General Assembly reaffirms position on European Union

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The General Assembly

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has overwhelmingly backed the case for remaining in the European Union one month before the UK referendum takes place.

During a short debate, commissioners heard a range of voices recognising the European Union's success in promoting peace, security and reconciliation.

The motion to remain was carried with a clear majority stamping their feet in the Assembly Hall on the Mound.

Rev Aniko Schuetz Bradwell, a minister in East Lothian, said she had grown up in East Germany close by the dividing wall until it was torn down when she was 7 years old.

"On the 23rd of June I will not have a vote despite having lived in Scotland for 10 years," she added.

"I was born and grew up in East Germany behind a wall, and not even very far from it.

"I was 7 years old when that wall came down, and I still remember vividly how much life changed for us afterwards.

"We have a choice now and I hope we will choose to build bridges, not to erect another wall."

Sleepless nights

Rev Anita Stutter, a minister in Aberdeenshire, said she wished the Assembly to recognise the deep anxiety the referendum is causing millions of people across Europe.

"I have been in this country for nearly 20 years, I have paid my taxes and raised my children,she added.

"I never considered myself an immigrant until the last few months. It comes as a great anxiety for myself and other people who have made their homes here, as well as the many UK citizens who are now living in other European countries.

"If you count them up this is nearly 5 million people living with great sleepless nights and uncertainty of what will happen to us if the UK chooses to leave."

Rev Dr Karen Fenwick, a minister in Angus, registered her objection to the Church appearing to tell people how to vote.

"We are not a political party or a trade union," she said.

"I think the Scottish public are quite capable of knowing we support the EU without us telling them what to do."

Ms Fenwick's motion to remove the section of the motion endorsing remaining in the EU failed to gain support. Later, she said she was a supporter of remaining in the European Union, but felt the Church should remain neutral to preserve its ability to provide pastoral support during and after the process.

Transformation

Church and Society Council Convener, Rev Sally Foster Fulton welcomed the Assembly's continued backing for membership of the European Union.

She said "For the last 20 years we have recognised the European Union's achievements in promoting peace and security.

"We reaffirmed that position today. We are not for one moment telling people how they should vote.

"We are saying as a Church that much has been gained by being a part of the European Union, and we believe there is a great deal we can do in the future as an integral part of Europe.

"We recognise it is not perfect, but the EU is a work in progress and not the finished product. The only way we can continue to be part of the transformation is to remain within it."

Today's vote is the fifth time in the last 20 years the General Assembly has supported ongoing membership of the EU, following a substantial report in 1996 and shorter updates presented in 2002, 2005, 2014 and today.

Engagement

The motion carried by an overwhelming majority of 730 Commissioners gave thanks for the work of the European Union in promoting peace, security and reconciliation amongst European nations, noted that the UK has been part of the European Union since 1973 and believed that the UK should remain in the EU.

They also instructed the Church and Society Council, in the event of a decision to remain in the EU, to explore ways of increasing understanding of and engagement with the European Parliament and EU institutions.

Resources

If you would like further information to help you make up your mind on the European Referendum, the Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office is supporting the 'Think, Pray Vote' resource produced in partnership with the Joint Public issues Team. The Church is also in partnership with the Church of England through the Reimagining Europe blog.