It has been a while in coming: the Bishops and Archbishops of the Church of England have to-and-froed on the Referendum result, and blown hot-and-cold on Brexit, and wax-and-waned on the meaning of democracy in the present morass into which we are sinking, but now they have issued a statement every bit as unanimous as that which emanated from from the Supreme Court.
Their focus is, necessarily and justifiably, on the use of certain language, but there’s one sentence, or half of a sentence, which evidences a certain democratic enlightenment:
As Bishops of the Church of England, we make this statement conscious of the great challenges to our nations and to their leaders. In writing, we affirm our respect for the June 2016 Referendum, and our belief that the result should be honoured.
In the last few days, the use of language, both in debates and outside Parliament, has been unacceptable.
We should speak to others with respect. And we should also listen. We should do this especially with the poor, with the marginalised, and with those whose voices are often not heard in our national conversation. We should not denigrate, patronise or ignore the honest views of fellow citizens, but seek to respect their opinions, their participation in society, and their votes.
The teachings of Jesus Christ call for us to be generous and humble servants; virtues which are for all leaders, whatever their faith.
We call on politicians to adhere rigorously to the rule of law and on all to respect and uphold the impartiality of the courts and our judiciary.
Our concern is also for the structure and the constitution of the United Kingdom. To use the words of Jesus, we must renew the structures that enable us to “love one another”. Changes to our principles and values of government, if necessary, should be through careful planning and consultation.
It is easy to descend into division and abuse – climbing out and finding unity again takes far longer. Further entrenching our divisions, whether from uncertainty or from partisanship, is not worthy of our country nor the leadership we now need. We are a body that understands from our own experience the dangers of division. It is our view and most solemn warning that we must find better ways of acting.
The College of Bishops appear to have realised what the Archbishop of Canterbury has long known: that the growing acrimony over the debate on Britain’s withdrawal from the EU is contingent on (/caused by) the chronic failure of Parliament to deliver on the result. When democracy is denied; when the ballot box offers no resolution or effects no change, what recourse does the demos have? It may begin with “unacceptable” language, but where does it lead?
This anonymous Minister has been criticised for his inflammatory language and condoning violence. S/He didn’t, of course: there is simply a cause-and-effect observation: the UK will face mass riots on scale of the Gilets Jaunes if Brexit is frustrated: “We are talking about a violent, popular uprising… In this country we never had the gilets jaunes or the LA riots… Now they have a model – gilets jaunes – they have encrypted phones to co-ordinate it, and it only takes a couple of nasty populist frontmen to inspire people.”
And so the College of Bishops helpfully (and unanimously) calls for for the result of the 2016 EU Referendum to be honoured, to be given effect, so that Brexit is realised. Further, “We should not denigrate, patronise or ignore the honest views of fellow citizens, but seek to respect their opinions, their participation in society, and their votes.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury told The Times: “The foundations of our unity and way of life are being challenged. There needs to be a cooling of tempers on all sides in order to enable people to try to come to an agreement to see what solution can unite the country and do what has to be done.”
But presumably it’s still okay for bishops to call the Prime Minister an “amoral liar“.
And it’s still okay for bishops to call Brexiteers “traitors to the EU“.
And it’s still okay for bishops to smear the Prime Minister with a hint of right-wing extremism/fascism/Nazism:
Wasn’t Jeremy Corbyn praised by BNP leader Nick Griffin and the former leader of the Ku Klux Klan? Perhaps the Bishop of Liverpool missed that (not to mention the support received from Hamas, Hezbollah and the IRA). Is that where we want to go?