Resolution on Conscientious Objection to Military Taxes (Mennonite Church, 1983)
Resolution on Conscientious Objection to Military TaxesAs representatives of the Mennonite Church meeting in Bethlehem, Pa., we are concerned about the continuing military buildup in our society. The past two General Assemblies have adopted statements relating to this concern. At Waterloo in 1979 we observed that "even without war the arms race diverts resources from urgent needs, destroys community, and devastates the human spirit." At Bowling Green in 1981 we noted particular concern about the multiplication of nuclear weapons and affirmed that our security is not in armaments but in Jesus Christ.
As militaristic priorities gain increasing dominance, a growing number among us are troubled in conscience that while we pray and witness for peace, much of our tax money goes to prepare for war. A request for further discernment on the payment of taxes used for military purposes was registered by delegates to the 1981 Mennonite Church General Assembly at Bowling Green.
In 1977 the General Assembly along with some half-dozen district conferences endorsed the World Peace Tax Fund or similar legislation. In 1979 the General Assembly again endorsed efforts to find a legislative solution for the problem of conscientious objection to military taxes analogous to conscientious objection to military service. The 1979 Assembly also stated:
We recognize as a valid witness the conscientious refusal to pay a portion of taxes required for war and military efforts. Such refusal, however, may not be pursued in a spirit of lawlessness nor for personal advantage but may be an occasion for constructive response to human need.
In 1983 there is still no legal recognition of conscientious objection to the conscription of our money for the military. And there is still disagreement within the church on how to view our tax obligations. What are biblical exceptions to payment of all taxes? What moral responsibility do taxpayers have for the use of their tax money after it is taken?
While we study and pray for further discernment, we list the following statements of intention as consistent with our previous statements and our continuing commitment to be faithful to Christ:
1. We will pray diligently for people everywhere and for governmental leaders in keeping with the biblical exhortation that all be upheld with "supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving."
2. We will observe the biblical mandate to "render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's."
3. We will heed the biblical caution that governments may wrongfully claim as their due that which is due God. In such situations we must obey God rather than the state, ready to suffer the consequences along with many faithful Christians who have gone before.
4. We will appeal to our governments for recognition for conscientious objection to military taxes, in Canada through the Peace Tax Fund, in the United States through the World Peace Tax Fund, or other appropriate legislation. As there is a concerted effort currently to secure sponsors in the United States House of Representatives for the World Peace Tax Fund (H. R. 3224), congregations in the United States are urged to communicate this concern to their congressional representatives, encouraging them to become sponsors of this legislation.
5. We will together seek ways to express faithful witness and discipleship in our militaristic society: Through joining in prayer, mutual discernment of the Scriptures, and other means, we will support all who struggle with the issue of tax payment. While most of our members pay all taxes, we will also affirm those who conscientiously withhold a portion of taxes destined for military use as one way to witness against militarism.
6. We will plead in our communities and to our governments that God-given resources be used for meeting human need here and abroad rather than for weapons of destruction. We will be faithful stewards in our personal management of resources entrusted by God.
We will seek thus to express our solidarity with our Christian brothers and sisters throughout the world and with all persons in need whom Christ calls us to serve.
Context of the Statement
The prologue to the "statements of intention" provide the background to the resolution.
Statements by the Mennonite Church General Assembly state the understanding of the Mennonite Church at the time of the action. Statements have informal authority and influence in the denomination; they have formal authority as confirmed or endorsed by area Mennonite Church area conferences and/or congregations.
Proceedings, Seventh Mennonite Church General Assembly, August 1-7, 1983, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pa. Lombard, Ill. : Mennonite Church General Assembly, 1983: 32.
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MLA style: Mennonite Church. "Resolution on Conscientious Objection to Military Taxes (Mennonite Church, 1983)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1983. Web. 23 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/R486.html.
APA style: Mennonite Church. (1983). Resolution on Conscientious Objection to Military Taxes (Mennonite Church, 1983). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 23 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/R486.html.