As I write this article David Cameron must be feeling exhausted. He has been up most of the night arguing with other European leaders about changes to the EU. And today there are further talks. Whether such matters of state should be discussed with leaders in a state of deep fatigue is probably questionable but it has often been the way. By the time you read this it will be clearer what, if anything, has been agreed and perhaps we will have a date for a referendum.
In state and church these feel to be unsettling times. Within the Anglican Communion the issue of homosexuality continues to provoke passionate debate and the ramifications of the recent Primates’ Gathering (or was it really a meeting? – and the terminology does matter!) are still being felt. And for us in the SEC this is far from academic. Historically we have strong ties to the Anglican Church in the United States (ECUSA). We firmly rejected the Anglican Covenant with its move to more tightly defined rules of togetherness. And we are one of the Provinces more likely to move to a position of some liturgical provision for same-sex marriages. And also in the air is the controversy around the Columba Declaration – the move to closer ties between the Church of England and the Church of Scotland which seems to ignore the fact that the Church of England has no jurisdiction in Scotland. To the outside world both of these areas of contention can seem like petty church politics but underneath them lie real questions about how the gospel is lived out and who takes responsibility for mission.
In the political realm there is also a sense of unease. Beneath the arguments about the EU lie some very serious issues. There is the rise in nationalistic and even racist movements across the continent driven by a sense of people feeling undervalued in the body politic and scared about the future. There is the debate about the extent to which our current trust in market economics as the primary shaper of the common life can really deliver a world which works in the interests of all. And there is challenge of what it means to care for those displaced by war and of how once again the old divisions between east and west seem to be opening up.
In all this uncertainty we do well to look again to the foundations of our faith. How well rooted are we? Do we have a life of prayer that offers us sustenance and support? Are we keeping ourselves refreshed by our reading of the bible and other Christian literature? Do we meet with others with whom we can share our concerns and bounce around ideas in an atmosphere of trust and constructive challenge? And out of all this are we ready to use our faith to help us to understand and respond to what is going on around us?
I am sure that at times David Cameron must have felt last night like simply having a cup of cocoa and going to bed. We can all feel a similar temptation to withdraw and seek comfort. But as Christians we are called to ‘stay awake’ and be part of the debates of our times.