An Open Letter to Andrew Nunn, Correspondence Secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury

Dear Mr Andrew Nunn,

Thank you for your letter (dated 6th October) in response to my previous correspondence. I am concerned that you do not seem to have grasped what I was trying to say, or for some reason have chosen not to respond to the main points which I made. I am writing again in the hope that some further clarification may enable you or the Archbishop to respond more pertinently to my correspondence.

Perhaps the fact that we seem to be approaching the subject from significantly different starting points created some confusion which left you unsure how to answer. While you are working with a definition of peace which states “peace at any cost may bring with it the continuation of exploitation, aggression or domination, of genocide even”; my own definition would be very different and would say that any situation of continued exploitation, aggression or domination could certainly never be named as peace, with or without western military intervention.

Let me make very clear, then, that the peace of which I write, and for which I hope, is not about the avoidance of western military intervention being a byword for the permitted continuation of other forms of aggression, but an invitation to choose the long and difficult path of creative, non-violent action which makes hope possible. I stand by my position that more war and hatred will never create peace. Only acts of love can do that. This is the message of the God I believe in.

My principle disappointment with your response to my letter is that the perspective from which I wrote was primarily a theological, not a political one. While it was a speech from the House of Lords which inspired it, I wrote to the Archbishop not as a political figure but as a religious one. It was addressed to a fellow Christian, albeit one with a more prominent public profile, walking a path in which we strive to follow Christ in the way he taught.

I wrote from the deep convictions of my faith, from my reading of the bible and my relationship with a God of Love. It was an invitation for the Archbishop to do the same. As I said, I can personally find no justification in the New Testament, nor in my personal experience of God, for anything other than a non-violent response however despicable an act may be. My hope is that, if the Archbishop does indeed stand by his intervention in the debate and his defence of the military action now taking place, he does so not as a politician but as a Christian: that he finds his justification in a return to the Christ who walked to the cross.

I was disappointed, therefore, that your response made a frequently articulated political argument but offered no theological justification for the Archbishop’s position. Your letter contained not a single reference to either Christ or the Gospels. Simply saying that “Christians must be committed to social goals other than just peace” is not, to my mind, a theological justification for military action. Not least because I, as someone who would not support such acts of state-sponsored violence, do not disagree with this premise, as I think my letter’s references to the intertwined issues of social, economic, political and military power, and the Church of England’s relationships to them (another unanswered point), probably suggested.

As I said in my previous letter, what I wanted to hear from the Archbishop was “what drove you to speak as you did and how you are able to understand the Gospel so differently to my reading of it”: a question which remains unresolved, and to which I await an answer with interest.

May I end by thanking you for sharing the link to the Archbishop’s speech but assuring you that I would not have dreamed of writing to the him at such length without having already read, and prayerfully considered, the full text. I also apologise for my mistake about the regularity of his attendance (although this was never intended as a criticism as I am sure he has a multitude of other priorities). I acknowledge not having taken into account that the Hansard records account only for those eight days in the 2013-14 season on which he spoke and not those where he was merely present in the chamber.

I look forward to hearing from you again soon,

Yours Sincerely

Stephanie Neville

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