A group of Church of England bishops has issued an open letter on the prospect of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit and the need for national reconciliation, notwithstanding the potential prorogation of Parliament.The full text and list of signatories can be found here: Bishops issue open letter on Brexit.
This follows after the announcement yesterday that the Archbishop of Canterbury has been asked to chair a proposed “Citizens’ Forum” on Brexit. His public response to this is online: Archbishop Justin Welby’s response to invitation to chair Citizens’ Forum on Brexit.
“It is an unexpected privilege to be asked to chair this proposed Citizens’ Forum on Brexit. In the past this kind of gathering has, in many places and in difficult situations, opened the way for careful deliberation if at the right time and genuinely representative.
“I am honoured to be approached and would be willing to accept in principle, subject to some conditions which have not yet been met. The main three are first, and indispensably, that the forum should not be a Trojan horse intended to delay or prevent Brexit in any particular form. That power can only be exercised by the government and MPs in parliament. A forum must be open to all possibilities. Second, that it has cross party support (although its members will not be politicians). Third, the process must have time to be properly organised.
“Jesus Christ is the source of reconciliation and healing for individuals and society. It is obviously right that among many others the churches should contribute to the emergence of a dynamic and united country post-Brexit, however it may be achieved. Every one of us must play the part they can in this task.
“The need for national healing and eventually for a move towards reconciliation is essential, and will take much time, a deep commitment to the common good, and contributions from every source. This Forum is only one of many different efforts being made inside the political world and across the country before and after Brexit. Every effort counts.
“Let us pray for all those in government, parliament and political leadership. Let us pray for the people of this country whose lives will be affected in many ways by the momentous decisions that are made.”
The Church Times has reported on this invitation: Welby approached to chair a citizens’ forum on Brexit.
Update The Church Times has now reported on the bishops’ letter: Twenty-five bishops warn Government not to show ‘cavalier disregard’ for Parliament
Update 2 The Most Rev Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross & Caithness and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church has also issued a statement on the prorogation of Parliament.
Update 3 The full text of the invitation to the archbishop is available at Archbishop Cranmer, here.
The full text of the letter from the bishops, and their names, follows below the fold.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has conditionally agreed to chair a Citizens Forum in Coventry and, without prejudice for any particular outcome, we support this move to have all voices in the current Brexit debate heard.
However, we also have particular concerns about the potential cost of a No Deal Brexit to those least resilient to economic shocks.
As bishops with pastoral responsibilities in communities across urban and rural England, we respond to the call by Jesus to tell the truth and defend the poor. We also recognise that our obligations go beyond England and impact on relations with the wider UK and our neighbours in the EU.
Exiting the EU without an agreement is likely to have a massive impact on all our people and the Government is rightly preparing for this outcome. The Government believes that leaving the EU on 31 October is essential to restoring trust and confidence. It is unlikely, however, that leaving without an agreement, regardless of consequences, will lead to reconciliation or peace in a fractured country. “Getting Brexit done” will not happen on exit day, and we have to be transparent about the years of work ahead of us in bringing the country together for a better future. We also need to be frank about the potential costs.
Our main social and political priority must be to leave well, paying particular attention to the impact of political decisions on those most vulnerable.
We hold different views about Brexit and how our country should proceed from here. However, although we agree that respecting a public vote is essential, democracy and committed debate do not end after the counting of votes. Our concern for the common good leads us to express concern about a number of matters. Our conviction is that good governance can only ever be based on the confidence of the governed, and that includes minorities whose voice is not as loud as others.
Seeing the evidence of division in every part of England, we are deeply concerned about:
- Political polarisation and language that appears to sanction hate crime: the reframing of the language of political discourse is urgent, especially given the abuse and threats levelled at MPs doing their job.
- The ease with which lies can be told and misrepresentation encouraged: leaders must be honest about the costs of political choices, especially for those most vulnerable.
- The levels of fear, uncertainty and marginalisation in society, much of which lies behind the vote for Brexit, but will not be addressed by Brexit: poor people, EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in Europe must be listened to and respected.
- The Irish border is not a mere political totem and peace in Ireland is not a ball to be kicked by the English: respect for the concerns on both sides of the border is essential.
- The sovereignty of Parliament is not just an empty term, it is based on institutions to be honoured and respected: our democracy is endangered by cavalier disregard for these.
- Attention must be paid not only to the Union, but also to the meaning of Englishness.
Churches serve communities of every shape, size and complexion. We continue to serve, regardless of political persuasion. We invite politicians to pay attention with us to the concerns we register above and encourage a recovery of civil debate and reconciliation.
The Rt Revd Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds
The Rt Revd Donald Allister, Bishop of Peterborough
The Rt Revd Robert Atwell, Bishop of Exeter
The Rt Revd Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool
The Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham
The Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark
The Rt Revd Dr Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry
The Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford
The Rt Revd Tim Dakin, Bishop of Winchester
The Rt Revd Vivienne Faull, Bishop of Bristol
The Rt Revd Christopher Foster, Bishop of Portsmouth
The Rt Revd Richard Frith, Bishop of Hereford
The Rt Revd Christine Hardman, Bishop of Newcastle
The Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury
The Rt Revd Dr John Inge, Bishop of Worcester
The Rt Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave, Bishop of Lichfield
The Rt Revd James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester
The Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, Bishop of Truro
The Rt Revd and Rt Hon Dame Sarah Mullally DBE, Bishop of London
The Rt Revd Dr Alan Gregory Clayton Smith, Bishop of St Albans
The Rt Revd Martyn Snow, Bishop of Leicester
The Rt Revd Graham Usher, Bishop of Norwich
The Rt Revd Dr David Walker, Bishop Of Manchester
The Rt Revd Andrew Watson, Bishop of Guildford
The Rt Revd Dr Pete Wilcox, Bishop of Sheffield