“There are a number of religious denominations that have embraced and taught the doctrine of nonresistance for centuries, but it takes an occasional awakening, caused by persecution, to reveal whether we really believe what we say we do. There is a possibility of keeping truth in cold storage instead of having it on fire. It is one thing to subscribe to the confession of faith of our particular denomination; it is quite another thing to live up to its standards.”
—E.J. Swalm, twentieth-century Brethren in Christ minister and bishop, in his book Nonresistance Under Test (1944). During World War I, Swalm — a conscientious objector — was imprisoned by the Canadian government for refusing to submit to the draft requirements.
5 responses to “Quote of the Day”
I had the privilege of growing up in the same congregation as Bishop Swalm: the Stayner BIC Church. I remember many sermons that he preached, and his extreme passion for the nonresistant stand of the BIC.
As I look at the BIC today, I don’t see many leaders (and thus, many congregants) with that same passion.
Maybe it’s just that I’m an outsider (non-BIC) now. Perhaps the passionate preaching of nonresistance is there, and I’m just not hearing it.
Anybody care to clarify?
Actually, quite a few pastors across the church continue passionately hold to the peace position. Bruxy Cavey had a great teaching series on peace: “Inglorious Pastors: Waging Peace in a World of War”. Many of our younger leaders are very committed to this BIC core value. Be encouraged!
Darrell: Thanks for this response. It covers much of the activity I wanted to describe in defense of the ongoing BIC peace witness.
To further answer your question, Aubrey, I’ll simply add that my congregation, Circle of Hope, continues to be committed to the BIC peace witness in tangible ways: through our regular financial contributions to the international relief and community building work of Mennonite Central Committee; through our support of Shalom House, an intentional community of peacemakers started by Circle in Philadelphia; and through our work with Heeding God’s Call, an ecumenical anti-gun violence campaign that seeks to see all illegal firearms off the streets of Philly.
There are other BIC communities across the U.S. (and, as Darrell mentioned, Canada) that are redefining the BIC peace witness in interesting ways. I’ll point you, for instance, to Lynn Thrush’s recent article in In Part magazine, where he describes his church’s efforts to articulate the Christian faith to neighborhood Muslims, and in turn learn more about Muslim faith and practice. (Read about it here.) Although Lynn situates his story as one of “witnessing to the world,” it’s also (I think) a story about peacemaking — of mutual respect, dialogue, compassion, and bridge-building between diverse (and often divisive) cultures. As you can tell from the comments at the bottom of the article, Lynn’s actions might be seen by some Brethren in Christ as controversial, but in today’s politicized climate, when Islam is almost universally vilified within evangelical-fundamentalist communities, his church’s outreach and peace building efforts speak to the ongoing legacy of the denomination’s peace witness.
I feel extremely blessed that I grew up under the clear teaching of the nonresistant beliefs of the Brethren In Christ Church. From a young age, I was aware of my Grandpa Swalm’s history and continuing emphasis on the peace doctrine of the church.
While I know that many BIC pastors and youth leaders do not teach this Core Value, I am grateful that as part of Harrisburg BIC Congregation, my sons grew up with this teaching, and that to this day our Pastor, Woody Dalton (who did not grow up BIC), gives excellent peace sermons at least once a year. This often happens on the Sundays of Memorial Day or July 4th weekends. Some people from a distance make it a point come on those weekends to distance themselves from their regular congregations with patriotic anthems, bulletin boards, flags up front… and even bunting in the lobby.
ur congregation is a large and growing, multi-cultural city church that chose to stay in the city. We do not shy away from important doctrines of our historical roots just to “sugar coat” our image to attract people who do not believe in the Core Values.
There is a new peace movement underway called Peaceworks, its an initiative being formed by another BIC peace witness Stephen Jarnick.
This movement is really gaining momentum with peace teaching content being developed with the support of familiar peace advocacy leaders such as Bruxy Cavey, Greg Boyd, Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo.
Peaceworks is a youth movement for peace bringing people from all over the world together for a single purpose…to turn every church into a peace church.
You can check it out on Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter: