War and Conscientious Objectors

This document reflects commonly held beliefs based on scripture which have been endorsed by the church's Commission on Doctrinal Purity and the Executive Presbytery.

Does the Assemblies of God have a position on war and conscientious objectors?

The Assemblies of God position on war and conscientious objectors states: "As a Movement we affirm our loyalty to the government of the United States in war or peace. We shall continue to insist, as we have historically, on the right of each member to choose for himself whether to declare his position as a combatant [one who willingly serves in positions of violence], a noncombatant [one who serves only in nonviolent ways], or a conscientious objector [one who refuses to participate in any form of military service because of personal convictions regarding war]." (Article XXII of the Bylaws)

The implications of the above statement are clear. The Assemblies of God is committed to a position of loyalty to the government. Second, that loyalty is not imperiled by the presence of war. And third, all members are encouraged to exercise their personal convictions in how they will respond during times of war whether combatant, noncombatant, or as a conscientious objector.

What are the biblical principles which support this position? 1) The Scriptures call for civic loyalty: "Everyone must submit himself to governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established" (Romans 13:1). 2) On occasion, those authorities must bear arms: "He does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer" (Romans 13:4). 3) The Scriptures call for the employment of personal conscience in all matters. "Each of us will give an account of himself to God" (Romans 14:12).

In light of this, how are we to understand the sixth commandment: "You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13)? The Hebrew word used here (raisach) in the ancient manuscripts is descriptive of an act of willful and personal vengeance. While the outcome may be similar to the killings of war, the motive and driving force are quite different. The language of Exodus 20:13 does not suggest that we are to disallow participation in war, even if that participation involves killing. The preservation of peace and tranquillity sometimes makes this response imperative.

The Assemblies of God as a Movement deplores war. Therefore we are committed to its avoidance as much as accountability, sensibility, and responsibility allow. This will be the necessary posture, until the Prince of Peace–Jesus Christ—establishes His reign over a world that is now characterized by violence, wickedness, and war.

The above statement is based upon our common understanding of scriptural teaching. The official delineation of this position is found in the General Council Bylaws, Article XXII.

All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version (NIV) unless otherwise specified.