Monday, November 03, 2008

Early Brethren Thoughts on Voting

The Minutes of the 1864 Annual Meeting (during the very divisive time of the Civil War) include this statement regarding voting: We have been led to think that at all times it would be best and most consistent with our profession, and especially most proper and safe in the present critical state of things, to have nothing at all to do with politics, and entirely abstain from voting.

Such an attitude toward voting was not entirely due to problems which the Brethren faced during the Civil War. As early as 1813, and several times thereafter, the Annual Meeting took a negative stand on the question of voting. Sometimes in conjunction with this negative stance, the Brethren were called to pray for the government and its elections.

At the 1865 Annual Meeting, voting was made a test of fellowship by stating that those who continued to vote were to be treated according to Matthew 18. The next year, however, the test was revoked, and those who did not vote (the majority) were advised to act with forbearance toward the members who chose to vote.

By the beginning of World War I, most Brethren were voting, according to Rufus Bowman, and a few had been elected to positions in the government. The most notable example of a Brethren in an elected position was Martin G. Brumbaugh, who was governor of Pennsylvania from 1915 to 1919.

Source: "On Church and State," Texts in Transit II
Tomorrow: 1988 Resolution: Guidelines for
Responsible Citizenship in an Election Year