Friday, January 21, 2005

Churches begin planning for Consultation on Alternative Service.

Leaders from several Christian denominations will hold a March 4-5 consultation at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., to make contingency plans in case of a US military draft. The consultation of church leaders—mostly from peace churches in the Anabaptist tradition—will include education on Selective Service requirements, updates on military recruiting efforts, and conversation about alternatives to military service. It also will address how to respond to an increase in military recruitment efforts and how to promote a culture of volunteerism among youth.

The Council of Moderators and Secretaries (COMS), a group of leaders from Anabaptist denominations, is sponsoring the by-invitation-only consultation of about 80 people. The planning group includes representatives from the Church of the Brethren, the Mennonite Church USA, the Brethren in Christ Church of North America, the US Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, and Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) US.

Invited participants will include church leaders, church youth and young adults, and representatives from church agencies and educational institutions. The Church of the Brethren will have a delegation of about 12 people including the Annual Conference moderator and moderator-elect, representatives of the General Board and On Earth Peace, and youth and young adults. Other denominations have asked to be included in the consultation and the planning group is considering inviting representatives of the American Friends Service Committee and the Bruderhof. In addition, an invitation is being extended to representatives of the American Baptist Churches USA.

The idea for the consultation was sparked in part by face-to-face conversations between Selective Service staff and General Board staff (see related stories in the Dec. 17 and Dec. 31, 2004, issues of Newsline). Planning for the consultation has been facilitated by staff of MCC US, which have spent ten months making contingency planning for such a meeting.

The consultation "is important to all of us as Historic Peace Churches," said Stan Noffsinger, general secretary of the General Board. "The outcome of this gathering is strengthened through the participation of each of these denominations," he said. The prospect for a military draft "is a common denominator and we are proactive in considering our next steps."

"I think it's very important that the Anabaptist churches and those of us with concerns for peace be working together," said McFadden, who represents the Church of the Brethren on the planning group. "While the political parties and leaders continue to say there will be no draft, it's time for us to prepare," he said.

Source: 01/21/2005 Newsline

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