Nuclear-arms Debate Returns

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In the 1983 debate about The Church and the Bomb, General Synod members favoring nuclear deterrence won the day against calls for Britain to give up its nuclear weapons.

Thirty-five years on, the Church of England will renew the debate. This time the debate lacks a massive accompanying report but appears to be well-supported, with Archbishop Justin Welby among other senior bishops lining up in favor of disarmament.

Leading the call to be debated during July’s synod in York is the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt. Rev. Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford. His motion calls on Prime Minister Theresa May’s government to “respond positively” to a United Nations resolution calling on nations with nuclear weapons to give them up.

The supporting document now in the hands of General Synod members urges them to “examine whether Britain should sign up to the UN accord and take more purposeful steps to dismantle its nuclear arsenal.”

Already the prospect of the synod debating the nuclear issue is stirring discussion. Supporters of nuclear deterrence caution that the Synod debate will give a platform to unilateralists.

It has met with scathing comments from senior Conservative politicians. “The Church of England’s approach is completely irrelevant,” said Sir Gerald Howarth, a former defense minister. “It should be speaking about Christian values rather than wasting its time and that of the public on matters on which it has no expertise whatsoever.”

John Martin


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