In a context of confusion and flashy journalism, rigour becomes a precious value.
Jim Memory (European Christian Mission) on the ‘Brexit’ campaign in the UK: “Peace and open borders of today’s Europe are a huge opportunity for the gospel.”
“Christians are getting all their information on Europe from the media, which has made them increasingly Eurosceptic, even about mission in Europe, which is my particular concern”, Jim Memory told Evangelical Focus when asked about the so-called ‘Brexit’ referendum on 23 June.
Memory is a European Mission lecturer at Redcliffe College (UK) and member of the leadership of European Christian Mission (ECM). “I will be voting to remain in the EU”, he says, because “the EU has fostered peace, and ensured countless other economic and political benefits for over 500 million people.”
Why would so many citizens in the UK leave the Union? “Most EU citizens, not just the British, feel distant from Brussels, the unelected civil service that administers the EU, and its parliament”, he admits.
Memory has worked in church planting in Spain for many years. He now fears “this generation has been so influenced by political Euroscepticism that they are largely blind to the mission challenge on their doorstep.”
Read full interview with Jim Memory.
Question. What are your thoughts on the start of the “Brexit” campaign?
Answer. This is not the start of “Brexit” campaign by any means. The UK Independence Party was founded back in 1993, but long before Britain’s relationship with the rest of Europe was a common battleground, particularly within the Conservative Party. In many ways it was these divisions in his own party, and the growing Euroscepticism in the general population, that prompted David Cameron to promise an in/out referendum on EU membership as a pre-election pledge back in January 2013.
Over the last three years the debate in the UK has centred around three issues: economics, parliamentary sovereignty and migration.
Recent research by the UK Evangelical Alliance prior to the General Election in spring 2015 showed that whilst the EU/Europe was the third most important issue for evangelical Christians, it was not an issue that was talked about in churches.
In other words, Christians are getting all their information on Europe from the media which has made them increasingly Eurosceptic, even about mission in Europe, which is my particular concern.
Q. In your opinion, what is the most convincing argument for the UK to stay in the EU? And what is the most convincing argument to leave?
A. We are part of a privileged generation of Europeans. This year I turn fifty and I have never had to bear arms to defend my country. That is an extraordinary historical anomaly in recent European history.
The EU’s forerunner, the European Coal and Steel Community, was established by influential Christians soon after WWII with the express purpose of preventing another war in Europe. It rarely forms part of the debate, but economic prosperity, sovereignty and control of migration are only possible in a context of peace in Europe.
In addition to this, there are good economic reasons for staying. Britain pays a very significant sum into the EU but its economic benefits in terms of employment, exports, investment and trade are overwhelmingly positive. It also enables the UK to influence EU politics and transnational problems like crime, terrorism and climate change.
The most convincing arguments for leaving the EU relate to the issue of sovereignty and the EU’s undemocratic institutions. Most EU citizens, not just the British, feel distant from Brussels and the unelected civil service that administers the EU, and its parliament which approves laws. Furthermore, leaving the EU might give Britain greater control over migration.
Q. How do you think Christians should approach the decision? Is there an awareness that this and other important political issues need God's guidance?
A. We do need to pray that God would help us think Christianly about this issue. To remember that we are called to “love our neighbour” and other Europeans are clearly our neighbours.
But more than that, I think there is a mission challenge. In terms of Acts 1:8, Continental Europe is our Samaria, our neighbouring province which we are called to evangelise with the gospel.
Previous generations of British Christians have seen it that way, yet this generation have been so influenced by political Euroscepticism that they are largely blind to the mission challenge on their doorstep.
The peace and open borders of today’s Europe are a huge opportunity for the gospel, and British Christians should remember that, as much as the economic, political and demographic issues, when they come to vote in June.
Read Jim Memory’s article “Europe’s crisis, God’s opportunity”.