Ecumenicals, Evangelicals Hail U.S.-Russia Plan to Slash Nuke Piles

Correction appended:

Christian advocates for a world free of nuclear weapons said Tuesday that they were encouraged by the commitment of Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev to slash nuclear stockpiles by about a third though some pointed out that the move is not enough.

"It is heartening that the leaders of the United States and Russia have now made a preliminary agreement and public commitment to achieve specific cuts in each country's stockpiles of strategic nuclear weapons," expressed the Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the World Council of Churches.

"Their proposed cut is an encouraging initiative and a step forward on the difficult but essential journey that the world must take to free itself from the spectre of self-destruction," he added Tuesday.

On Monday, Obama and Medvedev signed a series of agreements and joint statements, ranging from cooperation on Afghanistan to the resumption of military cooperation.

The centerpiece agreement of the presidents' summit in Moscow was the replacement to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which expires Dec. 5. The planned replacement pact, which Medvedev called a "reasonable compromise," calls for each side to reduce strategic warheads to a range of 1,500 to 1,675, and strategic delivery vehicles to a range of 500 to 1,100 within seven years.

Current limits allow a maximum of 2,200 warheads and 1,600 launch vehicles.

In his statement Tuesday, WCC head Kobia said it was necessary that the United States and Russia –possessors of most of the world's nuclear weapons – lead nuclear disarmament by concrete example.

"[W]e believe that by doing so they will gradually gain the moral authority needed to encourage other states in eliminating these weapons of mass destruction," Kobia expressed.

Jessica Wilbanks, campaign manager for the Two Futures Project, expressed similar sentiments but said the new agreement is not yet going far enough.

"The reductions are relatively modest, and the announcement lacks an articulation of the real danger we face from continuing to rely on nuclear weapons as a means of security," said Wilbanks, whose new movement of anti-nuke Christians has been endorsed by a number of prominent evangelicals.

Though she hailed the "mere fact that the Moscow Summit took place" and said the agreement was definitely good news, Wilbanks affirmed that the world "deserves more from the U.S. and Russia, which currently hold 95 percent of the world's arsenal of nuclear weapons."

"Ask God to stir their hearts, and pray that the critical first step of the nuclear arms reductions through today's Moscow Summit will bloom into an appropriately urgent commitment to nuclear disarmament led by the U.S. and Russia," she urged concerned believers.

Founded by Baptist minister Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, the Two Futures Project seeks to educate and mobilize Christians on the issue of nuclear weapons – an issue that, until more recently, was typically addressed by more liberal Christian groups, such as the WCC, which has called for the abolition of nuclear arms since shortly after their inception.

To date, the Two Futures Project has received endorsements from a number of highly-respected Christian leaders, including Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; Richard Cizik, senior fellow at the U.N. Foundation; Andy Crouch, senior editor of Christianity Today International; Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill.; and the Rev. Dr. John Stott, one of the principal authors of the Lausanne Covenant in 1974.

According to Wigg-Stevenson, the response from these and other faith leaders "have been nothing short of astonishing – revealing a critical mass of support for nuclear weapon abolition from across the political and theological spectrum."

"We must eliminate these weapons, and we can eliminate these weapons," he said earlier this year.

Correction: Monday, July 20, 2009:

An article on Wednesday, July 8, 2009, about the commitment of Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev to slash nuclear stockpiles by about a third incorrectly included Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship, as among those who have endorsed the Two Futures Project. According to Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, the founder of the Two Futures Project, Colson has not given an official endorsement of the new movement but has given them permission to use his previous public statements on the nuclear issue in support of their efforts.

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