Take action against the arms trade: tell church venue to drop arms-funded events by phone or social media
In summary: Church House Westminster should stop hosting events sponsored by arms companies.
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Church House Westminster is a conference centre whose profits go to the Church of England and whose president is Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury. For some years now, it has hosted events which are sponsored by arms dealers. The events are by the military think tank Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). They are the Land Warfare Conference, and the Chief of the Airstaff’s Airpower Conference.
Sponsors over the years have included arms companies BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Saab, General Atomics, Airbus and Finmeccanica. The arms trade supports conferences like this for their influence, in order to push for more military intervention and militaristic interpretations of “security”. If you don’t believe us about the companies which have been backing events at Church House, check out the event page for the 2017 Land Warfare Conference, which shows that it was sponsored by five arms companies, including Lockheed Martin – the biggest in the world.
Arms companies sponsor these events in order to influence them and because they feel the outcome of the conference will mean more business for them. Their funding is not neutral.
The CofE ethical investment policy prohibits investment in – ie benefiting financially from – companies whose profits from arms are £3bn or 8% of their annual income, whichever is lower.
Apart from profiting from the arms trade, by hosting events sponsored by arms dealers the Church is lending to these companies its image as a moral institution. It gives them a social licence to operate. We believe this clearly goes against the teachings of Jesus.
The CofE’s General Synod takes place in the same room as these arms-funded conferences, and it backs onto Westminster Abbey. In the eyes of the public, it is a high-profile church building, hence RUSI and the arms trade wanting to use it. St Paul’s Cathedral have publicly said they will not host arms-sponsored events. Church House should do the same. While we recognise the humanity of each and every arms dealer, their profession has no place in a house of prayer.
Christians have sent letters to Church House Westminster and to the Archbishop of Canterbury. They’ve prayed, shared communion and sung hymns on the steps while the events were taking place inside and engaged with delegates.
In an article in the Church Times (27 June 2014) about FoR and Pax Christi’s vigil outside RUSI’s conference held at Church House the previous month, the CofE said that, “The RUSI is a long-established and respected independent think tank. As a research body and policy forum, it provides independent thinking and objective analysis on issues relating primarily to security and defence.”
RUSI is not independent in any meaningful way. It couldn’t run events like this without funding from the arms industry. There is no way, with the sponsors they have, that these conferences are anything other than preparation for war; something Church should be speaking out against, not facilitating.
TAKE ACTION: contact Church House to tell them to drop arms-funded events.
Church House says they do not have the time or resources to check who is sponsoring events. They didn’t respond when asked whether they’d host an event sponsored by a tobacco company, but we suspect that they would not. When speaking to Church House, please emphasise that it’s the sponsors of the event you’re raising concerns about – don’t let them just fob you off with something about RUSI being a well-respected client. Make it clear that you think they have a duty to check who is funding – and thus also influencing – events at Church House Westminster.
On twitter @churchhouseconf
By phone: 020 7390 1590 (click here from a smartphone)
If you can’t do it on the day, please call/tweet/facebook them afterwards with the same message and ask them to commit to not hosting the events again.
Let us know how you got on!
Press release can be found here
Got a bit more time? Why not write a letter to any of these people:
Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Lambeth Palace, London, SE1 7JU
Michael Chamberlain, Chairman of the Council of the Corporation of Church House, The Corporation of Church House, Church House, Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3AZ
Chris Palmer, Secretary of the Corporation of the Church House, Church House Conference Centre, Deans Yard London SW1P 3NZ (Chris is the CEO of Church House)
Robin Parker, General Manager, Church House Conference Centre, Deans Yard London SW1P 3NZ (Robin oversees the conference centre side of things)
Church House Westminster was formerly known as Church House Conference Centre.
Church House Westminster is part of Church House, the building that houses the administrative headquarters of the Church Commissioners, the Archbishops’ Council and other parts of the Church of England. The Conference Centre is a wholly owned subsidiary company of the Church House Corporation, whose president is the Archbishop of Canterbury. Church House Westminster is the trading subsidiary of the Royal Chartered Corporation which owns and operates the building and is a charity.
Since 2016, Church House Westminster has hosted only the
Land Warfare conference, which they say is because the venue wasn’t available for the Airpower conference.