09 March 2005
The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Christopher Herbert, who chairs the House of Bishops’ Europe Panel has written today to all senior Anglican clergy encouraging them to contribute to a more informed debate on Europe.
In a letter accompanying a copy of the Foreign Office’s compact Guide to the EU, as well as details of some other sources of information, the Bishop of St Albans writes:
‘Since the results of the EU Constitutional debate will have profound implications, one way or another, not only for Europe’s development but also for Britain’s role in Europe, it is crucial that this debate is well informed. …. Yet, for Christians and others to contribute effectively to this debate it is important to have a working grasp of the issues involved. The enclosed “Guide to the EU” provides a helpful introduction to Europe which we hope will be of interest to you and your colleagues.’
Speaking in support of the initiative the Minister for Europe, Dr Denis MacShane, said:
‘I’m delighted that the Church of England has chosen to distribute the Foreign Office Guide to the EU, and to ensure that its members are engaging in a full and frank debate. I would encourage any other organisation, religious or otherwise, who want copies of the EU Guide to write to me at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.’
This initiative, which followed a meeting with the Minister for Europe, was prompted following a debate by the Church of England of General Synod in July 2004 which urged the Church to join in debate and action for the future of Europe and to work to ensure that the Church can speak with a common voice on this issue.
- The Bishop of St Albans’ letter is attached below.
- The FCO’s “Guide to the EU” can be found at: http://www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=1007029393402
- The House of Bishops’ Europe Panel is a sub-committee of the House of Bishops. The Panel acts as a point of reference for items affecting the Church of England’s relations with Europe and the European Union institutions which arise in the House of Bishops and General Synod. The Panel is committed both to promoting and shaping an open and transparent Europe close to its citizens and to monitoring the EU institutions in so far as they affect Church life and practice.
- In 1973 a motion passed by the Church of England’s General Synod affirmed “that British membership of a community which (based as it is on a common understanding of human rights and liberties) counts among its aims the reconciliation of European enmities, the responsible stewardship of European resources and the enrichment of Europe’s contribution to the rest of mankind, is to be welcomed as an opportunity for Christians to work for the achievement of these ends.”
- In July 2004 the General Synod approved a report, The Church of England and Europe. This report committed the Church “to work locally, nationally and internationally with other churches to ensure the most effective presentation of the Gospel, to join in debate and action for the future of Europe, the harmony and values of its peoples, and the building of peace and social justice on this continent and beyond”.
The text of the Bishop of St Albans’ letter
REF: Guide to the EU
You will know of my involvement with the House of Bishops’ Europe Panel. In the course of this work, I have met with the Minister for Europe, Dr Denis MacShane, and his colleagues at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. As a result of that meeting, I agreed to send key Church contacts a copy of the recent Foreign and Commonwealth’s Office compact Guide to the EU. This is enclosed. Please contact the Foreign Office directly, either in writing or via the order form at www.europe.gov.uk if you would like further copies.
The subject of the European Union, and the issues around the EU Constitutional Treaty can cause confusion and misunderstanding, and have been the focus of intense debate. There are clearly a wide range of views on the proposed European constitution as illustrated by the array of competing organisations such as Britain in Europe (http://www.britainineurope.org.uk/) and the Campaign for an Independent Britain (http://www.cibhq.co.uk). Since the results of the EU Constitutional debate will have profound implications, one way or another, not only for Europe’s development but also for Britain’s role in Europe, it is crucial that this debate is well informed.
The new Constitutional Treaty is a Treaty under international law. Its purpose is to ensure that the diverse needs of the EU’s 25 members will be catered for democratically and efficiently. It contains new provisions obliging the EU to maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with churches and non-confessional organisations, as well as other representative associations and civil society.
As was observed during the July 2004 General Synod debate on Europe, it is important to ensure that Christian voices are heard in this debate. Yet, for Christians and others to contribute effectively to this debate it is important to have a working grasp of the issues involved. The enclosed Guide to the EU provides a helpful introduction to Europe which we hope will be of interest to you and your colleagues.
Bishop of St Albans