Stated Clerk issues statement in response to President Trump’s decision to withdraw from Iran nuclear agreement

Calls on Congress to lead the administration back on a path toward peace.

May 9, 2018

Image of Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II

LOUISVILLE

Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, J. Herbert Nelson, II, issued a statement today condemning President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran, citing that containment of Iran’s nuclear program has been “severely jeopardized.”

Lifting up the foundational importance of peacemaking to the Christian Gospel, Nelson expressed the importance of treaties as a pathway to peace, despite their imperfections. Nelson wrote, “While no international treaty is perfect, interim agreements such as this are essential to guiding the nations of the world toward peace rather than war.”

Noting concern for the withdrawal’s impact on the United States’ relationship with the agreement’s other signing nations, Nelson urged Congress to, “use their good offices to move the administration back into this partnership …”

The full text of Nelson’s statement:

Peacemaking is at the heart of the Christian Gospel, and it is intended to guide us as citizens to advocate and work for peace in our own nation and around the world. As a denomination, we have supported the framing of international treaties whose purpose is to make the world safer for all its citizens. Treaties are most effective when they involve the largest possible number of nations agreeing to take specific measures to reduce risks of war. The Iran Nuclear deal is such an example, in that it involves not only Iran and the United States, but also the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China, all stewards of nuclear arsenals that are potential threats to our whole planet.

The potential for containment of Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the reduction of the potential for nuclear conflict has been severely jeopardized by the decision of President Donald Trump to withdraw the United States from the Iran Nuclear Treaty. This step has been taken in direct rejection of the counsel of the other members of the treaty and, in the eyes of many, under undue influence by Israel and Saudi Arabia, whose antipathy for Iran also contributes to the destabilization in the region.

The nuclear agreement with Iran, which will remain in place for the other signing nations, although made significantly weaker by the U.S. withdrawal, has seven strengths:

  1. It is verifiable, via on-site inspections of known facilities, even on a rapid basis.
  2. It required destruction and export of nuclear material that could have been enriched to weapons grade.
  3. It stopped Iran’s potential weapons building for ten years.
  4. It improved relations worldwide and lessened the hostility and resentment by everyday Iranians toward nations that had imposed sanctions.
  5. It removed sanctions allowing for economic development and reduced the influence of hardliners in the Iranian government.
  6. Iran is complying with the terms of the agreement, even though the U.S. continues to impose some sanctions.
  7. The agreement opened more possibility for multiparty negotiations to end or suspend the proxy and civil war in Syria, where Iran and the U.S. had, at points, been unstated allies in fighting the so-called Islamic State (or ISIS).

In withdrawing from the Iran agreement, the United States disregards the demonstrated values and effectiveness of this agreement thus far and offers no acceptable alternative beyond harsh rhetoric.

We urge members of the U.S. Congress to use their good offices to move the administration back into this partnership, to the end that the level of danger from nuclear proliferation is reduced, rather than increased. While no international treaty is perfect, interim agreements such as this are essential to guiding the nations of the world toward peace rather than war.


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  1. the agreement was not signed by anyone even Iran. The got 1.7 billion dollars in cash, which would have gone a long way here. When the kpran says that lies are acceptable in order to promote Islam then that piece of paper proves it......not an agreement, treaty or anything offical.

    by robert lewis

    May 16, 2018

  2. Rev. Nelson does not speak for me. It is unfortunate that he condemns the President's action in withdrawing the U.S. from the JCPOA without having any better insight as to what that may bring in the future than any of us has. Issuing his personal opinion on behalf of us all will only further render PC(USA) pronouncements unhelpful when readers see that he mischaracterizes the agreement as a treaty, which it most certainly is not. It could never have achieved Senate approval.

    by Jim Francis

    May 13, 2018

  3. I am a Ruling Elder at Crossroads Presbyterian Church in Waterford, CT, and service on the Board of Trustees/Assistant Treasurer for our Presbytery. I am speaking/responding only for myself, not my church nor my presbytery, STAY OUT OF POLITICS. The Iranian Agreement was a horrible agreement that simply gave Iran a second breath to spread terrorism and attack Christians in the Middle East and around the world. Should you choose to continue to push politics for the Presbyterian Church rather than preach the word, you will lose me and, I believe, many more members. I go to church to hear the word of God NOT to hear and practice U.S. politics.

    by John A. Succo

    May 11, 2018

  4. Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, J. Herbert Nelson, II, needs to get his facts straight. Nelson wrote, “While no international treaty is perfect, interim agreements such as this are essential to guiding the nations of the world toward peace rather than war.” Fact: 1) this is not an international treaty! 2) It is an excutive order because the majority of congress was against it and it would not pass. With miss information and political bias being expressed by a leader of the Presbyterian Church is it any wonder we decreasing in membership. Encouraging world leader to work together for pease is Christian. Expressing an uninformed political opinion is not his job.

    by Jimmy Foot

    May 10, 2018

  5. Thank you for speaking out and demonstrating Christians are called to be peacemakers

    by Lynne swets

    May 10, 2018

  6. I have missed thoughts about this statement. I fully agree with and stand firmly behind the opinions and thoughts put forward by the Stated Clerk in this statement. My concern is the use of the word "We" in the final paragraph. The pronoun "we" implies that It is the denomination making the statement. It seems to me that while the Stated Clerk is authorized to speak on behalf of the PCUSA that authorization is restricted. The Stated Clerk is, in my understanding, limited to expressing positions taken by the General Assembly. Thus the Stated Clerk needs to be especially careful when speaking publicly on behalf of the denomination to express positions that are consistent with actions and statements of the General Assembly. It seems to me that the opening two sentences seek to imply that this statement is consistent with previous actions by the General Assembly and with the words of Scripture. My concern is that while the rest of the statement is fairly precise in its arguments these two sentences are so vague and imprecise as to the sources on which they are based that they cease to be a solid basis on which to build the rest of the statement. To put it another way they seem to be merely introductory opinions of the author rather than statements of the General Assembly. I think it would greatly strengthen, and would much prefer, if the Stated Clerk would include quotes of specific actions of the General Assembly when speaking to the world on behalf of the denomination.

    by Galen y

    May 10, 2018

  7. Amen, J. Herbert, Amen!

    by Daniel M. Davis

    May 9, 2018

  8. I agree with our Stated Clerk.

    by Steven Allen

    May 9, 2018

  9. I agree with this statement fully. Thank you for putting into words the apprehensions of many in our Church.

    by Paula Befinfhaus

    May 9, 2018

  10. This statement does not represent every member of the PC(USA). Many of us support the President's action.

    by Jacquelyn Lynn Clement

    May 9, 2018

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