Responsible Citizenship in An Election Year

1988 Church of the Brethren Resolution


  • The agenda for the church and its members in an election year, with a citing of issues that need to be addressed nationally.


  • To review our understanding of responsibility as citizens within the context of our faith.
  • To set forth our under standing and perspective on several current issues.
  • To provide a current resolution from the church on selected public policy issues where we have no recent statement or where a new resolution would indicate a present, urgent concern.

Related previous Annual Conference decisions:

Responsible Citizenship in an Election Year

In 1967, the Annual Conference adopted a statement on “The Church, the State, and Christian Citizenship.” That statement has served well to give us guidance and counsel since the time of its adoption. One specific principle from the statement declared that a Christian should be “an informed citizen, go to the polls regularly,” and vote for candidates and measures “most likely to approximate Christian standards.” An election year provides an opportune time to reflect further upon being Christian citizens in an electoral process.

We believe elections can be a time of service and witness for the Body of Christ. The service comes in assisting in the process of selecting officials who embody and promote the commonweal . The witness comes in identifying and advocating courses of action in issues that determine peace and justice.

We believe there are certain guidelines for the church and for Christians at the time of elections that can maintain for the church a sense of God’s sovereignty and can uphold for both church and state the principle of institutional separation. Among these guidelines are the following:

  1. The church as a corporate body should avoid endorsing a particular party or candidate. Election activity by the church should avoid partisanship; an exception may occur in votes on specific issues or programs.
  2. The church should approach elections and candidates with a view to total qualifications and character of the persons involved, not with a “single issue” approach.
  3. The church as congregation or other organized structure can be an important source of information not only for its own members but also to the larger community. The church is uniquely qualified to bring morality into the public political debate. Ways of information sharing include candidate forums and debates, interviews, responses to questionnaires, the publishing of voting records on selected issues of concern, and the publishing of the positions of candidates compared with the position of the Church of the Brethren as reflected in Annual Conference or General Board statements and resolutions.
  4. The church as individuals is encouraged to become involved in the political process: as candidates, with an opportunity to perform public service and to embody their faith in public office; campaigning for candidates; or assisting in such procedures as election day work in a polling precinct.
  5. The church should see elections as only the beginning of its responsibility in government. Beyond the election there is need to uphold in prayer those who are chosen for public service, and to be in regular communication with those elected, registering our opinion on issues as we are informed by our faith.
  6. We believe that government (“God’s servant,” Romans 13:4) can be strengthened by participation of its entire citizenry. Therefore, we urge voting by all of our members and we support steps by our government to recognize the full enfranchisement of all of our citizens.

In this election year of 1988, we set forth the following positions on issues that we believe it essential to be addressed by the candidates and the nation.

  • Justice for Palestinians demands an end to the military occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza; justice calls for the recognition of and negotiation with Palestinian leadership, including the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Justice for Israelis demands an assurance of secure borders.
  • Unilateral intervention by the United States in Central America must come to an end; respect for self-determination of other nations must become our national policy. This means, in one instance, our support of the Central American Peace Agreement, an end to wars by proxy, such as that waged by contras at the behest of the United States, and the demilitarization of foreign aid. We must stop imposing our government’s control on the countries of Central America, rejecting the ways of covert operations (Guatemala), of unilateral declaration with economic sanctions (Panama), of mercenary counter revolutionaries (Nicaragua). Disputes on legitimate governance of such countries should be addressed through such international agencies as the Organization of American States and the United Nations.
  • Attention must be focused on preserving the 1977 treaty that will cede control of the Panama Canal to Panama in the year 2000. Current disputes and turmoil must not be allowed to impede the implementation of the treaty.
  • New diplomatic efforts by the United States should concentrate upon a negotiated end to the war between Iran and Iraq and the broader violence of the Persian Gulf.
  • On behalf of the people of the Philippines, the United States should end its use of Clark Air Force Base and Subic Bay Naval Station. Further, we need to withdraw our support of low-intensity conflict in that nation and to encourage further democratization that would, for example, end all formal and informal support of vigilante groups.
  • Our government should take an active role in supporting the peaceful reunification of Korea. Steps that could be taken include the removal of United States military forces from South Korea and an end to restrictions on travel and contact between the people of the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
  • In Southern Africa, the United States should vigorously oppose the continued South African occupation of Namibia and part of Angola, and our nation should end all covert operations directed against the government of Angola. Further consideration should be given to economic support for those independent nations that border South Africa and are victims of its aggression.
  • Encouragement should be given the people of Taiwan in determining their own political future.
  • Long-term solutions to international debt should be sought, with particular concern for developing nations. Debt relief needs to be fashioned by both creditor and debtor nations in a way that preserves self-determination, economic justice for the poor, and the ability to move beyond debt repayment toward development.
  • For the sake of peace, for the preservation of creation, and for responsible stewardship, further concrete steps should be taken toward disarmament. Beyond the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, our nation should move immediately to achieve large cuts in strategic nuclear weapons, a ban on all space weapons, and a mutual moratorium by the Soviet Union and the United States on nuclear testing and the completion of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
  • Shelter should be provided for growing numbers of the homeless. Low-income families should be assisted so that no more than 30 percent of their income will be required for adequate housing.
  • The poverty of our children–now estimated to be 13 million, or 40 percent of all the poor people–must be of concern to our nation. These include children who are malnourished, sick, homeless, abused, and neglected. They reflect the national priority of recent years for military spending rather than for the needs of children. We must turn our attention to affordable housing, access to health care and nutrition, child care and family income maintenance.
  • With no public insurance coverage, with private insurance plans quite expensive and lacking full coverage, with Medicare covering less than two percent of the costs of long-term health care, it is urgent that our nation provide for the needs of persons–aged, chronically ill or disabled–both within private homes and in institutions.
  • For reasons of health and safety, we need to place a moratorium on the building of all nuclear fission power plants and decommission those that have been shown to have safety hazards. Major research needs to be directed toward the production of safe, renewable energy.
  • Even with some improvement in agricultural conditions, the debt of farm families remains a major problem. Debt relief, with banks bearing part of the cost, and farm credit at affordable rates are essential for the survival of the farm family. Conditions of drought should not lead to a loss of land on the part of farmers; government should provide adequate relief to assure the economic survival of individual farm families. A special concern to be addressed is the loss of farm land by minorities, especially blacks.
  • Protection needs to be developed for citizens exercising their constitutional rights in speech and press and religion and assembly–protection against surveillance, invasion of privacy, and the accumulation of secret dossiers by intelligence agencies.
  • New approaches must be found to counteract the rise in hate crimes directed against racial, ethnic, and religious minorities and homosexuals.
  • The epidemic of drug use, with its attendant violence and threat to sanity and health; the pervasive presence of drug dealers, including children and youth; and the accommodation to the drug traffic and actual trade in drugs by elements of our government have created a-crisis in our land. It is imperative that new methods be used in coping with the problem, new methods in education and rehabilitation, including controlled availability in medical treatment. Highly militarized operations, greater retribution in sentencing with larger fines and prolonged imprisonment, the double-message of government, inactivity and silence all offer little promise. As citizens, it is time for us to hold our government accountable for its own dealing in drugs as it engages in covert operations.
  • A major review of our immigration policies needs to be made to expand the eligibility for legalization by those already in our country illegally, to address inequities in the procedures for legal admission to this country, and to make us more open to receiving refugees.
  • Selective Service System regulations, in the event of a military draft, should permit conscientious objectors to complete alternative service with religious bodies who recognize and expect a faith commitment.
  • Campaign spending for Congressional and presidential elections needs to be brought under control, with rigid limitations placed upon contributions from political action committees. Any federal benefits to election campaigns should be made contingent upon candidate acceptance of established campaign spending guidelines.

We, members of the Church of the Brethren, assembled in Annual Conference in St. Louis, Missouri, June 28-July 3, 1988, offer the above for the consideration and guidance of our church and for advocacy as a part of our citizenship. We direct the officers of this Annual Conference to communicate to the Administration and the Congress the public policy positions set forth.

Action of the General Board at its June 27, 1988 meeting in St. Louis, Missouri: Unanimously approved the resolution “Responsible Citizenship in an Election Year” and passed to Standing Committee for its consideration.

Action of the 1988 Annual Conference: Dorothy Gall, a Standing Committee member from Northern Indiana presented the Standing Committee recommendation on the item RESOLUTION: RESPONSIBLE CITIZENSHIP IN AN ELECTION YEAR. The delegate body of the 1988 Annual Conference adopted the resolution with two amendments, both of which have been incorporated into the preceding text.