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“While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.” —Luke 24:51

Presbyterian Peacemaking Program
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Presbyterian Peacemaking Program
(800) 728-7228, x8700
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100 Witherspoon Street
Louisville, KY 40202

Conscientious objection

The United Presbyterian Church does not teach a single response to war which all members must accept, for God alone is Lord of the conscience and not the state or the church. Both the agonized participant in war and the pacifist who objects to war—can draw equally upon the church’s teaching. And it is also clear that a third group—individuals who object to particular wars which they judge to be unjust or unconscionable—is entitled to appeal to the teaching of the Church. Faced with the agonizing choices of war, each Christian must satisfy his [/her] own conscience that any war is ‘just and necessary.'

-The 181st General Assembly (1969) of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

The 218th General Assembly (2008) acted to reaffirm the “church’s position on the freedom of conscience, especially as it relates to a person’s status as a conscientious objector against participating in the armed services, (cf. the 215th General Assembly (2003) statement: On Strengthening Our Christian Peacemaking Vision and Witness in Wartime, Minutes, 2003, Part I, p. 651).”

The assembly further acted to encourage “the Peacemaking Program to produce and identify study guides and discernment materials for individuals, congregations, and presbyteries to help church members and their friends be able to articulate God’s calling on their lives in regard to participating in the armed forces, and war. Such materials will be made available on the denomination’s Website, with notice of its accessibility sent to every congregation and presbytery in the denomination.”

Prayerful conversations with trusted, trustworthy adults—who have served in the military, who have been conscientious objectors, who struggle with questions of military service and conscientious objection, who are in the military, who are conscientious objectors—may play a key role as individuals seek to discern and articulate God’s calling in regard to participation in the armed forces and war. Additional helpful resources may include:

PC(USA) resources

Presbyterians and Military Service, 3rd Edition
Created by the Office of the General Assembly and the Peacemaking Program, this booklet explores options related to military service ranging from enlisting to registering for the draft to understanding conscientious objection and what should be done now to establish conscientious objection status.
$.35 plus s/h
Order from the Church Store, PDS #7027005035

Presbyterians and Military Service is available in Spanish.
$.35 plus s/ h
Order from the Church Store, PDS #2435807012

The material in Presbyterians and Military Service is available for free download in brochure format. Each brochure has a distinct focus.

Discernment process materials

50 Ways to Pray: Practices from Many Traditions & Times
Teresa A. Blythe

Leading Lives That Matter: What We Should Do and Who We Should Be
edited by Mark R Schwehn and Dorothy C. Bass

Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation
Parker J. Palmer

Living into the Answers
Valerie Isenhower and Judith Todd

What Am I Supposed to Do with My Life?: Asking the Right Questions
Douglas J. Brouwer

Reflections on conscientious objection

Basic Draft and Registration Information 
Includes a worksheet for reflecting on Conscientious Objection
Center on Conscience and War

The Guide for COs in the Military
Center on Conscience and War

Conscientious Objection
Mennonite Central Committee

Who Is a Conscientious Objector?
Center on Conscience and War

Why I Am a Conscientious Objector
John M. Drescher

Reflections on military service

Can Christians Serve in the Armed Forces?
Martin L. Cook, United States Army War College

Faith of a Soldier 
Rev. Dr. John Kaiser, Chaplain (Major) and Ethics Instructor at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation

May a Christian Serve in the Military? 
Lieutenant General William K. Harrison, Jr., USA (Ret.)

A Soldier Reflects 
These journal entries come from a young soldier deployed to Iraq during the early days of the war. He has shared his reflections so others may know something of what young men and women in the military faced.

Why We Serve:  Soldier Chooses Military Service as Way of Life
Fred W. Baker III for Armed Forces Press


Soldiers of Conscience
Made with cooperation from the U.S. Army, this the film profiles eight American soldiers: four who decide not to kill and become conscientious objectors; and four who believe in their duty to kill if necessary. All of them wrestle with the morality of killing in war, not as a philosophical problem, but as soldiers experience it - a split-second decision in combat that can never be forgotten or undone.

Materials from a just war perspective

Just War?
Charles Reed

Just War against Terror
Jean Bethke Elshtain

Just War Theory
edited by Jean Bethke Elshtain

Materials from a pacifist perspective

Ain’t Gonna Study War No More: Biblical Ambiguity and the Abolition of War
Albert C. Winn

Biblical Pacifism
Dale W. Brown

Materials from a just peacemaking perspective

Just Peacemaking Study Guide
Order from the Church Store, PDS #7027005035

Just Peacemaking: Ten Practices for Abolishing War
edited by Glen Stassen

Just Peacemaking: Transforming Initiatives for Justice and Peace
Glen Stassen

Materials from the International Society for Military Ethics

The International Society for Military Ethics is an organization of military professionals, academics and others formed to discuss ethical issues relevant to the military. The Society’s meetings have been held each year since 1979. Papers from those meetings cover a range of topics. Here are several that address questions of Conscientious Objection.

Oaths, Dissent, and Selective Participation in the U.S. Military and Israeli Defence Forces
Capt Kathryn Knapp, Chaplain, USAR (Columbus, GA)

A Sincere and Meaningful Belief:  Legal Conscientious Objection during the Vietnam War
Ms. Jean Anne Mansavage, Texas A&M University

Professional Obligation, Conscientious Objection, and the Military
Prof. Andrew Fiala, Cal State University-Fresno

Selective Conscientious Objection and Military Obligation
Major Tim Rietkerk, Chaplain and Ethics Instructor, ADA (Ft. Bliss)

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