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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Source: 1988 Annual Conference Resolution - "Responsible Citizenship in an Election Year"