The general secretary of the Church of the Brethren general board, Stanley J. Noffsinger, is among the first US Anabaptist leaders to respond to President Bush's recent speech about the Iraq conflict ‚Äì with a call to make peace rather than war.
Noffsinger declared: "As Christians, we are called to continually give witness to Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, who called us to love our enemies. Last summer, in July 2006, the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference made a resolution about the war in Iraq that is even more applicable today.
"As the highest authority in the Church of the Brethren, the Annual Conference voted to affirm our denomination's historic and living witness that all war is sin. As disciples of Christ and members of one of the three Historic Peace Churches, we resolved that we cannot ignore the death, destruction, and violence of the war in Iraq.
"The message of Jesus 'to love your enemy,' from the Gospel of Matthew 5:44, is inconsistent with military action. Jesus' words instead move us toward peaceful methods, diplomacy, moral suasion, nonviolent sanctions, and international cooperation to address violence and aggression.
"War demeans and brutalizes all its participants. Military combatants and support personnel as well as innocent civilians, including women, children, and the infirm, are being killed and maimed. Military intervention in Iraq has triggered wave after wave of brutal acts of terrorism. In addition, the enormous expense of the war is a disastrous drain on the resources that are so desperately needed to relieve suffering at home and around the world.
"The Church of the Brethren has called on its members to pray and give witness to the sin of violence, and has petitioned the federal government of the United States, the United Nations, and other nations and groups to seek peace by taking action to bring troops home from Iraq.
"Also, we have called on religious leaders from all faiths who preach violence to consider the things that truly make for peace. The wisdom of the scriptures, in the book of Jonah, provides direction: 'Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence' (Jonah 3:8).
"Now, in response to the points the President is seeking, these statements by the Church of the Brethren are reaffirmed. Furthermore, we reiterate the church's prayerful call upon the global community to formulate and actively implement a nonviolent, just plan that will bring peace and security to Iraq and all its people."
The Church of the Brethren is a Christian denomination ‚Äúcommitted to continuing the work of Jesus peacefully and simply, and to living out its faith in community.‚Äù The denomination is based in the Anabaptist and Pietist faith traditions and is one of the three Historic Peace Churches. It celebrates its 300th anniversary in 2008. It counts about 130,000 members across the United States and Puerto Rico, and has missions and sister churches in Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, India, and Nigeria.
The other main peace churches are the Mennonites and the Quakers.