1918 Church of the Brethren Statement


[A Similar Paper Was Sent to Secretary of War, Newton D. Baker, and Provost Marshal Gen. Crowder]

To the Honorable Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States, Greeting:—

We, the Church of the Brethren, in a Special National Conference, held at Goshen, Ind., Jan. 9, 1918, representing 100,000 members, memorialize the Honorable Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States, in behalf of our people, inviting his attention to the following items of fact and presenting herein the petitions appended:

I. Appreciating the generous laws of our country, affording protection to our property and persons, and the enjoyment of civil and religious liberty, we declare our loyalty to our country, and love to our rulers and assure them of our constant prayers in their behalf, in the perilous hours that are upon us.

II. We gratefully acknowledge the consideration of our Government in providing for us, and other religious bodies, according to the Constitution of the United States, exemption from combatant military service on the ground of our time-honored principles and conscientious convictions against taking part in war in any form.

III. Our church, from its organization, two hundred years ago, has held tenaciously as a tenet of its creed that war is contrary to the spirit and teaching of the New Testament Scriptures and all members of the church are forbidden to engage in war or learn the art of war in any form. Every member of this church was catechized and gave his consent and assent to this tenet when received into membership. Through long-time public teaching and personal presentation of this nonresistant doctrine, it has gained deep-seated root and residence in the very life-centres and faith-centres of our people, so much so that many have suffered loss of property, personal bodily violence and imprisonment, and in a few cases, death, rather than yield to pressure brought to bear against them to engage in militant service. The early immigration of our people to America was for the purpose of escaping religious persecution and enforced military service, seeking here freedom to worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience.

IV. We believe in the good faith and intent of the President and of the others who assisted in the framing of the Selective Draft Law, and of Congress in passing it. But while the law is direct and instructions specific, the application of its provisions, by some Draft Boards, has been varied. The treatment in the Training Camps has been considerate; and while the young men in the Camps have spoken in favorable terms of provisions for their care, and in many instances of respectful and generous treatment after their claims for their convictions were fully understood, yet, in some cases, religion and religious convictions have been subjected to contempt and ridicule,—the bearing and spirit of the Camps being to construe religious objections rather as a ruse or cloak for cowardice, or as an indication of lack of patriotic courage, instead of a sincere religious conviction, and to make conscientious objections so unpopular as to dishearten the timid in their convictions, and to force them into the militant ranks. These facts tend to create alarm and distrust in the minds of our people, in regard to efficiency in the application of the provision in the selective draft law.

In the Detention Camps, which have been graciously provided by the Government, the men have been almost absolutely without employment. Idleness, itself, is a misfortune and peril. Men with the virility and energy of their age, and consciences quickened by their religion, and yet detained, month after month, in idle waiting, become distressed and suffer the moral peril incident to non-employment. In addition to this they are tortured with the consciousness that they are in no sense serving their country. They can not, in conscience, accept the military uniform, and yet say that there are noncombatant duties which they could do but which can not be obtained without the uniform.

The authoritative statement was made to our young men in Camp that “there is no absolutely noncombatant service under military control.” Further, that if men are cooks, or in ambulance service, or in the medical corps, they are supposed to be armed, and if they or the work in their hands is attacked, they must use their arms in defense, and at any time, when ordered to do so.

Many of these men would enter into monetary bonds to remain faithful to the Government, if permitted to enter constructive occupations and assist in the planting and gathering of crops, in harmony with their religious convictions.

V. The cry everywhere is for the conservation of our men. The raising of food products, the production of fuel, the manufacture of needful articles and the transportation of all these are fundamentally necessary. The conscription of men for the care and carrying on of the productive and peaceful industries and the transportation of their products is already in the thought of the Government.

VI. In view of all these facts, and in accord with the provisions of the Constitution, which vouchsafes religious freedom to all subjects, stipulating that “Congress shall make no law, respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” (Amendments, Art. 1), we earnestly and humbly pray the President of the United States to assign to us our noncombatant duties in agriculture and the peaceful industries, where loyal and valuable service to our country may be rendered without violence to conscience, and in a way that will avoid the unhappy confusion in Camps, in the effort to apply the provisions for noncombatant service under the military system, or to do, in harmony with our nonresistant principles, relief work and reconstruction work, here or elsewhere, at the judgment of and, if need be, under the control of the Government.

We earnestly and humbly pray that these petitions may be granted.

H. C. Early, Moderator; Otho Winger, Reading Clerk; J. J. Yoder, Writing Clerk.


Statement of Special Conference of the Church of the Brethren to the Churches and the Drafted Brethren

Amidst all the confusion that is upon the earth at this time, and with the force and argument resident in the circumstances of the present war, the appeals to reason and human judgment, in regard to the claims of justice and freedom, we appreciate the difficult dilemma into which men are brought in deciding their position and course. In it all, however, we must know that the final authority and determining arbiter for us must be found, not in our feeling or popular acclaim, or persuasions of men, or in our own reasoning, but in the New Testament, which we claim as our creed,—a revelation of God’s Will, a standard of human conduct both as to morals and religion.

Therefore this Conference of the Church of the Brethren hereby declares her continued adherence to the principles of nonresistance, held by the church since its organization in 1708.

I. We believe that war or any participation in war is wrong and entirely incompatible with the spirit, example, and teachings of Jesus Christ.

II. That we can not conscientiously engage in any activity or perform any function, contributing to the destruction of human life.

The Foundations of Our Belief

“Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I came not to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17). “For Christ is the end of the law unto righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom. 10:4). “So that the law is become our [Jews] tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith is come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Gal. 3:24,25). “For he [Christ] is our peace, who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that he might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace” (Eph. 2:14,15). “God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners, hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds” (Heb. 1:1,2).


  1. Christians are servants of Christ. “But if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Rom. 8:9). “Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philpp. 2:5).
  2. Love motivates the Christian’s conduct. “Hereby know we love, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). “Ye have heard that it was said, Thou shall love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy: but I say unto you, Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you; that ye may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:43-45). “But I say unto you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you. To him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; . . . And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. And if ye love them that love you, what thank have ye? for even sinners love those that love them. And if ye do good to them that do good to you, what thank have ye? for even sinners do the same. . . . But love your enemies, and do them good. . . . and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be sons of the Most High” (Luke 6:27-35).
  3. Human life sacred. “Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: but I say unto you, that every one who is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council” (Matt. 5:21,22).
  4. Physical resistance and revenge incompatible with Christian conduct. “Ye have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, Resist not him that is evil: but whosoever smiteth thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matt. 5:38,30). “Render to no man evil for evil. Take thought for things honorable in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men. Avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place unto the wrath of God: for it is written, Vengeance belongeth unto me; I will recompense, saith the Lord. But if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him to drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:17-21). “Then saith Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into its place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword” (Matt. 26:52). “Jesus answered [Pilate], 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). “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh (for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds)” (2 Cor. 10:3,4).
  5. Suffering for righteousness’ sake a Christian’s duty and privilege. “Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you” (Matt. 5:11,12). “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to councils, and in their synagogues they will scourge you; yea and before governors and kings shall ye be brought for my sake, for a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, be not anxious how or what ye shall speak: . . . For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you” (Matt. 10:16-20). “If ye were of the world, the world would love its own: but because ye are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:19). “But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were enlightened, ye endured a great conflict of sufferings; partly, being made a gazing stock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, becoming partakers with them that were so used. For ye both had compassion on them that were in bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your possessions, knowing that ye have for yourselves a better possession and an abiding one. Cast not away therefore your boldness, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, having done the will of God, ye may receive the promise” (Heb. 10:32-36).
  6. The instructions of John the Baptist to the soldiers (Luke 3:14), and the Lord’s suggestion that they sell their cloaks and buy swords, and his final saying that two swords are sufficient (Luke 22:35-38), when studied in the text and context, are against military warfare, rather than in its favor.


“Because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: who his own self bare our sins in his body upon the tree, that we, having died unto sins, might live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (1 Peter 2:21-24).

“And the soldiers led him away within the court, . . . and they call together the whole band. And they clothe him with purple, and platting a crown of thorns, they put it on him; and they began to salute him. Hail, King of the Jews! And they smote his head with a reed, and spat upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him. And when they had mocked him, they took off from him the purple, and put on him his garments. And they led him out to crucify him” (Mark 15:16-20, and to the end of chapter). “And when they had come unto the place which is called The skull, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand and the other on the left. And Jesus said, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:33-34, and to end of chapter).

The Apostolic church and early church fathers endured, without physical resistance, the persecutions of the Jewish and heathen peoples, and ever taught and consistently followed the principles of peace.

The Church’s Attitude Toward the Government

I. We are loyal citizens of this great nation, which has been and is now a safeguard of our religious liberties and the protector of our homes and loved ones.

II. Our attitude towards Civil Governments and rulers should be carefully taken into account. We are taught that Governments are ordained of God, and that the administrators of Government are ministers of God. As such we are to be in subjection to them (Rom. 13:1-7). We are admonished to pray for the rulers and magistrates and for those in authority (1 Tim. 2:1-2).

The word and authority of God, however, must be final and supreme over all. And when the demands of men and of Governments conflict with the Word of God, we are then bound by the latter, regardless of consequences. “Whether it is right in the sight of God to hearken unto you [magistrates] rather than unto God, judge ye” (Acts 4:10). “But Peter and the apostles answered and said, We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:20). Therefore we urge,—

First. That our various congregations pray without censing for the rulers of our nation that the nation may again enjoy peace, and that blood-shedding and destruction may cease.

Second. That they contribute liberally to the relief of human suffering, both in men and money.

Third. That they express their gratitude to God for our favored position and freedom from the devastation of war, by giving freely of our substance for constructive relief work, such as Red Cross, Y. M. C. A., Friends’ Relief Work, or through our own Service Committee.

Fourth. We urge our people to put forth their utmost effort in this world crisis, laboring with their hands, cultivating our fields and gardens and vacant lands, planting only such crops as will contribute to the real necessities of life; also that they practice the greatest economy in clothing, food, and all supplies which may, mechanically or otherwise, aid in the production and transportation of food, clothing and fuel, so that a suffering and hungering world may be clothed, warmed and fed.

Appeal for Greater Efforts in Church and Mission Work

The present crisis has aroused the self-sacrifice of all classes of people in the interests of suffering humanity. The spirit of sacrifice is with us. Our young people are restless to do something commensurate with the sacrifices of others, but they must have a cause.

We urge that the supreme cause of the Kingdom of God be held up before them so repeatedly and continuously that they will enlist in its service. Our young people should be made to see that there can be no permanent peace without Christianity, and Christianity can not become real in the world without the heroic, self-sacrificing work of missions. The world will not be safe for democracy until it is safe for truth. The greatest service we can render humanity is the promotion of the Kingdom of God. And all the pent-up energy of the church can here find an outlet in the work of religious education, which includes all Christian work.

We need more pastors, and churches should elect and encourage suitable brethren for this work. The Sunday-schools have a great task to inculcate the true Gospel into the hearts of men, in this age of materialism, skepticism, and carnage. We urge that special efforts be made to secure volunteers for our mission work. As others give their sons for the trenches, we should give ours for the salvation of the world. When the spirit of self-sacrifice is manifest on every hand, it is opportune to enlist the young people in the holy cause of missions, where they can give their lives in a living sacrifice for the “things that endure.”

We urge upon the whole church greatly to increase her offerings for the cause of missions. The excess profits, due to the war, should all be given for the promotion of the Kingdom of God, of which the mission work is a most vital part. We believe, with Dr. Mott and Sherwood Eddy, that, during this world crisis, no one should “lay up treasure on earth,” but give all that he can for the salvation of the world.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the source and foundation of all our blessings, and the only hope of an enduring peace. Therefore let us give our lives and our means to promote his Gospel, at home and abroad.

Other Provisions

We are petitioning the Government to give our drafted brethren such industrial noncombatant service as will contribute constructively to the necessity, health and comfort of hungering, suffering humanity, either here or elsewhere.

We further urge our brethren not to enlist in any service which would, in any way, compromise our time-honored position in relation to war; also that they refrain from wearing the military uniform. The tenets of the church forbid military drilling, or learning the art or arts of war, or doing anything which contributes to the destruction of human life or property.

We commend the loyalty of the brethren in the Camps for their firm stand in not participating in the arts of war. We do not wish to oppose the consciences of those brethren who, in some Camps, found work which they felt they could conscientiously do, but we urge them to do only such work as will not involve them in the arts of destruction.

Provision for Special War Relief and Reconstruction Work. Committee appointed: J. E. Miller, Galen B. Royer, Clarence Lahman.

Duties of committee: It shall be the duty of this committee to devise ways and plans by which our people can do relief and reconstruction work, either independently or in coöperation with other organizations, and it shall be authorized to appeal for, and receive, funds, and carefully administer the disbursing of the same.

The committee is empowered to employ a secretary, or outside assistant, to labor under its direction.

The Publishing House shall be asked to print copies of this report, to which shall be appended a suitable church membership certificate blank. That the elders or clerks of each congregation be urged to procure from the House sufficient copies to supply one to each member now in the Camp, and to each one as he may be called in the future. That, if need be, these may be shown to the officers of Camps as the final and highest authority from the church to which they belong.


Central Service Committee

We ask the Special National Conference, assembled at Goshen, Ind., Jan. 9, 1918, to appoint a Central Service Committee.

This committee shall consist of not less than three members, and it will supplant the “Special Peace Committee.”

The duties of this committee shall be:

  1. To represent the Church of the Brethren at Washington in all matters pertaining to the church’s relation to the Government, in problems arising from the war.
  2. It shall advise with all the committees that visit the Training Camps, and shall receive reports from them and aid in unifying their work.
  3. It shall be the final avenue through which problems of the draft, and of the Brethren in the Camps shall be adjusted, when local efforts fail in bringing about a satisfactory adjustment.
  4. This committee may confer with, and coöperate with the representatives of other churches holding similar views on peace.
  5. The expenses of this committee for their time and other items, and for the chairman of the committee, who must, necessarily, reside much of his time in Washington, which requires an ample compensation, and other expenses, shall be paid by the Treasurer of Annual Meeting.

In view of the fact that there is a possibility of a law being enacted making military drill compulsory, a motion was made, authorizing the Central Service Committee, at the proper time, to protest against such a law, and, if passed, that they secure exemption for our members and members’ children.

Committee: W. J. Swigart, I. W. Taylor, C. D. Bonsack.


This Conference authorizes the General Mission Board to provide adequate pastoral care for our Brethren in the draft, if such need arises beyond present provision.

The Annual Meeting Treasurer is asked to make an extra levy to meet extra drafts upon the General Treasury.


The Special General Conference of the Church of the Brethren, assembled at Goshen, Ind., Jan. 9, 1918, resolves the following:

That we give thanks to our Gracious Heavenly Father for all his care and guidance during these trying times and during this Special Conference.

That we express our thanks to the Goshen City church for the use of their house of worship and for their services during this Conference.

That we express our appreciation to the local newspapers for their fair report of this meeting today.

That we give to the committees we have appointed, our hearty support and shall remember them in public and private prayer.

That we recommend to all our members to help make the Annual Conference of 1918 a Delegate Conference, and that the money thus saved, along with additional funds, be given for “relief and reconstruction” work in war-devastated countries and in World-wide Mission Work.

That we commend our great Brotherhood to the loving care of our Heavenly Father, and place ourselves in his hands, to be guided by his Holy Spirit in all the ways he would have us to go.

Standing Committee of Special Conference

1. Arkansas, First Dist., and S. E. Mo.—Not represented

2. California, Northern—Andrew Blickenstaff

3. California, Southern and Arizona—Geo. F. Chemberlen

4. China, First District—Not represented

5. Colorado, Western and Utah—Not represented

6. Denmark—Not represented

7. Idaho and Western Montana—Not represented

8. Illinois, Northern and Wisconsin—Not represented

9. Illinois, Southern—W. T. Heckman

10. India, First District—Not represented

11. Indiana, Middle—Frank Fisher, Otho Winger

12. Indiana, Northern—Manly Deeter, Eli Heestand

13. Indiana, Southern—E. O. Norris

14. Iowa, Middle—H. A. Gnagy

15. Iowa, Northern, Minn., and S. Dak.—A. P. Blough

16. Iowa, Southern—H. C. N. Coffman

17. Kansas, Northeastern—O. R. McCune

18. Kansas, N. W. and N. E. Colorado—Not represented

19. Kansas, Southeastern—M. E. Stair

20. Kansas, S. W. and S. E. Colo.—J. J. Yoder

21. Maryland, Eastern—J. J. John

22. Maryland, Middle—Caleb Long

23. Maryland, Western—Not represented

24. Michigan—E. F. Caslow

25. Missouri, Middle—L. B. Ihrig

26. Missouri, Northern—G. W. Ellenberger

27. Missouri, S. W. and N. W. Ark.—J. H. Argabright

28. Nebraska—S. G. Nickey

29. North and South Car., Ga. and Fla.—Not represented

30. North Dak., E. Mont, and W. Can.—Not represented

31. Ohio, Northeastern—S. S. Shoemaker

32. Ohio, Northwestern—J. L. Guthrie

33. Ohio, Southern—D. M. Garver, J. W. Fidler

34. Oklahoma, Pan. of Tex. and N. Mex.—Not represented

35. Oregon—Not represented

36. Pennsylvania, Eastern—S. H. Hertzler, J. H. Longenecker

37. Pennsylvania, Middle—W. S. Long, J. C. Swigart

38. Pa., S. E., N. J. and E. N. Y.—Chas. F. McKee

39. Pennsylvania, Southern—C. L. Baker, E. S. Miller

40. Pennsylvania, W.—H. S. Replogle, M. Clyde Horst

41. Sweden—Not represented

42. Tennessee—Not represented

43. Texas and Louisiana—Not represented

44. Virginia, Eastern—E. E. Blough

45. Virginia, First District—P. S. Miller

46. Virginia, Northern—D. H. Zigler, H. C. Early

47. Virginia, Second District—A. S. Thomas

48. Virginia, Southern—W. H. Naff

49. Washington—D. B. Eby

50. West Virginia, First District—B. W. Smith

51. West Virginia, Second District—Not represented

Note.—The voting power of the Conference consisted of the Standing Committee, the Peace Committee, the Camp Visiting Committees, and a small number of local church delegates.

H. C. Early, Moderator; Otho Winger, Reading Clerk; J. J. Yoder, Writing Clerk.