Adopted by the Central Committee, Geneva, 12-20 September 1996 cf p 305.
Message on threatened US use of veto in UN Secretary-General election
Letter to the Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, General Secretary of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, 7 November 1996.
Dear Dr. Campbell:
In its Memorandum and Recommendations on the Occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the United Nations, the WCC Central Committee reaffirmed the Council's long standing support for the United Nations in pursuit of the aims and principles enshrined in the San Francisco Charter.
This policy document was nevertheless critical of current trends in the UN, and supported the need for a process of “reform which would assure full participation in effective decision-making by all member states, redressing the present situation which tends to relegate small, less powerful, and economically deprived nations to subsidiary roles in the formulation and implementation of international policy.” It called in particular “for a comprehensive review, open to public scrutiny, of the structure and functioning of the Security Council, with regard especially to its domination by the present permanent members invested with veto powers.”
The Central Committee encouraged me to be alert to opportunities for the Council, its member churches and national councils of churches “to exercise their influence in ways which could contribute to the shaping of a just, participatory and peaceful world order.”
It is in this connection that I write to you as you prepare for the coming meeting of the NCCCUSA General Assembly in Chicago.
Earlier this year, the United States Administration announced that it would use its veto power in the Security Council to prevent the reelection of the incumbent Secretary General of the United Nations.
In so doing, it did not establish a precedent. On three previous occasions, permanent members of the Security Council either threatened a veto or exercised it with respect to the reelection of a sitting Secretary General. The veto was once overridden by the General Assembly. On another occasion, the dissenting power withdrew its objection in deference to the majority, and on the third the reelection of an incumbent was blocked. The U.S.A. generally opposed on principle this use of the veto.
The position taken now by the United States appears to be grounded less on principle than on internal domestic political considerations. Its effect has been to block open debate among member states about the leadership needs of the UN in this critical time, and about the relative merits of potential candidates, including the incumbent. It comes at a time when the dominant role of the United States in the United Nations is widely and severely questioned by a large number of states, large and small, including the closest friends of the U.S.
The World Council of Churches, as a matter of principle, does not endorse any particular candidate. It does believe, however, that the choice of the next Secretary General should be fully democratic, subject to free, open debate. The ultimate decision should be transparent in the general international interest, and not that of any single state or group of powers.
The citizens of the United States of America have now exercised their democratic right to choose their own leadership. This model of democracy has and merits respect among the nations. But for the commitment of the U.S. to be credible, it must also apply its principles in its international relations. For it to continue to be respected as a leader in the community of nations, it must accept the risks and responsibilities of democracy there.
It would seem timely and appropriate for the NCCCUSA and its member churches to urge the Administration to withdraw its threat of the veto as the Security Council of the United Nations enters into the final stages of selecting the new Secretary General.
For the U.S. to do so would hardly diminish its power or influence. It would greatly enhance its possibility of being regarded not just as the single super power in military and economic terms, but as a nation capable of giving needed moral leadership to the United Nations it was so influential in creating.
Statement on US policy reversal on climate change targets
Support for ecumenical appeals for clemency for Mr. Sylvester Adams in the USA
Letter to the Rev. L. Wayne Bryan, Executive Minister of the South Carolina Christian Action Council, 11 August 1995, cf. p 62.
Appeal for stay of execution of Karla Faye Tucker in the USA
Letter to Mr. John Shattuck, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, 3 February 1998, cf. p 61 .
Appeal for clemency of long-term Puerto Rican prisoners
Letter to H.E. Bill Clinton, President of the United States of America, 8 January 1998, cf. p 222.
Pastoral letter to the Evangelical Church of French Polynesia
Letter to Mr. Jacque Ihorai, President of the High Council of the Church in Papeete, Tahiti, 10 August 1995.
Monsieur le Président,
Au nom du Dr Konrad Raiser, Secrétaire Général du Conseil oecuménique des Eglises, actuellement en voyage, je vous prie de présenter nos salutations en Jésus Christ aux membres du Synode de l’Église Évangélique de Polynésie française réunis à un moment critique pour le peuple de Polynésie, du Pacifique, et du monde. Que le Seigneur bénisse vos délibérations et vos réflexions, et que la vérité de l’Évangile vous inspire.
Notre collègue, John Doom, a pu transmettre au Synode des informations détaillées sur les différentes initiatives prises par le COE pour alerter les églises et l'opinion publique internationale sur les graves conséquences qu'aura la reprise des essais nucléaires français sur votre territoire. Il est clair qu'une telle décision va à l'encontre de la sagesse, de l'opinion des peuples du monde entier, du courant de l'histoire contemporaine, et surtout de la volonté de Dieu, le Seigneur de la Vie.
Nous refusons l'idée qu'une décision politique quelconque soit irréversible. Et, avec vous, nous continuons fermement à insister pour que le Président Chirac revienne sur sa décision. C'est Dieu seul, le Tout Puissant, qui règne sur l'histoire. Aucun gouvernement, aucun homme ne peut prétendre être omnipotent.
En prenant cette position, les églises ne refusent ni la légitimité ni la responsabilité des gouvernements élus à conduire les peuples et sauvegarder leurs droits. Mais si les églises ne prennent pas au sérieux leur rôle de sentinelles pour alerter les gouvernements quand leurs décisions menacent les peuples et la Création même, elles ne seraient pas fidèles à leur vocation.
Nous prions que Dieu vous guide, vous protège et bénisse votre ministère. Soyez assurés de la prière des églises du monde, et de la volonté du Conseil oecuménique des Eglises de vous soutenir dans la voie de la justice, de la paix et de la sauvegarde de la Création.
Au nom du Christ,
Dwain C. Epps
Dear Mr. President,
On behalf of Dr. Konrad Raiser, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, who is currently away on travel, I convey through you our greetings in Jesus Christ to the Synod of the Evangelical Church of French Polynesia as it meets in this critical moment for the people of Polynesia, the Pacific and of the world. May the Lord bless your deliberations and reflections and may the truth of the Gospel inspire you.
Our colleague John Doom has given the Synod detailed information on the different initiatives taken by the WCC to alert the churches and international public opinion about the grave consequences that the retaking of French nuclear tests would have for your Territory. It is clear that such a decision runs counter to wisdom, the will of peoples around the world, against the current of contemporary history, and above all to the will of God, the Lord of Life.
We reject the notion that any political decision is irrevocable. With you, we continue firmly to insist with President Chirac that he reverse this decision. God the Almighty alone reigns over history. No government, no man is omnipotent.
In taking this stance, the churches do not deny the legitimate right or responsibility of elected governments to lead their peoples and protect their rights. However if the churches failed to take seriously their responsibility to warn governments when their decisions threaten the Creation itself, they would not be faithful to their vocation.
We pray that God will guide, protect and bless your ministry. I assure you that the prayers of the churches of the world are with you and that the World Council of Churches shall continue to stand by you in the way of justice, peace and the integrity of Creation.
In Christ’s name,
Dwain C. Epps