A statement of the position of the
Mennonite and Brethren in Christ Churches
A most significant development of the past seventy-five years has been the growing industrialization of America, the concentration of large populations in our cities, and the creation of great corporations, employing large masses of workingmen who, as individuals, are no longer in a position to bargain on a basis of equality with their employers. This condition has given rise first to trade unionism and then more recently to industrial organizations of a more comprehensive type as a means of restoring the balance of bargaining power. While these developments are understandable as an accompaniment of the economic growth of the nation, it is, nevertheless, our conviction that industrial organization in its present form involves a class struggle and conflict which is ultimately due to an absence of the Christian principle of love.
Our respective confessions of faith are a witness to the fact that from their earliest history the Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches in their religious faith and practice have emphasized the principle of love and nonresistance which abjures the spirit of retaliation in all human relations, and which manifests a spirit of good will toward all men, including even their enemies, if there be such.
From time to time in recent years our conferences have reaffirmed this faith with special reference to its applications in the modern world. And believing sincerely that the coercive methods employed by industrial organizations are out of harmony with this faith which we profess we desire herewith to set forth a fresh statement of our faith and convictions in the matter of love and nonresistance as applied to industrial relations, earnestly admonishing our membership to order their lives as becometh Christians in accord with these principles.
Our Position on Industrial Relations
Our principles are based on the teachings of Christ who commands His disciples to live peaceably with all men. The Scripture specifically enjoins us to put away "all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking" and says "be ye kind one to another." And again, "the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men."
This way of peace which the Gospel enjoins is especially applicable to economic and industrial relations. Many Scriptures admonish Christians to brotherly love in business relations, particularly in the relations of employer and employee: "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them"; "He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none"; "Exact no more than that which is appointed you"; "Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages"; "Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another"; "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters . . . not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as servants of Christ"; "Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven."
We believe that industrial strife, unfair and unjust practices by employers or employees, and every economic and social condition and practice which makes for suffering or ill will among men is altogether contrary to the teaching and spirit of Christ and the Gospel. Therefore if we profess the principle of Christian peace and nevertheless engage in industrial warfare and strife, we as Christians become guilty of sin and fall under the condemnation of Christ, the righteous Judge.
Our Position on Industrial Unionism
We believe the industrial conflict to be a struggle for power with which to achieve social justice, whereas Biblical nonresistance enjoins submission even to injustice rather than to engage in conflict. We find these two principles directly opposed to each other, mutually exclusive. We believe that the aim of coercive methods, both of labor and capital, is to compel the opposition to do one good. As Christians, however, we are commanded to love our opponent, not that he may do us good, but that we may do him good and so obey the will of God. The Christian's first task, as we understand it, is to obey the will of God, whether the immediate consequence is justice or injustice for himself. For these reasons our position involves the following specific commitments:
1. As employers we can have no part in manufacturers' or employers' associations in so far as they are organized for the purpose of fighting the labor movement, using such 'well-known methods as the lockout, the black list, detective agencies, espionage, strikebreakers, and munitions. Rather we consider ourselves under obligation to heed the Scriptural injunction, "Give unto your servants that which is just and equal." We regard ourselves duty-bound to exemplify the industrial way of life herein implied, through the payment of such wages, the maintenance of such working conditions, and the provision of such measures for the social and economic security of the workingman as shall remove every occasion for grievance, strife, or conflict. Furthermore we can have no part in any program designed to evade or oppose the government in matters of taxation, and the regulation of hours, wages, and working conditions.
2. As employees we can have no part in labor organizations in so far as their sanctions ultimately rest on force, making use of such well-known methods as the monopolistic closed shop, the boycott, the picket line, and the strike.
3. As agriculturalists we can have no part in farmers' organizations in so far as they are organized for monopolistic or coercive purposes, ultimately employing such methods as the boycott and the strike.
4. On the same ground, consistency with this position and with our convictions against the purposes and methods of these organizations re quires that we have no part in financing them.
We shall endeavor at all times to live the principles which we pro fess, to avoid involvement in any industrial relations which may com promise our faith, and to obey the letter and the spirit of the laws of the government for the regulation of taxes, hours and wages, and labor relations in general, unless there should be a case where such obedience would cause us to violate the teachings of the Scripture which commands us to obey God rather than men. We shall endeavor by official presentation of our position to industrial and labor organizations and to government officials to negotiate arrangements for such relationships as will not re quire us to violate our conscience, that we may thus be permitted to continue to enjoy that full liberty of religious faith and conscience which has been our condition hitherto. However, in cases where we find our selves unable to negotiate such arrangements, making it necessary for us to suffer privation and loss for the sake of conscience, we hope by the grace of God that we may be able to assume, as our forefathers did, the sacrifices and suffering which may attend the sincere practice of this peaceful and nonresistant way of life, without malice or ill will toward those who differ with us.
We hereby adopt the above statement as representing our position on industrial relations and we authorize the Committee on Industrial Relations to bring this statement to the attention of the proper officials and leaders in industry and labor in all areas where our people are in any way connected with industry or labor. We also request the committee, as representing the church in these matters, to consider carefully and prayerfully all problems of industrial relations which may arise from time to time. We would likewise suggest to each of our district conferences that they indorse this statement of position and bring it to the attention of every congregation and of all members individually, in order that our people may be fully informed of our position and may be strengthened in conviction, that we may continue in the simple, peaceful, nonresistant faith of the Scriptures.
A Statement on Industrial Relations, 1941
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A statement of the position of the
Mennonite and Brethren in Christ Churches,
Biblical Viewpoints Publications
63100 County Road 111
Goshen, IN 46526
January 31, 2001
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