JOINT STATEMENT ON THE CHRISTIAN VALUES OF NATION BUILDING
2nd September 2019
FR STEPHEN MITCHELL, SS PETER & PAUL, EDENBRIDGE,
THE REV’D MEL COMMANDEUR OF THE EDEN CHURCH, THE REV’D SUE DIGGORY OF HOLY TRINITY, CROCKHAM HILL
FR BENEDICT FADOJU, ST LAWRENCE CATHOLIC CHURCH EDENBRIDGE
FOLLOWING THE DECISION TO SUSPEND PARLIAMENT
Some three years ago this country voted by a small majority to leave the European Union. Since then, and doubtless because the vote was so close, the opposing sides have continued to argue with great passion about the best way forward. Knowing the sensitivities of all this we, your clergy, have chosen to say little about this issue recognising that good Christian folk find themselves on opposing sides of this question for heartfelt reasons.
But now things have changed.
Many of those who voted to remain are still wedded to what they see as the European ideal whilst, those who wanted to leave have grown increasingly frustrated by our seeming inability so to do. Parliament has singularly failed to approve the Deal, agreed between our last PM and the EU, but seems equally keen to avoid what has become known as a No Deal Brexit whereas our new Government believes it represents the people when it says we must leave at all costs on 31 October, Come what may.
Claiming that this is the only way forward and that such is a perfectly normal Parliamentary procedure, our present PM has now decided to prorogue Parliament. For many this is simply a step too far, a way of closing down debate and of depriving our legitimate representatives of their voice. Whatever some might say, there is little by way of precedent for this move and all attempts to defend it in terms of the normality of a recess at this time of year, the need for a new Queen’s Speech etc, are disingenuous.
For some of us at least this new development sets a dangerous precedent and silencing debate at a time such as this is worthy only of those regimes against which this country has fought time and again at no little cost to our people. This move is not worthy of our great liberal tradition. As Christian clergy we believe that discussion and debate reflect the will of God as to the way human persons should deal with issues in the public sphere. Closing down such debate, however good the practical reasons might be, would seem, therefore to be contrary to the will of God.
To stifle the voice of dissent must be seen as fundamentally unchristian as it runs counter to a Christian anthropology which sees us all as created equal with a contribution to make to the Common Good through discussion and argument however heated and passionate the debate might become.
Now, some would say the Remainers lost the argument and that the voice of the majority should prevail and that this means the Government’s will is paramount. But Christianity has never been that naïve about democracy. As Pope Benedict once said,
Truth is not the result of a majority vote.
Just because you lose doesn’t, of itself, mean you are wrong, and it certainly doesn’t mean you lose your right to voice an opinion. This right is inalienably yours as a child of God created in his image and likeness.
Yes, it is easy to understand the frustration of those most committed for whatever reason to our leaving the EU, but the struggles of the last three years are surely only testament to the divided state of our country and the importance with which all of us regard this momentous issue. This is a once and for all event with no change of mind possible in five years’ time. We must let debate flourish.
If we do not, we risk leaving a significant number of people feeling marginalised and unheard; EU citizens living here feeling even more excluded than they do already; and the rest of the world wondering at the cavalier way in which the Mother of Parliaments could be so easily silenced for the benefit of a Government not a little short on both moral and political authority.
Therefore, we encourage you all,
·to pray for our country at this time of trial;
·to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit on those who would lead us;
·and, perhaps most importantly, to attempt to discern the face of Christ even in those with whom we disagree.