Update: After the UK’s vote to leave the EU, the following statements have been issued by the churches and Christian organisations:
Conference of European Churches (CEC)
CEC has called for a ‘renewed commitment to unity in divisive times’. CEC President, Rt Rev Christopher Hill, issued a reflection on the outcome of the vote.
Baptist Union of Great Britain
General Secretary, Lynn Green, has called for a prayerful response, stressing ‘the place which faith communities have in building wholesome and healthy communities and being an influence for good’.
Catholic Church in England and Wales
Cardinal Vincent Nichols has issued a statement saying:
‘A great tradition of the United Kingdom is to respect the will of the people, expressed at the ballot box. Today we set out on a new course that will be demanding on all.
‘Our prayer is that all will work in this task with respect and civility, despite deep differences of opinion. We pray that in this process the most vulnerable will be supported and protected, especially those who are easy targets for unscrupulous employers and human traffickers.’
Bishop Declan Lang, Bishop of Clifton:
‘We are living in a period of political uncertainty, facing a new future. At this time it is important that we have a sense of duty to work for the common good and not create barriers of division and prejudice.’
Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the EU (COMECE)
Statement from Cardinal Reinhard Marx, President of COMECE:
‘This decision of the British voters should of course be respected, even if we, as COMECE, find it extremely regrettable.
‘The European Union is a project of community and solidarity. A conscious withdrawal of a member is therefore painful and has consequences for all. The existing cultural and spiritual ties should be preserved, used and reinforced in the future.’
Read the full statement from Cardinal Reinhard Marx, President of COMECE on the Catholic Church in England and Wales website.
Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom
Statement by Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom:
‘Over this past week, the United Kingdom has experienced a series of significant, challenging and sometimes painful milestones. With the long-awaited results of the EU referendum, and the tragic death of Jo Cox MP in the lead-up, emotions are high and there is potential for hostility and divisiveness to flourish. There is however the more positive outcome, that these events serve as a catalyst for a greater unity and a collective stance for the good of all.’
Church of England
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, issued a joint statement saying ‘we must all reimagine both what it means to be the United Kingdom in an interdependent world and what values and virtues should shape and guide our relationships with others’.
Church of Ireland
The Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson has said:
‘At this time of considerable uncertainty for the people of Ireland following the outcome of the referendum on continuing EU membership in the United Kingdom, our hopes and prayers are for stability and clarity in finding the best path forward. Many people in Ireland fear the impact that this momentous decision will have on their lives in ways that are still incalculable and unknown. We pray for wisdom and foresight on the part of those who lead us politically, socially and economically and for those who will negotiate on our behalf on how best to express and fulfil our role in Ireland within the European Union.’
Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke:
‘While I am personally disappointed at the outcome of the UK referendum, nothing should deflect people across the island of Ireland from focusing on good relations with one another and ensuring that any sense of division is avoided at this time.’
Church of Scotland
Rt Rev Dr Russell Barr, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, has released a prayer, saying ‘I hope by releasing these words, people can find some hope and comfort amidst the instability this decision has inevitably caused. As a Church, this is not the decision our General Assembly sought but we have always recognised the differing opinions within our congregations as well as the wider community. Now the decision has been taken it is time to come together and consider how best to proceed. We wish to pray for courageous leadership which will make good decisions, reflecting the will of the people here, across the UK and the European continent. As Christians, we believe God knows no borders and as at this time of change we trust God to guide us in the coming weeks and months.’
Rt Rev Dr Russell Barr has also written to churches in Europe saying the Church of Scotland will always stand in solidarity with them.
Rev Dr Richard Frazer, Convener of the Church and Society Council for the Church of Scotland, gave his reaction to the UK’s decision to leave the European Union:
‘I believe this is a decision which many people will regret. The Church of Scotland has spoken out consistently over the last 20 years in favour of our continued membership to the European Union – but it is the democratic decision of people living in the UK and we must honour that’.
Church in Wales
Bishops of the Church in Wales:
‘In facing the outcome of the EU Referendum, we commend a period of calm and reflection as the UK seeks to find its way forward in this new situation.
‘As Christians we hold to the Gospel values of truthfulness, inclusion, and respect; and so after the passionate debate, we pray for reconciliation amongst the divided factions in our nations, communities and families.
‘We pray for the United Kingdom and for our partners in Europe and the rest of the world at this time of uncertainty, as we continue to work together to build a just and peaceful future in which all people can flourish.’
The statement is available on the Church in Wales website
Scottish Episcopal Church
‘The people have spoken and the will of the people must be respected’, commented the Most Rev David Chillingworth, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church. ‘Those of us who live in Scotland are aware that the outcome of the Referendum is potentially of great significance. We hope that our politicians on all sides will take time for careful reflection and consultation’.
See the Scottish Episcopal Church website for the full statement.
‘The UK must remain an outward-looking country and an international leader against poverty and global threats following voters’ historic decision to leave the European Union’, Christian Aid said.
Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT)
(United Reformed Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, and the Church of Scotland)
JPIT has offered reflection and prayer saying that the differences within the British people ‘should not become the tools of division, but spur us to find the common resolve and respect to overcome them’.
Methodist Church in Britain
The Revd Steve Wild and Jill Barber, the President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, have released a joint statement:
‘The people have spoken through the democratic process. We recognise that the result will cause pain to some people who voted with passion and integrity and that now is the time to move forward together with goodwill. The structures have changed but our hopes for a fair, just and equal society continue. We must now gather the political will to tackle poverty, climate change and the refugee crisis’.
Quakers in Britain
Quakers in Britain says ‘There is now a great need for bridge-building, for reaching out to one another in love, trusting that below the political differences lie a shared humanity and a wish for flourishing communities.’
United Reformed Church (URC)
URC General Secretary, John Proctor, has asked ‘what do churches say and do in immediate response to the decision to leave the EU? ‘
Read his full response to the EU referendum result on the URC website
World Council of Churches (WCC)
In a statement the WCC has said ‘it is clear that the UK cannot, by withdrawing from EU membership, isolate itself from the challenges facing the region and the world, including the political crisis in receiving refugees and migrants, and that collective reflection and action will be no less necessary to address those challenges in the interest of building human community’.
See the WCC website for the full WCC statement on the outcome of UK referendum
Other faith organisations
Inter Faith Network for the UK (IFN)
Co-Chairs and Vice-Chairs of the Inter Faith Network for the UK have issues a statement:
‘On Friday, the results of the European Union Referendum were announced. The UK has voted, by a majority of overall numbers of votes cast, to leave the European Union.
‘There are rapidly moving discussions and strongly held views on the issue.
‘An immediate need is extending support to those who have been targeted with abuse in the wake of the vote, including some members of the Polish community and also people from other ethnicities and of a number of faiths, including Muslim and Sikh. This abuse and hostility is entirely at odds with the values of tolerance, valuing of diversity, and mutual respect. IFN’s member bodies, like many others around the UK, will no doubt be finding ways to reach out and to be supportive at this difficult time.
‘We are entering a period when the need for bridge building within society will be more important than ever. Faith and inter faith organisations have an extremely important role to play in this as well as in contributing to the debate about future identity of the UK.’