They declared war on war last month at a tranquil, wooded retreat center in Green Lake, Wisconsin. About 300 representatives of the so-called historic peace churches—the Mennonites, Church of the Brethren, and the Society of Friends (Quakers)—studied peace and advocated nonviolent activism as the way to bring it about. They billed their three-day conference “A New Call to Peacemaking.”
Pacifism is a tradition for these small, but influential, church groups. The Quakers, Church of the Brethren, and Mennonites have always been conscientious objectors during wartime. But delegates at Green Lake looked for new and practical, even radical, ways to function as peacemakers. Their mood reflected the flair of an anti-Viet Nam war rally and the reverence of a traditional worship service.
“Are we going to pray for peace and pay for war?” asked delegates last spring in Old Chatham, New York—one of twenty-six regional conferences held over the past two years as preparation for the national meeting. For Green Lake conferees, the answer to that rhetorical question was an emphatic “no.”
The delegates called for total military disarmament and an end to economic support for military programs. The delegates passed a resolution that, while not binding on individual church members, called for carrying out peace education programs on the local level, returning to a simpler life style, and developing church support groups for persons who use nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience to “express a faithful peace witness.”
The most controversial issue in the Green Lake statement was war tax resistance—the practice of refusing to pay that portion of your federal income tax that goes for military programs. The measure asked persons to “seriously consider ...1
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