A Christian Declaration on Peace, War, and Military
The Position of the General Conference Mennonite Church
on love and nonresistance as adopted at Portland, Oregon, August 22, 1953.
Scriptural Principles Applied to Life
Application to Military Service
"We believe that war is altogether contrary to the teaching and spirit
of Christ and the Gospel; that therefore war is sin." Thus spoke
representatives of the General Conference Mennonite Church, meeting at
Souderton, Pennsylvania, August 17-22, 1941. The world was just then beginning
to experience the full tragedy of the most devastating war in history.
The armistice, which concluded World War II, ushered in an era which has
been one not of peace but of the sword. Among the most grievous conflicts
of our day is the deeply embedded ideological and power struggle between
East and West. Today the world is haunted by fear of future war.
In this moment of world history we wish humbly to acknowledge anew the
total claim of Jesus Christ in our lives individually and jointly. We pray
that our brotherhood might achieve a new unity of conviction concerning
the Gospel teachings of love, peace, and nonresistance. We pray also that
many outside our Conference may be led to respond to the call of Christ
and to a life of nonresistance. To this end we submit this declaration
on peace, war, and military service.
Our convictions concerning the way of love and peace are shared with
Christians in many communions because these beliefs are rooted in the great
essentials of the Christian Gospel. We appreciate the mutual encouragement
this wider fellowship has afforded. We share with other Mennonite branches
the conviction that the doctrine of love, peace, and nonresistance is of
Christ's and not of man's making. We join in the reaffirmation of the inter-Mennonite
peace statement issued in 1950 at Winona Lake, Indiana, as follows:
It is our faith that one is our Master, even Christ, to whom alone supreme
loyalty and obedience is due, who is our only Savior and Lord.
It is our faith that by the renewing grace of God which makes us new creatures
in Christ, and alone thereby, we can through the power of the indwelling
Spirit live the life of holy obedience and discipleship to which all the
sons of God are called, for His grace does forgive and heal the penitent
sinner and brings us to a new life of fellowship with Him and with one
It is our faith that redeeming love is at the heart of the Gospel, coming
from God and into us to constrain us to love Him and our neighbor, and
that such love must henceforth be at the center of every thought and act.
It is our faith that Christ has established in His church a universal community
and brotherhood within which the fullness of Christ's reign must be practiced,
into which the redeemed must be brought, and from which must go out into
all human society the saving and healing ministry of the Gospel.
It is our faith that the life of love and peace is God's plan for the individual
and the race, and that therefore discipleship means the abandonment of
hatred, strife and violence in all human relations, both individual and
Our convictions concerning peace and war grow out of our understanding
of the Bible as the infallible Word of God, believing that God has revealed
himself supremely in Jesus Christ and that all Scripture must be interpreted
in the light of this revelation. The term "nonresistance," which has traditionally
characterized our biblical peace position, is derived from the admonition
of our Lord: "Resist not evil" (Matt. 5:39). Nonresistance is an expression
of Christian love and emphasizes that which love refrains from doing as
it encounters evil. The pages of Scripture are written large with the divine
judgment upon resistance, war, and hatred. For example:
Christian love is essentially positive. Jesus admonishes us to love others
as God loves us: "As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you; continue
ye in my love" (John 15:9); "This is my commandment; that ye love one another,
as I have loved you" (John 15:12). If God loved us while we were his enemies,
we must love our earthly enemies.
Matt. 26:52 "Put up again thy sword into his place; for all they that take
the sword shall perish with the sword."
John 18:36 "My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this
world, then would my servants fight."
Rom. 12:19 "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place
unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the
II Tim. 3:24 "The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto
I Peter 3:8, 9 "Be ye all of one mind, having compassion one for another
... not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing."
James 4:1 "From whence come wars and fightings among you, come they not
hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?"
II Cor. 10:4 "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal."
Rom. 12:21 "Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good."
All these words concerning nonresistance, reconciliation and ways of overcoming
evil were brought to living fulfillment in Jesus Himself, "Christ also
suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was
reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not" (I Peter
2:21-23). Not only did Christ reveal in His life, death, and resurrection
His way of nonresistant suffering and triumphant, reconciling love, but
also the whole tenor of the Gospel manifests this theme. The atoning cross
of Christ in the center of human history stands also for the acceptance
of suffering, the sacrifice of self, the outpouring of love, and the complete
surrender of life to the ministry of redemption for others. As disciples
of the Cross we are called to a life of nonresistance and peacemaking:
"If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross
daily, and follow me" (Luke 9:23).
Matt. 5:44-45 "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to
them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute
you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven."
Rom. 12:20 "If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink:
for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head."
Matt. 7:12 "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so
Rom. 12:18 "Live peaceably with all men."
Matt. 6:14 "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father
will also forgive you."
Matt. 5:9 "Blessed are the peacemakers."
I Cor. 13:13 "And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest
of these is love."
Scriptural Principles Applied to Life
These peace principles--rooted in the Gospel of Christ--have been cherished
by our fathers and forefathers through more than four centuries of faith
and obedience. We are penitent because we today embody so imperfectly that
glorious heritage of high commitment which was wrought out of the fires
of sacrifice, persecution, and martyrdom. Conscious that all members of
our congregations are not of a single mind on these issues, we humbly present
our convictions on how the love of Christ does lead us unitedly to seek
living expression in our total relationship to others.
This leads us to the conviction with which we began, that war is altogether
contrary to the teaching and spirit of Christ and the Gospel. War is sin.
If we profess the principle of peace and nevertheless engage in warfare
and strife, we as Christians become guilty of sin and fall under the condemnation
of Christ, "the righteous judge."
We believe that the way of nonresistance and peacemaking finds its true
source in a soul that is at peace with God; and we pray that "the peace
of God, which passeth all understanding" may abide in our hearts and minds
and imbue all our relations with our fellow men.
We believe that the way of reconciling love should find its first expression
in the intimate relationships of home, and that from here these relationships
should extend to the church, school, community, and vocation. We confess
that we have too often been found wanting in the Christian graces of love,
forgiveness, patience, and peacemaking. We hearken to the admonition of
the Apostle Paul: "Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving
one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Eph. 4:32).
We believe that Christian love knows none of the artificial barriers of
race and class. The disciple of Christ loves and ministers to all men.
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free...for ye
are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28). We would humbly seek deliverance
from the prejudices which continue to erode our souls.
We believe that strife and wars are born of the selfishness and greed of
individuals, groups, and nations. (James 4:1). We invoke divine aid that
we might be emancipated from a covetous passion for material gain and that
we might be sensitive and responsive to the basic needs and wishes of our
neighbors both near and far. We acknowledge the summons of Christ to transform
all our economic and social relationships with the spirit of love.
We believe that we are called to minister through the spoken and the written
word and in loving deeds to those who suffer and live in want. With thankfulness
to God for channels of service, we pledge our labors in missions and relief,
reconstruction and resettlement, voluntary service and disaster work, and
other programs of the Conference and the Mennonite Central Committee. In
all these voluntary works of love to suffering humanity we pray that everything
may be done "in the name of Christ." Seeking for all men first the kingdom
of God and His righteousness, we must embrace in one united ministry the
evangelism which brings men to Christ and the creative application of the
Gospel to cultural, social, and material needs.
We believe that God has established the state in its place of authority
and we express gratitude to our respective governments for making legal
provision for the expression of Christian conscience. We pledge prayers
of intercession for our governments and promise to live lives of usefulness
and moral integrity.
We believe, however, that when instances arise where the demands of the
state run counter to the authority of God, we must declare with Peter that
"We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).
We believe that even toward the monstrous evils of such totalitarian systems
as secular Communism the Christian Gospel has a positive word: Christ's
followers meet their enemies in the spirit of Christian love. Our warfare
must be spiritual, "overcoming evil with good."
We are deeply concerned that some of our fellowship when confronted
with the issue have not found themselves in full accord with the official
church position and have accepted or endorsed some form of military service.
However, as a church and as individuals we assure them of our continued
love and prayers thereby "endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in
the bond of peace ... till we all come in the unity of the faith ...."
(Eph. 4:3, 13)
Application to Military Service
In the light of the foregoing statements of belief and in the sincere
desire to stand with Christ, the Prince of Peace, we cannot approve military
service in any form. Our position leads us to the following convictions:
We are constrained of Christ to take no part in warfare or military service
as combatants or as noncombatants because both forms of service have as
their ultimate military end the impairment and destruction of life or property
of our fellow men.
We cannot with clear conscience apply our labor, money or material resources
for the furtherances of military ends. For example, we cannot remain true
to our peace witness if we purchase war bonds or work in defense industries.
We cannot serve under civilian organizations if their purposes are diverted
to military objectives.
We declare it unchristian to share in wartime propaganda, hysteria, and
mass hatred and revenge.
We are aware that as laborers, employers, farmers, professional people,
and property holders we benefit from the inflationary values of wartime.
We therefore hold ourselves morally responsible to share generously these
monetary gains for the relief of human suffering and the spread of the
If we reject military service, it follows that we can have no part in any
form of peacetime or wartime preparation for that service--such as training
in schools and colleges or participating in other forms of scientific,
educational or cultural programs designed to contribute to military purposes.
We continue to witness against universal military conscription with its
injurious effects on the moral fibre of men and nations. Because we cannot
support military conscription in any form we seek to find alternative patterns
of service that both satisfy and transcend the demands of the state. We
pledge ourselves to the sacrificial support of these alternative services.
If war does come again with all its possible terrors of destructiveness,
bombing, atomic blasts, bacteriological warfare, poison gas--we declare
our readiness to serve sacrificially to save and restore life but not to
destroy it. In the light of our above statements it follows, however, that
we cannot serve in civilian defense programs if they are under military
direction, designed to fulfill military objectives.
We humbly confess our inadequacies in fully understanding and faithfully
living the abundant life of love and peace which Jesus taught us. We are
aware of the gulf which separates our official conference position and
our individual practice; nevertheless, we press on in the hope of having
each member drawn into a close, personal, living relationship of Jesus
Christ. We believe that, with God's grace, our fellowship will be revived
in the ways of love, peace and nonresistance if we yield ourselves in an
unqualified discipleship to Christ, earnestly search the Scriptures, diligently
educate our children, build churches that are consecrated brotherhoods,
permeate our communities with Christian patterns of living, and move forward
in a mighty thrust of teaching, preaching, healing and service.
To the Christians of all communions we affirm that our Lord is pleading
with his Church for a break with war and that He is calling His children
to a life of love, nonresistance and peacemaking in Christ. We appeal to
all men to search reverently the Scriptures, to respond affirmatively to
the claims of Christ, and to be colaborers with Christ in the blessed ministry
of reconciliation of man to God and man to his fellow man. AMEN.
for additional statements see Writings
on Christian Nonresistance and Pacifism from Anabaptist-Mennonite Sources
created and maintained by Gerald