Peace churches

Peace churches

Peace churches are Christian churches, groups or communities advocating Christian pacifism. The term historic peace churches refers specifically to three church groups: the Church of the Brethren, the Mennonites, and the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). [Speicher, Sara and Durnbaugh, Donald F. (2003), Ecumenical Dictionary: [ "Historic Peace Churches"] ]

The peace churches agree that Jesus advocated nonviolence. Whether physical force can ever be justified, either in defending oneself or others, remains controversial. Many believers adhere strictly to a moral attitude of nonresistance in the face of violence. But these churches generally do concur that violence on behalf of nations and their governments is contrary to Christian morality.


Among all Christian denominations, there have always been groups of members who advocate nonviolence, but certain churches have consistently supported it since their foundation. Beside the three historic peace churches, they include the Amish, [] Hutterites, [] Old German Baptist Brethren, [] Old Order River Brethren, [] and others in the Anabaptist tradition; Doukhobors, [] Molokans, [] Bruderhof Communities, [] Schwenkfelders, [] Moravians, [] the Shakers, [] and even some groups within the Pentecostal movement. [] These groups have disagreed, both internally and with each other, about the propriety of avoiding non-combatant military roles, such as unarmed medical personnel, or performing non-battlefield services that assist nations in wartime, such as manufacturing munitions. One position might argue that Jesus would never object to helping people who are suffering, while another might object that doing so contributes indirectly to violence by freeing other people to engage in it.

At one time, active membership in and acceptance of the beliefs of one of the peace churches was required for obtaining conscientious objector status in the United States, and hence exemption from military conscription, or for those already in the military, honorable discharge. But after a series of court rulings, this requirement was dropped. One may claim conscientious objector status based on a personal belief system that need not be Christian, nor even based on religion. []

Peace churches, especially those with sufficient financial and organizational resources, have attempted to heal the ravages of war without favoritism. This has often aroused controversy, as when the Quakers sent large shipments of food and medicine to North Vietnam during the Vietnam War, and to U.S.-embargoed Cuba. The American Friends Service Committee and the Mennonite Central Committee are two charitable denominational agencies set up to provide such healing.

In the 1980s, the Quakers, Brethren, and Mennonites came together to create Christian Peacemaker Teams, an international organization that works to reduce violence and systematic injustice in regions of conflict. [] [] One motive for its foundation may have been to forestall the criticism that peace churches rely on states and their military establishments for protection.

Other churches and Christian groups espousing nonviolence

Community of Christ

Although non-credal and not explicitly pacifist, the Community of Christ (formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) has emerged as an international peace church through such ministries as the Community of Christ International Peace Award, the Daily Prayer for Peace, and campaigns to support conscientious objection to war. [] [] []

Churches of Christ

Once containing a relatively large nonviolence faction, Churches of Christ are now far more conflicted. Contemporary Churches of Christ, especially those that hold with the teachings of David Lipscomb, tend toward nonviolence views. [] [] This means that they believe that the use of coercion and/or force may be acceptable for purposes of personal self defense but that resorting to warfare is not an option open to Christians. However, politically-conservative members of the Church of Christ reject this position and do not consider themselves supporters of nonviolence.

Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses believe and teach that no one who follows God has any right to lay down his life on behalf of the state, and that to do so constitutes idolatry. Early Jehovah's Witnesses were expected not to shoot to kill where they were compelled to participate as combatants. [Zion's Watch Tower, p. 231, 1 August 1898] Whereas they had purchased Liberty Bonds for financial support to the allied cause in World War I, [The Watch Tower, p. 152, 15 May 1918] a practice of neutrality was later assumed. [Awake!, p. 23, 8 December 1974] Their position may be summarised as neutrality rather than pacifism. [Reasoning From the Scriptures, p. 138, 1985]

Fellowship of Reconciliation

As noted above, there are peace groups within most mainstream Christian denominations. The Fellowship of Reconciliation was set up as an organization to bring together people in these groups and members of the historic peace churches. In some countries, e.g. the United States, it has broadened its scope to include members of other religions or none, and people whose position is not strictly for nonviolence. However in other countries, e.g. the United Kingdom, it remains essentially an organization of Christian nonviolence. []

eventh-day Adventist Church

The Seventh-day Adventist Church has a long history of noncombatancy with respect to military service. Though some church members choose combat, the church stands by its official position, which dates to a resolution made in 1867. [cite web|url=|title=World church leader reaffirms Adventist Church's noncombatant position|publisher=Adventist News Network|year=2008|accessdate=2008-03-18]


Christadelphians refuse to participate in any military as they are conscientious objectors.cite book | last =Norris | first =Alfred | title =The Gospel and Strife | publisher =Christadelphian Magazine and Publishing Association | location =Birmingham, UK | url =] cite book | last =Watkins | first =Peter | title =War and Politics: The Christian's Duty | publisher =Christadelphian Auxiliary Lecturing Society | location =Birmingham, UK | url = ] [While Christadelphians are not pacifists and say the time will come when military coercion and conflict will be required to establish Christ's kingdom.]

ee also

*American Friends Service Committee
*Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America
*Catholic Worker Movement
*Center on Conscience & War
*Christian pacifism
*Civilian Public Service
*Drufenbrock, Diane
*List of pacifist faiths
*Martin Luther King
*Pax Christi
*Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act
*Selective Service System
*Tolstoy, Leo


Further reading

*Driver, Juan (1970) "How Christians Made Peace With War: Early Christian Understandings of War". Scottdale PA: Herald Press. ISBN 0-8361-3461-3:(1999) "Radical Faith". Scottdale PA: Herald Press. ISBN 0-9683462-8-6
*Friesen, Duane K. (l986) "Christian Peacemaking and International Conflict: A Realist Pacifist Perspective". Scottdale: Herald Press.
*Lederach, John Paul (1999) "The Journey Toward Reconciliation". Scottdale, PA: Herald Press.
*Ruth-Heffelbower, Duane (1991) "The Anabaptists Are Back: Making Peace in a Dangerous World". Scottdale, PA: Herald Press.
*Sider, Ronald (1979) "Christ and Violence". Scottdale PA: Herald Press.
*Sampson, Cynthia (1999) "Religion and Peacebuilding." In "Peacemaking in International Conflict: Methods and Techniques"; edited by I. William Zartman, and J. Lewis Rasmussen. Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace Press.
*Trocmé, André (1961) "Jesus and the Nonviolent Revolution"; Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2003. ISBN 1-57075-538-8
*Wink, Walter, ed. (2000) "Peace is the Way: Writings on Nonviolence from the Fellowship of Reconciliation". Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books. ISBN 1-57075-315-6
*Van Dyck, Harry R. (1990) "Exercise of Conscience: A World War II Objector Remembers". Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books. ISBN 0-8797-5584-9
*McGrath, Willam (1980) "Why We Are Conscientious Objectors to War". Millersburg, OH: Amish Mennonite Publications.
*Horsch, John (1999) "The Principle of Nonresistance as Held by the Mennonite Church". Ephrata, PA: Eastern Mennonite Publications.

External links

* [ Who are the Historic Peace Churches (HPC)?] (Wayback Machine - original link is dead)
* [ Every Church a Peace Church] - organization working to create more peace churches
* [ Writings on Christian Nonresistance and Pacifism from Anabaptist-Mennonite Sources]
* [ Pacifism And Biblical Nonresistance]
* [ NonResistance.Org]
* [ Cascadia Publishing House] - Anabaptist-related publisher of Historic Peace Church materials
* [ Historic Peace Churches] in "Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia"

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