The Church must now reconsider its europhile bent
A few years ago, the Church of England’s ‘Europe Spokesman' in the House of Lords was highly critical of David Cameron's terse negotiating style in the European Council, calling it "disastrous". The then Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Christopher Hill (now Clerk of the Closet), who chaired the House of Bishops’ Europe Panel, said: “In the long term, it will be disastrous if we were actually isolated from the rest of Europe, economically and in terms of international relations... We are part of Europe, culturally and historically.”
We are, to coin a phrase, associated with Europe but not absorbed. The problem the Church of England has is that all of its bishops - including both the archbishops of Canterbury and York - are fervent supporters of Britain's membership of the European Union. They may quibble about aspects of its functioning or raise scruples over its institutional aloofness, but they are all persuaded that a divided continent is a tragedy for the Church; that mission is best served by a unified polity with a strong social dimension which is not subject to the inconveniences and whims of democracy.
Britain out of the EU would not be "isolated from the rest of Europe", not least because Europe is not the EU. Historically, Britain's economic might and global influence came as a direct consequence of the Reformation: it was the Protestant faith and a Reformed Church which permitted England to run her affairs, without recourse to Rome. Thomas Cromwell drafted the fairly decisive Statute of Appeals which established this: "An Act that the appeals in such cases as have been used to be pursued to the See of Rome shall not be from henceforth had nor used but within this realm."
We are undoubtedly "part of Europe, culturally and historically", and yet we are apart. The Supreme Governor of the Church of England wears the Crown of the United Kingdom, and Parliament governs in her name. Of course, by virtue of her EU citizenship, she is subject to foreign courts and so no longer sovereign. But what Parliament can give away, it can reassert.
It is true that the European structures were "created for peace" after the major wars in the 20th century. But the structures need reform for greater accountability. We have learned after 40 years that this is not possible - not least because they were never designed to be accountable to the people - and there comes a point where you have to say enough is enough.
There is something spiritually, economically and politically naive about the belief that the the answer to all our problems is "more Europe", which will doubtless be the pan-European response to these elections. For our bishops and archbishops, it is as though Europe is the supranational way, truth and life: all things were made by it, and without it was not anything made which was made.
Both the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church are pathologically predisposed to bouts of Europhilia, sometimes verging on Eurotica. They’ve got Europe Panels, Europe spokesmen and Bishops' Conferences, all ostensibly concerned with the ‘Soul of Europe’ to ‘encourage the religious communities to present projects meetings, seminars social activities...; to contribute to the recognition and understanding of the ethical and spiritual dimension of European unification and Politics’.
Daniel Hannan MEP observed a few years ago:
As regular readers of this blog will know, one of my own recurrent themes is that the EU always pits the top brass against the Poor Bloody Infantry. This is true of the CBI, the TUC, the NFU, most political parties and, for that matter, most churches. I'll never forget walking past my local parish church in 1992 and seeing, among the prayers being posted, one for "the Maastricht Treaty and peace in Europe".Let us by all means continue to pray for peace in Europe, but the EU's "ever closer union" is fast becoming a grievous cause of civil unrest and rising fascism. When it comes to 'Europe', there is an epistemic distance between the laity and the episcopacy. It is time for lay members of both the churches of England and Rome to object to this obsessive europhiliac nonsense, and to do so at the highest levels. God Himself instituted the separate nation states, and He appoints their kings, parliaments and legislatures. Britain would not be "isolated" if we were to leave the EU: secession would not be "disastrous".
It is not for the Shepherds of the Church to instil fear into their flocks. And neither is it their task to help re-create a political empire under the guise of missiological imperative. Jesus never aligned himself with the political ideology or objectives of the pagan Roman Empire: his modern representatives on earth ought to have no truck with its secular and increasingly anti-Christian successor.