USMB delegates approve peace article revision

Aug 18, 2014 by

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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.

About 200 people gathered July 25-26 in Santa Clara, Calif., for the biennial USMB convention. — Christian Leader

About 200 people gathered July 25-26 in Santa Clara, Calif., for the biennial USMB convention. — Christian Leader

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.

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  • Conrad Ermle

    Excuse me? Does this mean a military man or woman could be a real Mennonite Brethren? Isn’t pacifism a “settled” doctrine of the Mennonite church?
    -Conrad Ermle

  • Bruce Leichty

    Well, to this sonofanMB this seems like a good political compromise, one also calculated to stay in the right categories maintained by the Empire, and I haven’t studied the MB Confession as a whole, but when we start being descriptive rather than confessional in our Confessions of Faith, perhaps the documents themselves need to be called something else, just like the “peace” churches composing them.

    • Berry Friesen

      Yes, descriptive confessions, what a visionary idea!

      Perhaps we could end our arguments within MC USA by revising the disputed sentence of Article 19 to “confess” the upcoming results of the MC USA survey. “X percent of us believe God intends marriage to be a covenant between one man and one woman for life, and Y percent of us believe God also intends marriage to includes covenants approved by a local congregation between LGBTQ persons.”

      • We would be best off not presuming to know what God “intends” about marriage at all, since it’s clear from the Bible that God’s perspectives on human intimacy are much broader and open-ended than most of us care to admit. We know that God’s people once understood God’s intention for marriage to be one man plus many women. And since God is the same yesterday today and forever, we should assume that this multiple-partner arrangement is still OK with God even now. Of course, as modern human beings who recognize feminist values as important to a biblical understanding of marriage, and since we acknowledge that God is the Ultimate Feminist, we should also assume that an arrangement where one woman would have many husbands is also OK with God. It’s only fair, and God is always ultimately fair. From this fairness principle we can easily deduce that if several men and several women want to enter into a voluntary committed group marriage relationship, God wouldn’t object to that — the key words being “voluntary” and “committed,” not “group.” So honestly, we should decline to make any narrow definitions of marriage that would exclude other potential arrangements, because God is clearly not as hung up on any of this as we are. You know what God is hung up on, though? Anabaptist denominations moving away from their historic peace position. That really burns God’s britches.

    • Fred J Morgan (Jeff)

      Yes.. and if those crazy Anabaptist would have compromised they would not have been Martyred… Right?

  • Charlie Kraybill

    Well, this is a sad development, in my view, as another Anabaptist group moves towards further assimilation with evangelical culture and American Empire. Jesus is quite clear on the evils of military service and the wrongfulness of compromise with Empire, and he is surely crying today as this formerly pacifist denomination chooses to water down their belief system. The MBs may think that this move will make them more appealing to a particular group of potential proselytes (Empire-protecting military service members and their supporters). But in my opinion it will have the opposite effect, as those MBs who follow Jesus 100% look for another church home, a home where worldly Empire values are still viewed as sinful.

  • Herbert Reed

    Well it appears that one weak statement on military service has been replaced with an even weaker one. This is a bit troubling in light of the fact that a fundamental issue for early Anabaptists was the doctrine of a believer’s church as opposed to a state church and non participation in military service was a big part of that.

  • Fred J Morgan (Jeff)

    This is what happens when Mennonites believe a Councils should provide doctrine instead of Biblical Principle. didn’t this ‘Council thing’ happen before?.

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