Back from the Brink

Offered by Dr. Linda Gaither

An important and disturbing event may have escaped our attention in the midst of the chaos facing us all in 2020.  In January, the 2020 Doomsday Clock was re-set at 100 seconds to midnight, as announced in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.  “Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers – nuclear war and climate change – that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society's ability to respond.  The international security situation is dire, not just because these threats exist, but because world leaders have allowed the international political infrastructure for managing them to erode.”

This is a terrifying reality to face. We have learned in the battle with COVID-19 that when public health infrastructure and preparedness, whether national or international, are underfunded or defunded, a terrible price is paid in human life. The price for nuclear war and nuclear winter is beyond calculation.  

The vestries of St. John's Church in Ithaca and St. Thomas' in Slaterville Springs have responded to the unthinkable danger of nuclear war by endorsing Back from the Brink: The Call to Prevent Nuclear War.  Both the Ithaca Common Council and the Town Council of Lansing voted to endorse as well.

These endorsements are the fruit of a sustained effort over a number of years to educate and raise consciousness in the Ithaca area, in order to call for citizen action for nuclear disarmament.  The Ithaca Area Chapter of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, working closely with the Nuclear Disarmament Group at Cornell, has sponsored several educational visits by Dr. Ira Helfand of Physicians for Social Responsibility

(PSR). In 2017 PSR collaborated with the Union of Concerned Scientists to launch Back from the Brink.  

This is a national grassroots initiative seeking to change U.S. nuclear weapons policy. As Dr. Helfand puts it, Nuclear weapons are not a force of nature, they are not an act of God. We have made them with our own hands and we know how to take them apart. We’ve already dismantled more than 50,000 of them. The only thing that’s missing is the political will and commitment to do this. And that’s where all of us come in.”

Endorsing Back from the Brink supports the adoption of five common-sense steps:

         ** Renounce the option of using nuclear weapons first

          ** End the sole, unchecked authority of any U.S. President to launch a nuclear attack

            ** Take U.S. nuclear weapons off hair trigger alert

            ** Cancel the plan to replace the entire nuclear arsenal with enhanced weapons

            ** Pursue a verifiable agreement among nuclear armed nations to eliminate arsenals

To build momentum for this grass-roots citizens' movement, it is our EPF Chapter's goal to invite the parishes of our diocese to engage with Back from the Brink, in response to the call for endorsement. By sharing the news in The Messenger and through the resolution process at our diocesan convention, we hope many parishes and our diocese as a body will say YES to endorsement.  We also invite individuals to endorse; it is simple to do on-line at the website

The ultimate goal is a resolution for General Convention, issuing a call for endorsement by The Episcopal Church.  This is in line with nearly 40 years of our church's policy, urging the U.S. and the other nuclear nations to block the spread of nuclear weapons and eliminate all nuclear weapons from the world (see Addendum below).

The Doomsday Clock is ticking. To us it appears that both the Episcopal Church's long-held policy on the nuclear threat and our Baptismal vows require us to respond.


Dr. Frank Baldwin  []

Dr. Linda Gaither []


1982 General Convention voted to endorse a bilateral nuclear freeze and nuclear disarmament for U.S. and Soviet Russia.

1988 G.C. voted to urge the U.S. and U.S.S.R. to continue disarmament and use saved funds for human needs.

1994 G.C voted to urge the U.S. to sign a Test Ban Treaty and to pursue elimination of nuclear weapons.

1997 G.C.voted to support the goal of total nuclear disarmament by all the nuclear nations.

2009 G.C. voted to call on all nuclear armed nations to determine a timely process for dismantling nuclear weapons.political infrastructure 

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