Creation at Risk: A Consultation with Churches
on Nuclear Issues
, 5-6 October 2000


Prepared by:
Dwain C. Epps
Coordinator, International Relations
WCC, Geneva

The question of atomic, hydrogen and nuclear weapons has been at the heart of concerns of the World Council of Churches since its first Assembly in 1948. It was a logical focus of an ecumenical movement whose roots were in Christian peace movements going back to the late 19th century. The Amsterdam statement laid the foundations for ecumenical concern in the second half of the 20th century:

War as a method of settling disputes is incompatible with the teaching and example of our Lord Jesus Christ. The part which war plays in our present international life is a sin against God and a degradation of man. We recognise that the problem of war raises especially acute issues for Christians today. Warfare has greatly changed. War is now total and every man and woman is called for mobilisation in war service. Moreover, the immense use of air forces and the discovery of atomic and other new weapons render widespread and indiscriminate destruction inherent in the whole conduct of modern war in a sense never experienced in past conflicts...

The churches must also attack the causes of war by promoting peaceful change and the pursuit of justice. They must stand for the maintenance of good faith and the honouring of the pledged word, resist the pretensions of imperialist power, promote the multilateral reduction of armaments, and combat indifference and despair in the face of the futility of war...

Report of Section IV, “The Church and the International Disorder,” Official Report of the First Assembly, Amsterdam, 1948, WCC, Geneva. p 89.

The II. Assembly responded to developments beyond the atomic bomb:

The development of nuclear weapons makes this an age of fear. True peace cannot rest on fear. It is vain to think that the hydrogen bomb or its development has guaranteed peace because men will be afraid to go to war, nor can fear provide an effective restraint against the temptation to use a decisive weapon either in hope of total victory or in the desperation of total defeat.

The thought of all-out nuclear warfare is indeed horrifying. Such warfare introduces a new moral challenge. It has served to quicken public concern, and has intensified awareness of the urgency of finding means of prevention....

An international order of truth and peace would require:
a) under effective international inspection and control and in such a way that no state would have cause to fear that its security was endangered, the elimination and prohibition of atomic, hydrogen and all other weapons of mass destruction, as well as the reduction of all armaments to a minimum...

We must also see that experimental tests of hydrogen bombs have raised issues of human rights, caused suffering and imposed an additional strain on human relations between nations. Among safeguards against the aggravation of these international tensions is the insistence that nations carry on tests only within their respective territories, or if elsewhere, only be international clearance and agreement.

Report of Section IV, “International Affairs: Christians in the Struggle for World Community,” Official Report of the Second Assembly, Evanston, 1954, WCC, Geneva, pp 131-134. The resolutions on International Affairs adopted by the Assembly did not include specific reference to nuclear weapons or disarmament.

Between 1954 and 1961, the WCC’s Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) spoke and worked intensively on the need for an international instrument to control nuclear testing. The III. Assembly further underscored the dangers of nuclear weapons developments, and for the first time officially expressed concerns about the use of outer space.

The most serious problem facing the world today is that of disarmament. General and complete disarmament is widely recognized to be the desired goal...

The recent violations of the moratorium on nuclear bomb testing have shocked the nations into a new realization of the acute danger and horror of modern warfare. Churches must protest against the accelerating arms race and the mounting terror which it portends. The First Assembly...clearly recognized that war is contrary to the will of God. War in its newer forms is understood not only by Christians but the general conscience of the nations as an offense against both the world of nature and the race of man, threatening annihilation and laying on mankind an unbearable burden of cost and terror. The use of indiscriminate weapons must now be condemned by the churches as an affront to the Creator and a denial of the very purposes of the Creation. Christians must refuse to place their ultimate trust in war and nuclear weapons. In this situation the churches must never cease warning governments of the dangers, and they must repudiate absolutely the growing conviction in some quarters that the use of mass destruction weapons has become inevitable. Christians must press most urgently upon their governments, as a first step towards the elimination of nuclear weapons, never to get themselves into a position in which they contemplate the first use of nuclear weapons. Christians must also maintain that the use of nuclear weapons, or other forms of major violence, against centers of population is in no circumstances reconcilable with the demands of the Christian Gospel.

Total disarmament is the goal, but it is a complex and long-term process in which the churches must not underestimate the importance of first steps. There may be possibilities of experimenting with limited geographical areas of controlled and inspected disarmament, of neutralizing certain zones, of devising security against surprise attack which would reduce tension, of controlling the use of outer space....

New Delhi Speaks, Third WCC Assembly, New Delhi, 1961, Association Press, New York, 1962, pp 79ff.

The landmark 1966 Church and Society Conference in Geneva is most often recalled as having brought Third World perspectives and theologies of liberation onto the stage of the global ecumenical movement. However it too devoted particular attention to nuclear war, based again on the Amsterdam affirmation.

...(The) First Assembly...declared, ‘War is contrary to the will of God’... We now say to all governments and peoples that nuclear war is against God’s will and the greatest of evils. Therefore we affirm that it is the first duty of governments and their officials to prevent nuclear war. ...

The real problem is how the supreme task, to avoid nuclear war can be carried out... (here there is) an increasing role for the smaller powers in depolarizing international affairs....

The churches should add that they have (a) common...duty to preserve the life of the peoples of this world, and to work for a world order which will transcend the present uneasy peace of the equilibrium of power. It is intolerable for the peace of the world to depend on a precarious nuclear balance...

Official Report, World Conference on Church and Society, WCC, Geneva 1966, pp 123ff.

That Conference deeply influenced the agenda of the IV. Assembly held two years later. That agenda was heavily devoted to the timely issues of racism and economic development and others stimulated by the global revolutionary fervor of the year 1968. But it too spoke out on the question of nuclear weapons, beginning once more with the Amsterdam declaration.

The WCC reaffirms its declaration at the (First Assembly): “War as a method of settling disputes is incompatible with the teachings and example of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Of all forms of war, nuclear war presents the gravest affront to the conscience of man. The avoidance of atomic, biological or chemical war has become a conditions of human survival...The churches must insist that it is the first duty of governments to prevent such a war: to halt the present arms race, agree never to initiate the use of nuclear weapons, stop experiments concerned with and the production of weapons of mass human destruction by chemical and biological means a move away from the balance of terror towards disarmament. ...

The concentration of nuclear weapons in the hands of a few nations presents the world with serious problems: a) how to guarantee the security of the non-nuclear nations; b) how to enable these nations to play their part in preventing war, and; c) how to prevent the nuclear powers from freezing the exiting order at the expense of changes needed for social and political justice....

Uppsala Speaks, Fourth WCC Assembly, Uppsala, 1998, Geneva, 1968, pp 62 ff.

The V. Assembly in Nairobi was marked especially by the global concern for human rights and East-West tensions. In its Section on “Structures of Injustice and Struggles for Liberation,” to survival, it shifted the nature of Christian responsibly very significantly based on ideas provided by the Federation of Churches in the German Democratic Republic:

Christians must resist the temptation to resign themselves to a false sense of impotence or security, The churches should emphasize their readiness to live without the protection of armaments, and take a significant initiative in pressing for effective disarmament. Churches, individual Christians, and members of the public in all countries should press their governments to ensure national security without resorting to the use of weapons of mass destruction...

We appeal to Christians to think, work and pray for a disarmed world.

Breaking Barriers, The Official Report of the Fifth Assembly of the WCC, Nairobi, 1995, WCC, Geneva, p 182.

The nuclear arms race accelerated rapidly in the late 1970s, and the CCIA was asked by the Central Committee to organize a consultation to consider it and the proliferation of conventional weapons of mass destruction. Its 1978 report noted:

We are living in the shadow of an arms race more intense, more costly, more widespread and more dangerous than the world has ever known. Never before has the arms race been as close as it is now to total self-destruction. Today’s arms race is an unparalleled waste of human and material resources; it aids repression and violates human rights; it promotes violence and insecurity in place of the security in whose name it is undertaken; it frustrates humanity’s aspirations for justice and peace; it has no part in God’s design for His world; it is demonic.... To hope in Christ is neither to be complacent about survival nor powerless in the fear of annihilation by the forces of evil but to open our eyes to the transcendent reality of Christ in history.

“Report of the WCC Consultation on Disarmament,” Glion, Switzerland, 1978, in The Churches in International Affairs 1974-1978, WCC, Geneva 1979, p 72

That same year, Dr. Philip Potter, WCC General Secretary brought the concerns highlighted in the consultation to the attention of the United Nations in a plenary address to the General Assembly in which he addressed several of the underlying causes of the global arms race:

We must challenge the idol of a distorted concept of national security which is direct to encouraging fear and mistrust resulting in greater insecurity. The only security worthy of its name lies in enabling people to participate fully in the life of their nations and to establish relations of trust between peoples of different nations. It is only when there is a real dialogue -- a sharing of life with life in mutual trust and respect -- that there can be true security.

Address of Dr. Philip Potter, WCC General Secretary, to the First Special Session of the UN General Assembly devoted to Disarmament, NY, 1978. op. cit. p 70f

This concern for national security arose not only as a causal factor in the super-power nuclear arms race, but as a justification for massive violations of human rights, especially by military dictatorships around the world. The Central Committee linked these concerns at its meeting in 1979:

...given the need not only to denounce militarism and the arms race, but to develop positive alternatives to the present destructive system...and as a matter of highest priority for the WCC...(the Central Committee establishes the) Program for Disarmament and against Militarism and the Arms Race.

Minutes of the WCC Central Committee, Kingston, Jamaica, 1979; also contained in The Churches in International Affairs, 1970-82, WCC, Geneva, 1983, p 35.

The WCC Sub-Unit on Church and Society organized in 1979 a major world Conference on Faith, Science and the Future in Boston, Massachusetts. It adopted the following declaration which was subsequently endorsed by the Executive Committee and commended to the churches:

We, scientists, engineers, theologians and members of Christian churches from all parts of the world, participants in the WCC Conference on Faith, Science and the Future, now meeting at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA), acknowledge with penitence the part played by science in the development of weapons of mass destruction and the failure of the churches to oppose it, and now plead with the nations of the world for the reduction and eventual abolition of such weapons.

- the arsenals of tens of thousands of nuclear weapons already constitute a grave peril to humankind:
- sharp changes by the super-powers towards a counterforce strategy are so destabilizing that sober scientists estimate a nuclear holocaust is probable before the end of the century;
- there is widespread ignorance of the horrible experience of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the even greater implications of limited or global nuclear war with current and projected nuclear weapons;
- we are profoundly disturbed by the willingness of some scientists, engineers and corporations, with the backing of governments, to pursue profit and prestige in weapons development at the risk of an unparalleled destruction of human life;
- the waste of the increasingly scarce materials and energy resources of the world on the instruments of war means further deprivation of the poor whom we are commanded to serve;
- we grieve that so many of the most able scientists, especially the young ones, are seduced away from the nobler aspirations of science into the unwitting service of mutual destruction;
- in a time of radical readjustment of the world economy the intolerable burden of the nuclear arms race creates worldwide economic problems;

- that God made us and all creation;
- that He requires us to seek peace, justice and freedom, creating a world where none need fear and every life is sacred;
- that with His grace no work of faith, hope and love need seem too hard for those who trust him;

- all member communions of the WCC and all sister churches sending official observers, and through them each individual church and congregation;
- our fellow religionists and believers in other cultures, whether Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist or Muslim, and our Marxist colleagues;
- the science and engineering community, especially those engaged in research and development, together with professional scientific associations and trade unions;
- the governments of all nations and especially the nuclear powers;
- all concerned citizens of the world;

- to support and implement the WCC Program on Disarmament and against Militarism and the Arms Race, and give special emphasis to issues related to military technology and its conversion to peaceful uses;
- to stop the development and production of new forms and systems of nuclear weapons...
- to educate and raise the consciousness of every constituency to the realities of nuclear war in such a way that people cease to avoid it as an issue too big to handle;
- to prepare local and national programs for the conversion to civilian use of laboratories and factories related to military research and production, and to provide for the retraining and re-employment of those who work on them;
- to resolve never again to allow science and technology to threaten the destruction of human life, and to accept the God-given task of using SCIENCE FOR PEACE.

Minutes of the WCC Executive Committee, Bossey, Switzerland, 1979, op. cit. p 40ff.

That year, 1979, marked a major turning point in the mobilization of world public opinion about the nuclear arms race. The announcement by the USA of its intention to produce a neutron bomb and radically to escalate the number and quality of its nuclear arms based in Europe created a massive public outcry. The Central Committee echoed the demands of the anti-nuclear movement the following year:

The Central Committee urges all nuclear powers to:

a) freeze immediately all further testing, production and deployment of nuclear weapons and of missiles and new aircraft designed primarily to deliver nuclear weapons;
b) start immediately discussions with a view to making agreements not to enhance the existing nuclear potentials and progressively reducing the overall number of nuclear weapons and a speedy conclusion of a comprehensive test ban treaty.

Minutes of the WCC Central Committee, Geneva, 1980, in op. cit. pp 43f

The following year, in Dresden (GDR), it received a report from the Program for Disarmament and against Militarism and the Arms Race, and said:

The Central Committee...calls upon the churches now to:
1) challenge the military and militaristic policies that lead to disastrous distortions of foreign policy sapping the capacity of the nations of the world to deal with pressing economic and social priorities which have become a paramount political issue of our times;
2) counter the trend to characterize those of other nations and ideologies as the “enemy” through the promotion of hatred and prejudice;
3) assist in de-mythologizing current doctrines of national security and elaborate new concepts of security based on justice and the rights of peoples;...

Commends the work of a large number of peace and disarmament groups and movements, old and new, around the world, in several of which large numbers of Christians actively participate in obedience to the demands of the Gospel...

Urges the churches, in the context of the preparations for the
Sixth Assembly, whose theme is “Jesus Christ, the Life of the World,” to make commitment to peace-making a special concern and to give emphasis to studies on issues related to pee, paying special attention to the underlying theological issues.

Minutes of the WCC Central Committee, Dresden, 1981, in op. cit. pp 45ff.

In November 1981, the WCC convened an International Public Hearing on Nuclear Weapons and Disarmament at the Free University in Amsterdam. A hearing panel of 17 church leaders, theologians and ethicists from all the world’s region heard testimony from 38 expert witnesses, including former US national security advisors, USSR foreign policy experts, senior diplomats in the field of disarmament, political leaders including Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme, leading nuclear scientists and leaders of anti-nuclear peace movements in several parts of the world. Its extensive report was submitted to the WCC Central Committee and widely distributed. It contained, inter alia, the following affirmations:

We believe the time has come when the churches must unequivocally declare that the production and deployment as well as the use of nuclear weapons are a crime against humanity and that such activities must be condemned on ethical and theological grounds. ... We recognize that nuclear weapons will not disappear because of such and affirmation by the churches. But it will involve the churches and their members in a fundamental examination of their own implicit or explicit support of policies which, implicitly or explicitly, are based on the possession and use of those weapons.

Before It’s Too Late: The Challenge of Nuclear Disarmament, WCC, Geneva, 1983, pp 3ff.

Dr. Philip Potter took these affirmations and the rising concern of the ecumenical movement back to the United Nations the following year when he addressed the plenary session of the Second Special Session of the General Assembly devoted to Disarmament.

...Compared with the public mood in 1978 when you last met, the growing massive strength of movements of people of every walk of life and ideological position gives us hope that the political will to take concrete steps to disarmament will emerge, and that governments will respect and act on this will. ...

During the last four years after the First Special Session on Disarmament the economic crisis has worsened throughout the world with grave consequences for the poor nations resulting in tensions within and among nations. The continuing stalemate in the North-South discussions on global issues has been accompanied by policies of confrontation and an attempt to divide the South. The present global military order is inextricably ties up with the economic and social system and therefore the quest for disarmament can in no way be isolated from the struggle for justice and human dignity. Consequently, there is deep distrust among the peoples of the Third World about the postures of the nuclear weapon states on deterrence and non-proliferation. Their struggles for social and political change are often distorted by the security considerations and economic interests of the major powers. ...

“Choose Life!” (Deut.30:15,19) Choose what is good, that is, what expresses our inner being as made in God’s image to be shared with others. Choose the blessing, that is, what communicates our vitality to others, what enables us to put what we are and have at the disposal of others that they might become their true selves and share their lives also with others. That is God’s purpose revealed in creation and in men and women made in his image to participate in his life and communicate that life to one another according to his commandments and promises of good. That is life. That is true security and peace.

Statement by WCC General Secretary Philip Potter to the Second Special Session of the UN General Assembly devoted to Disarmament, NY, June 1982, in The Churches in International Affairs 1979-82, pp 49ff.

At this same meeting of the UN General Assembly, Patriarch Pimen of the Russian Orthodox Church presented the report of the World Conference of Religious Workers for Saving the Sacred Gift of Life from Nuclear Catastrophe he convened in Moscow in May 1982.

The Central Committee in July 1982 commended the report of the International Public Hearings, highlighting its recommendations and calling upon the churches to take clear positions on them. It also issued a statement lamenting the lack of progress at the UN Special Session and renewed its call to the churches and governments to promote peace and disarmament.

In this same period, two volumes were published by the CCIA in the context of the Program for Disarmament and against Militarism and the Arms Race, entitled The Security Trap I and II (WCC, Geneva, and IDOC, Rome, 1979 and 1982), that provided in-depth analysis and theological perspectives on militarism and the nuclear arms race. Peace and Disarmament, A compendium of major documents of the WCC and the Roman Catholic Church, was also published jointly by the CCIA and the Pontifical Commission “Justitia et Pax” (Rome and Geneva, 1982).

The Sixth WCC Assembly in Vancouver, 1983, was held at a time when massive public protests were being held around the world against the nuclear arms race, many of them inspired or led by the churches. This Assembly was particularly marked by this concern. It said:

Humanity is now living in the dark shadow of an arms race more intense, and of systems of injustice more widespread, more dangerous and more costly than the world has ever known. Never before has the human race been as close as it is now to total self-destruction. Never before have so many lived in the grip of deprivation and oppression.

Under that shadow we have gathered proclaim our common faith in Jesus Christ, the Life of the Word, and to say to the world:
- fear not, for Christ has overcome the forces of evil; in him are all things made new;
- fear not; for the love of God, rise up for justice and for peace;
- trust in the power of Christ who reigns over all; give witness to him in word and in deed, regardless of the cost...

The churches today are called to confess anew their faith, and to repent for the times when Christians have remained silent in the face of injustice or threats to peace. The biblical vision of peace with justice for all, of wholeness, of unity for all God’s people is not one of several options for the followers of Christ. It is an imperative in our time...

We call upon the churches, especially those in Europe, both East and West, and in North America, to redouble their efforts to convince their governments to reach a negotiated settlement and to turn away now, before it is too late, from plans to deploy additional or new nuclear weapons in Europe, and to begin immediately to reduce and then eliminate altogether present nuclear forces.

We urge the churches as well to intensify their efforts to stop the rapidly growing deployment of nuclear weapons and support systems in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and to press their governments to withdraw from or refuse to base or service ships or airplanes bearing nuclear weapons in their regions...

...(I)n the spirit of the Fifth Assembly’s appeal to the churches “to emphasize their readiness to live without the protection of armaments,” we believe that Christians should give witness to their unwillingness to participate in any conflict involving weapons of mass destruction or indiscriminate effect.

Gathered for Life, Official Report of the VI. Assembly of the WCC, Vancouver, 1983, WCC, Geneva, pp 131ff.

The Vancouver Assembly also called on the churches to engage in a “conciliar process of mutual commitment (covenant) to justice, peace and the integrity of all creation” and to make this a priority for all WCC programs.

The period following the Vancouver Assembly provided no new policy statements on nuclear weapons, but was one in which the WCC encouraged a number of international disarmament initiatives and pressed on the major nuclear powers their responsibilities to disarm. WCC General Secretaries encouraged the initiatives of the “Middle Power Coalition,” the signatories of the Delhi Declaration, the Groupe Bellerive and others. Letters were written to President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev on the occasions of their summit meetings in Geneva and Iceland, encouraging them to take more rapid steps toward nuclear disarmament. On the eve of the meeting of the same leaders in Geneva in January 1987, the Central Committee welcomed the resumption of the earlier talks and appealed to the two nations:

- to declare a moratorium on nuclear tests as a provisional measure that would enable negotiations towards a comprehensive test ban treaty;
- to negotiate agreements on substantial reduction of strategic weapons and elimination of medium range missiles, with a definite time-table;
- to take all necessary steps to present the development of space weapons and to strengthen the terms of the Anti-Ballistic Missiles Treaty.

The WCC specially appeals to the US government to respond positively to the initiatives of the USSR on moratorium on nuclear testing, to review its decision to exceed the SALT II ceilings and to reconsider its Strategic Defense Initiative. The WCC also appeals to the USSR government to reinstate and continue the moratorium on nuclear testing.

The Central Committee renews its appeal to the French government to stop forthwith nuclear weapon testing in Polynesia…
We urge the churches in the context of the call to strengthen their commitment to justice, peace and the integrity of creation:

- to intensify their engagement in efforts for peace by specifically working for an end to nuclear testing as an immediate priority;
- to engage in bilateral and multilateral discussions among churches with a view to promoting common understandings and developing common strategies;
- to join other forces of peace for public education and efforts to influence policies of governments and inter-governmental bodies;
- to support the Six Nations Initiative and that of the South Pacific Forum.

Minutes of the Central Committee, Geneva, January 1987, in The Churches in International Affairs, 1987-1990, WCC, Geneva, 1990, pp 44ff.

Later that year, the WCC Officers welcomed the conclusion of the agreements at the USA-USSR Summit in Washington DC, saying that

The agreement to eliminate intermediate nuclear forces and thus an entire class of nuclear weapons is a significant achievement especially with the elaborate system of verification which augurs well for further steps in nuclear disarmament. The initiative already taken for making proposals for reducing strategic nuclear weapons is reassuring.

WCC Officers’ Statement on the Washington Summit, 14 December 1987, op. cit., p 47.

In a statement presented by Dr. Lamar Gibble, a CCIA Commissioner, the WCC told the Third Session of the UN General Assembly devoted to Disarmament (1988):

In the limited time given for this testimony, among many concerns, we choose the following for emphasis. Firstly, even in the aura of a historic agreement to reduce intermediate range nuclear weapons the awful risk of nuclear war remains. We are painfully aware that this agreement can only reduce the nuclear arsenal by 3%. We would, therefore, urge the pursuit of every possible effort to further reduce and ultimately eliminate these weapons of mass destruction. We reiterate the declaration of our most recent Assembly that “the production and deployment of nuclear weapons as well as their use constitute a crime against humanity, and therefore there3 should be a complete halt in the production of nuclear weapons and in weapons research and development in all nations, to be expeditiously enforced through a treaty…” Only if such a comprehensive approach is taken to nuclear disarmament and complemented and reinforced by mutually accepted verification procedures and by the new technology available for verification can the possibility of nuclear holocaust be significantly reduced. We w2ould encourage this session to establish a multilateral mechanism under the auspices of the United Nations to perform such verification functions for our global community.

Secondly, while we recognize the possibility of significant steps in the reduction of nuclear weapons, we cannot overlook the significant new dynamics in the arms race. We view with alarm the development of “star wars” technology, chemical weapons, and the ever more deadly capacity of conventional weapons which blur the distinction between conventional and nuclear, and defensive and offensive weapons. Only through multilateral agreements banning the research, development and testing of these new weapons can we effectively end this process….

op. cit. pp 48ff

The WCC addressed a letter in 1987 to President Bush and General Secretary Gorbachev on the occasion of their summit meeting in Malta, reiterating appeals addressed earlier. But this was the last initiative on nuclear weapons before the VII. Assembly in Canberra (1991).

In Canberra the agenda was radically shifted in the direction of post Cold War armed interventions and internal conflicts. That assembly, meeting as the Gulf War was raging, gave strong clues that this would be a period of divided views and sometimes contentious relationships among the churches as they wrestled with new challenges. The VII. Assembly adopted a major policy statement on the implications of the use of armed force by the Gulf Coalition led by the USA, and another on internal conflicts. The attention of the Central Committee was fixed for most of the ensuing decade on the implications of such challenges and by renewed debates and efforts to address the churches’ positions on violence.

The war in Bosnia/Herzegovina again led to contentious debates in the Central Committee on the old tension between the Christian traditions of pacifism and the just war. In 1994, on the basis of a background document, “Overcoming the Spirit, Logic and Practice of War,” the Central Committee created the Program to Overcome Violence. In the course of the international campaign, “Peace to the City,” carried out in the context of the POV, the focus turned especially to the issue of small arms and light weapons, and this has continued as a part of the new ecumenical Decade to Overcome Violence established by the VIII. Assembly in Harare (1998).

The disarmament agenda shifted more to the area of conventional arms, following the line traced earlier in consultations on militarism and disarmament. The CCIA Commission held a consultation in 1993 on the conventional arms trade (cf. The Arms Trade Today, CCIA Background Information, 1993/1, WCC, Geneva, 1993) and adopted a statement on the subject.

Soon after the Harare Assembly, the following document was issued, and it was the last major policy statement devoted particularly to nuclear weapons to date.

Nuclear weapons, whether used or threatened, are grossly evil and therefore morally wrong. As an instrument of mass destruction, nuclear weapons slaughter the innocent and ravage the environment...

(Therefore) we ask the delegates to call resolutely upon the nuclear weapons states to embark upon a series of steps along the road leading to nuclear abolition. There is broad consensus...on what these steps should be. They include:
- declare a policy of no first use among themselves and non-use in relation to non-nuclear weapons states;
- cease all research, development, production, and deployment of new nuclear weapons;
- refrain from modernizing the existing nuclear arsenal and increasing the number of deployed nuclear weapons;
- take all nuclear forces off alert and remove warheads from delivery vehicles;
- achieve faster and deeper bilateral reduction of nuclear weapons by the United States and Russia.

...We ask the delegates to take the lead in commencing the process of developing a nuclear weapons convention to outlaw and abolish all nuclear weapons...We appeal to the consider what is best for the whole Earth and its in habitants when they vote on issues of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. Loyalty to all humankind exceeds that of loyalty within political blocs of nations. We urge delegates to act now, decisively and courageously for the benefit of all the peoples of the earth.

Joint statement of WCC General Secretary Konrad Raiser and Cardinal Daneels, President of Pax Christi International to the NPT Review Conference Preparatory Committee, Geneva, April 1998.

At its first meeting (Morges, Switzerland, January 2000), the newly elected Commission of the Churches on International Affairs adopted guidelines for programmatic work in the field of disarmament which stressed the need for the WCC and its member churches to turn their attention back the continuing threat of nuclear weapons. So, concern about nuclear weapons has not disappeared from the WCC agenda. However, it has been dropped to the lowest levels of priority of many churches, including those in nuclear weapons states. There is an urgent need for the ecumenical movement to remember its history and to reassert leadership at what is in fact a very critical moment of new challenges to the international disarmament regime and the ever more dangerous legacy of the decaying products of the decades-long US-USSR nuclear arms race. Statements alone will not be enough. The statements reviewed here were often backed by movements in the churches working to bring official church assemblies with them in action and conviction. If we are to be effective again, attention will have to be paid during the forthcoming ecumenical Decade to Overcome Violence to the strengthening, regeneration re-connection of such movements.

Geneva, 4 October 2000