The statement is below:
The result of Thursday’s Referendum seemed to take even some who supported the Leave campaign by surprise. The announcement of the resignation of the Prime Minister, a year after victory at the General Election, adds to the level of uncertainty. The will of the people expressed in the Referendum must be honoured but no one has yet negotiated an exit from the European Union under the Lisbon Treaty so much is unpredictable.
In this diocese every voting district, except Norwich, voted Leave. Some areas like South Norfolk were very evenly split. Great Yarmouth saw a majority in excess of 70% for Leave. Norwich voted 56% to 44% in favour of Remain. It’s a reminder close to home of the division of opinion.
Therein lies a consequential danger of the outcome of this referendum. Ostensibly it has been about separation from the European Union. But it has revealed major divisions in the United Kingdom – between Scotland and Northern Ireland on one side and England and Wales on the other; between London and the rest of England since the capital voted heavily to Remain. But there are other divisions too – between north and south in England; between rural and urban; between young and old.
Such divisions are dangerous, especially after a campaign which was often shrill, bruising and alienating.
Our church communities, including this Diocesan Synod, contain people who voted on both sides in this referendum. There is no single Christian position on the European Union and membership of it. But there is a common Christian conviction that unity is better than division, hope better than despair and that we are always in partnership with Jesus Christ when proclaiming the good news. He offers salvation and redemption for all people in all places at all times.
So in the wake of this referendum we have much to do. First we should pray for our country and for the people of Europe. Then we should pray for our Prime Minister and for all Government ministers, indeed all politicians. The tragic death of Jo Cox is a reminder that the generous service given to their communities by so many Members of Parliament can be dangerous. Our political leaders need our prayer and support, never more so than now.
Further, in our local communities and in our churches we should be the agents of unity, always hospitable and not hostile and committed to the pursuit of the common good. As St Paul tells the Galatians “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6.9) Rarely have we had more gospel work to do.
God bless our country, and God bless you all.