Committee on Economic and Social Relations (Mennonite Church)
The Committee on Economic and Social Relations was a committee of the Mennonite General Conference (Mennonite Church), first established in 1939 as an appointive committee, and known at that time as the Committee on Industrial Relations. In 1943 it became a standing committee and in 1951 it was renamed the Committee on Economic and Social Relations. One of the first, and continuing major, tasks of the committee was to assist the workingmen of the church to maintain the stand of the church (on grounds of nonresistance) against joining labor unions.
In 1941 the General Conference authorized the committee to concern itself with the entire economic and social ethic of the New Testament as it related to the Christian brotherhood. A meeting of church leaders sponsored by the committee in 1943 recognized that urbanization and industrialization were changing the old ways of the brotherhood, and that new economic and social patterns were being set. It was believed that many of the young men then in Civilian Public Service without personal income would require assistance to establish themselves following their discharge. This led the committee to place increasing emphasis on mutual assistance within the church as an expression of Christian brotherhood. One result of this was the formation in 1945 of a new organization known as Mennonite Mutual Aid to function as a financial aid and counseling service, especially for young people lacking capital and financial experience. In 1949 a subsidiary organization, Mennonite Aid, Inc., was formed for mutual assistance in meeting the cost of unusual sickness, hospitalization, death and burial.
In 1945 the committee sponsored a study conference on Mennonite community life at Goshen College whose papers were published in the Mennonite Quarterly Review 19 (1945), 74-176. This conference was followed by annual conferences of a more popular type, held in local Mennonite communities, and designed to challenge the brotherhood to find the way of Christian ethics in its economic and social relationships. Beginning with 1949 these conferences were sponsored jointly with the Mennonite Community Association. Among other things, the committee encouraged the trend toward the formation of small industries within the Mennonite communities which provided employment locally and thus discouraged the disintegration of the community through the removal of its youth to larger industrial centers. One of the indirect results of this effort was the founding of the Mennonite Community, a periodical devoted to the study of the material problems of the brotherhood, and stressing the application of the Gospel and Christian ethics to every aspect of the Christian's life, especially in economic and social relationships. In 1954 this journal was merged into a larger monthly journal called Christian Living.
In the summer of 1951 the committee sponsored a students-in-industry unit in the city of Detroit designed to help students make a firsthand study of modern industrial life, and also a study conference on Christian community relations which resulted in the formulation of A Statement of Concerns on the social implications of the Gospel, including nonresistance in daily life, Christian ethics in business and the professions, organized labor, race and minority group relations, and other related concerns. This statement was published and widely circulated both within and without the church.
In 1952 the committee inaugurated a series of conferences of Mennonite industrial employers for the exchange of ideas on ways and means for promoting Christian labor relations in industry and included in its plans the publication of a series of pamphlets on Christian economic and social relations.
In 1953 the membership of the committee consisted of two ministers and six laymen representing agriculture and industry as well as the general interests of the church. One of the members was an African American, emphasizing the committee's interest in Christian interracial relations. Guy F. Hershberger served as executive secretary of the committee from its beginning in 1939.
In 1965 the work of this committee was combined with the Peace Problems Committee to form the Committee on Peace and Social Concerns.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 650-651. 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: Hershberger, Guy F. "Committee on Economic and Social Relations (Mennonite Church)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 20 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/committee_on_economic_and_social_relations.
APA style: Hershberger, Guy F. (1953). Committee on Economic and Social Relations (Mennonite Church). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/committee_on_economic_and_social_relations.