Council endorses Selective Service conversations, alternative service consultation.
The Annual Conference Council has given its endorsement to continued conversations between the General Board and Selective Service in a telephone conference call Dec. 10. The endorsement was given in response to the invitation by Selective Service for the Church of the Brethren, as a historic peace church, to develop a plan for alternative service opportunities. The council also endorsed Church of the Brethren participation in an Anabaptist meeting on alternative service opportunities.
Earl K. Ziegler, chair of the council, called the group together to discuss the matter at the request of Stan Noffsinger, general secretary of the General Board. Noffsinger turned to the council in its capacity as executive committee of the Conference, reported Conference secretary Fred Swartz. Noffsinger told the council that he considered the opportunity and call to be larger than a General Board program, and an invitation to the entire denomination to be involved in a positive witness to its heritage and faith.
"The council understood from the background material given that Selective Service, or the Bush administration, have no plans in the offing to institute a new draft," Swartz reported. "There have been discussions during the past two presidential administrations of the eventual possibility of some kind of general national service. Selective Service officials explained to General Board staff that they want alternative service opportunities to be in place if and when such a program would be launched."
The council unanimously agreed to "give the general secretary our encouragement to maximize our efforts to have alternative service opportunities in place" and "to continue to explore the relationship with Selective Service." The council added a strong urging for all Annual Conference agencies "to renew the task of resourcing the church with tools to guide our youth in their choice of nonviolent service." Noffsinger reported that he will give On Earth Peace a full report of the conversations with Selective Service and will make sure that agency is a participant in the discussion. "We don't want to miss the part of providing resources to our youth that will help them understand and embrace the Brethren peace witness," commented Chris Bowman, moderator of the 2004 Conference.
Noffsinger and Jim Hardenbrook, 2005 Annual Conference moderator, also reported to the council their participation in a recent meeting of executives and moderators of Anabaptist communions. Although this fellowship has met annually, the Church of the Brethren has not been involved for six years. The meeting also included officers of the Mennonite Church US, the Brethren in Christ, the Conservative Mennonite Church, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) US, and the Mennonite Brethren USA.
At the Anabaptist meeting, the MCC's executive director Rolando Santiago brought a proposal urging Anabaptist churches to intensify their witness to service. After Church of the Brethren representatives disclosed the contacts with Selective Service, the group made plans for a consultation of representatives of Anabaptist communions to discuss the tradition's understanding of service and how to prepare for alternative service opportunities. At Noffsinger's invitation the consultation will be held at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.
After hearing the report, the Annual Conference Council took action to support "our denomination's participation in a consultation on alternative service March 4-6, 2005, to be held in Elgin, Ill., as proposed by the council of moderators and secretaries of the Anabaptist churches, and in which the Annual Conference moderator and General Board general secretary will participate on behalf of the Church of the Brethren." Council members participating in the meeting were Ziegler, Bowman, Hardenbrook, Swartz, Ron Beachley, Joan Daggett, and Lerry Fogle.
Source: 12/31/2004 Newsline