BREXIT and the Church of England in Europe

On Wednesday, as MPs began debating the different options, the Archbishop of Canterbury called for unity and for the referendum result to be respected. He wrote on Twitter: “It’s easy to tell MPs how badly they are doing, easy to abuse and threaten. But they have to decide for us and deserve respect. Let us pray for them . . . for a decision that has widespread support and for a process that brings national agreement

On Wednesday, as MPs began debating the different options, the Archbishop of Canterbury called for unity and for the referendum result to be respected. He wrote on Twitter: “It’s easy to tell MPs how badly they are doing, easy to abuse and threaten. But they have to decide for us and deserve respect. Let us pray for them . . . for a decision that has widespread support and for a process that brings national agreement.

OTHER STORIES: Not packing up, says Bishop in Europe as Britain begins EU exit HOPES and fears have been expressed on the formal commencement of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union

“Reconciliation is less about agreeing than about finding out how to disagree well. We must respect the vote of the people and unite our country.”

Archbishop Welby has previously stated that a second referendum should only take place “if Parliament has failed in its responsibilities” (News, 7 December).

Speaking in the House of Lords on Monday, the Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt Revd Christine Hardman, said: “It is deeply disturbing to see that a routine part of the daily working life of an MP is that they and their staff endure verbal assaults, attacks and threats. It cannot be right that carrying a panic alarm is now a necessity for some MPs and that constituency offices and homes are considered as places of risk for them. . .

“Whatever happens next, approximately half of us will be unhappy and angry. We will need the kind of democracy that protects our freedoms and the values we hold dear.

“For democracy to be exercised, the space where it is practised — whether in the real world or online — must be kept safe, and those who are called to serve must be protected. This is not someone else’s job: it falls to all of us to call out hatred, abuse, intimidation and threat wherever we see it happening.”

BERLINER MISSIONSWERK/G. HERZOG –The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, with the Protestant Bishop of Berlin, Dr Markus Dröge (second from left), at Berlin Cathedral, on Sunday

In a sermon delivered at Berlin Cathedral on Sunday, the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, called for solidarity between Christians in Europe.

She said: “We find ourselves in turbulent times. The ongoing discussions around Brexit mean that many of us are living with a profound feeling of uncertainty. Deep divisions in our society have been exposed, and now we are faced with an ongoing political process which risks deepening them still further.

“Our challenge in this time is not to pretend that we are all alike. We clearly are not. But to recognise, and hopefully learn in some small way to overcome our intrinsic nature which pushes away others and tries to carve out territory only for ourselves.”

This weekend, parish churches are being asked by the Archbishops to hold “tea and prayer drop-ins” to encourage reconciliation over Brexit (News, 22 March). The initiative, “Together”, is supported by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, told BBC Radio Essex on Sunday: “It’s not a big heavy agenda, but if you care about and are concerned about our cohesion as a community; if you have been troubled by some of the language and division that we’ve experienced over this issue . . . this is the first little step towards saying let’s put this behind us, even though right now, we don’t know how or why this is going to end.”


This weekend’s edition of the U.K. ‘CHURCH TIMES’ has a variety of messages from Bishops of the Church of England – including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby; the Bishop of Newcastle, Christine Hardman; the Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally; and the Bishop of Chelmsford, Stephen Cottrell. These spoken concerns from the C.of E. hierarchy reflect the fact that the Church is seen by many in the U.K. and in Europe as an important element in the ongoing political and social fabric of Britain’s interaction with Europe.

Quite rightly (IMHO) these respective spokes-persons for the Church of England are pointing to the need for social cohesion and a respect for one another in the conflict that continues to unfold – now more desperately than ever in the light of the U.K. Parliament’s failure to come up with a common mind on the possible outcomes.

My own feeling – not living there but being a former citizen of the U.K. – is that Britain should never have left the European Union. However, I do recognise the difficulties some people there have with the fact that, with the E.U., determining the common economic and legal proprieties of each partner of the Union, Britain – along with all the other members – loses her prior right to determine local economic and justice issues that are special to her own particular interests and culture.

What is being exposed of course in all of this is the need to recognise that not only countries but individuals around the world – not only in Europe – are different from one another in their hopes, aspirations and capabilities, while yet retaining a common human nature that needs to be recognised and catered for. The ‘Common Good’ is something much more than the individual preference model – something that the Church itself has come to recognise in its dealing with ethical and social distinctions that make up the complexities of the human race.

As we here in New Zealand have suddenly discovered in our own little patch, since the horrific devastation suffered by our local Muslim population in Christchurch; we are ALL HUMAN BEINGS, created in the ‘Image and Likeness of The Creator’, which gives us a commonality that ought to be perceived as greater than our social, religious, economic, ethnic or social background.

Europe’s problems are different from those of us in New Zealand. However, what we all need to understand is that, as human beings, we are all equal in the sight of God. Each of us needs to respect and be respected by, the other – without fear or prejudice, which are negative qualities destined to divide and conquer us all. We Christians have to do our part in unifying, rather than separating ourselves from others and from one another. This was clearly the purpose of ‘true religion’ which recognises the value and worth of God’s intrinsic presence in all of God’s children. As we approach the great Christain Festival of Holy Week and Easter, we need to step back and re-discover the redemptive power of the death and resurrection of Jesus, who died for ALL, ‘that sins might be forgiven’. Deo Gratias!

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

P.S. I am very interested in this Anglican Taonga link to the new book by Franciscan Friar Richard OFM, whose writing on the ‘Cosmic Christ’ alerts us to the distinct possibility of the universal nature of Christ’s redemption of the whole world:

Finding the 'Universal Christ'

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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