Reaffirmation of Opposition to War and Conscription for Military Training

1982 Church of the Brethren Resolution

The Church of the Brethren Annual Conference assembled in Wichita, Kansas, July 20-25, 1982, 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.

The Church of the Brethren, since its beginning in 1708, has repeatedly declared its position against war. Our understanding of the life and the teaching 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 grew out of such teachings of Christ as the following:

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also. . . (Luke 6:27,28)

So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets. (Matthew 7:12)

Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. (Matthew 26:52)

In 1970 Annual Conference recommended that men facing conscription consider the alternative positions of (1) alternative service as conscientious objectors engaging in constructive civilian work, or (2) open, nonviolent noncooperation with the system of conscription. We again affirm these two positions to be in keeping with the mind of Christ.

The Selective Service System on June 7, 1982, proposed new guidelines for alternative service work in the event of a future draft. These proposed regulations, as they now stand, would make it extremely difficult for the Church of the Brethren to cooperate with the Selective Service System in carrying out an alternative service program. The delegate body of this Annual Conference requests our government to:

  1. Allow the Church of the Brethren to provide alternative work assignments for our members desiring to use them.
  2. Provide civilian administration of the alternative service program rather than requiring conscientious objectors to be assigned and evaluated by military personnel.
  3. Allow the Church of the Brethren to provide the orientation for alternative service workers assigned to our programs.
  4. Provide adequate safeguards to prevent arbitrary job assignments and reassignments of alternative service workers.
  5. Allow an alternative service worker to seek employment with any approved agency rather than making work options such as civil defense a top priority.
  6. Allow alternative service workers to be assigned overseas.

Action of the General Board July 1982

The General Board adopted the Reaffirmation and recommended that it be passed to the 1982 Annual Conference through Standing Committee.

Curtis W. Dubble, Chair
Robert W. Neff, General Secretary

Action of 1982 Annual Conference

Charles W. Boyer, peace consultant, introduced the paper from the General Board.

Ronald McAdams, Standing Committee delegate from Southern Ohio, presented the recommendation from Standing Committee that the paper be adopted. The paper Reaffirmation of Opposition to War and Conscription for Military Training, was adopted.