So what do we do now?

Praying HandsWe have woken up to the biggest decision in British politics for the last 40 years. Many will be gratified; many will be shocked or surprised; many will be bitterly disappointed. It has resulted immediately in the resignation of the Prime Minister; it will have repercussions across the EU, and might begin a process of its break-up; it might lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom. And it will certainly usher in a period of economic uncertainty.

What should we do at such times? Can we do anything but turn to prayer?

We need to pray for those who feel devastated by the result, who feel a keen sense of betrayal of values they hold dear.

We need to pray for the family and friends of Jo Cox, who must feel doubly pained by the outcome.

We need to pray for those who have felt disenfranchised by political processes up till now, and used this vote to express this.

We need to pray for the deep divisions that this vote has exposed and perhaps exacerbated.

We need to pray for young people, who voted overwhelming to Remain, and their relationships with older people, who more often voted to Leave.

We need to pray for regional divisions, and the gap between those who feel they have done well from the prosperity of recent years, and those who feel they have been sidelined.

We need to pray for EU nationals who have moved here to live and work, and whose future is now uncertain as they face further upheaval.

We need to pray for British citizens living elsewhere in Europe, who have a similar sense of uncertainty.

We need to pray for the political leaders both here and in the rest of the EU, for wisdom and grace in future decisions and negotiations.

We pray for the poor, who are most likely to suffer from the coming economic uncertainty.

We need to pray for ourselves, that we continue to ‘act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God’ (Micah 6.8), that we ‘seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and all these others things will be given to you’ (Matt 6.33).

Eternal God, light of the nations, in Christ you make all things new:
guide our nation in the coming days through the inspiration of your Spirit,
that understanding may put an end to discord and all bitterness.
Give us grace to rebuild bonds of trust that together we may work for the dignity and flourishing of all. Amen.

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26 thoughts on “So what do we do now?”

  1. “We need to pray for the deep divisions that this vote has exposed and perhaps exacerbated.”

    Finding a way of dealing with the deep divisions that exist in the Church of England and Anglican Communion would be one way of making that prayer more real for people. If we can’t find a hopeful way of dealing with our own division, how do we realistically pray for the rest of the country to deal with its divisions?

    • I never fail to be impressed when someone manages to bring an issue entirely unrelated to questions of sexuality back to that subject, as if it were the issue around which the whole world revolved.

      But of course there is one big difference. In the question of Britain and Europe, we have not been making a decision based on an already agreed and shared understanding of what it means to be British, and reconciliation is as much about discussing that as anything else.

      The situation of the Church is quite the opposite. The doctrine and discipline of the Church has been clearly stated, and clergy have clearly signed up to honour that. So the disagreement here is about whether we honour what we have confessed, as well as the issue to hand, and is cast in the form ‘Is there sufficient reason to change the Church’s doctrine?”.

      So the dynamic of both disagreement and reconciliation is quite different.

      Nevertheless, Justin Welby makes a connection as you do.

      • Ian: could you please show where I ‘manage to bring an issue entirely unrelated to questions of sexuality back to that subject’. I don’t think I do at all.

        • Andrew,

          So, what are the presenting symptoms of what you call ‘deep divisions that exist in the Church of England and Anglican Communion’?

          • David: deep divisions was of course Ian’s phrase but in the C of E and Anglican
            Communion I’d say the presenting symptoms have been around ministry, approaches to scripture, approaches to ecumenism, environmental issues, etc etc. Do you think there have no such divisions?

          • Andrew,

            It was the comparison with Brexit which prompted Ian’s reference to deep divisions.

            Of course, there is division over the issues which you mention.

            However, ‘deep division’ would normally be attended bythe threat of schism.

            I very much doubt that differences across the Anglican Communion regarding, for instance, environmental policy, threaten schism.

            And, if none of these differences rise to that level, then they bear little relevance to Brexit, which does threaten the Union of the UK.

          • David: certainly environmental matters have not caused schism yet but of course there has been schism over matters like ministry and authority – hence we have tupenny churches like the ACNA and the GAFCON movement and the whole confessing Anglican nonsense and the Ordinariate. The fact that these schisms have occurred does not make the Church a good advocate of prayer for the deep divisions in our society about which Ian writes, and that was my point.

          • Andrew,

            Whatever point you sought to make, you lost me at the ‘tupenny churches’ in reference to ACNA and GAFCON churches (tupenny def. ‘of very little value; trifling; worthless’):

            These are the churches which you describe so contemptiuously:
            ACNA: 28 dioceses; baptised membership: 112,504.
            Rwanda: 11 dioceses; baptised membership: 1 million;
            Kenya: 33 dioceses; baptised membership: 4.5 million;
            Uganda: 35 dioceses; baptised membership: 8.7 million;
            Nigeria: 161 dioceses; baptised membership: 18 million;
            South America: 7 dioceses; baptised membership: 25,000.

            In comparison, as a member of the clergy, you really are priceless.

          • No Andrew, they simply believe in Jesus Christ and believe in the Bible. You have already lost the argument so just have the grace to accept it.

          • Oh dear Clive – the whole of idea of winners and losers is just so juvenile and exactly why we are in the mess that Ian describes in his post. We need to find a way of dealing with these deep divisions that isn’t about winners and losers.

          • Andrew,

            Perhaps you should look in the mirror before declaims the juvenile ‘winners and losers’ mentality.

            To be clear, I asked for the presenting symptoms of the deep divisions in the Anglican Church, seeing as you questioned Ian about why he thought your comment brought things back to sexuality.

            Instead of symptoms, you highlighted ACNA, GAFCON, Confessing Anglicans and the Ordinariate, where the presenting symptoms of division mostly relate to gender and sexuality.

            With what we know of the controversies which precipitated the formation of these organisations, ministry and authority are just euphemisms born of the self-same juvenile ‘winners and losers’ mentality which you decry.

            It’s a bit rich to describe ACNA and GAFCON as ‘tupenny’ and schismatic, while turning a blind eye towards TECUSA’s unilateral actions which provoked their formation.

            At least, Brexit respects those on both sides of the issue. I doubt that I’d hear Boris Johnson referring to ‘Remain’ campaigners as ‘tupenny’.

            Such disparaging is a far cry from what’s meant by ‘good disagreement’. So, instead of ‘winners and losers’, your distinction is respect for those who agree and contempt for those who don’t.

            Big deal!

  2. Ian,

    I agree that we should pray, but we should also seek divine counsel through scripture. Admittedly, Brexit presents entirely new situations and we should resist any attempt to glean scriptural parallels that cast either side as good and bad.

    Despite this caveat, the pros and cons of our current situation do remind me of the consequences of God granting Israel’s request for a king (1 Samuel 8)

    In one sense, just like the provision for a Referendum, it was a perfectly reasonable for Israel’s elders to desire a king. Especially, since Israel was seeking to become as a settled nation among its hostile neighbours in Canaan.

    In fact, repeatedly in Deuteronomy (and elsewhere) God made ample provision for a monarchy: ‘“When you come to the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ you may indeed set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. (Deut. 17:14 – 16)

    Also, there is substance to the Israelites’ complaint. In 1 Samuel, we see successive failures of hereditary leadership. Priestly heredity is overwhelmed by corruption when Eli connives at his sons’ selfish and hostile exploitation of sacrificial worship. Nevertheless, the prophetic office delvers God’s judgement.

    In like manner, judicial heredity is overwhelmed by corruption when Samuel’s sons resort to accepting bribes.

    Despite this, instead of collectively owning the problems that they faced, Israel’s elders simplistically distilled their woes into the resolution of a single issue: the lack of a king. And, now as much as then, we can see the mistake of believing that any one change, however momentous, will vastly improve our fortunes. Perhaps, to see that we need the world-weary cynicism of the writer of Ecclesiastes: Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher, All is vanity!

    For God, this simplistic view of life’s circumstances was a continuation of Israel’s rebellious accusations towards him during the Exodus. Repeatedly, the Israelites displayed the very human tendency to attribute their hardships to a single issue and to believe that rallying around a ‘single issue’ (in this case, the need for a king) would solve the central problem. So, while today, some blame Europe and immigration, tomorrow, the same people will blame benefits cheats, or single mothers, or tax exiles.

    Well, granting Israel a king was no panacea, which we shall also discover with Brexit. What might appear now to be the ‘best’ solution is founded upon an overly reductive view of the ‘problem’.

    It’s this oversimplified view that God challenged by telling Samuel to prepare Israel for the unexpected consequences, which would ensue: ‘“This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.

    But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”

    Regardless of how we might have voted, a truly prophetic church will emulate Samuel’s role in understanding and explaining the generational consequences of national decisions.

    Of course, Samuel’s prophecy found its most telling fulfillment in King Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, who declared to his subjects: ‘My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.’ This provoked the nation’s most vehement revolt, which impacted on the relationship between future generations, as Judah completely broke away to form the Southern Kingdom, while the rest of Israel became the Northern Kingdom.

    The real moral to this story (and Brexit) is not whether these kind of national decisions are right or wrong in principle, but to ‘be careful what we ask for’ because we and our descendants will have to live with the irreversible consequences.

    However great it may look now, the lesson from scripture is that, a ‘single issue’ cause may well be justified, but a ‘single issue; fix won’t solve our problems and may cause many more in later generations.

    As the Israelites learnt, we and our descendants will also have to learn to live with the short- and long-term consequences (whether good or ill) of this collective national choice.

    And I agree with Ian that It’s those consequences for ourselves, for our neighbours and for our future that demand our earnest collective prayers. For our church leaders to call now for a national day of prayer would really not go amiss.

    • Thanks, David, that is helpful. Democracy allows us to do stupid things, but we do it with our own voice. Should we prefer that other people decide for us with wisdom? That’s a tough call…

      • Ian,

        A though-provoking response. However, my main concern is that those, who now claim that Brexit will allow us to chart and take responsibility for our own destiny, will be the very people to highlight yet another scapegoat for the direct and indirect consequences of abandoning EU membership.

        Beyond the freedom of merely doing things with our own voice, true democracy accepts the responsibility incurred by the consequences ensuing from our own choice

        That will be far tougher ‘call’ of plebescite democracy, which we must heed…

  3. We also need to pray for British missionaries living in various parts of Europe (I am thinking of someone in Cyprus working with Muslims across the Middle East) whose salary/support has just lost 10% of its purchasing power where they live.

  4. Very good & helpful response! Thank you.

    Father God is not surprised by the outcome – amen

    As Christians whether in or out we never need to live in fear, coz Father has a big plan.

    R. T. Kendall said last Sunday whilst preaching in London, that church leaders on average only pray 4 mins a day. Shocking if true.

    May the prayer life of every Christian in the UK and in the EU increase over the coming weeks & months in the places where The Lord has placed His children and to shine for Him there. Most of us are in the workplace and one of the best ways to keep prayer going in work is to create Christian Workplace Groups

    We need you Lord


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