A Statement on Christian Community Relation, 1951

A statement of concern made at Laurelville Mennonite Camp,
Sponsored by the Committee on Industrial Relations
of the Mennonite Church Goshen, Indiana

Doctrine and Practice

I. We recognize a tendency in current Christianity to make social betterment a chief concern, on the assumption that natural human good ness will assert itself if the machinery of environment is adjusted. We recognize also another tendency to emphasize exclusively the vertical relationship of man to God, on the assumption that if a man gets right with God his horizontal relationships with his fellows will automatically ad. just themselves. We believe that the "social Gospel" is basically in error; but we also believe that the non-social Gospel is inadequate. We believe the statement of James that faith and works must go together. We there. fore wish to express our deep concern that as a church we should not de. part from the basic assumption that good social behavior must be secured as the outworking of a regenerated heart, that only the Spirit of God can produce the fruit of the Spirit. We would warn our people against any program of social or economic improvement which is divorced from the evangelizing purpose to bring men to Christ as both Saviour from sin and the Lord of their conduct.

We are further concerned that the church should acquire a better understanding of the principles of social justice contained in the Gospel of Christ, and urge our preachers and teachers to study and to set forth the social obligations expressed and implied in the teachings of the Old Testament prophets, of our Lord, and of all the apostles. We are deeply concerned that the social conscience of all our people may be aroused and sharpened, so that we may sense more and more the implications of Christian love and brotherhood in the complex details of modern life. We believe that our Christian testimony to the world about us can be effective only as we confess unsocial conduct to be sin and cleanse our lives of its defilement.

Nonresistance in Daily Life

II. In view of the fact that nonresistance is seen, not only in one's attitude toward war, but still more in the total spirit of the life in times of peace and war; and in view of the fact that the considerable failure of our members to take a consistent peace stand during the wars of the past decades argues a general failure in the more inclusive nonresistant life, this study conference expresses its concern:

1. That the principle of nonresistance become deeply imbedded in the thinking of our people as a result of regeneration and a continued program of teaching.

2. That our young men be encouraged and helped to such a daily behavior as will give them no embarrassment when they are asked in Form SSS-150 to describe actions and behavior which demonstrate their non resistant conviction.

3. That our people carefully avoid every manifestation of covetous ness, greed, and oppression; all willful neglect of duty by employer or employed; any relationship with agricultural, mercantile, industrial, or labor associations involving a compromise of principle; or any pressure methods designed at bettering themselves at the expense of others.

4. That we be more concerned about acting justly than about being treated justly, looking for every opportunity to witness for our Master as 'we overcome evil with good.

5. That we give a better demonstration of our unwillingness to profit through products of our labor or capital which contribute directly to military operations or to the destruction of property or life, or to participate in any program which tends to promote ill will or hatred among men or nations.

Christian Ethics in Business and Professions

III. In view of the extent to which the organization of modern life has been carried in the areas of business, industry, and the professions, and in view of the policies, methods, and procedures frequently used by these business and professional organizations, we are concerned with the necessity of examining with care, in the light of Christian ethics, the policies and methods of every such organization with which they have to do, to the end that all organization relationships be such as will not violate the Christian ethic. In this area we wish to state the following concerns in particular:

1. That a careful study be made of the various business, agricultural, and professional organizations affecting our brotherhood to the end that we be better informed as to their objectives, policies, and methods, enabling us to evaluate them in the light of our Christian ethic.

2. That business connections be avoided among us which would involve responsibility for unethical practices over which the individual has no control.

3. That great care be exercised in the investment of capital in large corporations and that this be done only when it is certain that business practices of the corporation, its policies with respect to competitors, and its labor policies are such as can be approved by the Christian conscience.

4. That our farmers and business and professional men exercise great care that no relations be maintained with agricultural, business, and professional organizations which will make them party to unchristian pressure tactics, unfair competition, unfair labor policies, or other unchristian methods and procedures.

5. That we seek to promote a diversification of small industries and businesses in our various communities to the end that as many as possible of our people engaged in business and industry may be so engaged in small community industries in preference to the large-scale corporations in our larger industrial centers.

6. That our brethren in the operation of their own business organizations seek to enlighten their consciences as to the best type of internal organization and administration for the maintenance of Christian labor relations, and that they continually seek to improve these relations.

7. That as a brotherhood we continually seek to discover ways and means of bringing the economic life of our brethren more completely into the way of Christian stewardship and Christian discipleship.

Organized Labor

IV. The rise of the labor movement, accompanied by an industrial trend among our own people, has created problems arising out of our relations with organized labor. While recognizing the benefits which the workers have realized from the efforts of the labor unions, we recognize also that some of the methods employed are not in harmony with Scriptural principles, and therefore cannot be endorsed, and should not be participated in, by the Christian. In relation to the problem thus existing and in our effort to adjust ourselves to it, we feel that we should have a concern in the following areas:

1. That our present "Statement of Position on Industrial Relations" should be re-examined with a view to its improvement as a piece of literature which will serve our purposes well in our contacts with labor leaders or the general public.

2. That a study should be made as to indoctrination literature which is needed for the instruction and guidance of our people.

3. That consideration should also be given as to effective ways and means whereby a conscience and personal convictions on this question can be developed, 'which we recognize as being a basic requisite in the solution of the problem.

4. That further clarification should be made as to what kinds of working arrangements can be accepted without compromise of Scriptural principles.

5. Since the lack of uniformity in attitude and practice throughout the church presents an inconsistent testimony, and since the acceptance of unqualified union membership by members of the church may well have serious implications in weakening the position of the church on the entire question of nonresistance and the recognition we seek to obtain for that position, we feel it should be our sincere concern that the position and practice of the church as a whole may become more fully unified in harmony with Scriptural principles which should guide our relations in this area.

Race and Minority Group Relations

V. In view of the clear Scriptural teachings that God is no respecter of persons, and that there is no Jew nor Greek but that all are one in Christ Jesus; in view of the widespread prevalence of race animosity in the world of today and especially in our own country; and in view of the impact which race animosities have produced in our own brotherhood, it is the concern of those here assembled:

1. That we study means of bringing the Gospel of Christ to racial and minority groups such as Negroes, Jews, and Japanese-Americans, and that the Gospel message be accompanied where necessary with service activities designed to raise their standard of living.

2. That we study means of better informing our brotherhood, (a) of the disabilities suffered by racial and minority groups, (b) of the lack of scientific basis for making differences between races, and (c) of the Scriptural teachings on race and minority group relationships.

3. That we witness against racial segregation or discrimination at every opportunity, and that we seek to abolish it wherever it may exist in our own brotherhood.

4. That we study means of providing opportunities for fellowship between Christians of different races and minority groups, to enable them to learn to know each other better as fellow saints.

Other Related Concerns

VI. In view of the striking increase in material prosperity in the United States and Canada and the enormous disparity in the standard of living between these areas and many other areas of the world which have urgent needs not only for the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ but for material necessities requisite for the maintenance of life on a plane of health and decency, it is the concern of those here assembled:

1. That continued study of disparities in standards of living be made so that we may be aware of the true circumstances of other peoples.

2. That we teach without ceasing the true principles and practice of Christian stewardship of the possessions which have been entrusted to us.

3. That we recognize the great material prosperity of our countries to be the result primarily of the abundance of our natural resources pro- vided by our benevolent heavenly Father rather than the accumulated work of our own minds or bodies or of our righteous living.

4. That we practice sharing our technical abilities and our accumulated possessions with those who are less fortunate in such a way as to en able them to exert their own efforts to raise their standards of living.

5. That we refrain from assenting to policies of selfish nationalism embodied in such devices as the protective tariff and other restrictions on the free flow of international trade, the imperialistic exploitation of colonial peoples, and the discriminatory restriction of immigration of peoples from underprivileged countries to our own.

VII. In view of the tendency of modern governments in the United States and Canada to assume an increasingly paternalistic attitude to ward their subjects, especially as related to the care of dependent aged, children, widows, and to the provision of insurances against contingencies of storm, flood, unemployment, disease, and accidents, and in view of the resulting tendency among the masses of people and even among many members of our own communion to look to the government rather than to the church for help in time of need, it is the concern of those here assembled:

1. That a study be made of the extent to which members of our own brotherhood are availing themselves of the benefits of governmental assistance.

2. That we look with favor upon the present mutual assistance activities of our local congregations, our district conferences, and other church organizations; that we urge these groups and others to study ways and means of making their present work more effective and to extend their scope of activities to other needed areas.

3. That we seek to decrease rather than increase disparity of wealth in our brotherhood, recognizing the responsibility of each member for the welfare of the household of faith.

VIII. In view of the Scriptural Mennonite emphasis upon simplicity of life, it is the concern of those here assembled that Mennonite productive resources of land, labor, and capital be engaged in the production of those goods and services which contribute more directly to the promotion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the world and to the supplying of the necessities for sustaining and enriching life rather than to the production of those things which weaken the mind or the body or which supply the trivial, superficial, or peripheral wants of man.

IX. In view of the rapidly changing standards of the world about us relative to rights, privileges, and obligations of women and children in the community and in the family and in view of the lofty standards of the Scriptures with respect to the status of all human personality regardless of age or sex, it is the concern of those here assembled:

1. That there be a continued study of ways of strengthening family relationships

2. That we maintain a consistent witness to the world of the effectiveness of the power of devotion to the kingdom of God, of the power of love and respect among all the members of the family group in building homes which will endure and will show forth the regenerated life.

X. In view of the gross immorality manifest in our country through such sins as the liquor and narcotic traffic, gambling, and white slavery, and in view of dangers which these evils present to the welfare of our country, it is the concern of those here assembled:

1. That we maintain a continued strict and absolutist position against these evils as they appear in our brotherhood.

2. That we witness against these evils in the communities, states, and nations where we live.


A Statement on Christian Community Relation

A statement of concern made at Laurelville Mennonite Camp, July 24-27, 1951. Sponsored by the Committee on Industrial Relations of the Mennonite Church Goshen, Indiana.


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January 31, 2001