Taxation for War

1985 Church of the Brethren Statement

Whereas, the Church of the Brethren throughout its history has repeatedly affirmed that all war is sin;

Whereas, Christ calls us to love persons living in so-called enemy lands;

Whereas, our government continues to put its faith in weapons that can destroy all human life on our planet;

Whereas, United States of America federal funds spent for present and past military efforts currently total approximately one-half of all federal expenditures;

Therefore, the members of the Church of the Brethren General Board, assembled in Elgin, Illinois, March 3-6, 1984, ask Annual Conference meeting in Carbondale, Illinois, to appoint a committee to study and recommend how Brethren should respond to the dilemma of paying for war.

Action of the General Board, March 1984

The General Board voted to send the foregoing Query Regarding Taxation for War to the 1984 Annual Conference, through Standing Committee.

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

Action of 1984 Annual Conference

Marie Willoughby, the Standing Committee delegate from the Michigan District, presented the recommendation from Standing Committee. The delegates at the 1984 Annual Conference amended that recommendation, then voted that the intent of the query, Taxation for War, be granted (accepted) and that a committee be appointed to study and recommend how Brethren should respond to the dilemma of paying for war. The appointed committee should have five (5) members with three elected by Annual Conference and two appointed by the General Board.

The concern from the query, Telephone Tax Redirection, was referred to the study committee, Taxation for War, with the stipulation that a specific recommendation regarding the General Board payment of the Federal Telephone Excise Tax be brought to the 1985 Annual Conference. The referral is a part of the assignment for the study committee.

The committee of five (5) persons were: elected by Annual Conference—Richard O. Buckwalter (Michigan), Violet Cox (Virlina), and Gary Flory (Western Plains); and appointed by the General Board—Philip W. Rieman (Northern Indiana) and Arlene E. May (Shenandoah). The staff liaison will be Charles L. Boyer.

1985 Report of the Committee


The assignment given to the study committee, Taxation for War, is twofold and therefore will be addressed separately in two reports.

1) Report of the Committee on Taxation for War, and

2) Recommendation of the Committee on Telephone Tax Redirection.

Report 1—Report of the Committee on Taxation for War

The committee reviewed previous Annual Conference position papers which had anything to say regarding the Church and war, the Church and war taxes, taxation and militarism, civil disobedience, and corporate civil disobedience. The position papers studied were:

1983—War Tax Consultation

1980—Christian Lifestyle—Point 5 on Taxation and Militarism

1973—Taxation for War

1970—Statement of the Church of the Brethren on War

1969—Obedience to God and Civil Disobedience

In addition, other relevant statements and articles were reviewed by the committee.

After study and discussion of these previous papers, an observation was made by most of the committee members that while we knew in a general way the position stated in the papers adopted by previous Conferences, we had a lack of knowledge of specific biblical interpretations and specific recommendations contained in the papers.

Other observations included:

—most study papers rely heavily on previous papers.

—among the previous papers there are clear statements as to the position of the Church on war and war taxes, as well as appropriate forms of civil disobedience both individually and corporately.

—in the previous papers, the position of the Church is to support those who choose to practice some form of witness with regard to taxation for war.

—the historical position as well as the spirit of the Church towards war tax resistance is stated in previous papers. The most recent 1983 War Tax Consultation paper in the section, The Mind of the Church, is an excellent example.

—The previous papers point out that while the Brethren have not been of one mind, a 1980 minute affirms “that the open, non-evasive withholding of war taxes is a legitimate witness to our conscientious intention to follow the call of discipleship of Jesus Christ.”1

—the 1980 Christian Lifestyle paper—point 5—entitled Taxation and Militarism—contains eight specific recommendations for strengthening the denomination’s historic peace witness. While the committee recognizes that some attention has been given to these recommendations by the Brethren, the committee questions whether the response to these recommendations has been adequate.

—some members of the committee feel that previous position papers and statements speak adequately to the concern of the query on how Brethren can respond to the dilemma of paying for war, short of recommending war tax resistance.

—some members of the committee feel that a more in-depth exploration of the key biblical texts is needed. (Romans 13:1-7; Matt. 17:24-27; Mark 12:13-17; 1 Peter 2:13-17).

—some members of the committee feel that a stronger statement is needed which would provide more of a feeling of active support for those holding war tax resistance positions.

—the committee recognizes that the recent changes in military technology that make the military rely less on conscripted bodies and more on conscripted dollars increase the relevancy of the war tax question for the wider church.

—some members of the committee feel the concern that, while the Brethren continue to be in dialogue regarding the war tax resistance method of peace witness, it be kept in perspective with other methods of giving a peace witness.

In view of the above stated observations, the committee does not feel led to write yet another position paper at this time. It is the opinion of the committee that all Brethren should develop a heightened awareness of the war tax issue as it relates to our historic peace witness.

Therefore, the committee asks the 1985 Annual Conference meeting in Phoenix, Arizona to instruct the Brethren throughout the Brotherhood to place an emphasis on an extensive and thorough study and discussion of earlier position papers on the war tax issues adopted by Annual Conference. The study should also include searching the key biblical texts for new insight and interpretation.

The General Board should make available the papers cited in this report with all appendices and exhibits attached, along with other relevant materials, in a packet known as “Taxation for War Study Packet.”

It will be the responsibility of individuals and congregations to request the study packet as a starting point for initiating the appropriate study and discussion of the Taxation for War issue.

After study and discussion of the “Taxation for War Study Packet,” and the key biblical texts, Brethren who feel so led should write articles giving their insights on the issue for publication in local church newsletters, district newsletters, and Brotherhood publications. Copies of any such articles should be sent to the General Board for inclusion in the study committee file. Individual letters and opinions in response to the study packet should also be sent to the General Board for the study committee file.

Finally, the study committee asks for more time in order that congregations may study in some depth previous position papers on war tax resistance and determine more specifically what, in addition to the previous position papers, is called for in the query request. The committee will report to the 1987 Annual Conference seeking approval of a process to complete the study.

Gary L. Flory, Chair
Violet Cox, Secretary
Richard O. Buckwalter
Arlene R. May
Philip W. Rieman
Charles E. Boyer, Staff Liaison

Action of 1985 Annual Conference

The Report 1—Report Of The Committee On Taxation For War, was presented by Gary L. Flory, chairperson of the committee, with other members of the committee present. The Report 1 was adopted with two amendments which are incorporated in the preceding wording of the paper.