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The EU Referendum – A Prayerful Response

June 25, 2016

As I think of Sunday and worship I am in shock. My country has voted to leave the European Union to chart a more independent course in the world. I had hoped that we would stay and work with our partners across Europe for the good of all. I have no illusions the EU is perfect, then I have no illusions that the UK government or any government is perfect. I did however see countries across Europe working together for more than just trade to be a good thing. The UK, I believe could have done more good being part of this.

I can say this more clearly now. Before the referendum I felt that I could offer those that I lead guidance on the sorts of questions to ask. Such as, “What would be best for all, not just me?” I did not feel that I could direct people to make one or other political choice. I know that the people of my benefice were divided on this issue, people of intelligence and good conscience. So I am sad, but I accept the decision and am now trying to see how best to move forward. What advice is the Spirit giving to God’s people? What witness can we have to our nation?

At this time of uncertainty, we need to be together. We need to make clear decisions and we must rebuild the relationships broken by angry and divisive campaigns from both sides. My job, the job of Christ’s people now is to pray and work for a better future. The referendum has left this country deeply divided. I need to work hard to rebuild those bridges. Bridges between young and old are particularly needed. The statistics that I read showed an overwhelming majority of people under 30 wanted to remain but a similar majority of those over 60 wanted to leave. Of those aged 14-16 who could not vote over 75% wanted to remain. This division cannot be healthy for our nation. The alienation of young and old, will not help us be confident looking to the future.

I look online, on social media and in the papers and I hear only discord. I look for political leadership and I see a vacuum.

I look to my Church and I find hope. My country is anxious and divided, so Christ’s people must be united firmly to the rock of Christ. I unite with both of the English Archbishops and my own Bishop of Norwich, in urging all Christians to be Christlike and show the signs of the Kingdom that is greater than any early authority. The signs of the work of the Spirit that Paul summarised as, “ love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control” (Galatians 5.22-23). At this time, if we are to have joy and peace, we most certainly need to give our country an shining example of peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, self-control, and greatest of all – love.

 

God bless,

 

Nigel.

The statements from the Archbishops and the Bishop of Norwich are copied below.

 

Statement from Archbishops on EU Referendum Result

24 June 2016

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.

 

 

 

Statement by The Rt Revd Graham James, Bishop of Norwich,

to Norwich Diocesan Synod,

Saturday June 25th 2016

following the EU Referendum

 

The result of Thursday’s Referendum seemed to take even some who supported the Leave campaign by surprise.  The announcement of the resignation of the Prime Minister, a year after victory at the General Election, adds to the level of uncertainty.  The will of the people expressed in the Referendum must be honoured but no one has yet negotiated an exit from the European Union under the Lisbon Treaty so much is unpredictable.

 

In this diocese every voting district, except Norwich, voted Leave.  Some areas like South Norfolk were very evenly split.  Great Yarmouth saw a majority in excess of 70% for Leave.  Norwich voted 56% to 44% in favour of Remain.  It’s a reminder close to home of the division of opinion.

 

Therein lies a consequential danger of the outcome of this referendum.  Ostensibly it has been about separation from the European Union.  But it has revealed major divisions in the United Kingdom – between Scotland and Northern Ireland on one side and England and Wales on the other; between London and the rest of England since the capital voted heavily to Remain.  But there are other divisions too – between north and south in England; between rural and urban; between young and old.

 

Such divisions are dangerous, especially after a campaign which was often shrill, bruising and alienating.

 

Our church communities, including this Diocesan Synod, contain people who voted on both sides in this referendum.  There is no single Christian position on the European Union and membership of it.  But there is a common Christian conviction that unity is better than division, hope better than despair and that we are always in partnership with Jesus Christ when proclaiming the good news.  He offers salvation and redemption for all people in all places at all times.

 

So in the wake of this referendum we have much to do.  First we should pray for our country and for the people of Europe.  Then we should pray for our Prime Minister and for all Government ministers, indeed all politicians.  The tragic death of Jo Cox is a reminder that the generous service given to their communities by so many Members of Parliament can be dangerous.  Our political leaders need our prayer and support, never more so than now.

 

Further, in our local communities and in our churches we should be the agents of unity, always hospitable and not hostile and committed to the pursuit of the common good.  As St Paul tells the Galatians “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6.9)  Rarely have we had more gospel work to do.

 

God bless our country, and God bless you all.

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4 Comments
  1. Verona McWhinney permalink

    Thank you Nigel, my husband and I are leading the service in Pulham Market tomorrow so with your permission I would like to read out part of your blog. Many thanks for your wise words!
    Verona

  2. Tim Rogers permalink

    I wholeheartedly agree. the decision has been made, for good or ill. Let us listen to the Spirit, and think of the widest possible benefit as we plot the future. Let us pray that God will do amazing, new things, while praying for those immediately affected by the economic consequences of the result.

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