The Witness of U.S. Lutherans on Peace, War and Conscience
A Study Paper of the Lutheran Council in the U.S.A.
The following document was adopted as a preliminary statement by the standing
committee of the Division of Theological Studies, Lutheran Council in the USA,
in March 1973 and commended as a useful instrument for study of the important
issues of peace, war and conscience. The Executive Committee of the council
subsequently recommended that the three participating church bodies engage in a
broad, multi-level study of the document. The Coordinating Committee for
Cooperative Parish Education Projects has produced a study guide based on this
document. The guide will be available for use early in 1975 through the American
Lutheran Church's Division for Life and Mission in the Congregation, the
Lutheran Church in America's Division for Parish Services and the Lutheran
Church-Missouri Synod's Division of Parish Services.
Origin of Study
In early 1972, at the request of the Executive Committee of the Lutheran
Council in the USA, the council's Division of Theological Studies launched a
study on "Peace, War, and Conscience in the Lutheran Tradition." In a series of
consultations, from May 1972 to March 1973, some 50 persons participated in
identifying the problem areas and seeking consensus for this statement.
Context of Study
The study was born out of the agony of United States involvement in
Indochinese war. There was primary concern for the dilemma facing military-age
young persons in our churches, a dilemma which may be summarized by stating
three biblical themes learned by most young Christians:
- God asks us to do no harm to our neighbor;
- God asks us to give particular help to oppressed peoples;
- God asks us to respect the institution of government, to obey the law.
Perhaps no event has so spotlighted for Americans the difficulty of balancing
those three imperatives as has the Vietnam War. The study therefore was shaped
by two questions: What help does Lutheran theology offer on the problem of peace
and war? What light does the Vietnam experience of the United States shed on the
The Study's Audience
We wish to address our member churches as a whole — their leadership and
their local congregations, the teachers of social ethics and the preachers of
God's full counsel. An immediate concern of the study is the military-age
person, whether short-term or career professional. Since the language of this
document is mainly theological-ethical, we believe those who counsel with
persons making military-participation decisions will find it particularly
useful. The concluding section addresses recommendations to individuals and
specific instrumentalities of our churches.
This study was able to build on a groundwork already laid by studies,
statements, and policy papers adopted by individual participating churches on
issues of peace, war, and conscience, especially during the past decade. We
summarize their content briefly here (for a list, see Appendix A):
U.S. Lutherans of the three churches participating in the Lutheran Council
have expressed as their official policy the position of support for selective
conscientious objection — the individual's right to refuse participation in a
particular war when such participation, to him, would clearly be wrong. The
churches have asked the government to change the law so that selective objection
is legal; they have also committed themselves to pastoral support of those who
find themselves in conflict with law for reasons of conscience.
Two of the three churches have encouraged study of amnesty for war objectors.
The 1972 annual meeting of the Lutheran Council asked for resolution of the
amnesty question in a way that would "facilitate reentry" into American society
by those in exile, in prison, or underground.
1 Statements on the Vietnam
War itself reflected the general U.S. concern about the war's length, its
purposes, and its divisiveness at home.
Beyond these rather broad concerns, it is not possible to say with any
precision what Lutherans in the United States believe about peace and war
generally or about any particular war or peace policy. (The one finding from a
recent national survey is offered by A Study of Generations,2
which includes a single item on war and peace. In response to the statement,
"All war is basically wrong," 52 per cent of Lutherans surveyed said Yes, 39 per
cent said No, and 9 per cent were uncertain or gave no response.)
This document does not claim to reflect a cross-section opinion among U.S.
Lutherans. It should be seen rather as a gathering of the peace/war concerns of
a group asked to study and make recommendations, including theologians, social
ethicists, military chaplains, conscientious objectors, pastors, and
international law specialists. It is a document which speaks to the churches and
speaks only tentatively. It is designed for study and response in the churches.
It hopes to engage a broad spectrum of U.S. Lutherans in consideration of the
issues. That goal is far more important than any desire that its assertions find
Section I: Central Questions
We begin with the observation that the phenomenon of war is viewed from
various biblical perspectives, among which are:
- War seen as against God's desire for peace and order (Isaiah 2.4, Psalm
- War seen as an evidence of Satanic powers at work (Revelation);
- War seen as an evidence of the sinful arrogance of men (James 4.1);
- War seen as a judgment of God against men (Psalm 68.30, 2 Chronicles 16.9);
- War seen as a means for accomplishing God's will (Deuteronomy 9, 1 Chronicles
Having discovered this, where does the individual go for help in deciding
about the meaning of the particular war in which he or she is asked to take
part? Granted that war may be a justifiable exception to the biblical
requirement that I seek the well-being of my neighbor, to which neighbor must
try to do good in a particular circumstance involving the use of coercive force?
Our study has identified four central questions which Lutherans in the United
States must continue to examine if the individual struggling with a war
participation decision is to be helped and the corporate witness for peace of
U.S. Lutherans is to grow in effectiveness. The four questions are: What is the
peace/war ethic of U.S. Lutherans? What is the Lutheran view of the individual's
responsibility to governing authorities? What is the church's role in developing
individual conscience on peace/war? What are the resources available for making
world peace and justice a priority among U.S. Lutherans?
Our Peace/War Ethic
1. Lutherans customarily see politics as the process of building and maintaining
human community. It is the way in which differences among persons and groups,
and in global politics among nations, are accommodated in the interest of the
common good. Participation in politics is considered to be part of the vocation
to neighbor-love. However, the ultimate loyalty of the Christian is to
God-in-Christ, whose perfect justice judges every political arrangement. The
choices which Christians make about war and military participation will be
expressions of an ethic that acts within political processes and institutions,
while taking its bearings from beyond them.
2. The Lutheran Confessions of the 16th century do not deal at length with
the question of peace and war. In some instances the confessions see war as
inspired by Satan, at other times as a means of public redress commanded by God.
The confessions see Christians as morally able, under certain circumstances, to
participate in war or in military service. What are those circumstances?
3. It is apparent that the Lutheran reformers wrote about military
participation within the context of the just-war criteria generally accepted in
Christian ethical thought of that time. Luther's own assumptions appear in his
stipulations that a war be entered only as a last resort, be defensive, and be
fought under rules of conduct. Similarly, U.S. Lutheran statements of the past
decade on war and conscience appeal to the theory of the just war. It is worth
recalling here that the just-war ethic also provides the foundation for the
treaties and conventions of international law concerning war.
4. Broadly speaking, there have been only two other ethical options
available: pacifism (war always wrong, always a greater evil than not going to
war) and the holy war position (war waged in the name of God or of a "true
faith" — religious or secular). Neither of these positions can be termed
"Lutheran," although individual Lutherans have held them.
5. It is clear to us that the idea of the just war (some would prefer
"justifiable war") is part of the ethical legacy of Lutherans. A summary of its
chief points would include the following:
Considerations ad bellum (when contemplating warfare):
a. Does it have a just cause, e.g., to protect the innocent or to restore
rights wrongfully denied?
b. Is it truly a last resort, methods short of violence having been
c. Will it be entered through the nation's properly constituted procedure for
declaring and waging war?
d. Does it have reasonable prospect of success — that is, can the goals of
the warfare likely be attained without squandering the lives and goods of the
Considerations in bello (during the conduct of warfare):
e. Does the conduct show due proportion between means used and ends sought,
avoiding wanton and unnecessary destruction?
f. Does the conduct safeguard noncombatants, using force only to restrain and
doing no harm to those who can inflict no harm (civilians, prisoners)?
g. Does the government promise mercy to a defeated enemy, including
assistance with rebuilding what has been destroyed?
6. We recognize that war today is not the same reality as that known by the
developers of the criteria for justifiable war. That is, total war
using all the weaponry now available is excluded by the tests of the criteria
themselves, and limited war (e.g., guerilla war) today is typically
fought without the clear distinctions between combatants and
noncombatants which the theory assumes. Further, the context for much use of
organized force today is not traditional warfare between nations but warfare
within nations — civil war or revolution. It may now be just as necessary
to speak about an ethic for the "just revolution" or for any proposed use of
7. In this relatively new political and military context, is the traditional
just-war theory ethically viable? It is true that governments and peoples have
continued to go to war on the basis of self-interest and have never been notably
restrained from such action by ethical theories. We believe, however, that the
concept of the just war still serves a useful function by keeping before the
eyes of participants demands such as proper conduct, justifiable cause,
proportion between means and ends, and mercy to the vanquished. The main
weakness of the just-war criteria has always been not their failure but the
failure of leaders and citizens alike to rely on them early enough. We believe,
therefore, that the just-war teaching, taught widely and employed in time, has
continuing value as a guide to ethical reasoning about participation in war — at
a. By each individual in arriving at his or her own judgment about a
given military action or nation policy;
b. By a community of Christians seeking a corporate stance;
c. By those who make policy and conduct hostilities for the state.
8. At the same time, we believe that anyone using the traditional theory
today must actively seek to apply more rigorous criteria than ever before,
criteria which will be more critical of military solutions to international
conflict and more suspicious of militarism as an ideology. Toward the
development of such more restrictive criteria, we suggest that attention be
given especially to these needs:
a. The need for clarification of war-making powers under the U.S.
b. The need for more thorough instruction of all U.S. military personnel in
the laws of war to which this nation has committed itself (e.g., international
conventions, the Nuremburg principles);
c. The need for development of a "just-peace" ethic — that is, our goal is
not only to avoid harming our nation-neighbor but to seek his well-being in all
respects; we commit ourselves to wage peace.
9. We finally urge Lutherans, wherever possible, to seek theological
conversations with representatives of the historic peace churches, exploring
especially the respective traditions on peace/war and the individual's
relationship to the state.
Our View of Individual Responsibility to Governing Authorities
1. Lutherans have usually seen government as given by God for the good of the
people and have taught that responsible Christian living requires involvement in
government. "Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether
it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those
who do wrong and to praise those who do right" (1 Peter 2.13-14). We have also
recognized that government is capable of error and that particular government
policies may never be totally identified with the will of God for civil affairs.
Yet in the United Sates, on matters of war and peace, Lutherans have seldom
questioned the requirements of the national government. Ironically, distaste for
obligatory military service was one motivation behind the migration of thousands
of Lutherans from Europe to this country during the past century — because the
U.S. had a tradition of no peacetime draft until World War II. There has been no
comparable Lutheran rejection of peacetime conscription or of national war
policies in this land. And dissent expressed in acts of civil disobedience has
hardly been known among us.
2. In looking for biblical guidance, Lutherans have relied heavily on the
counsel of Romans 13.1, "Let every person be subject to the governing
authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist
have been instituted by God." A central danger for Lutherans is that, using only
a narrow reading of Romans 13.1 as our guide, we will identify government
policies with God's will. The Christian should see that Romans 13 is to be
interpreted in the light of Romans 12.1-2, "I appeal to you therefore, brethren,
by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and
acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this
world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is
the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12 also speaks
of feeding one's enemy and leaving vengeance to the wrath of God.
3. Furthermore, Romans 13 does not address the problem that exists when
authority supports the evil and punishes the good. What does the Christian do
then? Luther quoted Acts 5.29, "We must obey God rather than men," as pertinent
advice for the soldier who believed his government to be wrong about a war, but
Lutherans have often failed to give that advice. Finally, Revelation 13 with its
warning against state worship is a needed counterpoint to nationalistic
interpretations of Romans 13.
4. We offer five specific reminders on the question of obedience to governing
authorities in relation to war:
a. The 20th-century American socio-political situation lays a responsibility
upon citizens for the actions of their government in a way which did not
characterize the socio-political situation in either the New Testament era or
the lands where Luther worked in the Reformation. Thus the government can no
longer be understood as "they" by the American citizen. Its sins of commission
may be our sins of omission.
b. Respect for the institution of government as ordained of God does not
require acceptance of every specific policy of government. There are times when
one's sense of God's will for his life may lead, as with Luther, to disobedience
of government demands. Lutherans recognize that the right of selective objection
to military participation flows from such an understanding. It is a rejection of
a specific governmental demand, not a rejection of government or law as such.
c. "Governing authorities," as used in Romans 13.1, is not limited to national
government. Structures of international order which have been given governmental
power (e.g., the conventions governing warfare, international courts, the United
Nations) should be seen as having legitimate authority. The nation-state as we
know it is a phenomenon of the last few centuries in the West and is likely not
the final stage in the development of political institutions. International
structures are doing the will of God when they fit the description of governing
authorities found in Romans 13. 2-7.
d. The moral issue of participation in war we confront both as Christians who
are citizens of a particular nation and as citizens who are Christians and give
primary allegiance to the God and Redeemer of all humankind. Christians
therefore do have a basic identity and loyalty which moves beyond strictly
national concerns to all fellow believers and to the whole of mankind.
e. The Christian confession that God is "maker ... of all things visible
and invisible" requires respect for all fellow created beings. Before nations
enter war or individuals enter combat, the enemy is usually depicted as a demon,
so that he will be viewed as less than human. This phenomenon of hysteria about
the enemy should be countered by the reminder that life is a precious possession
of every one of God's human creatures.
The Church's Role in Conscience Development
1. For Christians, ethical decision-making is not merely a solitary or
autonomous activity. Guidance for making ethical choices is to be sought from
the Scriptures within the believing community. "The church has long considered
itself to be the guardian and guide of Christian conscience... [but] the church
will have to make a much greater effort at being that kind of fellowship in
which the morally sensitive person can in fact receive support and guidance.... 3
2. When a person of military age must choose between competing claims of
national government and his own sense that a war is wrong, Lutheran theology can
be especially helpful. We believe that moral decisions often involve ambiguity.
We believe there is no such thing as a totally pure route to follow — which
seems especially obvious when war participation is the issue. There are only
relatively better or worse choices, and judgment about the morality of those
choices will vary with the individual. Lutherans have insisted that even "lesser
evil" in the realm of moral choice remains an evil — and this emphasis must be
applied to the issue of war participation. For the Christian, the pain of making
a hard choice remains, but anxiety over the need to justify oneself before God
is removed. It is God who justifies the sinner. The individual is free to choose
the course most likely to be helpful to the neighbor, as he understands the will
of God, confident that God's forgiving grace covers the sin attached even to
3. We believe Lutheran churches are called upon today to inform and stimulate
the consciences of young people especially for participation in the waging of
peace and the retirement of war as a tool of national policy. In our practical
teaching as Lutherans, there has been an assumption of the legitimacy of
participation in war. At the same time, we have taught the New Testament
admonition of nonresisting love to the neighbor, including the enemy, as the
norm for personal ethics (Matthew 5, Luke 6, Romans 12). In a world of sin, the
ethic of nonresisting love may be inappropriate as political policy for
governments and yet followed faithfully by individuals. Nevertheless, we believe
government should not put the burden of proof solely on those who would refuse
to take part in war. On the contrary, a national government is obliged to
persuade its young people of military age that a particular military policy is
4. When an individual confronts the issue of war participation, he or she
would ideally include these elements in the process of decision-making:
a. I know that I live in a context of grace. I am set free in Christ (2
Corinthians 3.17). I need not fear acquiring new sorts of knowledge which may
shatter cherished notions. I am free to know as much as can be known about the
issue — and then to decide.
b. I will consider my decision in the light of various obligations: to obey
God's will for human existence, e.g., love to neighbor, loyalty to government,
elimination of injustice; to obey my political leaders, e.g., concerning defense
of country, maintenance of peace.
c. I will weigh my possible actions against a set of criteria such as the
just-war guidelines, seeking clarity about the ethical character of the proposed
d. I will consult with others in both my faith community and my political
e. I will make my decision, knowing it is in a belief framework which:
affirms faith in God as Creator of all human life; affirms the enemy as God's
creature; sees war as an expression of both the sin of man and the judgment of
God; sees war as at best a barely tolerable lesser of evils; understands that,
whichever choice I make, final certainty about the rightness of that choice may
not be readily available to human perception.
5. The approach we have outlined for dealing with morally ambiguous choices
should be shared consistently by our churches with military-age persons. But not
only with those. We believe persons of all ages must be called to face the
war/conscience question. The very young should be helped to think about the
matter long before having to make a personal decision. Older persons continue to
participate in a nation's peace/war behavior throughout their lives — as voters,
taxpayers, shapers of opinion.
6. In addition to providing counsel and support for decision-making, some
Lutheran congregations have chosen to assist military-age persons in another
way. They have offered themselves publicly as supportive communities to military
personnel who are struggling with a decision about their continuing service.
Such support, properly given, does not interfere with the functioning of civil
authority but seeks to provide spiritual and physical help to a person who is
making a decision and facing its legal consequences. This sort of "sanctuary"
can be a most meaningful ministry to troubled individuals and of great value to
the congregation as it struggles to make a corporate decision.
7. We believe our churches need to give increased attention to providing
guidance for the consciences of those who have already chosen to participate in
military service. The church must witness to and in the military situation in
order to restrain the abuse of military power. The church's ethical position
concerning the uses of military force must be communicated effectively to its
own faithful who are in the armed forces, as well as its young who may be
serving there in future
8. We see the current discussion about the nature of religious ministry to
U.S. armed forces as healthy. We consider Lutheran participation in current
studies of the question to be essential. There will continue to be need for
armed forces, even if wars were to be effectively outlawed, just as armed police
are usually used within societies which have outlawed intergroup violence. In
this context, we restate the principle that Lutherans may serve in armed forces
in good conscience. The precise form our ministry to the armed forces should
take in the immediate future, however, is a subject to which our churches should
give new attention.
Resources for Making World Justice and Peace a Priority
1. There are two broad meanings of the word "peace" for the Christian. There is
the peace a Christian has in Christ, with both God and neighbor. There is also
peace among men, i.e., the elimination of violent conflicts between nations or
groups within nations, a goal toward which the Christian works along with other
human beings. Peace among men is a worthy end in itself; it also provides the
most favorable context for the proclamation of the Gospel. God and the believer
are active in pursuing peace of both kinds. Nor are they totally separable: the
Christian has a fuller concept of what peace among men can be because of the
relationship of peace he now knows through Christ.
2. Today more than ever, peace among men must be seen in the context of
global human community. Wars, the resort to organized force of arms, will not be
obsolete until other means of preventing or settling international and
international disputes are available. An essential first step is to develop a
global consciousness and a peace-mindedness among all peoples, but especially in
the Great Power nations. It is not only pacifist Christians who should make a
priority of peace-building, peace-making, and peace-keeping. To help U.S.
Lutherans, most of whom are nonpacifists, to think about world peace with
justice, we offer these observations:
a. There is inescapable tension for Christians in the quest for peace with
justice. Christians are called to be both messengers of peace in a world of
conflict and messengers of conflict in a world of false peace. That is, the
"peace" of an unjust status quo is not the true peace which God wills for His
world. If peace requires justice, and justice often comes accompanied by
conflict, then there are situations in which the conflict will escalate into
violence — until nonviolent means of resolving conflict are accepted by all
parties. American Christians recall that their nation was born through armed
revolution, which most Americans have seen in that context as a justifiable use
of violence. Christians must always be suspicious, therefore, of any call for
peace which aims merely to maintain existing but unfair power arrangements.
b. "Our greatest problem is not that some Christians are acting nonviolently
for justice and peace while others are resorting to violence. The great problem
is simply that most of our fellow Christians are not consciously acting on such
matters at all."4
c. The only level of human social organization where prohibitions against the
use of violence in resolving conflict are not enforced is the international
level. Christians concerned about law and order must give attention to the lack
of effective law and order at the global level. In a world of 140-plus nations,
can the concept of unlimited sovereignty endure? The concept of world
citizenship, perhaps an earlier day's utopianism, is the political realism of
today's Spaceship Earth.
d. As one of the most international of the Christian communions, Lutherans
should find it natural to specialize in cultivating supranational
consciousness. As Christians, we should find it impossible to do otherwise. The
one body in Christ is supranational. When Christians endorse the aims of any one
nation in a way that leads them to do violence against fellow believers in
another nation, there is scandalous disruption of the unity of Christ's body. As
St. Paul reminds us, through the Cross Christ has already created "a single new
humanity in himself, thereby making peace" (Ephesians 2.15, New English
3. Lutherans are called to identify the resources in the Christian biblical
and theological tradition which will contribute to building world community.
American Lutherans are called, in addition, to become alert to the meaning of
our nation's overwhelming economic presence in most parts of the world, as it
applies to matters of peace with justice.
4. Lutherans are called further to see justice/peace as not just a political
issue between peoples, but as God's march through history as well. War is God's
judgment, as mystifying as that assertion may be. He it is who "delivers sinners
up" to their own self-destruction. But God is also the one who "makes wars to
cease." In the language of Ephesians, it is He who "makes peace," reconciling
human beings to Himself and thereby also "breaking down the dividing wall of
hostility" between peoples. In the face of God's judging us, the posture of
repentance is called for. In the face of our call from God's Peacemaker, Christ,
faith and further expansion of God's peace-making is our gift and assignment
5. Our concluding observation is that Lutherans for too long have left to
others the biblical witness and bold commitment to world peace. No Christian may
give to another his or her obligation to do the works of peace. And nowhere
among Lutherans need "peace" be a fighting word. It is a word from the heart of
the Gospel of reconciliation. Because God has conquered the enmity between us
and Him, we are freed to join Him in ending the enmity between us and them.
"Therefore, be at peace with one another" (1 Thessalonians 5.13, King James
Recommendations for Study and Action
What can individuals, local churches, and regional or national structures of
our denominations do to work for peace? We offer the beginnings of a list of
Through local churches or community groups:
- Practice repentance within the believing community over our failure
in the world peace/justice area and develop commitment to change.
- Study our confessional heritage in reference to war and peace, especially
the Apostles' Creed, and Article XVI of the Augsburg Confession and its Apology.
- Work for preaching and teaching that gives theological/ethical
perspectives on international conflicts.
- Study the moral and legal issues in conscientious objection to payment of
taxes for war purposes.
- Sponsor workshops on nonviolent alternatives to conflict resolution.
- Encourage development of peace curricula in public and nonpublic
elementary and secondary schools.
- Set up a parish panel, representing various viewpoints, which can help
youth think through military-participation decisions.
- Consider becoming a community of support (parish or group within parish)
for military personnel struggling with a decision about continuing service.
- Find out what the United Nations is doing in less-publicized arenas toward
the goal of world peace, and work to strengthen support for the UN in your
- Identify local coalitions working on peace issues and join those whose
objectives you can share.
- Become informed and let Congressional representatives know your views on
national public policy issues such as peacetime conscription, selective
conscientious objection, size of defense budget, conversion to demilitarized
economy, amnesty for war objectors, peace tax legislation.
- Resolve to make peace your business: praying for it daily, working to
help it happen, refusing to leave it to experts — whether political, military,
or peace-movement professionals.
- Arrange for conversations with Christians in your area who have a
pacifist ethical tradition (e.g., Mennonites, Brethren, Quakers).
- Take a critical view of our national history, learning from instances
where the justice claimed for our cause could be challenged by others.
- Become so familiar with the just-war criteria that you automatically test
against them any proposed use of violent force.
Through national church and interchurch agencies:
- Develop a program of resources for U.S. Lutherans on world community and
- Establish a peace information service on an inter-Lutheran basis.
- Urge seminaries to expand curriculum which offers theological perspective
on world peace/justice questions.
- Setup programs of peace studies in church-related colleges.
- Receive and share conclusions from fellow Lutherans who are experiencing
other kinds of international situations, e.g., Southern Africa, Latin America,
Eastern Europe, the Middle East.
- Reassess inter-Lutheran ministry to the military situation in terms of
witness to the institution as well as care of the individual.
- Work toward resolution of the issue of amnesty for war objectors in a way
that will "facilitate reentry into the life of our nation" (from LC/USA 1972
annual meeting statement).
- Urge appropriate church agencies to give priority attention to sensitizing
our churches on questions of global community and justice.
- Urge parish education boards to develop teaching tools for presenting
biblical/theological resources on peace concerns at all age levels.
- Stimulate creation of district/synod task forces on world peace.
The following list of recent documents (1966-73) of U.S. Lutheran church
bodies on peace/war/conscience questions includes policy statements, documents
commended for study, and testimony presented before a Senate committee. The
status of each is identified following the title. The complete document may be
secured by writing to the appropriate office:
ALC — The American Lutheran Church, Office of Research and
Analysis, 422 South Fifth Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55415
LCA — Lutheran Church in America, Department for Church and
Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016
LCMS — The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Office of the
President, 500 North Broadway, St. Louis, Missouri 63102
LC/USA — Lutheran Council in the USA, Office of
Communication and Interpretation, 315 Park Avenue South, New York, New York
I. Conscientious Objection
LCA 1968, "Conscientious Objection," policy statement adopted by fourth biennial
convention, Atlanta, Georgia, June 19-27.
LCMS 1969, "Statement on Conscientious Objection," resolution adopted by 48th
regular convention, Denver, Colorado, July 11-18.
ALC 1970, "National Service and Selective Service Reform," adopted by fifth
general convention, San Antonio, Texas, October 21-27; paragraphs 6-8 (support
for selective objection) as "policy statement," paragraphs 1-5 (reforms in the
draft, desirability of all-volunteer force) as "a statement expressing the
judgment and corporate conviction" of the ALC.
LC/USA 1971, "On the Broadening of Statutory Provision for Conscientious
Objectors," testimony before the Armed Services Committee of the U.S. Senate,
February 9, expressing the position on selective conscientious objection of the
three participating church bodies.
ALC 1972, "Amnesty in Perspective," adopted by sixth general convention,
Minneapolis, October 9, "as a statement of comment and counsel addressed to the
members of the congregations" of the ALC.
II. United States and Vietnam
LCA 1966, "Vietnam," policy statement adopted by third biennial convention,
Kansas City, Missouri, June 21-29.
ALC 1966, "Vietnam Involvement," adopted by third general convention,
Minneapolis, October 19-25, and commended to members "to stimulate their
thinking, promote a desire for informed discussion, and encourage fervent
ALC 1968, "Vietnam 1968," approved by fourth general convention, Omaha,
Nebraska, October 16-22, and commended to congregations "as a statement to their
members in order to stimulate their thinking, promote a desire for informed
discussion, and encourage fervent intercessory prayer."
LCMS 1971, "Concern Over Our Involvement in Southeast Asia," resolution
adopted by 49th regular convention, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, July 9-16.
LC/USA 1972, "Toward Reconciliation," adopted by representatives of
participating churches at annual meeting, February 29, and transmitted to ALC,
LCA, and LCMS "with the hope that they will commend it to their congregations
for a response in study, prayer, acts of reconciliation, and the resolve to be
ALC 1972, "American Military Involvement in Southeast Asia," adopted by sixth
general convention, Minneapolis, October 9, with both majority and minority
statements "of comment and counsel addressed to the members of congregations of
the ALCI to aid them in their decisions and actions."
Ill. General War/Peace, International Affairs, Christian as Citizen
LCA 1966, "Church and State: A Lutheran Perspective," policy statement adopted
by third biennial convention, Kansas City, Missouri, June 21-29.
ALC 1966, "Church-State Relations in the USA," accepted by third general
convention, Minneapolis, October 19-25, "as an expression of the policy and
conviction of The American Lutheran Church on the issues treated therein."
ALC 1966, "War, Peace, and Freedom," adopted by third general convention,
Minneapolis, October 19-25, "as expressing its views.. . as a guide to its
members and as a contribution to public discussion."
ALC 1966, "Christians in Politics," adopted by third general convention,
Minneapolis, October 19-25, "as an encouragement to its members to engage
wholeheartedly as Christians in the processes of politics by which their
communities, states and nation are governed."
LCMS 1967, "Civil Obedience and Disobedience," report of the Commission on
Theology and Church Relations to the LCMS, published January 19.
LCMS 1967, "Concern for War and International Crisis," resolution adopted by
47th regular convention, New York City, July 7-14.
LCMS 1968, "Guidelines for Crucial Issues in Christian Citizenship," report
of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations to the LCMS, published April
ALC 1968, "Hunger in the World," approved by fourth general convention,
Omaha, Nebraska, October 16-22, "as a position paper."
LCA 1970, "World Community: Ethical Imperatives in an Age of
Interdependence," policy statement adopted by fifth biennial convention,
Minneapolis, June 25-July 2.
ALC 1972, "Peace, Justice, and Human Rights," adopted by sixth general
convention, Minneapolis, October 6, "as a statement of comment and counsel
addressed to the members of the congregations" of the ALC.
LC/USA 1973, "Statement Regarding Ratification of the Genocide Convention,"
adopted by representatives of participating churches, annual meeting March 2;
suggests those churches "encourage their congregations and members to study the
issues involved ... provide study materials ... stimulate the exercise of
citizenship by their members in communicating insights" to government officials.
our land may not be healed simply by an end to the fighting.
"We affirm that reconciliation is fundamental to the Christian life and that
forgiveness is central to the meaning of Christ's life, death, and resurrection.
The concern of the churches must be for understanding, acceptance, and
reconciliation among Americans who disagree about the war.
"We cannot claim fully to know God's mind and judgment, but we can appeal to
Him for guidance in resolving the division among us. We believe it is in the
interest of furthering our national healing that the following particulars are
- The statement, adopted by the Lutheran Council in annual meeting,
February 1972, is titled "Toward Reconciliation." The full text reads: "Both the events leading to war and the consequences of war remind us humbly
of man's sinful nature and of God's call for mane
repentance. As a nation we have become deeply divided by our participation in
the Vietnam War. We pray for a speedy end of that war. However, since human
memory tends to nurse old wounds, the division in our land may not be healed
simply by an end to the fighting.
"1. We call for acts of reconciliation between those who believe they served
their nation by supporting this war and those who believe they served their
nation by refusing to support this war.
"2. We urge loving concern for those who conscientiously participated and now
return to a society which may forget their service or give it only a negative
meaning. We express our approval of new initiative from both government and
private agencies in lob training and placement, drug rehabilitation, and other
helps toward reentry to civilian life.
"3. We urge loving concern also for those who refused to participate for
reasons of conscience, including those who chose to face prosecution or to leave
our land and seek refuge in another. We express our approval of new initiative
from both government and private agencies to resolve the question of amnesty and
to provide services, in order to facilitate reentry into the life of our nation.
"4. We transmit this statement to the participating church bodies with the
hope that they will commend it to their congregations for a response In study,
prayer, acts of reconciliation, and the resolve to be caring communities. Let
all seek from God the strength to accept one another, the willingness to renew
relationships, the recommitment to faith in God's desire that His healing come
to all men, and the trust that through Gods guidance mankind may find peace and
the means for its maintenance."
- Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1972; see especially p. 157.
- Richard J. Niebanck in Conscience, War and the Selective Objector
(New York City: Board of Social Ministry, Lutheran Church in America, 1972).
- From Report of Church and Society to Unit I Committee, Central
Committee of World Council of Churches, Utrecht, August 1972.