The United Methodist Church and Peace
"Peace is not simply the absence of war, a nuclear stalemate or combination of uneasy cease-fires. It is that emerging dynamic reality envisioned by prophets where spears and swords give way to implements of peace (Isaiah 2:1-4); where historic antagonists dwell together in trust (Isaiah 11:4-11); and where righteousness and justice prevail. There will be no peace with justice until unselfish and informed life is structured into political processes and international arrangements" (Bishops Call for Peace and the Self-Development of Peoples).
The mission of Jesus Christ and his church is to serve all peoples regardless of their government, ideology, place of residence, or status. Surely the welfare of humanity is more important in God s sight than the power or even the continued existence of any state. Therefore, the church is called to look beyond human boundaries of nation, race, class, sex, political ideology, or economic theory and to proclaim the demands of social righteousness essential to peace.
The following are interrelated areas that must be dealt with concurrently in a quest for lasting peace in a world community.
The arms race goes on. However, the danger of a holocaust remains as long as nations maintain nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, millions starve, and development stagnates. Again and again, regional tensions grow, conflicts erupt, and outside forces intervene to advance or protect their interests without regard to international law or human rights.
True priorities in national budgeting are distorted by present expenditures on weapons. Because of fear of unemployment, desire for profits, and contributions to the national balance of payments, the arms industry engenders great political power. Arms-producing nations seek to create markets, then vie with one another to become champion among the arms merchants of the world. Food, health, social services, jobs, and education are vital to the welfare of nations. Yet their availability is constantly threatened by the overriding priority given by governments to what is called "defense."
We support initiatives in every part of the world that move toward the goal of disarmament. This demands a radical reordering of priorities coupled with an effective system of international peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peace building. The church must constantly keep that goal before peoples and governments. In particular, we support the abolition of nuclear weapons. We affirm the prophetic position of our bishops who said in their statement In Defense of Creation: "We say a clear and unconditional NO to nuclear war and to any use of nuclear weapons. We conclude that nuclear deterrence is a position that cannot receive the church s blessing." Accordingly, we reject the possession of nuclear weapons as a permanent basis for securing and maintaining peace. Possession can no longer be tolerated, even as a temporary expedient. We call upon all nations that possess nuclear weapons to renounce these vile instruments of mass destruction and to move expeditiously to dismantle all nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles. As a first step, we support all movement to ban the "first strike" policy from all North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) doctrine.
We support the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. We call upon all nations to become signatories of these important treaties and to abide by their provisions.
At the same time, nations must provide for more secure control of weapons-grade nuclear materials. It is clear deterrence comes from international controls on materials from which bombs are made. We support the concept of nuclear-free zones where governments or peoples in a specific region band together to bar nuclear weapons from the area either by treaty or declaration. The United Methodist Church affirms its commitment to a nuclear-free Pacific. As Christian people committed to stewardship, justice, and peacemaking, we oppose and condemn the use of the Pacific for tests, storage, and transportation of nuclear weapons and weapons-delivery systems and the disposal of radioactive wastes. We further affirm the right of all indigenous people to control their health and well-being.
World public opinion justly condemns the use of chemical or biological weapons. Governments must renounce the use of these particularly inhumane weapons as part of their national policy. We support universal application of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention.
We support treaty efforts to ban the development, trade, and use of weapons that are inhumane, are excessively injurious, and have indiscriminate effects. Such weapons include land mines, booby traps, weapons with nondetectable fragments, incendiary weapons, and blinding laser weapons. We call upon all nations to sign and abide by the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production ,and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction.
We are also concerned about the use of inhumane weapons by civilian or military police. Hollow-point ("dumdum") or other bullets designed to maim are not acceptable weapons for use by civilian or military forces. We support measures that outlaw use of such weapons at all levels. We affirm peoples movements directed to abolition of the tools of war. Governments must not impede public debate on this issue of universal concern.
II. Democracy and Freedom
Millions of people still live under oppressive rule and various forms of exploitation. Millions more live under deplorable conditions of racial, sexual, and class discrimination. In many countries, many persons, including Christians, are suffering repression, imprisonment, and torture as a result of their efforts to speak truth to those in power. Action by governments to encourage liberation and economic justice is essential but must be supported by parallel action on the part of private citizens and institutions, including the churches, if peaceful measures are to succeed. Unless oppression and denial of basic human rights are ended, violence on an increasing scale will continue to erupt in many nations and may spread throughout the world. The human toll in such conflicts is enormous, for they result in new oppression and further dehumanization. We are concerned for areas where oppression and discrimination take place. We, as United Methodist Christians, must build the conditions for peace through development of confidence and trust between peoples and governments. We are unalterably opposed to those who instill hate in one group for another. Governments or political factions must not use religious, class, racial, or other differences as the means to achieve heinous political purposes. This concern extends to all situations where external commercial, industrial, and military interests are related to national oligarchies that resist justice and liberation for the masses of people. It is essential that governments which support or condone these activities alter their policies to permit and enable people to achieve genuine self-determination.
III. The United Nations
International justice requires the participation and determination of all peoples. We are called to look beyond the "limited and competing boundaries of nation-states to the larger and more inclusive community of humanity" (Bishops Call for Peace and the Self-Development of Peoples).
There has been unprecedented international cooperation through the United Nations and its specialized agencies as they have worked to solve international problems of health, education, and the welfare of people. The United Nations Children s Fund (UNICEF) is one of the agencies that has been successful in this area.
These achievements are to be commended. However, in other areas, political considerations have diminished the support needed for the United Nations to achieve its goals. Many nations, including the most powerful, participate in some programs only when such action does not interfere with their national advantage.
We believe the United Nations and its agencies must be supported, strengthened, and improved. We recommend that Christians work for the following actions in their respective nations:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a standard of achievement for all peoples and nations. International covenants and conventions that seek to implement the Declaration must be universally ratified.
Peace and world order require the development of an effective and enforceable framework of international law that provides protection for human rights and guarantees of justice for all people.
Greater use should be made of the International Court of Justice. Nations should remove any restrictions they have adopted that impair the court s effective functioning.
The industrialized world must not dominate development agencies. We support efforts to make controlling bodies of such agencies more representative.
We support the development and strengthening of international agencies designed to help nations or peoples escape from domination by other nations or transnational enterprises.
Economic and political considerations greatly affect issues of food, energy, raw materials, and other commodities. We support efforts in the United Nations to achieve new levels of justice in the world economic order.
We support the concept of collective action against threats to peace. Wars fought in the search for justice might well be averted or diminished if the nations of the world would work vigorously and in concert to seek changes in oppressive political and economic systems.
IV. World Trade and Economic Development
The gap between rich and poor countries continues to widen. Human rights are denied when the surpluses of some arise in part as a result of continued deprivation of others. This growing inequity exists in our own communities and in all our nations. Our past efforts to alleviate these conditions have failed. Too often these efforts have been limited by our own unwillingness to act or have been frustrated by private interests and governments striving to protect the wealthy and the powerful.
In order to eliminate inequities in the control and distribution of the common goods of humanity, we are called to join the search for more just and equitable international economic structures and relationships. We seek a society that will assure all persons and nations the opportunity to achieve their maximum potential.
In working toward that purpose, we believe these steps are needed:
Economic systems structured to cope with the needs of the world s peoples must be conceived and developed.
Measures that will free peoples and nations from reliance on financial arrangements that place them in economic bondage must be implemented.
Policies and practices for the exchange of commodities and raw materials that establish just prices and avoid damaging fluctuations in price must be developed.
Control of international monetary facilities must be more equitably shared by all the nations, including the needy and less powerful.
Agreements that affirm the common heritage principle (that resources of the seabed, subsoil, outer space, and those outside national jurisdiction are the heritage of humanity) should be accepted by all nations.
Multilateral, rather than bilateral, assistance programs should be encouraged for secular as well as religious bodies. They must be designed to respond to the growing desire of the "developing world" to become self-reliant.
Nations that possess less military and economic power than others must be protected, through international agreements, from loss of control of their own resources and means of production to either transnational enterprises or other governments.
These international policies will not narrow the rich-poor gap within nations unless the powerless poor are enabled to take control of their own political and economic destinies. We support people s organizations designed to enable the discovery of local areas of exploitation and development of methods to alleviate these problems.
Economic and political turmoil within many developing nations has been promoted and used by other powers as an excuse to intervene through subversive activities or military force in furtherance of their own national interests. We condemn this version of imperialism that often parades as international responsibility.
We support the United Nations efforts to develop international law to govern the sea and to ensure that the world s common resources will be used cooperatively and equitably for the welfare of humankind.
We urge the appropriate boards and agencies of The United Methodist Church to continue and expand efforts to bring about justice in cooperative action between peoples of all countries.
V. Military Conscription, Training, and Service
(1) Conscription. We affirm our historic opposition to compulsory military training and service. We urge that military conscription laws be repealed; we also warn that elements of compulsion in any national service program will jeopardize seriously the service motive and introduce new forms of coercion into national life. We advocate and will continue to work for the inclusion of the abolition of military conscription in disarmament agreements.
(2) Conscientious objection. Each person must face conscientiously the dilemmas of conscription, military training, and service and decide his or her own responsible course of action. We affirm the historic statement: "What the Christian citizen may not do is to obey persons rather than God, or overlook the degree of compromise in even our best acts, or gloss over the sinfulness of war. The church must hold within its fellowship persons who sincerely differ at this point of critical decision, call all to repentance, mediate to all God s mercy, minister to all in Christ s name" ("The United Methodist Church and Peace," 1968 General Conference).
Christian teaching supports conscientious objection to all war as an ethically valid position. It also asserts that ethical decisions on political matters must be made in the context of the competing claims of biblical revelation, church doctrine, civil law, and one s own understanding of what God calls him or her to do.
We therefore support all those who conscientiously object to preparation for or participation in any specific war or all wars, to cooperation with military conscription, or to the payment of taxes for military purposes, and we ask that they be granted legal recognition.
Since 1936, The United Methodist Church or one of its predecessors has provided to those of its members who claim to be conscientious objectors the opportunity to register. Certified copies of such registration are supplied for use with the draft authorities. It is the responsibility of the church at all levels to inform its members of the fact that conscientious objection, as well as conscientious participation, is a valid option for Christians and is recognized in many countries as a legal alternative for persons liable to military conscription.
The local church s support of an individual participating in this process does not express agreement or disagreement with the convictions of the applicant member. Rather, the church s task is to record which of its members are opposed to participation in military service on grounds of conscience and to assist them in securing proper counsel. When a member has registered as a conscientious objector and his or her registration has been certified by the proper authorities, that action should be recorded with the conference and the General Board of Church and Society.
The United Methodist Church also supports those persons who refuse to register for the draft and deplore discrimination against those persons by any institution.
(3) Amnesty and reconciliation. We urge understanding of and full amnesty or pardon for persons in all countries whose refusal to participate in war has placed them in legal jeopardy. We urge governments to grant political asylum to persons whose countries fail to recognize their conscientious objection to war.
VI. Peace Research, Education, and Action
The 1960 General Conference established the landmark study "The Christian Faith and War in the Nuclear Age." That study said, "The Christian Church and the individual must accept responsibility for the creation of a climate of opinion in which creative changes can occur." It called work for these creative alternatives "our mission field as we live as disciples of the Prince of Peace." In order to create such a climate of conciliation and compromise, we call upon The United Methodist Church, including its agencies and institutions of higher education, in the light of its historical teachings and its commitment to peace and self-development of peoples, to:
(1) seek the establishment of educational institutions devoted to the study of peace;
(2) develop alternatives to vocations that work against peace, and support individuals in their quest;
(3) explore and apply ways of resolving domestic and international differences that affirm human fulfillment rather than exploitation and violence;
(4) affirm and employ methods that build confidence and trust between peoples and countries, including training in multicultural understanding and appreciation of differences, rejecting all promotion of hatred and mistrust;
(5) continue to develop and implement the search for peace through educational experiences, including church school classes, schools of Christian mission, and other settings throughout the church; and
(6) encourage local churches and members to take actions that make for peace and to act in concert with other peoples and groups of goodwill toward the achievement of a peaceful world.
See Social Principles, ¶ 165B and C.
From The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church — 2004. Copyright © 2004 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.