Bishops Join Welby in Voting Remain

by Gerry Lynch last modified 19 Jun, 2016 07:30 AM

We have a responsibility to debate respectfully; there are Christians of deep integrity on both sides of the debate

The three Bishops of the Diocese of Salisbury have welcomed the Archbishop of Canterbury’s contribution to the debate about the Referendum and joined him in saying that they will be voting for the UK to Remain in the EU. 

Acknowledging there are Christians of deep integrity on both sides of the debate, the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, said that they have made their statement because, “The tone and style of the debate has become deeply damaging. Many of us, and especially those still undecided, feel let down by the quality of the debate, with exaggerated claims and scaremongering on both sides. There has been a coarsening of politics through this campaign which had begun to feel dangerous even before Jo Cox’s murder. 

“There are Christians of deep integrity passionately engaged on both sides of the campaign”, he continued, “Passions are running high. We need to make sure that whatever happens we are about the love of God and the love of our neighbour as ourselves. 

“We should be proud that the Church of England remains a Church in which people of differing opinions find a home with God and their neighbours. Christians have a responsibility to debate respectfully and care for those who disagree with them. 

“The Referendum is said by both sides to be the most important decision facing this country for many decades. Church people on both sides of the debate are taking the positions they do because they care deeply about their country, their neighbours, and our position in the world. 

“It does matter that politicians attempt to tell the truth, perhaps especially when passions are strongly felt. There is real danger that in a prolonged period of slow economic growth, austerity, and growing inequality, many people will feel our political institutions are too complex and remote and seem not to deliver for them in their daily lives. 

“The post-War European project has brought democracy, and unprecedented prosperity and peace across Europe. The question is what political structures will best serve that same agenda in the future. We cannot know for certain, but having listened to the case made by both sides, I am convinced that remaining in the EU offers the best future for the United Kingdom. Remaining in the EU is the best way for British leadership in the world. In just about every area of life, even when negotiations are complex or frustrating, it is better to be together. 

“One example for me as the Church of England’s lead bishop on the environment, is the care of God’s creation, our common home. Pollution does not stop at national borders. Britain in Europe has made a big difference in international negotiations. A bloc with half a billion people can do that. A country of 60 million on its own can’t.

“If we do vote Remain, work to reform the EU must begin soon after. Not just in this country, but all across Europe, people feel detached and let down.” 

The Bishop of Sherborne, the Rt Revd Karen Gorham said: 

“My reasons for voting Remain are about youth and history. People in their twenties and thirties seem to be strongly for Remain and they are the people who will live with this decision for a generation. Both sides seem to accept there will be at least a period of economic turbulence after a vote for Brexit. Younger people always suffer most in any recession. I worry about our social stability and for those who have had to take on very large mortgages to buy a home. 

“As for history, England has always been a part of Europe. My first predecessor, St Aldhelm, often travelled across the Channel as far back as the 700s because he was a leader in a Western Church that stretched across the continent and was foundational to this country’s Christian values. Britain has had an awkward role in the EU, with our government saying things others didn’t really want to hear. That’s often the most valuable role in any group but you have to be in the group to make it.” 

The Rt Revd Dr Edward Condry, Bishop of Ramsbury, said: 

“I welcome the passion that the EU debate has stirred, but the negative focus on immigration ignores Britain’s history of being outward facing, confident and tolerant. As the Archbishop of Canterbury said, ‘To be a country for the world is part of the calling of being British.’ 

“This is the most important vote facing the British people in a generation. Whatever your choice, it is a Christian and civic duty to vote on 23 June.” 

The bishops encouraged everyone, and especially our churches, to pray about the Referendum, particularly in this last week of debate as we all come to make our decision. 

God of truth,
give us grace to debate the issues in this referendum
with honesty and openness.
Give generosity to those who seek to form opinion
and discernment to those who vote,
that our nation may prosper
and that with all the peoples of Europe
we may work for peace and the common good;
for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

The topic of the referendum was also part of Bishop Nicholas' Presidential Address to June Diocesan Synod - read here.

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