The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) the largest presbyterian ecclesiastical body in the United States, has approved an Overture calling on the US government to “begin immediately the process of complete, irreversible and verifiable nuclear disarmament in compliance with our obligations…and the requirements of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons” passed last summer at the United Nations.
The Overture was approved on the consent agenda of the General Assembly on Wednesday, June 20, 2018 at the church’s biannual meeting in St. Louis, Missouri.
The Overture, which originated in the Peacemaking Committee of the Presbytery of East Tennessee, was adopted by New Hope Presbytery in Raleigh, North Carolina, in February, and received concurrences from the Presbytery de Christo and Muskingum Presbytery before arriving at the church’s national assembly.
Building on the church’s long-standing position of opposition to nuclear weapons, the General Assembly’s action recognizes the urgency of the present moment, when nuclear weapons present a greater threat than at any time in the last fifty years, and the equally unprecedented opportunity presented by the movement to ban nuclear weapons. One hundred twenty-two nations approved the Nuclear Ban Treaty last summer at the United Nations; the US boycotted the treaty negotiations and the vote.
The General Assembly also calls on members of the church to “take actions in defense of God’s creation and our own security, which is inextricably bound to the security of the rest of the world,” and calls on the church to provide resources to educate and mobilize its members in collaboration with other faith communities to work for the elimination of nuclear weapons from the earth.
“This is an important day for the Presbyterian Church and for all who pray for peace,” said Bill Myers, president of the Board of Directors of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance and member of the Peacemaking Committee of the Presbytery of East Tennessee. “The church is once again calling on its members to move beyond prayer to action—to work for the abolition of nuclear weapons.”
The Presbyterian Church’s action coincides with budget deliberations in the US Congress. The church overture calls for the elimination of funding for the Life Extension Program for existing nuclear weapons as well as plans for new nuclear weapon production facilities—the Uranium Processing Facility bomb plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and plutonium pit fabrication facilities proposed for Los Alamos (NM) and the Savannah River Site (SC).
“The action of the Presbyterian Church follows on the strong statements coming from the Vatican over the last three years,” said Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of OREPA which provided resource support during the drafting of the Overture. “We hope it will serve as a model for other faith communities to reawaken a powerful voice that can press our government to make the world safer and more secure.”
The Overture also calls for the Presbyterian Church to work collaboratively with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), winner of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, and other nongovernmental organizations working for the abolition of nuclear weapons.
The text of the Overture adopted by the Presbyterian Church, along with the rationale, can be found here.