[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has set out his support for the U.K.’s continuing membership in the European Union. Voters in the U.K. will vote in a referendum on June 23 to decide whether they will leave or remain in the 28-member political and trading union. Opinion polls show the nation is evenly divided on the issue and Welby says that there is no official Christian or church line on which way to vote. “Voting is a matter for each person’s conscience,” he said.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday at the weekend, Welby said that U.K.’s Christian heritage was built on the “glorious principles” of the Beatitudes. “Among those principles are a vision of peace and reconciliation, to being builders of bridges, not barriers,” he said.
“The principles Jesus taught and which have so shaped us also include love for the poor, the alien and the stranger. The EU came together in a Europe broken beyond description by war, and has shaped a continent which until recently has contributed to more human flourishing, and more social care, than at any time in European history.”
In the article, which was also published on his website, Welby described the decision to be taken by voters in the referendum as “a choice that will change the lives of all of us, and the next generations, both for this country and indirectly for much of Europe.
“Sacrifice, generosity, vision beyond self-interest, suffering for others, helping the helpless, these are some of the deeply Christian principles that have shaped us. They are principles that show us at our best, as an example to other countries, as a home of freedom and democracy, as a beacon of hope that shines around a dark world.
“They are forward looking virtues. Those who fought in two world wars were not looking back but forward. Those who built the EU after the two wars, in which millions of Europeans had died, looked forward.
“The vision for our future cannot be only about ourselves. We are most human when we exist for others.
“This referendum seems to me to be so important because it is about our vision of what kind of country we are, for ourselves and for the world.”
Welby acknowledged the “very blunt” language of the referendum campaigns, but said that “this is the question of a generation, and merits passionate campaigning.”
He continued: “Personally, I have huge respect for politicians on both sides as they seek to put their case, a case in which they genuinely believe, and which they know matters hugely. Apart from anything else those who pray should pray for them all, especially given the strain they face.
“There is no official Christian or church line on which way to vote. Voting is a matter for each person’s conscience. Two things are sure. Each of us should turn out and vote if we can. And after the referendum we must come together as one people to make the solution we choose work well.”
In a video message released to coincide with the Mail on Sunday article, Welby said: “My prayer is that we make that decision with a sense of generosity and vision of what we can be in the world: a vision based on our history and our past, and a vision that is full of ambition, of self-sacrifice, of being here for others.”