Tyler Wigg-Stevenson is director of the Two Futures Project and has just been appointed to lead the World Evangelical Alliance’s new taskforce on nuclear arms.
Nuclear weapons remain one of the most significant global issues facing the whole world and Christians as part of this world.
The intention of the taskforce is not to begin with a position and set about advancing it, but rather to invite many evangelicals into a process of discerning together what the Christian faith has to say about nuclear weapons.
“We’re going to take this issue and think together as an international body. We want to get a perspective from each of the WEA regions and figure out what the best response to this issue is right now.
“For example, the abolition of nuclear weapons is one position that is biblical and enjoys support across the political spectrum but we need to leave that door open.”
So, why should evangelicals look at nuclear weapons? Why not war? Why not all arms? For Tyler, the answer to these questions is clear. The invention of nuclear weapons has put the livelihood of the whole world and everything in it in the hands of man in a way that has never happened before in history.
Tyler explains: “Previously only God had reach over the whole world. But the invention of nuclear weapons in the last century has required us to take responsibility for the global impact of our actions in a way we have never had to do before. There is not a single person on this Earth who would not be affected if a nuclear weapon were to be used tomorrow and that has profound theological ramifications. We are living in a time that really requires us to take responsibility for how we live together on this planet.”
With the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches already having clear positions on nuclear weapons, Tyler believes a thoroughly evangelical perspective will not only help the WEA’s churches better understand the issue, but also open up new areas for collaboration with other church traditions.
He says: “Some evangelicals have been faithful and steadfast on this issue for a very long time but mostly, we’re starting with a deficit.”
“What the taskforce will be looking at is what the WEA can do for its churches. Evangelicals need to stop ignoring this issue because it matters and it touches upon so many of the other issues that evangelicals care about – the sanctity of life, the stewardship of creation, care for the poor, justice and the rule of law.”
“I’m particularly excited by what unanimity on this issue could look like because although the WEA, the WCC and the Roman Catholic Church will each have their own positions I think there’s going to be significant overlap and that could be an exciting witness to Christ.”
In particular, Tyler sees Christians across the board acting as the vanguards of a historical shift to a post-atomic age - literally a world without nuclear weapons. But the long-term vision has to be guided by short-steps that are effective and faithful, he says.
With that in mind, the taskforce has three core functions: to discern a position on nuclear weapons; disseminate that position to WEA churches and help them to engage with the issue; represent that position in the public square.
Whether the church engages with this issue in the political arena or through ‘track two diplomacy’, it is really important that churches take policy positions - and be very thoughtful about what the church’s role can be.
Tyler is optimistic that the churches can play a crucial role in bringing about a world free of nuclear weapons.
He says: “Churches can be stakeholders in public discourse in a way that upholds the moral and theological bottom line as opposed to any political interest. They can exercise pastoral care over those in power and speak prophetically regardless of the political consequences. They can help to make peace between the nations and they can pray.”
Contact: WEA Communications, firstname.lastname@example.org
The World Evangelical Alliance is made up of 128 national evangelical alliances located in 7 regions and 104 associate member organizations and global networks. The WEA is the world¹s largest association of evangelical Christians serving a constituency of 420 million people. The WEA is a voice to governments, media, and other faith communities and holds consultative status at the United Nations.