Mennonite Central Committee Peace Section
Peace Section of the Mennonite Central Committee was established in January 1942, as successor to the Mennonite Central Peace Committee organized in 1939. It was composed of delegated representatives of the peace committees of the constituent conferences, or in lieu of such, the regular conference MCC members, plus the MCC Executive Secretary ex officio, and two members at large. It functioned through an executive committee of five and a full-time executive secretary with office at the MCC headquarters in Akron, PA. J. Harold Sherk was a long-time executive secretary 1950-1958. H. S. Bender served as chairman continuously from 1942 (1939). The Peace Section had two representatives on the International Mennonite Peace Committee.
The Peace Section served as an agency for counseling on problems related to conscription and the draft, a representation to government, a center for study, research, and writing regarding the peace position, and a central agency for peace education.
During the years of World War II the Peace Section endeavored to implement the convictions of Mennonites in regard to wartime measures such as Civilian Defense, Red Cross work, and the purchasing of war bonds. For the latter measure the Civilian Bond plan was arranged as a substitute. A counseling service on problems related to the draft was organized. To strengthen the constituency on the Biblical position regarding peace and nonresistance Must Christians Fight and Compromise with War were published.
The continuation of wartime measures, such as conscription, in the postwar period increased the concerns and activities of the Peace Section. The counseling service for drafted men continued, contacts with government were renewed, the National Service Board for Religious Objectors (NSBRO) continued to function. Besides pamphlet literature two new publications appeared: The Christian and Conscription and Before You Decide. An increasing concern of the Peace Section related to a testimony to Mennonites abroad. To implement this concern commissioners were sent both to Europe and to the Mennonite colonies in Brazil and Paraguay. Beginning with 1947 a full- or part-time representative was maintained in Europe. Beginning in 1948 for several years the Peace Section sponsored annual summer peace teams and peace institutes in Europe. Must Christians Fight was twice translated into German.
The Peace Section also maintained a special commissioner in Japan after September 1955: Melvin Gingerich to 1957, and Paul Peachey for a time after 1957.
The Peace Section was influential in unifying and strengthening the nonresistant position and peace testimony of the Mennonites of North America, and in promoting a more vigorous testimony abroad both inside and outside the Mennonite brotherhood. -- HSB
The scope of Peace Section interest was global from its inception in 1946 and included war and preparation for war, industrial relations, church-state relations, "class strife," racial strife, litigation, capital punishment, war taxes, conciliation ministries (reconciliation), and women's concerns.
The Peace Section provided counsel and assistance for conscientious objectors from 1951 to 1975, secured project approval for alternative service (1-W) projects, and arranged for U.S. Selective Service clearance for their work assignments.
The Peace Section in its several divisions has played a major role in North American Mennonite peace and justice education throughout the agency's history. Justice terminology became increasingly prominent in the 1960s when the Peace Section witnessed against racial discrimination, through the 1980s when the Peace Section supported the human rights struggles of various church groups living under oppressive governments.
Peace education through literature preparation and study conferences in North America and abroad was always a priority for the Peace Section, in consultation with the peace committees of various Mennonite Conferences. The Peace Section sponsored church-state study conferences (1964-65), annual peace assemblies, a series of peace theology colloquia (papers published in Mennonite Quarterly Review, [July 1981 and August 1984] and in the Institute of Mennonite Studies, Occasional Papers series 1988]), and congregational peace education. A document that was influential in winning improved status for conscientious objectors internationally was, "International Provisions for Conscientious Objectors" (1981). Regular publications included Report (in the 1960s) Peace Section Newsletter, Washington Memo, Report of the MCC Committee on Women's Concerns, and the Mennonite Conciliation Service's, Conciliation Quarterly. The Peace Section was reorganized in 1974 on the pattern of MCC's reorganization (distinct boards for United States and Canada [Peace and Social Concerns Committee in Canada]). After 1987 the Peace Section was reorganized into the MCC Peace Committee; the structure of the two national bodies continued as before. The Peace Section also played a role in the reorganization of the International Mennonite Peace Committee, affiliated with Mennonite World Conference since 1986.
The protracted Vietnam conflict deepened North American Mennonite concern over the role of the United States in international conflict. This contributed to the appointment in 1968 of Frank H. Epp to a two-year term as director of studies in international conflict. This appointment stimulated interest in East-West and Middle East study tours and in publications seeking to interpret the Middle East conflict. The Peace Section established the Washington Office in 1968 to serve as observer and interpreter and to monitor legislation. From 1954 to 1973 the Peace Section and other MCC representatives in Europe participated in a series of ecumenical study conferences, known as the Puidoux Peace Conferences. The Peace Section had a resident representative in Europe nearly continuously, 1946-1985. The Peace Section worked in close cooperation with other MCC departments in promoting peace efforts in southern and eastern Africa, Latin America, Asia, and Europe. -- UP
Gingerich, Melvin. Service for Peace: A History of Mennonite Civilian Public Service. Akron, PA: Mennonite Central Committee, 1949.
Lapp, John A. "The Peace Mission of the Mennonite Central Committee." Mennonite Quarterly Review 44 (1970): 281-297.
Peace Section Annual Report in Mennonite Central Committee Workbook 1966.
Peachey, Urbane, comp. Mennonite Statements on Peace and Social Concerns, 1900-1978. Akron, PA.: MCC US Peace Section, 1980.
Unruh, J. D. In the Name of Christ: A History of the Mennonite Central Committee and Its Service 1920-1951. Akron, PA: Mennonite Central Committee, 1952.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 131, v. 5, pp. 562-563. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
©1996-2013 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.
To cite this page:
MLA style: Bender, Harold S. and Urbane Peachey. "Mennonite Central Committee Peace Section." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 24 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/M4658.html.
APA style: Bender, Harold S. and Urbane Peachey. (1987). Mennonite Central Committee Peace Section. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/M4658.html.