Archbishops’ Council Europe Policy explained:
A single Church of England official was behind a pro-EU submission by the Archbishops’ Council to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Christian Voice has discovered.
Dr Charles Reed, described as the Church of England’s Foreign Policy Advisor, has sent out an email distancing the Archbishops from the comments in the submission. They did not make the remarks personally, he said. The submission, says Dr Reed, was prepared by the ‘Europe Bishops’ Panel’. It was then submitted by the ‘Mission and Public Affairs Council’, which is a sub committee of the Archbishops’ Council, direct to the Select Committee. In a subsequent email, Dr Reed clarified that neither Archbishop approved the submission, and he is ‘not aware that either (of the) Archbishops saw the submission’ before it went out in their name.
On his blog, modestly entitled ‘ethical comment’, Dr Reed is rather more bullish about the submission. He says he was encouraged by the opposition it drew in the pages of Eurosceptic publications. He writes:
The first of Dr Reed’s sensible comments was the submission’s second paragraph in which he cast the UK as unequivocally ‘without credibility’ and ‘unreliable’ for exercising a veto last December 2011:
‘At the December 2011 European Council, the United Kingdom found itself not only without allies, but without credibility as a negotiating partner as it opposed measures which were intended to achieve broad policy goals which are fully in line with UK national interest. This exposed the domestic constraints on the British government and left its partners with the impression that it was an unreliable partner. An opportunity to show solidarity with partners was missed. The UK must work to rebuild trust with its EU partners.’
The origin of the ‘Europe Bishops’ Panel’ is a debate in the General Synod in July 2004 which endorsed a report by the Mission and Public Affairs Council and the ‘Council for Christian Unity’ entitled ‘The Church of England and Europe’.
The report set out ‘aims for work at all levels of the Church in the Europe of the new century’ among which were:
‘to work locally, nationally and internationally with other churches to ensure the most effective presentation of the Gospel, to join in debate and action for the future of Europe, the harmony and values of its people, and the building of peace and social justice in this continent and beyond’;
There was ‘particular emphasis upon sustainable development and tackling world poverty.’
The two leading lights of the Europe Bishops’ Panel emerged as the Rt Revd Christopher Herbert, Bishop of St Albans, and the Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Christopher Hill. The latter was also the Chair of the Council for Christian Unity, the CofE’s ecumenical body, at the time of writing. The Panel appointed a secretary to give voice to their views. That secretary was Dr Charles Reed. This is what Dr Reed says about European policy on his blog:
‘For the Church the primary purpose of politics – even European politics – is the promotion of human flourishing and the conditions that are necessary to make this happen. On the whole the Church has over the years held that while it has reservations over certain characteristics of European integration – its democratic deficit etc – our propensity as humans created in the image of God to be creative, productive and responsible and generous beings is enhanced by pooling certain elements of national sovereignty in a common European project.’
So far so pan-European. According to its terms of reference, ‘The Panel is committed both to promoting and shaping an open and transparent Europe close to its citizens and to monitoring the EU institutions in so far as they affect Church life and practice.’
This mandate is interpreted freely. In 2008 the Europe Bishops’ Panel complained to the European Commission that ‘the EU Budget fails to provide sufficiently for the European common good.’ It went on: ‘Faced by the global challenge of climate change, the EU budget should be refocused in support of low carbon growth both within the EU’s border and beyond.’
Also in 2008, the Europe Bishops’ Panel appointed the first Church of England Representative to the European Union, the Revd Dr Gary Wilton. The Panel, at the hand of its secretary, Dr Reed, also sent a submission to a European Union Committee on climate change. Like the submission to the Commons Select Committee, it was sent under the name of the Archbishops’ Council.
Describing the EU Emissions Trading Scheme as ‘the jewel in the crown of the EU’s climate change programme’ the submission argued for more carbon trading and the ‘innovation necessary to achieve a low carbon and sustainable economy’ before going on to discuss which industries and sectors of the economy should be in the scheme and which should not, all from very practical points of view. Climate sceptics will not be impressed.
The submission is on the website of the Climate Justice Fund, a joint Tear Fund and Church of England enterprise set up in September 2009 following a General Synod resolution passed in 2008. The Fund is setting up projects to help African communities adapt to drought, and campaigning on climate change. The man in charge of it is Dr Charles Reed, now described on its website as the ‘International Development Secretary for the Archbishops’ Council’.
There may not be any reliance placed on scripture in reports from the Europe Bishops’ Panel, but they refer ‘to the integrity of God’s creation, the vocation of humanity to actively steward and care for creation, and the awareness that climate change is already impacting disproportionately on many of the world’s poorest communities.’
In 2010, this time in the name of the Archbishops’ Council, the House of Bishops’ Europe Panel (which appears to be the same thing as the Europe Bishops’ Panel) sent a submission to the European Commission on ‘EU 2020: a new strategy to make the EU a smarter, greener social market.’ They complained that the EU strategy was too materialistic. ‘The EU 2020 vision would be made easier if the vision for an economically efficient and innovative market economy is (sic) supplemented more clearly by policies for solidarity that extend across national borders to assist the most disadvantaged’, it said.
Dr Charles Reed describes himself as the Church of England’s Foreign Policy Advisor and as the International Development Secretary for the Archbishops’ Council. He is referred to in the Church of England’s Seven-Year Plan on Climate Change and the Environment as the Church’s International Policy Advisor, and elsewhere as being from the Church’s Mission and Public Affairs Council, which is a division of the Archbishops’ Council.
Dr Reed is a House of Lords staff member for the Bishop of Wakefield, where he becomes the Archbishops’ Council’s Parliamentary Adviser on Foreign Affairs. He is the Secretary of the Europe Bishops’ Panel, he writes their submissions, and via them, he establishes the position of the Archbishops’ Council, which the Archbishops themselves do not approve, and may not even see. Dr Reed also represents the Church of England on the Church and Society Commission of the Conference of European Churches.
Dr Charles Reed is in all but name the Church of England’s Foreign Secretary, but hardly anyone knows of him. He keeps in the background and lets others take the glory – or the blame – for what he writes. There will be different opinions on the various positions he brings the church to adopt, but no-one can doubt that Dr Reed wields considerable power and influence in our national church.
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