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08 July 2016

The Church of England told to trust in God’s authority following Brexit

The Church of England told to trust in God’s authority following Brexit

The Archbishop of Canterbury told the Church of England's General Synod that following Brexit, Christians need to give sufficient evidence to the world that they "do God a great deal".

The four-day meeting of the denomination's elected body began proceedings by debating the motion of the Most Revd Justin Welby, calling all to unite in "building a generous and forward-looking country, contributing to human flourishing around the world".

"This is a time for remembering the authority and power of God revealed in Jesus Christ," the Archbishop said.

"All around the world Christians suffer and yet trust – we can do no less."

Speaking to move this, he urged Synod not to accept fear as a decisive force in their thinking, although he did say that Christians need to "be real about the effect of fear on us".

"We are in His hands," he went on: "He raised Jesus Christ from the dead, He gives us the holy spirit to live as God's people in all times and all consequences."

The Archbishop instructed those gathered in the meeting in York to be governed by theology.

Moving forward, Archbishop Justin said the issue of integration needs to be tackled.

"It is perfectly clear that the result and the referendum campaign exposed deep divisions in our society, of which we were aware already."

The Archbishop said there were now some in the UK who felt fearful and rejected, "many of them with very good reason".

He condemned the racism and xenophobia seen since the referendum result: "The outburst of the last two weeks may pass, but the signal has been set at danger for cohesion, and the Church must respond.

"Although we have left the European Union, we have not left Europe."

The Synod also heard from two church leaders living in the European Union.

First was an ecumenical guest joining the Synod for the weekend, Bishop Ralf Meister of the Evangelical Church in Germany.

"Brexit is a democratic decision, but with all due respect for that, it has an enormous impact on the international community, especially the European situations and for Germany as well."

The bishop spoke the recent anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, saying that a Europe split in gated national communities will undermine a common period of social, economic, cultural and peaceful welfare in Europe.

But accepting the decision, he said: "The duty for the churches in Europe is not only to warn, but to give our people the hope that the liberation in God's grace will be the condition for a profound understanding of freedom, justice and peace.

The Bishop of Europe, the Rt Revd Robert Innes, spoke about his experiences in the Diocese of Europe.

Based in Belgium, he recounted how his friends there see the EU as a vital part of peacebuilding, perhaps in part because of their proximity to the site where the two great wars were fought.

"Everyone understands that the EU is imperfect, but my Belgium friends are deeply shocked and saddened that Britain is walking away from it," he said.

"But we must move on. We are where we are. Together we must rebuild a sense of common purpose and work through the chilly economic times that are already upon us."

Encouraging Synod members to partner their churches with churches in Europe, or strengthening the relationship if they already are tied to an international neighbour, the bishop said: "Christians must work on cross-border, cross-European bonds."

The Archbishop of York spoke about the impact of Brexit on young people.

He appealed to all young people in England to "focus their rage into acts of reconciliation".

The Very Revd John Sentamu warned against condemning the anger of others, as he said this anger towards the referendum result are the energies needed for human flourishing.

"Total transformation means the changing of lives so that the maladies that cause division are eliminated – total transformation based on renewal as was the case in Archbishop Desmond Tutu's restorative justice in the South African context."

The Archbishop of Canterbury closed the debate by recognising the validity of voters on both sides of the Brexit debate, and said the robust debate – which at times was "a little too robust" – means the results stands, and the Church must respond.

He said all local communities need to demonstrate that they're listening carefully to all people – whether young people who see uncertainty in their future or others who feel marginalised.

"We need to recognise the huge mountain we have yet to come."

This will not be done in our own resources, this will be done in the resources we have from the God that rose Christ from the dead, he concluded.

The Synod voted almost unanimously carry the motion forward, committing themselves to working together for human flourishing.

The Evangelical Alliance has released a resource to enable Christians to bridge divides and be salt and light across Europe for strong ongoing relationship: across the UK, across our communities, and in our churches. You can download the document here.