*** DEBUG END ***

Drones cast shadow on C of E HQ

26 October 2012


Robot: BAE Systems' Mantis unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). UAVs are also known as drones

Robot: BAE Systems' Mantis unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). UAVs are also known as drones

CAMPAIGNERS against the arms trade have objected to a conference in Church House, Westminster, next week, because the conference is sponsored by companies that make weapons.

The "Chief of the Air Staff's Air Power Conference 2012", organised by the Royal United Services In­stitute (RUSI), a think tank, is due to take place at the C of E's national administrative headquarters next Thursday and Friday. The Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, is to give the keynote address.

The event is sponsored by arms companies, including BAE Systems and General Atomics. Both com­panies produce unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), known as drones, which attack targets without risk to the operators. During a protest outside a UAV factory in Shenstone, Staffordshire, last week, the Bishop of Wolverhampton, the Rt Revd Clive Gregory, said that UAVs "re­duce death to the level of a com­puter game" ( News, 19 October).

Symon Hill, associate director of the think tank Ekklesia, who used to work for the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, said: "This event is sponsored by companies that supply arms to the world's most oppressive regimes, some of which turned weapons against their own people during the Arab Spring."

The conference booking was managed by Church House Con­ference Centre, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Corpora­tion of Church House, the charity that owns and runs the Church House building on Great Smith Street. The Corporation's website states that its "business . . . is vested in a Council which includes the Archbishops of Canterbury and York [and] representatives of national Church institutions".

The Church House Conference Centre raises money to offset the running costs of the building by renting out its facilities for confer­ences and events. It also lets office space to national C of E bodies such as the Archbishops' Council and the Church Commissioners.

A statement from the Church House Conference Centre said that it had its "own set of ethical guide­lines as regards bookings" for conferences. "We have a longstand­ing relationship with the UK's armed forces and next week's RUSI conference is in fact the third in a series this year looking at defence and security issues."

The director of communications for the Archbishops' Council, the Revd Arun Arora, said: "The RUSI is a long-established think tank, which deals with issues such as foreign policy, defence, and security. To suggest that the choice of Church House as a conference venue by RUSI somehow implicates the Church of England in supporting arms sales is at best nonsensical and at worst insulting."

The C of E's Ethical Investment Advisory Group recommends that C of E investment bodies, such as the Church Commissioners, do not in­vest in companies that manufacture conventional weapons "if their strategic military supplies exceed ten per cent of turnover".

Forthcoming Events

6-7 September 2022
Preaching as Pilgrimage conference
From the College of Preachers.

26 September 2022
What am I living for? God
Sam Wells and Lucy Winkett begin the St Martin-in-the-Fields autumn lecture series in partnership with Church Times.

27-28 September 2022
humbler church Bigger God conference
The HeartEdge Conference in Manchester includes the Theology Slam Live Final.

More events

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)