Monday, February 04, 2008

George Miller

George Miller was a Brethren minister living in Pennsylvania before the American Revolution. One day he had one of his oxen stolen. He knew who had taken it, but he refused to sue for the return of the ox for fear the offender would suffer the retaliation which British law prescribed for a thief in such cases - a whipping.

His neighbors, however, knowing the situation, had the thief arrested. When Miller heard of the arrest, he walked twenty miles to intercede for the thief and offered to provide the thief with warm bedding since the weather was cold and the jail was lacking.*

As early as 1810 the Brethren Annual Meeting stated that the Brethren were not permitted to use the law to collect a debt; and later Annual Meeting statements of the 1800s continued to uphold the practice of not going to law.

In 1920, however, the Brethren officially changed their position citing Matthew 5:40-41 and Luke 6:30 to show that Jesus taught that if the legal process cannot be avoided, then the Christian should do more than required by law. Later in the statement Brethren are given permission to go to law with three cautions. First, Christian principles, such as nonresistance, are not to be violated. Second, one member should not go to law with another member except by common consent. Third, always the counsel of the church should be sought before going to law.

Sources: *J.E. Miller, Stories from Brethren Life
Texts in Transit II, Snyder and Shaffer