GENERAL SYNOS passed a motion to welcome the 2017 UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and the clear signal it sends by a majority of UN Member States that nuclear weapons are both ‘dangerous and unnecessary’.
Introducing the debate the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell, reminded Synod that it had been 11 years since Synod last discussed nuclear weapons.
“Why can’t we fill the gap in international law and develop plans towards a world without nuclear weapons as well?” he urged.
The Rev Dr Rachel Mann, Manchester, spoke in favour of the motion but invited Synod to consider the implications of the work and prospects of the military personnel if the nuclear deterrent programme were abandoned.
Hannah Grivell, Derby, also spoke in favour of the motion but questioned whether Church House Conference Centre in Westminster should be hosting military-related conferences.
The arms conferences held there have been the frequent focus of protests by campaigners.
The Rev Dr Sean Doherty, London, moved an amendment in his name, calling on the Government to sign up to UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
He called the original proposal for Synod to ‘call on Her Majesty’s Government to respond positively to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons’, ‘vague’.
Ian Dobbie, Rochester, resisted the amendment, saying that ‘unilateral disarmament is unrealistic’.
Meanwhile, Catherine Pickford, Newcastle, said that the voices urging against war should be heeded.
Canon Simon Butler, Southwark, a former naval officer, said that a consensus towards non-proliferation would be undermined by a focus on prohibition.
The amendment was lost.
Gemma Winterton (Service Chaplains for the Armed Forces) drew Synod’s attention to the sacrifices of the sailors that monitor the submarines of the nuclear deterrent, spending time away from their family in total isolation.
Meanwhile the Bishop of Portsmouth, Christopher Foster, also paid tribute to the ‘tens of thousands of fine young men and women in all the Armed Forces, who put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe’.
Thomas Seville (Religious Communities) spoke for the motion.
“As long as we hold on to a dependence on nuclear weapons we’re assuming the only peace available is a cold peace,” he said, arguing that ‘peace needs to be trusting and precededby agreement rather than by threats’.
Meanwhile Gill de Berry, Salisbury, urged Synod to consider whether the Trident budget could be used in other ways.
Canon John Mason, Chester, reminded Synod that Japan itself has a non-nuclear policy. While Simon Heathfield, Birmingham, argued that the motion is needed to steer and support Christian peacemakers in the world.
The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev Paul Bayes, commended the motion and urged Synod to connect with a sense of urgency.
The motion was carried, 260 in favour, 26 against, and 21 abstentions.
It also committed the Church of England ‘to work with its Anglican Communion and ecumenical partners in addressing the regional and international security concerns that drive nations to possess and seek nuclear weapons and to work towards achieving a genuine peace through their elimination’.