Opposition to military service continues to unify Anabaptists. An unprecedented number of Anabaptist groups found common ground this summer to sign a letter outlining concerns to the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service.
Thirteen groups, from Old Order Amish to Mennonite Church USA, expressed concern about the idea of requiring women to register for the draft and advocated for giving registrants the right to identify as conscientious objectors. It is unfortunate the U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches chose not to attend the consultation and did not sign the letter.
“In following Jesus, we serve in ways that build up, nurture and encourage rather than destroy,” the letter states. “Our opposition to war is not cowardice but an expression of Christ’s forgiving love as shown on the cross. We see ourselves as ambassadors of peace.”
With nearly 70 distinct Anabaptist groups in the United States, the beliefs we hold in common sometimes get lost in a muddying swirl of certainties. The desire to be set apart from the church down the street puts the focus on matters of disagreement — until Uncle Sam comes along and points his finger.
It seems the prospect of a draft is enough to pull Anabaptists out of our 70-part harmony and sing in unison, “Make us a channel of your peace.” Though the return of a draft remains extremely unlikely, peace churches need to be prepared.
There is something about war that strips the Anabaptist movement down to the basic essentials as expressed in places like Mennonite World Conference’s seven Shared Convictions, the Schleitheim Confession and Palmer Becker’s three distinctives — that Jesus is the center of our faith, community is the center of our lives and reconciliation is the center of our work.
Resistance to a common opponent unites us, but cooperation shouldn’t require an enemy. Mennonite Central Committee hosted this time and could be a conduit for reconciliation being at the center of our collective work in other ways. Opportunities abound.