statements on immigration
Mission and Ministry Board (formerly the General Board)
The church recognizes there is no easy answer to the question of immigration policy reform. However, Brethren recognize a need to continue a Christian response that considers the well-being of all people, including immigrants and refugees. The Church of the Brethren encourages non-violence movements to support human-rights worldwide and reduce the pressure to migrate. The church also promotes economic health in all nations so that all people can earn a living wage and encourages resettlement programs for refugees of any crisis situation regardless of their country of origin. In all cases, Brethren seek to uphold the human rights of all people, regardless of their nationality.
Immigration reform in the United States
Immigration reform is badly needed in the United States. The current policy, the Immigration Nationality Act of 1952, along with the revisions from 1965 to 1980, leaves many people waiting for permission to enter the U.S. to join their families, while other people with no relatives here may enter immediately. The backlogs have created a large population of undocumented immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally or have overstayed their visas. These undocumented people often fall prey to unsafe working conditions and abuse because of their fear of alerting authorities and then being deported.
Refugee resettlement and other displaced people
When refugees flee their homeland, faith-based organizations work to find them communities within the United States. The Church of the Brethren supports Church World Service (CWS), an ecumenical organization, in resettling about 8,000 refugees annually.
The Church of the Brethren also helps people all over the world restore their homes after disasters occur. Brethren Disaster Ministries rebuilds homes, nurtures children, and distributes funds to help communities recover after disaster strikes.
Ecumenical and interfaith partners
Economic justice and the Bible
"Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statutes, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be your spoil, and that you may make the orphans your prey!" (Isaiah 10:1-2 NRSV).
The Bible instructs us to take care of all people generously (1 Timothy 6:17-19) and install laws that create justice in our society. Our plights are all related so one person cannot prosper when others suffer (Jeremiah 29:7).
"He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty." (Luke 1:52-53 NRSV)
Statements on economic justice
Mission and Ministry Board (formerly the General Board)
The federal budget
Values shaping the budget
While the Church of the Brethren remains committed to serving the poor through soup kitchens and direct service projects, we recognize that charity alone is not a long-term solution. We believe that sufficiently funded human needs and social service programs are critical parts of the federal budget in order to strengthen suffering communities and our nation as a whole for the long-term.
Economic opportunity and the idea of economic mobility are values that define the United States; however these ideas need strong foundations of long-term economic growth to become a reality for everyone. We urge congress to invest in quality education, sustainable jobs with living wages, and policies that help families build and maintain assets. With that in mind, we also seek to protect our children from a legacy of economic insecurity. We recognize that balanced spending is vital to economy vitality; however we believe the budget should not be balanced on the backs of the poor and vulnerable.
The Federal Budget of the current budget cycle called for 14% for safety net programs and 20% for standard defense spending. This 20% does not include war costs in Iraq or Afghanistan, as those are funding through emergency appropriations. Combined, military spending far exceeds domestic programs. The church does not endorse violence and warfare as heavily-invested values for our nation. The church views a reduction in military spending as a way to heavily invest in programs to enhance life.
Brethren urge Congress to invest in international aid funding beyond the current level of 1% of the budget without cutting funding for domestic programs. The church believes that additional funding in global human needs would better reflect the values of the church to care for the poor with peace and justice instead of violence.
The problems associated with the deficit are real, and important to address. The Brethren recognize the critical need for the nation to stand on solid fiscal ground. Living in a sustainable way is part of what we are called to do as people faith. As we look to the future, the church urges cuts in federal spending where inefficiency and waste exist. However, we also believe that it is also critical to protect poor and low-income families. Poverty and inequality are moral issues; as a society we should provide for the hungry and most vulnerable among us.
In times when many Americans are struggling to feed their families, and pay for necessary expenses, the need to invest as a country in job creation is great. However, we have the opportunity to invest in jobs that not only provide the quick fix that low-income families need, but bring about longer term structural changes to our economy that will make it more sustainable in the future. The 2009 Census reported that 43.6 million Americans are living in poverty, and the unemployment rate is nearly 10%. The Church of the Brethren strives to ensure even as Congress works to decrease the federal deficit and get the economy growing, that good jobs are priority. We can invest in jobs, while also building a more sustainable economy reflective of the realm of God.
Department of Housing and Urban Development (urban development, service projects)
Department of Veterans Affairs (low-income veterans, job clubs)
Department of Labor (grants for job clubs)
Small Business Administration (grants)
Department of Commerce (census, grants)