The central committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC), meeting on 22-28 June 2016 in Trondheim, Norway, under the theme "Pilgrimage: Discerning the Landscapes Together", received news of the outcome of the United Kingdom referendum on European Union membership as we began a discussion on the search for Christian unity.
This decision by a majority of UK voters commits the country to ending its 43-year long membership of the European Union. This presents a challenge to all European leaders and European institutions, and has ramifications far beyond the region. During these days together in Trondheim, members of the central committee – representing WCC member churches from around the world – are reflecting and praying together to discern the path forward in this new landscape.
The situation calls for wise and measured leadership in the UK, regionally and internationally, and ecumenical solidarity, respecting the democratic expression of the collective will of the people of the UK, and re-examining fundamental questions of values and identity. But it is clear that the UK cannot, by withdrawing from EU membership, isolate itself from the challenges facing the region and the world, including the political crisis in receiving refugees and migrants, and that collective reflection and action will be no less necessary to address those challenges in the interest of building human community.
The Conference of European Churches (CEC), as the leading regional expression of the ecumenical movement and of its calling to promote Christian unity in witness and action, will have a special role to play in accompanying the churches and peoples of Europe in discerning the direction of the pilgrimage of justice and peace in this new landscape. We are concerned that rising xenophobic forms of nationalism threaten the common values of Europe. But we affirm the hope expressed by CEC President Rt Rev. Christopher Hill that the churches "will be able to revitalize a vision for Europe much broader than the mere economic, a vision informed by a Christian understanding of society which looks to the common good of all, supporting human rights and inclusive communities without collapsing into purely individualistic demands".
All WCC member churches are invited to pray for God’s guidance and wisdom for religious, political and community leaders in the UK, in Europe and around the world.