Wednesday, 9 March 2005

The Church and Europe

The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Christopher Herbert, who chairs the House of Bishops’ Europe Panel has written today to all senior Anglican clergy encouraging them to contribute to a more informed debate on Europe.
See this CofE press release Bishop calls for informed debate on Europe.
The text of the bishop’s letter is also below the fold here.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Guide to the EU can be found here.

The House of Bishops’ Europe Panel is a sub-committee of the House of Bishops. The Panel acts as a point of reference for items affecting the Church of England’s relations with Europe and the European Union institutions which arise in the House of Bishops and General Synod. The Panel is committed both to promoting and shaping an open and transparent Europe close to its citizens and to monitoring the EU institutions in so far as they affect Church life and practice.

The text of the Bishop of St Albans’ letter

Dear Colleague,

REF: Guide to the EU

You will know of my involvement with the House of Bishops’ Europe Panel. In the course of this work, I have met with the Minister for Europe, Dr Denis MacShane, and his colleagues at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. As a result of that meeting, I agreed to send key Church contacts a copy of the recent Foreign and Commonwealth’s Office compact Guide to the EU. This is enclosed. Please contact the Foreign Office directly, either in writing or via the order form at if you would like further copies.

The subject of the European Union, and the issues around the EU Constitutional Treaty can cause confusion and misunderstanding, and have been the focus of intense debate. There are clearly a wide range of views on the proposed European constitution as illustrated by the array of competing organisations such as Britain in Europe and the Campaign for an Independent Britain. Since the results of the EU Constitutional debate will have profound implications, one way or another, not only for Europe’s development but also for Britain’s role in Europe, it is crucial that this debate is well informed.

The new Constitutional Treaty is a Treaty under international law. Its purpose is to ensure that the diverse needs of the EU’s 25 members will be catered for democratically and efficiently. It contains new provisions obliging the EU to maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with churches and non-confessional organisations, as well as other representative associations and civil society.

As was observed during the July 2004 General Synod debate on Europe, it is important to ensure that Christian voices are heard in this debate. Yet, for Christians and others to contribute effectively to this debate it is important to have a working grasp of the issues involved. The enclosed Guide to the EU provides a helpful introduction to Europe which we hope will be of interest to you and your colleagues.

Yours sincerely,
Bishop of St Albans

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 9 March 2005 at 12:42pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

I confess that I cannot get excited about this subject. I remember once voting to join a Common Market. Rarther deceitfully, this has moved on to a union on which we have never had the opportunity to debate. Do we really want a government chiefly through departments staffed with nonelected officials, dictating to us from Brussels, imposing uniformity, sometimes to ridiculous lengths, with evidence of corruption that seems almost taken for granted now as being par for the course.

I'd still be in favour of a common market, and obviously want good relationships with people in other lands, but at present would certainly not wish to take on the rest that we are steadily having imposed upon us.

In any case, it isn't as if there exists any unity. We obey the dictates coming from Brussels, yet it seems that some other nations do preciely what they want.

I have read through the documents the bishop of St Albans refers to, but do not see any reference to a CHRISTIAN take on the subject. Perhaps I've missed it. Nor does Christopher Herbert offer comments of this nature himself. As he is the chairman of the House fo Bishops' Europe panel, it would be interesting to ascertain whether he thinks that the Christian cause has been enhanced in any way as a result of membership of the E.U. I have yet to see anything of this nature coming from this quarter, but again it is possible that I have missed it.

Is there in fact an Anglican point of view on Europe?

Posted by: Robert Leggat on Friday, 11 March 2005 at 9:21am GMT

Rober Leggat asks whether there is an Anglican take on Europe.

My impression is that there is a Europe-shaped hole in much Anglican ecclesiology, with Rome pretty much regarded as a parish in the Diocese of Gibraltar (or whatever it's calling itself this week).

So far as secular politics are concerned, I must confess to some ambivalence. In principle, as a socialist and trade unionist, I'm against the EU because of its enshring of the capitalist system as normative. In practice, I would have to concede that Europe does give some valuable protection through social policy which we would not get from a Tory or "New Labour" regime in Britain.

Posted by: Alan Harrison on Friday, 11 March 2005 at 5:24pm GMT
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