THE Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Revd Mark Strange, has urged General Synod members to report their views on Brexit, saying that his ignorance meant that he had been unable discuss the subject with others outside the Church.
Bishop Strange, who attended the Synod of the Anglican Church in Brazil last month, and is due to attend the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the United States, next month, said that he was frequently asked by other faith leaders and politicians about the position of his Church on Brexit, but had been unable to give a clear answer.
He told the Synod: “It is hard to have a conversation about Brexit, because you have not given me an idea of where you stand. Our voice in other places of the world is being muted because I do not have a feel of what the Synod wants.”
Bishop Strange later said that the plea for information had been prompted by an article in the Church Times, which flagged up, on the Synod agenda, a resolution on Brexit passed by the Church in Society Committee (News, 25 May).
The resolution, which called for a second EU referendum, was part of a paper from the committee that covered a broad range of ethical issues, including genome editing, nuclear disarmament, and climate change. Motion 14, to accept the paper, was put before the Synod last Friday afternoon.
The Bishop of Edinburgh, Dr John Armes, who seconded the motion, joined the Primus in encouraging the Synod to debate the issue: “Brexit is an increasingly pressing issue at the moment. The negotiations will have a huge impact on what kind of society Scotland and the rest of the UK becomes.”
Although the motion was eventually carried, complaints rose from the floor over the lack of time given to debating the issues.
Scottish Episcopal ChurchThe Primus, the Most Revd Mark Strange (centre, facing) chairs the final session, on Saturday
Pamela Gordon (Edinburgh) said that the “divisive” issues were crucial because they touched on the ethical views of the Church, and therefore affected how others perceived it. She urged the Synod to think about “appropriate consultation” on the issues before specific proposals were brought forward.
The Revd Dr Jenny Wright (Edinburgh) said that the Church should consider “cascade” conversations to discuss the issues. The Revd Sarah Shaw (Edinburgh) agreed, and expressed concern over narrowness of interest in the paper on the effect of Brexit on Scotland.
Dr Anthony Birch (St Andrews) had reservations about whether the committee should have listed all its concerns about Brexit, as some, he said, were social-political rather than moral-ethical. Colin Sibley (Argyll & The Isles) agreed that the Church should not have a secular opinion on politics.
The convener of the Church in Society Committee, the Revd Professor David Atkinson, who moved the motion, made no apology for the breadth of the report. It had been presented simply so that the Synod could note the work that was being done and start a conversation, rather than accept it, he said.
“These are very real survival issues,” he went on. “The way we get people into church is to be relevant. And the way to be relevant is to have those conversations.”
Motion 14 was carried. An amendment to include in the motion a recommendation for the Church in Society committee to consider allocating a budget for child poverty, fell on the grounds that it was not relevant to the motion before the Synod.
The Synod also welcomed presentations from members of the Provincial Youth Committee and the Global Partnerships Committee, including one from Charlotte White, who reported on the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. FGM, modern slavery, and domestic violence were on the rise in Scotland, she said, where women were more likely to be in poverty than men. She urged clerics to raise awareness from the pulpit, and to start a conversation with their congregations and the wider community.
Read further coverage of the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church here.