Church leaders call for urgent debate on terrorism, Grenfell fire and election

Archbishops of Canterbury and York say Synod should discuss turmoil at a critical time in the nation’s history

The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, at a vigil with other religious leaders for the victims of the London Bridge terror attack.
The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby (right), at a vigil with other religious leaders for the victims of the London Bridge terror attack. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty

The leaders of the Church of England have called for an urgent debate on the state of the country after recent terror attacks, the Grenfell Tower fire and the inconclusive general election outcome, saying this is a “critical time in the nation’s history”.

The archbishops of Canterbury and York have taken the unusual step of exercising their powers to insist on the debate at next month’s Synod, a four-day meeting of the church’s ruling body in York.

The C of E is providing a “still small voice of calm” in the turmoil that has beset the country over the past month, says the motion from the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the archbishop of York, John Sentamu.

It adds: “The recent general election has left many questions unanswered about the shape and priorities of our government at a critical time in the nation’s history.”

The archbishops call for prayers “for all those elected to parliament that they will prioritise the common good of all people in everything they do, especially in negotiations between parties to secure support for a legislative programme”.

Their motion asks “Christians everywhere to put pressure on politicians of all parties to put the cohesion of the nation and its communities at the heart of their programmes”.

Christians should to “pray for courage, for our political leaders as they face the constraints and opportunities of uncertainty and weakness, and for the people of the nation as they too face unprecedented questions about the future”.

At a press conference to outline the Synod agenda, William Nye, the C of E’s general secretary, said the motion was “an opportunity to reflect on what the church can offer in this period of uncertainty”.

Faith organisations were central in the immediate response to the fire at Grenfell Tower, gathering donations and offering support to the families of victims and those displaced by the inferno.

St Clement’s church in North Kensington became a focal point for politicians, with Jeremy Corbyn, Theresa May and Sadiq Khan meeting local residents in its premises.

Churches, alongside other faith groups, were also closely involved in supporting people and communities in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks at Manchester Arena, London Bridge and Finsbury Park.

Although it is rare for the archbishops to invoke their legal power to change the published schedule of Synod business, it is the second time in 12 months they have done so. A year ago, they insisted on a Synod debate on the Brexit referendum.

The motion commends the increased turnout for the recent election, and calls on parties to “build on this by addressing the causes of voter apathy and non-participation”.

The move follows an unconfirmed report that May, the daughter of an Anglican vicar, had sought spiritual guidance from Welby in private prayer sessions. The report said the prime minister and archbishop were not thought to have met privately since the election.


The Guardian

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