On Sunday 7 July the Church of England agreed a motion on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by a margin of 260-26. It was a huge result and a result of months of hard work and campaigning. This is the first time that the Church of England’s ruling body, known as the General Synod, has debated nuclear weapons for 11 years (since the decision was taken to oppose the replacement of the UK’s nuclear weapon system, Trident).
The vote came just one day after the birthday of the Ban Treaty, and Christian CND was at the meeting to celebrate with cake and a briefing for those taking part in the debate. Christian groups have been key in supporting the Treaty and with this move the Church of England joins the Methodists, Baptists, Quakers, United Reformed and Church of Scotland in calling for action on the treaty from the UK government.
The bishop of Chelmsford, Stephen Cottrell, was the first speaker in the debate. He spoke powerfully about the need for states with nuclear weapons to show moral leadership. It can no longer be acceptable for the United Kingdom and others to hold on to nuclear weapons on the grounds of security while arguing that other states should be stopped from developing their own.
This motion doesn’t tell the government to sign the treaty or to give up nuclear weapons. It simply asks Theresa May to ‘respond positively’ to the new treaty and bring forward a plan for meeting obligations to negotiate an end to nuclear weapons under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
With this decisive vote the Church of England has joined many other churches in the UK and around the world in calling for action on nuclear weapons. History is full of examples of Christians making a real difference to society when they speak with one clear voice for peace and justice. This could be another example.
by Russell Whiting and Caroline Maas-Gilbert
Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (ICAN partner organisation )