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Bishop's statement on the EU referendum
24/06/16

Following the result of yesterday’s EU referendum, the Bishop of Coventry, the Right Reverend Dr Christopher Cocksworth, has written this statement:

"The outcome of the EU referendum is now clear.

Within our parishes and across our country, people will be reflecting on the result in different ways. Those who voted Leave will be happy that their voice was heard, and hopeful for our country’s future outside the EU. For those who voted Remain, this will be a day of profound regret and even sorrow. The close final result will only have strengthened these feelings all round.

There will also be those who have felt disengaged from the long political campaign, and who still feel dismayed at the bitterness with which it was often conducted. It will be vital for us all, as we accept the result and deal with what it means, to understand and respect those who take different views of the same event.

In the debates that will come, we will be most effective if we now seek to heal the divisions of the past campaign. However, those divisions were about such deep issues of national identity and indeed self-identity that doing so will be a difficult and costly task. In the Church, it will be achieved through a renewed focus on what is unchanged, and on what is unchangeable.

As Christians we know, though sometimes need reminding, that our identity and relationships in Christ are forged by God, and are not determined by referenda or other political processes. Whether we voted Remain or Leave, or indeed not at all, we are brothers and sisters in Christ. In or out of the EU, we remain together members of Christ’s Body, commanded to build each other up and to love our neighbours. Our Christian identity is neither altered nor defined by how we voted last Thursday.

Nonetheless, in the coming days and weeks we have a unique opportunity to express our Christian identity, and to witness to it. We can do this in two ways. 

First, as we who took different views work together now the campaign is over. If we can be reconciled without bitterness, then we can be a reconciling people, helping our country to heal the deep divisions that arose in the campaign. As people call for kinder and gentler public debate, we have a responsibility to witness in this way to the gospel’s blessing of peace.

Secondly, as we speak up boldly in the coming debates for the Christian values we have always held: for peace, for reconciliation, and for a love of our neighbours – global and local – that drive us to meet the world’s needs and not just our own. As the Archbishops of Canterbury and York said in their statement this morning, ‘We must remain hospitable and compassionate, builders of bridges and not barriers.’ As our leaders put forward their proposals for our country outside the EU, our calling is clear: to pray for them, but also to hold them to account.

Throughout history, Christ has called his Church to follow him, and so to lead the way in pursuing the common good. The wonderful story of our own Cathedral testifies to this. It is my prayer that in our unity and in our love we may be good witnesses to our country and our world. 

Therefore, in this time of uncertainty, with its inevitable sense of disorientation – and even shock – for most people, whatever their views, let us all hold our country, Europe and the world in prayer, and let us be ‘ambassadors of Christ’ who has ‘entrusted the message of reconciliation to us’ (2 Corinthians 5:19).

Eternal God, Light of the nations,
in Christ you make all things new:
guide our nation in the coming days
     through the inspiration of your Spirit,
that understanding may put an end to
     discord and all bitterness.
Give us grace to rebuild bonds of trust
that together we may work for the
dignity and flourishing of all;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.
"

 

Bishop Christopher’s Presidential Address to the Diocesan Synod, in which he discussed the challenge of reconciliation that would face the country whichever way it voted, can be found here: http://www.dioceseofcoventry.org/images/document_library/UDR01400.pdf.

The full statement by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York on the referendum result can be found here: https://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2016/06/statement-from-archbishops-on-eu-referendum-result.aspx.

Prayers for reconciliation after the EU referendum, from the Church of England can be found here: https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-worship/topical-prayers/a-prayer-for-reconciliation-after-the-eu-referendum.aspx