U.S. Mennonite Brethren will decide whether to revise their Confession of Faith’s article on peace at their national convention July 25-26 in Santa Clara, Calif.
The proposed revision describes nonparticipation in the military as a choice that “many of us” make.
This would replace the current article’s more explicit directive not to serve in the military.
The current article says, “In times of national conscription or war, we believe we are called to give alternative service where possible.”
The revision says, “As in other peace churches, many of us choose not to participate in the military but rather in alternative forms of service.”
The recommendation comes from the national conference’s Board of Faith and Life.
In an open letter to congregations, the board said it wanted the article to more accurately reflect members’ beliefs and to promote unity.
“With full respect to those who believe our confessional statement should name specific conclusions they believe we should reach, it is our belief that unity within the Body is the greater desire of Jesus,” the letter says.
“Is it more important to have a statement which people have not, and likely would not follow, or one around which we can agree, giving us a new opportunity to preach, teach and live as faithful followers of Jesus?”
The board hopes the revision will enable churches to revive their teaching of peacemaking rather than avoid the topic.
“Because of the increased diversity and growth within our congregations, coupled with our longstanding ambivalence about our theological position, the issue of how we preach, teach and live as a peacemaking community has become the proverbial elephant in the room,” the letter says.
“The result has been that we ignore the issue not only of participating in the military but also other issues of peacemaking, including conflicts within families, churches and the community. Our avoidance has resulted in the loss of a key element of the Good News.”
Among other changes, the revision drops the term “nonresistance” in favor in “peacemaking.”
The Board of Faith and Life heard input on the revision last year at a national study conference and at workshops in each district. It invited review and comment from the International Community of Mennonite Brethren, the Canadian MB Board of Faith and Life, Mennonite Central Committee and the USMB constituency.
“We want a strong statement in support of being a peace-loving, peacemaking and peace-keeping people in keeping with our identity as one of the historic peace churches,” the board’s letter says.
The recommended revision of Article 13 of the USMB Confession of Faith is online at usmb.org.