A group of trainee priests and ministers, supported by their theological colleges, will risk arrest next weekend as they protest against Britain’s Trident weapons nuclear programme.
The group of 28 Anglican and Roman Catholic ordinands, Methodist ministerial candidates and staff from four theological colleges will hold a service outside the Faslane military base in Scotland next Sunday 10 June.
This will be followed by a blockade of the North Gate and possible arrest of those participating.
Faslane is home to Britain’s fleet of submarines carrying Trident nuclear missiles.
The participating colleges are The Queen’s Foundation in Birmingham (ecumenical), and the Durham colleges: Cranmer Hall (Anglican), Ushaw College (Roman Catholic) and the Wesley Study Centre (Methodist).
“Our faith demands that we condemn the planned renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons programme”, said Professor John Hull, spokesperson for the group. “Not simply because these weapons are immoral, illegal, a dreadful waste of money and cannot be justified politically in today’s post-Cold War era. But because their use would cause destruction on such as scale that the very ability of creation to create would be destroyed. And that is an offence against God that cannot go un-challenged.”
During the service the group will make a joint declaration:
“As children of God, committed to peace, justice and the building of God’s kingdom on earth today, we declare our lifelong commitment against nuclear weapons and the manufacture, retention or use of any weapons of mass destruction by the British government. We affirm our ministry within God’s church and world, and we commit ourselves, and one another, as disciples of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, to be faithful in our opposition to nuclear weapons, and to nurture, encourage, support and love all God’s people regardless of faith, nationality or geography. For there is only one God, who created one World, to be loved and cherished by all People.”
Special services of prayer in support of those witnessing at Faslane will be held simultaneously at the theological colleges.
The protesting group includes Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Methodists and has attracted support from across the spectrum of theological opinion.
Rt Revd Peter Selby, Bishop of Worcester said: "Nuclear weapons could never be justified; the reasons that were given in support of our having them have become less and less plausible. To renew Trident is to allow an opportunity for a real gesture towards disarmament and peace to pass us by.”
Revd R Graham Carter, President of the Methodist Conference, concurs: “The Methodist Conference of 2006 overwhelmingly expressed its opposition to the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system and I am glad that our ministerial students are taking this initiative to keep the issue in the public eye and before the government. Britain has the opportunity of giving a lead to other nations in nuclear reduction and peace-making. If the opportunity is not taken, it seriously weakens any argument against other countries' development of nuclear weapons. We need to develop more imaginative ways of making peace rather than retreat into the old 'cold war' ways of thinking.”
Last November the Roman Catholic Bishop's Conference of England and Wales expressed similar sentiments when it stated: "We urge the government to take a long-term view and act with courageous leadership by seeking to make this breakthrough toward total nuclear disarmament."
The visit by students from Queen’s Birmingham and Durham colleges follows a similar protest in March supported by students from Westcott House. Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Reading, who participated in that protest said: “The church of Jesus Christ is called to model for the world a different way of living and a different set of values. It is inspiring to see the future leaders of the Churches in Britain taking this potentially costly stand against Trident. The only thing that nuclear weapons deter is truth and peace. Christians of all traditions are joining together to call upon our government to find ways of securing peace and stability that do not depend upon more bombs.”