On 23 June 2016, the UK voted by a small majority to leave the European Union.
The Archbishop voted to remain in the European Union as part of that UK referendum. He has since spoken in the debates in the House of Lords about exiting the European Union, and has challenged the Government to negotiate for the common good and to conduct the negotiations in a positive and constructive tone.
At the time of the referendum, the Archbishop wrote that 'Our world, our European neighbours and we ourselves all have a recent history. If we deny that history and undertakings already made within it, we deny our connection with what our predecessors have done, which means denying our own national identity. All institutions need renewal and change, and European institutions are notorious for their jungle of regulations. They need regular pruning and reform if they are to meet contemporary problems that engross us all. But Europe is bigger than European institutions.
We need to remind ourselves of the contribution which the existence of the EU has made to peace in Europe since the Second World War; ways in which the existence and support of the EU has helped the development of smaller, weaker members, particularly over the past 20 years; our common Christian heritage and what this means and has created in practice; and the impact of sharing of arts, science, research and other cultural aspects. We should also consider what is likely to lead to mutual flourishing and to encourage peace. Not all decisions should be made purely on the basis of “What’s in it for us?” It is also significant that a far higher percentage of young people wish to stay in the EU than older people; it is they, principally, who will have to live with the consequences of the decision that we take on June 23.'
Freedom, fellowship and service
Delivering the William Temple Foundation Lecture in Leeds, Archbishop Sentamu said, 'Politics is about recognising and bringing into being the innate dignity of every citizen as a child of God'. Central to his argument are Temple’s three social principles based on freedom, fellowship and service. Freedom is not an individualistic freedom from something (away from others and responsibility) but a freedom to do something, that is, take responsibility for the way we live our lives and policies and decisions.
In Christian terms this means having the freedom to eradicate the major social ills and fighting against social injustice, a freedom to love our neighbours as ourselves. The state has a role in promoting this freedom, to help others by providing the basic structures that liberate us to do this: i.e. enforcing laws around basic liberties, providing opportunities to earn a decent living, and providing key infrastructure such as healthcare, education, and well-being support.
Spirit of Volunteering
In April 2017, the Archbishop blessed a new lifeboat in Scarborough, named after Frederick William Plaxton, the founder of the town’s coach building firm. Reflecting on the hymn ‘Will your anchor hold in the storms of life?’ the Archbishop wrote about the importance of refuge and keeping hold to a fixed point on long journeys.
Spending time with the brave lifeboat crew members, the Archbishop was struck by how far RNLI crew members were willing to go to make a difference. They risk their lives at any point for those ‘in peril on the sea’. From the coxswain to the person who makes the tea, each and every volunteer pulls together to make things happen. John Senior is Lifeboat Operations Manager at Scarborough Lifeboat Station, a volunteer role that is offered by invitation of the lifeboat Coxswain and the crew. He shares his story in John Sentamu's Agape Love Stories
Such a spirit of volunteering challenges us with this question: what would we be prepared to do to help someone else in need? Would we help a friend, a neighbour, a colleague or perhaps extend this to someone that we don’t even know? The good news is that you don’t need to be called out to sea to dive in and help! There are may other practical ways to be God's agents of transformation in schools, in local communities and further afield.
Many congregations in the Church of England consist predominantly of people aged over 55. As part of his mission weekends, the Archbishop is reaching out to older people . Many people in this age group attended a traditional Sunday School when they were young but ceased their practice of faith in late-teens and twenties. The Archbishop invites them to re-connect with faith. He encourages them to take a fresh look at Jesus Christ.
Jesus invites us to work with him to transform society. The Archbishop knows that older people have immense gifts and experience to offer so he encourages them to give their time and talents to help others. He praises their active spirit of volunteering and challenges them to look at ways to tackle loneliness and improve social mobility through, for example, friendship lunches, café church, craft groups and worship for seniors.
The Archbishop's online charity Acts 435 has helped people in poverty move forward in their lives by providing practical help for such things as a rent deposit or household goods for people fleeing domestic violence. Find out more about the work of Acts 435 here