The new nuclear arms reduction treaty signed by the United States and Russia on April 8 in Prague is an event that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has long awaited. This initiative resonates with the vision of the prophet Micah who looked toward the day when nations “shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks” (Micah 4:3). Guided by this biblical vision, General Assemblies of the church and its predecessors have understood that following Jesus and working for God’s intended order and life abundant involve seeking international disarmament and arms control measures. The 215th General Assembly (2003) called for reductions in the world’s nuclear arsenal, beginning with cuts by the United States and Russia, as a step toward a sustainable and just peace in the world. The new treaty would result in modest cuts in the number of the most destructive weapons that the countries deploy. This success also brings an agreement from the countries to be more open about their respective nuclear arsenals. If the United States and Russia, which hold the overwhelming majority of the world’s nuclear weapons, enhance their level of nuclear transparency and verification, it opens the possibility that they will be able to bring new leadership and hope to bear on a range of nuclear arms problems. This could also lead to further reduction in their nuclear arsenals. We give thanks for the courage and will to negotiate this treaty and we look forward to its ratification.
We look forward as well to the meeting at the United Nations next month to review the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as an opportunity to build on the success of this new START treaty. General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church have called for a nonproliferation treaty since 1967 as a means of controlling the spread of nuclear weapons and a way to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world. We pray for the success of this meeting.
These events represent important steps toward a world free of nuclear weapons — a goal first articulated by the 167th General Assembly (1955) of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. In each of its statements, the General Assembly has understood that while eliminating nuclear weapons will not achieve the wholeness, well-being, and justice of God’s shalom, so doing is a crucial, necessary step toward the day when “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Micah 4:3).