Nearly five years ago, Cornelia Lehn asked her employer, the General Conference Mennonite Church, not to remit the military tax portion of her paycheck to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Lehn, then curriculum editor working in the denomination’s offices in Newton, Kansas, said she could no longer contribute money to support the military structure of the United States on grounds of conscience.

What began as one person’s request emerged as the central issue at the denomination’s midtriennium conference last month in Minneapolis. Over 700 General Conference Mennonites argued the question: should Christians and their churches pay taxes that go to support the military?

Some Mennonites have advocated “war tax resistance,” and a few refuse to pay the military portion of their income taxes (see Nov. 3, 1978, issue, p. 58). A number wanted the denomination to stop entirely its collection of taxes from church employees that would be spent by the military. But others shied away from denominational tax resistance, saying it would put the church in direct violation of federal law and of biblical injunctions to “honor the king.”

So in a compromise of sorts, they adopted a final resolution approving war tax resistance—but as it could be obtained through proper government channels. They mandated their church during the next three years to “engage in a serious and vigorous search to use all legal, legislative, and administrative avenues for achieving a conscientious objector exemption from the legal requirements that the conference withhold income taxes from the wages of its employees.”

The issues of militarism and war taxes have been building for some time in the Mennonite Church, one of the so-called historic peace churches of the Anabaptist ...

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