I am writing to you as the Presidents of the General Synod to ask that an emergency motion on the outcome of last week's Referendum should be placed on the agenda of the forthcoming meeting in July.
It's now clear that our nation has suffered its biggest cataclysm since the last War. Its causes are complex and it's too early to understand them fully. However, we can now see that the future looks deeply uncertain politically, economically and in terms of the UK's place in the world of tomorrow.
It has, I admit, worried me greatly that our national church has not spoken as an institution about the Referendum. We have all known that the vote was coming since the general election of 2015. It would have been possible to schedule a General Synod debate in February 2016 even though the Referendum date was not yet known when the agenda was being planned. I find it extraordinary that in the face of a national decision wth such momentous ethical and social justice aspects to it (and I would add, theological too), the Synod and the House of Bishops have been collectively silent. It feels to me like a failure of spiritual leadership towards the people of England.
I did not anticipate that the Church of England would take a position on the European Union (though that is in marked contrast to the other national church in these islands, the Church of Scotland). Nor do I expect this now. However, at a time when England is so divided between London and the provinces, when the future of the Union here in Britain is at real risk, and when the entire continent of Europe is facing unprecedented turmoil, it seems to me all the more essential to allow a proper debate to help our nation find wisdom and stability as we move into an unmapped landscape.
The Church of England has always had a strongly international outlook. The Anglican Communion has of course required us to be an outward-facing church. But so have our flourishing relations with the churches in Europe, both east and west. I know how much these relationships mean to both of you. I am also grateful that that you both spoke personally about the Referendum during the campaign, along with other bishops, and this will have been helpful to many, not only within the churches.
However, not to grasp the opportunity posed by the imminent York Synod would, I think, baffle a great many people who, if not all committed Christians, are our friends and fellow-travellers. I realise that a great deal of synodical time is already committed to the shared conversations about human sexuality. I entirely support this as essential too. But you can imagine the headlines following the Synod's failure to debate this matter that is preoccupying the nation's mind: "Church of England shuns Brexit crisis debate in favour of sex!" That would not play well publicly.
As the founder of "Christians for Europe" and in a long series of blogs, I have not apologised for bringing a Christian perspective on the EU Referendum and making the case for Remain. But I am not asking the Synod to rerun the arguments on either side. What matters now is to chart a course for the future. The voice of the church needs to be heard as we try to set our bearings in this crisis. The General Synod can and must help us do that. So I urge you to allow a debate to take place that may make an important contribution in this process.
With best wishes and prayers,