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Bishop speaks at General Synod

Last week during the General Synod of the Church of England, Bishop Christopher took part in the Archbishops' debate on 'National Divisions'.

The Bishop said:

I’m glad Synod has come to know my companion bishop, Paul Korir from Kapsabet Diocese in Kenya, with his question: ‘Is it well with your soul’?

This debate is about the soul of Britain; and it is not well. The soul of the nation is damaged. I agree with much of the analysis of the symptoms and causes. But I contend that there is a cause we should name more clearly lest we mirror the national debate. It is the damage that we have done to the soul of Europe of which we are – by history and geography, culture and religion – inextricably part.

What love have we shown to our neighbour in Europe? Where in our national debates has been the question: not ‘Is our exiting or our staying in the EU good for us, for our identity and prosperity’ but ‘Is it good for our neighbours who live in next door countries?’.

When have we considered that the loss of the British economy to the EU is the equivalent to 20 smaller nations leaving?

When do we say that No Deal Brexit is morally indefensible because of the toll it will take on ordinary families across the EU whose livelihood it threatens?

Whether Brexit happens or by some strange turn history halts it, the wounds of the war of words that it has unleashed in our land and between our land and the lands of our partners, will need healing. Before the referendum David Cameron is said to have worried about the demons it would let loose. The demons of demeaning the other, the European other, the religious other, the British ethnic other, the British other with whom we disagree about the EU are running wild.

This summer one of our children married a wonderful German woman in the ruins of Coventry cathedral. In a sacred place desecrated by war and destroyed by hatred they vowed in English and German to love each other. Their great grand-fathers fought in the first world war. Their grandfathers in the second. Their fathers grew up when that war still cast its long shadow. As their generation danced the night away on a summer’s night in Coventry, I saw that they have a new challenge.

And that’s to demonstrate that there is a deeper union beyond the contractual arrangements of our membership of the EU that binds the nations of Europe together in a covenant of common life and purpose.

In June 2016 the city of Dresden was in the middle of a British themed festival. When the result of the referendum came through, the revellers sang, ‘You say good bye, we say hello’.

For the sake of the soul of Europe and the soul of Britain, the leadership of our nation – even in the heat of last-minute negotiations – needs to retune to that same key of generosity: the gospel key of loving our neighbours as ourselves. The key that opens the door to reconciled relationships. The key that unlocks the true calling of a godly nation – to be a blessing to others.

To find out more about what happened at the General Synod click here.

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