The Brexit vote in June of 2016 hit Great Britain like a thunderbolt, not unlike the election of Donald Trump as President hit the United States later that same year. The responses in these two deeply divided countries were also similar. The people who had supported “Remain” in Britain argued loud and strenuously for ways to undo the Brexit vote, much like their counterparts in the U.S. continue to refuse to accept the November 2016 election.
Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, has taken a different approach to Brexit. He accepts the decision by voters and then asks the question, “Where do we go from here?” In Reimagining Britain: Foundations for Hope, he invites a conversation about the country’s future by suggesting a variety of ideas and proposals, all based on his Christian faith. And he makes no apology for that.
“This book is, unsurprisingly and unapologetically, written from a Christian perspective,” he writes. “Because of the Christian foundations of our society in Britain, it draws frequently on more or less well-known traditions and stories in the Bible.” Those Bible stories include the early church sharing in common, as recorded in the Book of Acts; Jesus’s description of the last judgment, from Matthew 25; the parable of the talents; and many others.
Welby proceeds to tackle some of the thorniest issues facing British society, which are not unlike some of the thorniest in American society. Family, education, health, housing, economics and finance, the environment, and immigration all come under what can only be called a loving scrutiny. He considers each from a Christian perspective, broadening into a larger discussion of what might be possible in a post-Brexit Britain. That’s the idea of “reimagining” a nation aspiring to its best impulses.
|Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury|
Welby worked in the oil industry for 11 years before entering the ministry. He became a member of the evangelical Anglican church of Holy Trinity in Brompton, in South Kensington, London, and in 1989 experienced a call to the ministry. He was first rejected for ordination by the Bishop of Kensington but later accepted by the vicar of Brompton. He served churches and cathedrals at Coventry, Liverpool, and several other cities, and was appointed Bishop of Durham in 2011 (which also made him a member of the House of Lords). He was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury in 2012. He has previously published Dethroning Mammon: Making Money Serve Grace(2016).
Reimagining Britain is not a conservative book. Neither is it a liberal or progressive book. It slips away from political labels, and asks that Britons consider a future based on the values that bind them together. Welby is making a claim for the church in the national debate about Britain’s future. And he’s well ahead of many of Brexit’s critics who are still stuck in a rejection of the decision.
Top photograph: A view of St. Paul’s Cathedral and the City of London from the Tate Modern.