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Spring 2009 issue of Reflections prompts NCC General Secretary to call for renewed anti-nuclear engagement by churches

Publication of the spring issue of Reflections magazine has prompted National Council of Churches General Secretary Michael Kinnamon to call “with urgency” for renewed engagement by the churches in efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons.

KinnamonKinnamon made his remarks at a May 12 New York City reception launching the spring issue, which is devoted to the subject of faith and nuclear weapons.  He said the NCC has failed to pursue the nuclear weapons issue aggressively enough in recent years and pledged to distribute the magazine among NCC leaders to rekindle church interest in the topic.

Pointing to “the call found in the pages of this magazine to a renewed commitment to eliminate nuclear weapons,” Kinnamon said, “This evening I pledge to you to raise this call with urgency within the National Council of Churches community beginning this weekend with our Governing Board, and toward that end I’ve asked that a box of the journal be shipped and given out to all of the leaders of the National Council Governing Board.”  The NCC Governing Board meets May 18-19 in Elgin, IL.

The spring issue is entitled The Fire Next Time: Faith and the Future of Nuclear Weapons.  Guest contributing editor for the issue is Tyler Wigg-Stevenson ’04 M.Div., director of the anti-nuclear weapons Two Futures Project and policy director for Faithful Security: The National Religious Partnership on the Nuclear Weapons Danger.  Wigg-Stevenson contributed an article entitled “One Superpower, Under God.”

The issue also features contributions from, among others, former Secretary of State George P. Shultz (“A New Age of Diplomacy”); writer-activist Jonathan Granoff, president of the Global Security Institute (“The Call to a New Moral Imperative”); The Fate of the Earth author Jonathan Schell (“The Nuclear Peril: ‘Genesis in Reverse’”); and Sergio Duarte, high representative for disarmament affairs for the United Nations (“Moral Leadership in a Dangerous World.”)

In a column introducing the issue, YDS Dean Harold Attridge, who hosted the May 12 reception, expressed hope that the magazine would “assist all in the religious community to reflect deeply and to act in support of efforts to abolish the nuclear threat.”

Although both the NCC and the leading global ecumenical agency, the World Council of Churches, have “consistently denounced” nuclear weapons over time, there has been little said by either organization in recent years, Kinnamon told attendees at the reception, held at the Millennium UN Plaza Hotel.

He noted that the WCC issued a statement at its 1983 assembly in Vancouver, BC, declaring that  “production and deployment of nuclear weapons, as well as their use, constitute a crime against humanity.”  And shortly before that, Kinnamon said, the NCC had issued a call to halt production of nuclear weapons with an aim toward their eventual elimination.

“I must report, however, that the urgency of this witness has not been heard in the last three assemblies of the WCC, all of which have come after the end of the Cold War,” he told the gathering of about 100 religious leaders, NGO representatives, and supporters of the anti-nuclear movement.   The World Council’s 2006 mid-term report on its “Decade to Overcome Violence” initiative, Kinnamon noted, “contains no reference to nuclear weapons, as if the threat they pose had somehow gone away.”

He said the NCC “has done no better,” pointing out that the organization’s 1999 major policy statement, entitled “Pillars of Peace for the 21st Century,” “makes no explicit mention of the nuclear threat.”

Also speaking at the reception were Duarte and Wigg-Stevenson.

Duarte noted that the timing of the spring issue of Reflections was good because of the ongoing meetings hosted by the United Nations involving countries that are parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, in preparation for next year’s formal review of the Treaty.

“On both moral and practical grounds, nuclear disarmament is the road to follow, as this issue of Reflections makes quite clear,” said Duarte.  He added that he hoped all delegates to the UN deliberations would have an opportunity to read the magazine, 650 copies of which were sent for delivery to delegates on the day of the reception.

Wigg-Stevenson said a “revisitation” of the nuclear weapons issue is in order for the faith community after years of dormancy.  He described nuclear weapons as being “morally bankrupt, without any qualification whatsoever” and an attempt to wield power over life and death “in the place of God.”

Organizations with representation at the reception, among others, were the Parliament of World Religions, the World Conference of Religions for Peace, the Global Security Institute, Pax Christi, the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the Presbyterian United Nations Office, and the Mennonite Central Committee UN Liaison Office.

Reflections is a magazine of theological and ethical inquiry published biannually by Yale Divinity School.  Each issue explores a single topic in depth.  Recent issues, for example, have addressed subjects such as faith and violence, scripture in the 21st century, the greening of religion, and sex and the church.   The magazine, with a circulation of about 15,000, is mailed to all Yale Divinity School alumni but is available free of charge to the public by ordering on the magazine’s web site at http://www.yale.edu/Reflections/

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