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Welby calls for reconciliation in referendum aftermath

19 September 2014

by Tim Wyatt in Edinburgh

CHURCH leaders have been reacting to the news, announced early this morning, that Scotland has voted to stay in the UK. Fifty-five per cent of Scots voted no in yesterday's referendum, with a record turnout of 84.5 per cent.

The Archbishop of Canterbury said in a statement that Scotland's decision "will be welcomed by all those who believe that this country can continue to be an example of how different nations can work together for the common good within one state". He also said that this was a time for "reconciliation and healing, not rejoicing or recrimination."

He went on: "Some of the wounds opened up in recent months are likely to take time to heal on both sides of the border. The Church of England, the Church of Scotland, and the Scottish Episcopal Church should play a mediating part as the UK grapples with reshaping the relationships between its constituent nations, Archbishop Welby said.

This call was echoed by the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Revd John Chalmers. The discussion,he said, had to move from "us and them" to only "us".

"Today, I particularly care about those who feel as if they are on the wrong side of this outcome," he said. "So I expect those on the winning side to go out of their way to avoid triumphalism, and to be inclusive in their plans for Scotland's future, and to take the time to assure those who are anxious, disappointed, and down that they understand how they must feel."

Speaking on Radio 4 this morning, Mr Chalmers recounted the story of Jacob and Esau - their bitter enmity, and, later, their magnanimous reconciliation. "The untold energy of people who love Scotland and care about its future has been used on both sides of this debate," he said.

"And, make no mistake about it, such magnanimity will release enormous creativity.  And Scotland's future will be safe."

Speaking on behalf of the Scottish Episcopal Church's College of Bishops, the Primus, the Most Revd David Chillingworth, said: "We commit ourselves to working with all the people of Scotland as our relationships with our neighbours continue to evolve.

"We hold particularly in our hearts and in our prayers today those for whom this decision brings a feeling of hopes dashed and vision lost.  With our partner Churches, and all in the faith communities, we pledge ourselves to work for reconciliation, and pray for healing in our community."

The Free Church of Scotland has said that Scots must look beyond "self-interest" and focus on creating a more "just and caring society".

In a joint statement, the chairman of the Church's board of trustees and a former Moderator, the Revd James MacIver, said: "Much of the debate of the past two years has been focused on self-interest.  We would now like the focus to shift to the needs of others.

 "The place of Christianity in the public place is the key to resolving . . . social ills, and we would welcome the opportunity to work alongside the Scottish government in pursuit of these aims."

A statement from the Scottish Roman Catholic bishops commended Scots for their participation in "what was a passionate and sometimes partisan debate". They went on: "We urge the Catholic community to continue to engage in public debate and decision-making, and, in doing so, to uphold the meaning and importance of the Christian message. May God bless Scotland."

The director of Evangelical Alliance Scotland, Fred Drummond, said: "As Scots now consider what kind of nation will now emerge from this campaign, the Church must lead - and be allowed to lead - the way to ensure the new Scotland is one that reflects God's values in the economy, the family, our communities, and our environment. 

The Christian gospel provides the "catalyst for reconciliation", and the Church must heal divisions within families, friendships, and workplaces, Mr Drummond said.

In Glasgow, one of only four local-authority areas to vote yes, the Provost of the town's Episcopal cathedral, the Very Revd Kelvin Holdsworth, said that although he voted no, he had much in common with the aspirations of the pro-independence movement.

"We have disagreed about how to achieve change, but there are values that have come to the fore, largely through the incredible campaign that the Yes side have fought, that we can unite around," he wrote on his blog this morning.

"Those of us in Scotland have decided that we don't want to leave the United Kingdom. However, let the message ring out that no one who voted yesterday wants to live in Foodbank Britain.

"One of the members of my own congregation, who is one of the strongest supporters of the Yes campaign I know, said to me yesterday, 'Even if it is No, Yes has won'. He meant, I think, that the positivity of the Yes campaign can't be killed off, and that constitutional change is coming anyway."

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