Statement in Support of the Overture (09-08) on Nuclear Disarmament

Media Contact:
Jan Orr-Harter

Joint Statement from Presbyterian Voices for Justice and the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship in Support of the Overture (09-08) on Nuclear Disarmament, as Submitted by the Presbytery of New Hope in Raleigh, NC

The Overture On Seeking God’s Peace Through Nuclear Disarmament in the 21st Century from the Presbytery of New Hope provides excellent affirmations and updates for the long-standing position of the PC(USA) against the development, use, and proliferation of nuclear weapons.

At the very last minute before the upcoming GA, the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) has published a comment on pc-biz on this overture that goes far beyond the role of commenting and proposes what we view as a dangerous and bizarre substitute resolution.

The proposed ACSWP substitute represents a disturbing abandonment of the church’s prophetic insistence that the ultimate goal of church policy should be the elimination of nuclear weapons. Instead, ACSWP treats that goal as a utopian delusion, dropping all references to the elimination of nuclear weapons and endorsing the policy of nuclear deterrence.

For more than 70 years, the Presbyterian Church has asked itself, “What would Jesus do about nuclear weapons?” Since the first General Assembly following the Hiroshima bombing, our answer has always been that the Christ-like position is complete opposition to the development, use of and threat to use nuclear weapons. This has been re-affirmed by General Assemblies in the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and beyond.

The New Hope overture’s recommendations reinforce the statement of General Assembly in 2003 supporting compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, supporting international cooperation to abolish nuclear weapons, and renouncing the “first use” of nuclear weapons. The language of the proposed ACSWP substitute would override all of these policies. The proposed substitute would also overturn established PC(USA) policies calling for the elimination of existing stockpiles of nuclear weapons (1995) and characterizing the policy of nuclear deterrence as “not morally defensible” (1988).

The New Hope overture would add important new positions supporting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (2017) and calling for defunding the Life Extension Program for nuclear weapons (a $1.2 trillion nuclear weapons modernization program). It also calls us to collaborate in the work of organizations such as the Nobel Prize winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). The proposed ACSWP substitute implicitly or explicitly opposes all of these recommendations.

Thirty years ago, the General Assembly adopted the foundational statement on Christian Obedience in a Nuclear Age (CONA). That document understood that the role of the church, in the power of the Spirit, is to give glimpses of the kingdom of love and justice, a world transformed. The role of the church is not primarily to be a “responsible, realistic advisor” to nations, but to be prophetic and to provide hope and inspiration for the path of peace to which we are called by God. Therefore, we wholeheartedly support the adoption of Overture 09-08 as written by New Hope Presbytery and we oppose any changes or additions that would weaken decades of Presbyterian witness for a hopeful vision of a nuclear-free world. If the church does not stand up for the legacy of Jesus as it applies to weapons of mass destruction, who will?

Donna Riley and Andrew Smith, Co-Moderators, Presbyterian Voices for Justice
Shannan Vance-Ocampo and Aric Clark, Co-Moderators, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship

For more information on the overture, contact: Marilyn White at 512-450-2766

With roots going back to the 1970s, Presbyterian Voices for Justice brings together Presbyterian volunteers across the nation to support justice initiatives by the church, with a focus on inclusiveness, racial justice, economic justice and a wide range of public policy positions of the PC(USA). For information on pv4j, contact:

Founded in 1944, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship is a nation-wide community of Presbyterians who act on the nonviolence of Jesus Christ across many peacemaking issues, from Gun Violence Prevention to Colombia Accompaniment to Climate Change.