Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Church and War

Excerpts from the 1970 Statement of the Church of the Brethren on War

The official position of the Church of the Brethren is that all war is sin and that we seek the right of conscientious objection to all war. We seek no special privileges from our government. What we seek for ourselves, we seek for all - the right of individual conscience. We affirm that this conscientious objection may include all war, declared or undeclared; particular wars; and particular forms of warfare. We also affirm that conscientious objection may be based on grounds more inclusive than institutional religion.


The Church of the Brethren feels constrained by Christ's teachings to lead its people to develop convictions against war. The church cannot concede to the state the authority to conscript citizens for military training or military service against their conscience.

The church will seek to fulfill its prophetic role in this matter in two ways: by seeking to change political structures and by influencing individual members. The church will seek to use its influence to abolish or radically restructure the system which conscripts persons for military purposes.

The church pledges its support and continuing fellowship to all of our draft-age members who face conscription. We recognize that some feel obligated to render full or noncombative military service and we respect all who make such a decision.


The Church of the Brethren, since its beginning in 1708, has repeatedly declared its position against war. Our understanding of the life and the teachings 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, which we reaffirmed in 1948 and now reaffirm again, 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).

Source: 1970 Statement of the Church of the Brethren on War