Delegates at the U.S. Mennonite Brethren national convention in Santa Clara, Calif., voted July 26 to revise the article on “Love, Peacemaking and Reconciliation” in the denomination’s Confession of Faith.
The revision to Article 13 — which passed 103-10 — describes nonparticipation in the military as a choice that “many of us” make. This replaces a more explicit directive not to serve in the military when there is a draft.
The former article said, “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.”
Other parts of the article call for loving enemies and being “peacemakers and agents of reconciliation in families, churches, communities, in our nation, and throughout the world.”
The recommendation came from the national conference’s Board of Faith and Life.
Delegates also unanimously approved a motion from the floor that mandates the board to “foster communication within our congregations to encourage the study of, commitment to and growth in biblical love, peacemaking and reconciliation,” guided by the revised article.
The USMB magazine Christian Leader reported online that “delegates with a variety of viewpoints spoke courteously. . . . Following the vote, there was a sense of relief that the recommendation was approved in spite of the fact that we U.S. Mennonite Brethren still do not agree on ‘what the Bible says about what the Bible says,’ to use [Board of Faith and Life chair Larry] Nikkel’s words, with regard to living out our call to be peacemakers, particularly when it comes to military service.”
Nikkel described a 20-step process that led to the recommendation.
This was the first time the Confession of Faith has been changed since 2000, when it became a national rather than binational North American document.
About 200 people attended the two-day convention.
Ed Boschman, USMB executive director since 2007, was honored for 40 years of service as a pastor and conference leader.
“We are on mission,” said Boschman, preaching from the Gospel of John. “We have the right message for this time. We’re Bible-believers. We’re Jesus-centered. We’re Spirit-led. We call people to repentance. We are agents of reconciliation and peace. . . . We are what our neighbors need.”
Stories from church planters were a conference highlight, Christian Leader reported. Mission USA, the USMB church planting and church-resourcing ministry directed by Don Morris, is two years into a 10-year effort to plant six churches annually.