Church Statement – 21 December 1940 (London)

On a recent trip to the Hewitson Library, Knox College, Dunedin, New Zealand, I found that they were giving away some free theology books. I scored a few gems, including The Churches Speak: Statements on Social Issues, 1937-1942. Some of the statements were very familiar, such as the Oxford 1937 conference, but what struck me was that I was reading the booklet exactly 72 years after the so-called London statement. This statement was a letter to The Times from some eminent church leaders of the time.

The letter reads as follows:

December 21 1940 (p. 5)





Sir,—The present evils in the world are due to the failure of nations and peoples to carry out the laws of God. No permanent peace is possible in Europe unless the principles of the Christian religion are made the foundation of national policy and of all social life. This involves regarding all nations as members of one family under the Fatherhood of God.

We accept the five points of Pope Pius XII as carrying out this principle (see “The Pope’s Five Peace Points,” pp. 13–16):—

  1. The assurance to all nations of their right to life and independence. The will of one nation to live must never mean the sentence of death passed upon another. When this equality of rights has been destroyed, attacked, or threatened order demands that reparation shall be made, and the measure and extent of that reparation is determined, not by the sword nor by the arbitrary decision of self-interest, but by the rules of justice and reciprocal equity.
  2. This requires that the nations be delivered from the slavery imposed upon them by the race for armaments and from the danger that material force, instead of serving to protect the right, may become an over-bearing and tyrannical master. The order thus established requires a mutually agreed organic progressive disarmament, spiritual as well as material, and security for the effective implementing of such an agreement.
  3. Some juridical institution which shall guarantee the loyal and faithful fulfilment of conditions agreed upon and which shall in case of recognized need revise and correct them.
  4. The real needs and just demands of nations and populations and racial minorities to be adjusted as occasion may require, even where no strictly legal right can be established, and a foundation of mutual confidence to be thus laid, whereby many incentives to violent action will be removed.
  5. The development among peoples and their rulers of that sense of deep and keen responsibility which weighs human statutes according to the sacred and inviolable standards of the laws of God. They must hunger and thirst after justice and be guided by that universal love which is the compendium and most general expression of the Christian ideal.

With these basic principles for the ordering of international life we would associate five standards by which economic situations and proposals may be tested (see “The Churches Survey Their Task,” pp. 116, 117):—

  1. Extreme inequality in wealth and possessions should be abolished;
  2. Every child, regardless of race or class, should have equal opportunities of education, suitable for the development of his peculiar capacities;
  3. The family as a social unit must be safeguarded;
  4. The sense of a Divine vocation must be restored to man’s daily work;
  5. The resources of the earth should be used as God’s gifts to the whole human race, and used with due consideration for the needs of the present and future generations.

We are confident that the principles which we have enumerated would be accepted by rulers and statesmen throughout the British Commonwealth of Nations and would be regarded as the true basis on which a lasting peace could be established.

COSMO CANTUAR: Archbishop of Canterbury.

A. CARDINAL HINSLEY, Archbishop of Westminster.

WALTER H. ARMSTRONG. Moderator, Free Church Federal Council.

WILLIAM EBOR: Archbishop of York

The Pope’s peace plan can be found on the Vatican Website: Address In questo giorno to the Sacred College of Cardinals and members of the Roman Curia for Christmas (December 24, 1939) (Italian)