My open letter to Church of England’s leaders on their apathy and lack of moral leadership on the rights of EU citizens in the UK. Surely I am not the only non-British member? Why don't you care about us?
I am a European Union citizen (Belgian) living in the UK, and a member of the Church of England. While I am not speaking on behalf of all EU-citizen members, I speak for many when I say that I am deeply disappointed about the lack of moral leadership exhibited by the Church with regard to Brexit, and, particularly, our rights as citizens and our dignity as human beings.
In particular, I was mortified and disgusted when the Lords Spiritual voted down an amendment to the Brexit Bill which would secure our rights in the event of no deal. Watching the Archbishop of York’s speech in the House of Lords, where he argued that we needed to get on with it, made my stomach turn. I should have thought that if anyone knew what it was like to feel like a foreigner, it would be he (he has talked about this on other occasions).
Now, we are months further, and it’s still quite possible that there is no deal, and our rights are all up in the air, because nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. A simple amendment to the withdrawal Bill could have stopped it. But it was not to be; so our uncertainty continues. Maybe the transitional deal will be scuppered because it is apparently such a burden to have EU citizens come in here to get the same rights as other EU citizens.
The Church, meanwhile, remains silent. My letters to Lambeth Palace go largely unanswered. When I do receive an answer, it is along the lines of “We’re already doing enough.” I quote from a recent letter I received: “I trust that these examples will reassure you that the Archbishop is aware of the concerns you have and is sympathetic to them.” (The examples are a few wishy-washy speeches about difficult and changing times.)
I used to go to church quite often, about weekly, but after the referendum it all changed. I felt that I could not show up there any more. The past two Novembers, I watched from a distance the 11 November ceremonies and wondered how I was ever part of it. Did I honestly sing “God save the Queen” along with the congregation? Who am I kidding? She is not my Queen, and the C of E is the Church for English people. I can’t talk to my vicar either, as my former vicar moved away shortly before the referendum and I have not been in touch with the new one.
So I feel lonely, alienated, and angry at the Church. Perhaps I am also angry at God for making this happen and staying silent while this is all going on under the guise of democracy. I doubt that my letter will change anything in the Church, but I just wanted to let you know: no, you are not doing enough; you need to stand up and show moral leadership.🔷
(Postscript: one of the few pieces by a CofE minister I saw about EU citizen rights is this one, by Graeme Richardson.)
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(This piece was first published in The Church Times.)