POLITICIANS must find a “fair and sustainable” way for the UK and the European Union to coexist, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany, Dr Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, have said.
Archbishop Welby is hosting Dr Bedford-Strohm for a two-day visit to London, in the midst of uncertainty about the outcome of Brexit negotiations and the Prime Minister’s future.
On Thursday, four Government ministers — including two Cabinet Ministers — resigned in protest at the draft withdrawal agreement that Mrs May has agreed with the EU. On the same day, the Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group, submitted a letter of no confidence in Mrs May, and urged backbench colleagues to do the same.
On Thursday evening, Mrs May told a press conference: “The course I have set out is the right one for our country.” She said that the agreement “delivers what people voted for and it is in the national interest. . . If we do not move forward with that agreeFinment, nobody can know for sure the consequences that will follow. It would be to take a path of deep and grave uncertainty when the British people just want us to get on with it.”
On Friday morning, the BBC reported that the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, had decided not to resign.
In a joint statement issued by Lambeth Palace on Friday morning, Archbishop Welby and Dr Bedford-Strohm said: “European relationships are changing, not least as a result of Brexit. We do not know what will happen and what the relationship between the UK and EU will look like after 29 March 2019. However, what we do know is that the relationship between the Church of England and the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland goes back over many centuries — long before the European Union.
“As churches, we urgently appeal to all politicians to find fair and sustainable solutions for the future coexistence of the UK and the EU. United in Christ we are drawn together in hope, faith and love, and those things which divide us are of much lesser importance.”
Last week, during a Q&A at Great Yarmouth Minster, the Archbishop said that there was “no necessary defeatism, no necessary outcome either to staying in Europe or leaving. . . The big problems in our society of inequality, of unfairness, of the abandonment of an understanding of a moral and ethical framework which helps us choose how to treat people — that is the thing that will decide our future. . . Being in Europe or being out is obviously important, but there is as much hope out as in or in as out.’’
Full statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm
“Europe is changing but the Church of God remains constant in its witness. The deep commitment that we have to one another is not based on our common membership of the European Union but on our membership of the body of Christ. We witness the rise of populism and the emergence of extremist political parties which are being successful at the ballot box. Some of the old certainties are not so certain any more. European relationships are changing, not least as a result of Brexit. We do not know what will happen and what the relationship between the UK and EU will look like after 29 March 2019. However, what we do know is that the relationship between the Church of England and the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland goes back over many centuries – long before the European Union.
As churches, we urgently appeal to all politicians to find fair and sustainable solutions for the future coexistence of the UK and the EU. United in Christ we are drawn together in hope, faith and love, and those things which divide us are of much lesser importance.
This week we have seen in a few short days the commemoration of a number of significant events in the past: the centenary of the end of the First World War, the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht and the 80th anniversary of the Kindertransport. They are historic events of immense importance pointing to the dangers of extremism, the peril of division and the disaster of conflict.
This coming Sunday is Volkstrauertag in Germany - the annual commemoration of those who have died in armed conflicts. Our two nations have a history of war between us but also a history of the search for lasting peace. As some politicians and political forces seek to drive a wedge between people so it is all the more important that the churches continue to strive for reconciliation and to speak out prophetically for a Europe where the values of human rights and human dignity are central, based in the great Christian traditions of our two countries when at their best.
As religious leaders, united in our commitment to see a flourishing Europe committed to the common good and respecting the dignity of every human being, of all faiths and none, made in the image of God and the object of God’s love in Jesus Christ, we call on our Governments not to lose sight of the urgent task of safeguarding our created world and its people. Our world requires a better future than one based in hatred and division. It is the task of the church to bear witness to the love of God, across borders as sisters and brothers in Christ.
Since the Meissen Agreement of 1991 the Church of England and the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland have, together, sought to find ways of strengthening ties between churches in England and Germany. Through parish and diocesan links, theological and educational exchanges we are able to see one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, united in our common baptism. If political and economic relationships are strained, it is the duty of Christians to work for unity and understanding and to build bridges between nations and cultures for the good of humanity, in the service of Jesus Christ.”