Rectors Letter | Rev Steve Prior

Posted by on Jun 1, 2016 in GrapeVine, Rectors Letters | 0 comments

Letter from Steve

As we are all keenly aware, the referendum on whether the UK is to remain or exit the European Union is to be held on 23 June.  Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has wisely said that he will not make a pronouncement on behalf of the C of E one way or the other on this issue, as the Church has no special wisdom concerning many of the economic, security or military issues involved. We have all heard many pros and cons on these issues during the past months.

Rev Ian Paul, on the staff of St John’s Nottingham Theological College and a regular blogger on his website psephizo, has written an article, based in turn on a new Grove Booklet, The EU Referendum:  How Should We Decide?, by Rev Andrew Goddard, which raises issues that Christians ought to consider when deciding how to vote.  Again, he does not come down on one side or the other, but rather than issues of economic security, the article focuses on the sorts of relationships our membership of the EU either helps or hinders – with our own nation and its communities, with Europe and with the wider world. The extended quotation below is taken directly from Ian Paul’s blog of 29 April:

“It Hurts To Go Away: A Christian Case To Remain

We should stay because the EU’s vision, shaped by Christianity, has led it to much good for its members and more widely. The proper response to difficulties in relationships is not to walk out but to work at them and influence others for the good by being present. The UK has modelled this through the EU after initially standing apart and we should persevere in that commitment. EU membership recognises the value of international co-operation and the need for many political questions to be addressed at a trans-national level. The UK and other nations benefit from our involvement in institutions working for justice. These bodies can never be as representative as local and national political structures but the EU ensures all nations are represented in its deliberations and respects their different histories and perspectives. Its commitment to subsidiarity gives a powerful basis for sustaining such distinctiveness.

To leave would diminish our input in conversations and decisions which will inevitably impact our lives and would isolate us from structures which bring us into regular political contact with our nearest neighbours. It would give credence to erroneous views, especially that national sovereignty is inviolable, and risk fuelling nationalistic or xenophobic attitudes. Voting to remain does not mean accepting the Euro or all other recent developments. Rather, it means being committed to working with our neighbours to seek our shared common good.

It’s Impossible To Stay: A Christian Case To Leave

We should leave because the EU, despite Christian elements in its vision, and past successes for example in relation to peace, is now failing and damaging members and others. It is increasingly captive to contemporary, particularly economic, idols, as seen in the Euro, and is developing characteristics of an imperial project which do not adequately respect national integrity. Given its history, the UK is well able to discern and to alert the EU to these trends but attempts at reform have largely failed. Subsidiarity, for example, is honoured in word but not action as EU competences extend across so much of our lives. Particularly since the EU’s expansion, the possibility of representative political authority structures has diminished. There is even less – and far from sufficient – common identity uniting us and we should not seek to engineer or impose such an identity.

The principle of free movement of EU citizens denies the importance of our locatedness and does not do justice to distinct national identities. It is no longer enabling solidarity but increasing tensions and, as with other policies, leads to an unjustifiable preferential option for the EU rather than other, poorer, parts of the world. Brexit, though it will have costs, opens the possibility of creatively rethinking and reconfiguring this negative dynamic to enable the creation of a better situation not just for the UK but for the EU and wider world.”

So, no clear answer here – but perhaps more to consider as 23 June draws nearer. As one lay member of the Diocesan Synod said back in March, “Whichever way the vote goes on 23 June, nearly half of the population are going to be disappointed on the 24 June. Perhaps the most important role for Christians and the church during the referendum is to help us to live well together after it’s over.”   And so I end with one final quote:  from a cartoon in our own April’s edition of grapevine,  “And when it comes to The Peace, I want all those who want to stay in Europe to shake hands with all those who want to leave.”                 Steve