British Baptists’ top leader assured continuing cooperation with the European Baptist Federation in an open letter to EBF leaders following Britain’s June 23 vote to leave the European Union.
“Today we, as the Baptist Union of Great Britain, declare afresh that we are one in Christ, and no referendum result will change that,” wrote Lynn Green, general secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain. “Despite all the challenges and opportunities of political, economic, cultural and environmental change we face across Europe, our first allegiance must always be to our Lord. We are first and foremost citizens of the Kingdom of God.”
Green, elected to lead British Baptists in 2013, said BUGB leaders “value enormously” their relationships with the 54 member unions that form the European Baptist Federation. “Not only do we count it a privilege to serve other Unions across Europe and the Middle East, we are also deeply served and enriched by the faith, insight and experience of leaders and churches from their differing contexts.”
“This not only happens through our formal gatherings, but also through the countless links with individuals and churches that we share with you,” she said. “In this way we experience what it means to be the Body of Christ.”
Earlier Green urged British Baptists not to get caught up in “alarmist and divisive narratives” resulting from the vote.
Green said the referendum, passed by a vote of 52 percent to 48 percent, revealed “some significant divergences of view across our nation.”
”We cannot deny that some people have used this referendum to express broader discontent,” she said, but in most communities “attitudes are not as polarized as some would suggest.”
“As those who are committed to God’s Kingdom, we would recognize shortcomings and injustices both within our own nation and the European Union,” Green said. “However, these will only be addressed by people coming together in common accord, and by rejecting narratives that would entrench and divide them.”
Factors driving support for Brexit included a desire by many Brits to exercise greater control over the country’s borders, drawing comparisons to U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump’s ideas to bar Muslims from entering the country and building a wall across the nation’s southern border to make it harder to immigrate illegally from Mexico.
The Joint Public Issues Team, which combines the public policy witness of the Baptist Union, the Methodist Church, United Reformed Church and Church of Scotland, issued “A recommitment to the Common Good” in response to the referendum.
“Across our communities, including in churches, some will face this with dismay; others with celebration,” the joint statement said. “The pattern of voting has revealed differences within the British people which will be interpreted in various ways. These should not become the tools of division, but spur us to find the common resolve and respect to overcome them.”
Green called on Baptist congregations across Britain to set time aside to pray for the nation as they meet for worship in the coming weeks.
“Our nation is now faced with significant uncertainty, not least in the light of the Prime Minister’s statement of his intention to resign,” she said. “Our Christian faith reminds us that God’s purposes have prevailed well beyond the Kingdoms, empires and political unions of this world. We have the potential to be a prophetic peaceful presence within our communities, and a responsibility to promote narratives of justice, hope and Common Good.”