Church leaders oppose expansion of nuclear weapons

Updated 18 March 2021.

Statements from Church leaders on the UK Government announcement on warhead numbers.

Church leaders across 7 denominations have issued a statement following the publication of the Government’s integrated review of foreign and defence policies. Church leaders in Scotland have issued a separate statement.

“The Government’s decision in the integrated review of defence, security and foreign policy to increase the number of Trident nuclear warheads the UK can stockpile by more than 40 percent is a retrograde step that will not make any of us safer.

“Our Trident submarines already carry warheads that in total have an explosive yield equivalent to hundreds of the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima. It is immoral that the UK government is committing resources, which could be spent on the common good of our society, to stockpiling even more.

“Over the last 50 years, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has restricted the increase in the number of nuclear weapons worldwide as well as the number of new nuclear-armed states. This announcement puts those gains in jeopardy and weakens collective action on non-proliferation. Progress on reducing the threat from nuclear weapons will come through dialogue, diplomacy and principled action. The Government’s announcement today will complicate rather than aid this process.

“The entry into force of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is an encouraging development. As people of faith, we join with millions across the world who are working towards the elimination of nuclear arsenals. Living up to our responsibilities under the Non Proliferation Treaty would be a step towards realising that vision. We believe that ‘Global Britain’ should strive for peaceful and cooperative international relationships, and joint endeavour on climate change, global poverty and other challenges. This announcement takes us in a worrying and wholly wrong direction.”

  • Most Revd and Rt Hon Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York
  • Most Revd John Davies, Archbishop of Wales
  • Revd Clare Downing, Moderator of General Assembly, United Reformed Church
  • Bob Fyffe, General Secretary, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland
  • Bishop William Kenney, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, International Affairs Department, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales
  • Bishop Declan Lang, Bishop of Clifton, Chair, International Affairs Department, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales
  • Carolyn Lawrence, Vice-President of the Methodist Church
  • Revd David Mayne, Moderator of the Baptist Union Council
  • Paul Parker, Recording Clerk, Quakers in Britain
  • Revd Dr Joanna Penberthy, Bishop of St Davids
  • Revd Richard Teal, President of the Methodist Church

The denominations are: The Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, the Church of England, the Methodist Church in Britain, Quakers in Britain, the United Reformed Church, the Church in Wales. The statement is also signed on behalf of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.

Further details

Further information on statements made by the Prime Minister from BBC News:

Statement from Church leaders in Scotland

The UK Government’s decision to increase the number of Trident nuclear warheads the UK can stockpile by more than 40% is a deeply worrying development.

The move, part of the integrated review of defence, security and foreign policy, is a retrograde step which threatens the common good and reverses nearly 30 years of gradual disarmament.

The decision is a contravention of the UK’s obligations under the UN Non-Proliferation Treaty and undermines the international rules-based order. It ignores the growing global movement in support of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which calls for ‘the irreversible, verifiable and transparent elimination of nuclear weapons’.

For many years, Scottish churches have agreed that the use, or threat of use, of nuclear weapons is immoral and their very possession should be condemned in a world that needs peace.

The financial cost of a larger nuclear arsenal cannot be justified in the face of the UK’s high rates of poverty and deprivation, and the challenges of the climate emergency and the Covid-19 pandemic.

The UK must take its responsibilities and Treaty obligations seriously, strive for global nuclear disarmament, and work towards peaceful and cooperative international relationships.

  • Rt. Rev. Dr Martin Fair, Moderator of the General Assembly, Church of Scotland
  • Rt. Rev. William Nolan, Bishop of Galloway, Roman Catholic Church
  • Most Rev. Mark Strange, Primus, on behalf of the College of Bishops, Scottish Episcopal Church
  • Rev. John Fulton, Moderator, United Free Church of Scotland
  • Elizabeth Allen, Clerk of General Meeting for Scotland, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
  • Rev. Paul Whittle, Moderator, United Reformed Church (Scotland)
  • Rev. Mark Slaney, District Chair, Methodist Church (Scotland)
  • Rev. May-Kane Logan, Chair, Congregational Federation in Scotland

Please see the Church of Scotland website for more details.

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Post expires on June 1st, 2021