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Archbishops Respond to Brexit

A statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York:

On Thursday, millions of people from across the United Kingdom voted in the referendum, and a majority expressed a desire that Britain’s future is to be outside the European Union

The outcome of this referendum has been determined by the people of this country. It is now the responsibility of the Government, with the support of Parliament, to take full account of the outcome of the referendum, and, in the light of this, decide upon the next steps. This morning, the Prime Minister David Cameron has offered a framework for when this process might formally begin.

The vote to withdraw from the European Union means that now we must all reimagine both what it means to be the United Kingdom in an interdependent world and what values and virtues should shape and guide our relationships with others.

As citizens of the United Kingdom, whatever our views during the referendum campaign, we must now unite in a common task to build a generous and forward looking country, contributing to human flourishing around the world. We must remain hospitable and compassionate, builders of bridges and not barriers. Many of those living among us and alongside us as neighbours, friends and work colleagues come from overseas and some will feel a deep sense of insecurity. We must respond by offering reassurance, by cherishing our wonderfully diverse society, and by affirming the unique contribution of each and every one.

The referendum campaign has been vigorous and at times has caused hurt to those on one side or the other. We must therefore act with humility and courage — being true to the principles that make the very best of our nation. Unity, hope and generosity will enable us to overcome the period of transition that will now happen, and to emerge confident and successful. The opportunities and challenges that face us as a nation and as global citizens are too significant for us to settle for less.

As those who hope and trust in the living God, let us pray for all our leaders, especially for Prime Minister David Cameron in his remaining months in office. We also pray for leaders across Europe, and around the world, as they face this dramatic change. Let us pray especially that we may go forward to build a good United Kingdom that, though relating to the rest of Europe in a new way will play its part amongst the nations in the pursuit of the common good throughout the world.

The Primus of Scotland posted this response on his weblog, Thinking Aloud:

It so happened that I was due to give a Thought for the Day this morning on BBC Scotland. So this is what I said:

So now we know. There is some sense of an end point. But this leave result really marks the beginning of a long period — a time for working out of the implications of the choice which the people have made. That will occupy us for years to come.

It’s another beginning too — the beginning of the process by which we find healing after a bruising Referendum Campaign. It’s part of the way we do things that there are some issues so important that we should ‘let the people decide’. But as the campaign has run its course over the past weeks and months, there has been growing concern about whether that has led to a tendency to over-simplify complex issues and to political debate which has at times been fractious and angry. We may regret this — but it also shows how important this choice has been.

So now we have to put it all together again.

Faith can be about many things. I believe that it’s particularly about how we deal the painful past and find healing — in less religious language it how we let go and make a new start. You can probably hear in my accent a bit of Northern Ireland — where I was one of many who worked to lay to rest the legacy — not just of a short and bruising Referendum campaign — but of hundreds of years of bad history.

To say that ‘that was then and now is now’ isn’t enough. You have be able again to recognise the ‘other’ person as somebody of integrity — that person whom you may have thought and maybe said was lying or scaremongering or bringing in issues which were nothing to do with the matter in hand.

That means relationship — lots of coffee and talking which is serious and quiet. It means that, in the period of difficulty and uncertainty into which we are entering, our elected representatives express clarity but have the courage to be flexible.

To fight the political battles with passion — that’s what politicians are for. But they must also build the agreements which bring measured and ordered movement. That’s what the people who have voted now need.

A statement by bishops of the Church in Wales:

In facing the outcome of the EU Referendum, we commend a period of calm and reflection as the UK seeks to find its way forward in this new situation.

As Christians we hold to the Gospel values of truthfulness, inclusion, and respect; and so after the passionate debate, we pray for reconciliation amongst the divided factions in our nations, communities and families.

We pray for the United Kingdom and for our partners in Europe and the rest of the world at this time of uncertainty, as we continue to work together to build a just and peaceful future in which all people can flourish.

  • The Archbishop of Wales, Dr. Barry Morgan
  • The Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, John Davies
  • The Bishop of St Davids, Wyn Evans
  • The Bishop of Bangor, Andy John
  • The Bishop of St Asaph, Gregory Cameron
  • The Bishop of Monmouth, Richard Pain
  • The Assistant Bishop of Llandaff, David Wilbourne

Update: A statement by the Rt. Rev. Christopher Hill, president of the Conference of European Churches:

By a narrow margin, the UK Referendum (51.9 per cent voting leave) has recommended to its Parliament that the UK should leave the EU. As President of CEC but also as a bishop of the Church of England, I am proud that my passport, as a British subject, also has European Union as part of its title.

I deeply regret the result and also the manner of the Referendum. This in spite of Church leadership in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland being supportive. There are no doubt real issues to discuss and these issues are not only debated in the UK but in many member states of the EU.

But many of the allegations, especially over migration issues which were decisive in the Referendum, bear no relation to the actual facts and the tone — at least in the UK — has often been hysterical rather than rational, not least amongst “popularist” parties and some sections of the press.

A major task for CEC now, in which the UK Churches remain strong supporting members, will be to contribute to such a rational debate, starting with the already existing dialogue within our member Churches throughout Europe, including those Churches in member states on the southern and eastern borders of the EU.

In addition, CEC can be a space where UK Churches can reassure our partners in the wider Europe that we still believe in the establishment of structures for peace, justice and stability across our one Continent and indeed that such structures serve for global wellbeing as well as our own.

Above all I hope the churches — including our partners in the Catholic Church — will be able to revitalize a vision for Europe much broader than the mere economic, a vision informed by a Christian understanding of society which looks to the common good of all, supporting human rights and inclusive communities without collapsing into purely individualistic demands, and understands (from the inside of faith) the need for dialogue between faiths and all people of good will.

Now that the high profile campaign is over, I look for this serious discourse as urgent for the future of Europe as well as the UK.


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