The EU Referendum
On Thursday 23 June 2016, the people of Greater Lincolnshire voted overwhelmingly in support of leaving the European Union.
The country followed a democratic process, and all of us who voted did so in good faith. Those of us who are disappointed should not cry foul just because the decision did not go our way. Those who are pleased and excited should work hard to understand the concerns and principled position of those who voted to remain. All of us must respect the outcome of the referendum and not seek to diminish the views of those with whom we disagree.
In reflecting on the referendum, we are especially concerned for those who feel vulnerable and frightened or who fear for their livelihood. It is our duty now to work together to provide reassurance and to strengthen cohesion in our communities, and not further to divide them. We hope that you will join us in this task.
What can we learn from the referendum?
- It has revealed that there are deep divisions in our nation: between Scotland and England; between London and the regions; between younger and older people; between those who are comfortable and those who feel alienated. We thank God that we live in one of the most open and tolerant societies in the world. This is a privilege, and it brings with it the responsibility to be careful about how we express our differences.
- The referendum has given clear voice to many who feel left behind by changes to working practices and job security; to access to housing, social services and benefits; to education; to the social composition of neighbourhoods and regions. We pledge ourselves to do all that we can to listen to this voice and to ensure that all who feel left behind, for whatever reason, are genuinely listened to with respect.
- This is an uncertain and unsettling period of time for us; but how we conduct ourselves, how we determine the values we live by - these things are in our hands, and guided by the Holy Spirit we believe that we have the capacity to shape a positive future for all.
How might a Christian respond?
The Christian gospel is quite clear that divisiveness, discrimination, and self-interest should have no place in the better society Jesus calls us to build.
Jesus taught us that love of God and love of neighbour are the fundamental tenets of faith. Christians have a duty to challenge anything that undermines these principles. Our neighbours are not just those we live next to, or 'people like us'; our neighbour is anyone who needs our help, whoever they are and wherever they have come from. This is the foundation of community - a compassion for our common humanity. We are all made in the image of God, and part of our calling is to recognise and nourish the image of God in those we meet in the course of our daily lives.
The rise in racist and intimidatory behaviour in various parts of our country is disturbing and sickening. We know you will join us in utterly condemning such appalling behaviour. We pray that we may all work together to ensure that Greater Lincolnshire is a safe place to live for everyone.
The people who were our neighbours before the referendum vote are still our neighbours today. We must continue to care for our neighbours, whether in our own communities, in our country or around the world. No person is more or less deserving of safety, happiness, prosperity, respect or peace.
We have witnessed months of often bitter and damaging debate with half-truths being peddled on both sides of the argument and this has led to fear. As Christians we believe that love casts out fear - that in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ love has overcome hate once and for all.
Whether you voted in or out, therefore, we hope you will join us in recommitting yourselves to working together for the common good and to ensuring that our future in Greater Lincolnshire reflects grace and hospitality, compassion and love, and the justice of Jesus - so that everyone can flourish as sons and daughters of God.
Please find below some Biblical texts to which we have turned in recent days. We invite you to join us in reading them and in reflecting on what God might be telling us through the words of Scripture.
This letter comes with our prayers for you all and for God's people everywhere.
Some biblical resources to aid reflection:
Genesis 21: 15-20
Isaiah 1: 12-17
Micah 4: 1-4
Micah 6: 8
Mark 12: 28-34
Luke 10: 25-37
Romans 12: 9-21
1 Corinthians 13
2 Corinthians 5: 16-19
Galatians 3: 27-28
James 1: 19-26
1 John 3: 11-17
1 John 4: 7, 8, 16b-21