Few evangelical churches provide a forum for considering issues of war and peace. When they do, they tend to use information that advocates certain public policy positions, such as a nuclear freeze or military superiority over the Soviet Union.

Those findings are based on a poll conducted by the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). TO help churches study the issue, the NAE plans to launch a Peace, Freedom, and Security Studies Program from its Washington, D.C., office.

The program will not advocate policies, said coordinator Brian O’Connell, but instead will encourage churches to begin studying the issue. It will assist churches by identifying speakers and resource materials; by developing “model programs” for discussions of war and peace; and by sponsoring meetings among evangelical leaders. O’Connell said he also plans to provide guidelines to frame the debate and “clarify the biblical, theological, educational, and political standards” that are necessary. The effort is an outgrowth of NAE’s participation in a conference last year in Pasadena at which evangelicals debated the issue of war and peace.

In a report prepared for NAE, O’Connell pointed out that “there is little activity detected, beyond occasional sermons, aimed at clarifying the biblical and theological points of reference for the individual’s conscience when faced with personal civic choices about America’s proper role in world affairs.”

If evangelicals remain sidelined on the issue, O’Connell said, they will be “highly vulnerable to partisan political pressures seeking to enlist [them] in one or another faction of the present argument.” He said he intends to see both liberal and conservative views challenged by the process of systematically studying the issues and seeking to balance the twin goals of peace and national security.

A graduate of Seattle Pacific University, O’Connell developed the project survey and proposal. The NAE executive board approved it in June. A nonpartisan Seattle organization, the World Without War Council, is cosponsoring the program and will help O’Connell raise $11,000 to help finance it.

The NAE survey shows that evangelical churches, associations, and colleges are reluctant about debating the issue of war and peace, NAE received survey replies from 18 of the 38 NAE-member denominations it polled. Respondents included the Assemblies of God, the Brethren in Christ Church, Baptist General Conference, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.), Conservative Congregational Christian Conference, the Brethren Church, and the Wesleyan Church. Six said they have issued a public statement on the issue. Four said they actively pursue a commitment to a particular position.

Only one denomination polled—the Brethren in Christ Church—said it produced or distributed original material about the issue. Two-thirds of the respondents said they have no plans to promote books on war and peace. Eight denominations seek no outside information on the issue, six rely on the NAE and its affiliate, World Relief, and four listed a variety of advocacy groups and parachurch organizations that provide literature.

The survey included responses from 28 state and local evangelical associations, 39 Christian colleges, and 23 seminaries and Bible colleges, indicating a similar lack of emphasis on the issue outside historic “peace church” circles.

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