A Resolution on Faithful Action Toward Tax Withholding (General Conference Mennonite Church, 1983)

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Resolution on Faithful Action Toward Tax Withholding, A (GCMC, 1983)

A Resolution on Faithful Action Toward Tax Withholding

"We sense that in these times words of admonition and protest must be spoken, but we know that they are often scarcely heard. Acts incarnating the words might be heard. As Christians we must act and speak. We are convinced that the foolishness of faithful acts may be wiser than all the wisdom of this world."

--From the Findings Committee Report, Minneapolis Midtriennium Conference (1979)

As Mennonite Christians we seek to be biblically obedient, submitting to such injunctions as Romans 13:7, "Pay taxes to whom taxes are due," but also Romans 13:8, 10, "Owe no one anything except to love one another ... love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law:" We accept our subordination to government and our obligation to pay taxes. However, we must witness to governments our conviction that war and preparation for war do wrong to our neighbors and are contrary to the will of God as revealed in the teachings of Jesus Christ and his death, resurrection and ascension to lordship.

Thus we urge our governments to sharply reduce military spending and use our resources for life-affirming purposes. Furthermore, just as conscientious objectors have received exemption from military service, we also seek legislation exempting conscientious objectors from paying taxes for military purposes. Thus we continue to work in the United States for passage for the World Peace Tax Fund Act and in Canada for the Peace Tax Fund, which would allow individuals to designate all of their federal taxes for peaceful purposes.

Both the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and Revenue Canada require the General Conference Mennonite Church to violate the consciences of its employees who are conscientious objectors to paying taxes for military purposes.

In the United States, we have thoroughly explored all legislative, administrative and judicial avenues for obtaining a conscientious objector exemption to these withholding requirements, as resolved at the 1979 Minneapolis midtriennium conference. Our explorations have convinced us there is no likelihood of relief in the near future for conscientious objectors to military taxes. The time has come when, like Peter and the apostles, "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).

In Canada, equally thorough explorations of similar avenues for seeking a conscientious objection from withholding requirements have not yet been accomplished. We commend the "Resolution on Security and Disarmament" of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada in 1982 and the work of the Canadian Tax Task Force under the sponsorship of MCC Canada Peace and Social Concerns. We encourage Canadian congregations to continue study of materials made available on the issue of military taxes.

As delegates to the 1983 triennial sessions of the General Conference Mennonite Church, we therefore:

(1) Authorize the conference officers to test the constitutionality of the withholding requirements in the United States and to assert the higher claim of Christ's law of love by refusing to serve as tax collectors in cases where individual employees have asked that their federal income taxes not be withheld from their wages in order that they may conscientiously refuse to pay for war preparations. These employees will be treated similarly to the way General Conference treats ordained ministers, i.e. as self-employed people, in that their earnings will be reported to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service but no federal income tax withheld.

(2) We request that the Conference of Mennonites in Canada consider means to obtain relief from Revenue Canada withholding requirements as these apply to General Conference Mennonite Church employees.

(3) We shall inform the U.S. government of this act of conscientious objection to their withholding requirements. We shall again urge them to provide exemption from these requirements and also exemption for people of peacemaking conscience from military use of their tax money.

At this moment of decision we commit ourselves to surround with our prayers the General Conference staff and government officials who will be involved in this action and all those individuals who refuse in conscience to pay taxes for war preparations, however costly their witness may be.

Context of the Resolution

In 1980 at Estes Park, Colorado the conference delegate sessions authorized the General Conference Mennonite Church General Board to initiate a judicial action seeking exemption for the Conference from withholding taxes from the income of its employees. Subsequently attorney William Ball advised the Conference "that the general climate in the United States, the attitude of the [U.S.] Supreme Court as evidenced by ... recent decisions dealing with religious conviction or conscience and taxes were such that the likelihood the General Conference accomplishing it objectives through judicial action was virtually nil." The Conference had begun discussing the issue in 1977 at a triennial convention held in Bluffton, Ohio and a special conference on war taxes was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota in February 1979.

In light of this counsel, the General Board delayed action and brought the 1983 resolution to the delegate body. The discussion was spirited, and the resolution passed with 1128 in favor and 457 opposed.

The Conference began to honor requests from employees to not withhold taxes on September 1, 1983 and reported this decision to the United States Internal Revenue Service. Legal action was not taken against the Conference.


Bethlehem '83: Mennonite Church General Assembly, General Conference Mennonite Church forty-third triennial sessions workbook. Newton, Kan. : General Conference Mennonite Church, 1983: GC-A2 - GC-A3.

Bethlehem '83: General Conference Mennonite Church forty-third triennial sessions, August 1-7, 1983 : minutes. Newton, Kan. : General Conference Mennonite Church, 1983: 4, 12-13.

Cornies, Larry. "Non-Withholding Tax Action Begins, Seven Make Request," The Mennonite 98 (October 11, 1983)

Reimer, Vic. "The Midtriennium: In Which Directions will the Spirit Move Us Next?" The Mennonite 94 (February 27, 1979): 138-141.

Wiebe, Bernie. "The Bible Speaks to our Search." The Mennonite 94 (February 27, 1979): 141.

"Withholding taxes: topic for midtriennium," The Mennonite 92 (September 6, 1977): 501.