New EU resources for churches
A series of briefing notes to help Free Churches reflect about the referendum on the European Union have been published by the Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT)
Think, Pray, Vote: EU referendum resources for churches is a 27-page document to be used for personal reflection or with groups ahead of the vote on 23 June.
It has been produced by the Joint Public Issues Team of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and the Church of Scotland to help Christians consider Britain’s membership of the European Union in the light of the gospel command to love your neighbour.
The resource ‘does not presume to say which way people should vote: rather, it explores the issues surrounding a range of aspects of membership of the European Union (EU), and offers different opinions and perspectives.’
It highlights seven issues: the single market; sovereignty and subsidiarity; the free movement of people; work and benefits; peace and international relations; care for the environment; and agriculture and food.
These may not all be the issues currently being covered in the media, but are ‘crucial questions about how the UK relates to the EU, now and in the future’.
Each of these issues concludes with a brief reflection, a series of questions, and Scripture passages which relate to the particular section.
The resource also features personal opinions from two Christians who will be voting in different ways in the referendum, and offers background information on the EU.
‘On either side of the debate there are individuals with passionately held views on the question of the UK’s membership to the EU,’ it states. ‘Whatever our position as Christians we should work to ensure that our discussions are respectful, our decisions are taken with good grace and that it is God’s kingdom that is central rather than our own.’
The Revd Phil Jump, Regional Minister Team Leader of the North Western Baptist Association, is a Baptist member of the JPIT team.
If we are serious about living as 24/7 disciples, this touches every aspect of our lives, including how we vote. So many of the narratives around the European referendum seem to be centred on self-interest and economic gain. It is vital that Christian people not only ask Christian questions about our future in Europe, but stimulate conversations in the public square about the things that really matter.
This resource does not seek to tell anyone how to vote, but it does explore key issues and how they relate to our understanding of the Kingdom of God.
The resource was welcomed by the Revd Tony Peck, General Secretary of the European Baptist Federation, who commented that while there were some areas he would have liked to have seen covered, it was nevertheless 'excellent material'.
Many have said that this Referendum will be decided on the basis of emotional response rather than reasoned debate, and perhaps the churches can show the way here in seeking to encourage a more integrated approach. The JPIT material seeks to explore some of the major issues in a straightforward and balanced way, bringing biblical and theological considerations to bear on them.
Inevitably those who complied this resource had to be selective. I would have like to have seen a whole section devoted to the political, social and theological aspects of the principle of 'solidarity' of countries with each other that so inspired the Christian founders of the EU, and which we now need to reflect on again as we look at life continuing within the EU or outside it. Also it might have been good to have included some reference to the excellent work with the European Institutions done by the Conference of European Churches (CEC), of which are all the JPIT participating churches are members. CEC is in regular dialogue with the European Institutions, seeking to bring a Christian voice to their deliberations and decision-making.
But let's use this excellent material to help us as Baptist churches to seek the mind of Christ together on what will be a critical and far-reaching decision for our nation!
For more on Think, Pray, Vote: EU referendum resources for churches, visit the Joint Public Issues Team.
The Joint Public Issues Team combines the expertise of the Baptist Union, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church in the area of public issues. The team aims to enable our four Churches to work together in living out the gospel of Christ in the Church and in wider society.