The Church of England can make a difference. Before the 2016 EU referendum vote, leading bishops sought to offer an appearance of neutrality which could easily be confused with disengagement. In the strange “between time” between the referendum and today, they belatedly sought to play the part of civic reconciler, urging churches to hold “tea and prayer drop-ins” to encourage better conversations (News, 22 March).
Unfortunately, clergy were not given either adequate notice or a supply of extra tea bags. The project occasioned more satire than mutual understanding. When it comes to improving Anglo-European understanding after Brexit, however, the Church does have significant, if latent, gifts to bring to the table.
To date, the C of E’s ecumenical relationships in Europe have mainly been appreciated by those who have specialist interests or personal ties to the partner Churches. Those partnerships could now be a source of social capital.
The Porvoo, Meissen, and Reuilly agreements connect us, respectively, with Christians in the Nordic and Baltic States, France, and Germany. After Brexit, link-scheme visits, exchanges, and prayer cycles might carry a new significance, emphasising a “bond in the spirit” with people to whom we are no longer bound by laws or trade.
Most people in the pews know little or nothing of the work of the fast-growing diocese in Europe. It, too, could be a valuable resource. Parishes and deaneries on “the mainland” might twin with their equivalents in the diocese in Europe for friendship and mutual support.