TO ALL MINISTERS OF CONGREGATIONS IN NORTHERN IRELAND
Tuesday 31st May 2016
On 23rd June people across Northern Ireland will vote on whether the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union. In normal circumstances one of us would be writing to you closer to polling day, largely to ask you to encourage your members to participate in the Referendum as part of their responsibility as citizens. However, given the complexity of the matter, it was thought appropriate to communicate with you at this earlier stage.
It is fair to say that the debate so far has created much uncertainty and confusion, with many feeling overwhelmed by the conflicting statistics and figures, and the myriad of issues to consider. That said, thoughtful arguments have been made by Christians on both sides of the debate. It is clear that there is much more for us to consider as Christians than the predominant question of what will make us ‘better off’. Will we be better equipped to be peacebuilders within the EU or outside it? What might be best for the vulnerable in our society? What arrangements will enable us to more effectively welcome and care for the stranger? How might our mission as an all-Ireland Church be affected? These are just some of the questions that we have to consider. PCI’s Public Affairs Officer, Gavin Norris, and Church and Society Convener, Dr Norman Hamilton, have written articles in June’s edition of the Herald to help us think through some of the key issues, and included below are links to their recommended further reading. You may wish to share these materials with your congregation as they consider over the coming weeks how they might vote.
In the midst of what is often a highly charged and fearful debate, it is, to quote Dr Hamilton, ‘deliverance of the highest order to know that our identity is not determined by what goes on in Belfast, Dublin, London or Brussels, but by who and what we are in Christ Jesus’. In all the talk of where sovereignty should lie, we rejoice in the knowledge that ‘all things were created by him and for him’, and that in everything Christ has the supremacy (Colossians 1:15-20).
Yours in Christ,
Joint Public Issues Team EU Referendum resource for churches: http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/issues/eu-referendum/
Theos think tank report: http://www.theosthinktank.co.uk/publications/2016/01/21/a-soul-for-the-union
Church of England and Church of Scotland blog for Christian reflection and debate on the UK’s future relationship with Europe: http://www.reimaginingeurope.co.uk/
Jubilee Centre: http://www.jubilee-centre.org/the-eu-referendum-an-overview-from-a-biblical-perspective/
Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics: http://www.klice.co.uk/index.php/eu-referendum-2016