History of Peace Churches

While there is lots of history from many sectors of society for nonviolent peace building, for the purposes of this site we'll stick with the Mennonite story.

Mennonites are known for their "peace position" and are often referred to as one of the "historic peace churches" (along with the Church of the Brethren and the Society of Friends). Their witness against violence and warfare is demonstrated in conscientious objection to military service and a quest for alternatives to violence.

Traditionally Mennonites have expressed their beliefs about the way of peace in the language of "nonresistance," derived from literal obedience to the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5:38ff.: "resist not evil, turn the other cheek, love your enemies."

This approach reflects the fact that in the earlier part of the 20th century, many Mennonites hesitated to be identified as "pacifists." They made a point of distinguishing between their own commitment to biblical "nonresistance" and the "pacifism" of other religious and political groups whose position was considered to be based more on humanistic or philosophical views than on biblical authority.

This view remains central for many Mennonites. Other Mennonites have refocused the peace testimony during the last generation as a primary theme in the identity of the Mennonite churches. As Mennonites have responded to the events of the times, their thinkers have created a comprehensive peace theology; denominational agencies have developed extensive programs of peace education and sociopolitical and peace activism.

Mennonite church life has thus continually been challenged with opportunities to demonstrate the meaning of Mennonites' professed adherence to the way of peace.

- excerpted from GAMEO. For a more detailed history of Mennonites and peace, visit the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO).

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