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Welby launches platform for debate ahead of EU referendum

04 September 2015


Centre of government: people use a spiral staircase at the European Parliament building in Brussels 

Centre of government: people use a spiral staircase at the European Parliament building in Brussels 

SEEKING to improve an EU referendum debate that could leave people “dispirited and divided”, the Church of England and the Church of Scotland have launched a blog on which, it is hoped, contributors will put forth light, not heat.

Reimagining Europe was launched in a post on Tuesday by the Archbishop of Canterbury: “The only certainty is that there will be much heat, probably slightly less light, but that it is a hugely important decision, with thoughtful and committed people, including Christians, on both sides.”

The blog would be “a platform on which we can seek out new ways of disagreeing well that leave us energised and revitalised, not dispirited and divided”.

He continued: “How can we revitalise ideas such as sovereignty and subsidiarity — ideals formed out of Christian faith, whose political dimensions capture their meaning only in part — and help encourage a clearly values-based approach to Britain’s future relationship with the EU that includes, but does not end with, economic and political perspectives?”

The vote on the UK’s membership of the European Union is due to take place before the end of 2017, as the EU Referendum Bill is due to receive its final reading in the House of Commons next week. The Prime Minister has pledged to renegotiate the UK’s terms of membership.

In the mean time, Reimagining Europe says that it will publish articles from experts representing “a range of theological and political backgrounds” from across Europe, aiming for a debate “of comparable depth, seriousness, and intensity to that which took place in Scotland prior to the independence referendum”.

It will not tell people how to vote, and has “no editorial line beyond a commitment to communicating Christian reflection and commentary in ways that enhance public understanding, on an issue that many find both confusing and divisive”. Contributors must write from “a Christian ethical perspective”.

Writing on the blog on Tuesday, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Revd Dr Angus Morrison, expressed a hope that it would counter a “merely self-serving attitude”, encouraging readers to ask: “How will your vote help those less fortunate than yourself?”

He said that, while the General Assembly “does have a long-standing view that continued EU membership is in the best interests of Scotland, Britain, and the EU”, the Church would not be “telling people from the pulpit how they should vote”. (The Church remained impartial during the vote on Scottish independence.)

Current contributors to the blog include the Conservative MP for Enfield, David Burrowes, who describes himself as a “Christian Brussels Sceptic”. He used his blog to outline how the current EU contravened “biblical principles”, including divinely ordained national identities and diversity, the decentralisation of power, and “laws protecting families and local communities”.

There is no formal Church of England position on the referendum. A statement on its website states that: “While it has reservations over certain characteristics of European integration, not least its democratic deficit, our propensity as humans created in the image of God to be creative, productive, and generous beings has been enhanced by pooling certain elements of national sovereignty in a common European project.”



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