What do Mennonites believe about speaking to government and involvement in politics?

How Mennonites should speak to their government and on what issues has sometimes perplexes the church.

The Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective outlines a general position and describes conditions for the Mennonite relationship to government.

Prior to the 1960s the Mennonite Church and the General Conference Mennonite Church (who restructured in 2002 as Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada) made few statements to government, except on matters related to Mennonite non-participation in war. This would have been the traditional Mennonite approach–petitions to government related directly to Mennonite concerns, whether they be immigration issues, avoiding service in the military, or seeking the privilege of privately educating their children. However, beginning in the 1960s the more assimilated Mennonite denominations began to address their national governments on a wide variety of issues.

These have included capital punishment, amnesty, environmental concerns, apartheid in South Africa, military tax withholding, U.S. intervention in Central America, health care in the United States, immigration policies, as well as other issues. Many of these statements are found in the Online Anabaptist-Mennonite Library of the Global Anabaptist Wiki.

In addition Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada have supported the creation of Mennonite Central Committee offices in Washington, D.C. and Ottawa, Canada. These offices provide services for Mennonites relating to government (for example, Old Colony Mennonite immigration issues in Canada), and in interpreting Mennonite concerns about national policies to government leaders.

There is also a history, especially in Canada, of Mennonites running for public office at the provincial and national level. Members of Mennonite Church Canada have served as members of Canada’s parliament. This has been less common among Mennonites in the United States

Some Mennonites, especially from more conservative Mennonite groups, are unhappy about this level of Mennonite engagement with government. They believe that since governments are ordained by God, Mennonites should not tell governments how to shape their policies (Romans 13:1-7). Those who favor advocacy, point to the teaching in Jeremiah 29:7 that we are “to seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you.”

For more information see articles in the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online on Politics, Government and Sociopolitical Activism.