Justin Welby says economic warnings cannot be ignored and focus must be on the vulnerable.
The Church of England is to urge congregations to take part in five days of prayer as Britain approaches the deadline for leaving the EU.
It is the poorest people who face the biggest risks from the economic uncertainty posed by Brexit, the archbishop of Canterbury said on Saturday, and the prayers are likely to focus on reconciliation and the needs of those most vulnerable.
Justin Welby told the Church of England’s General Synod:
“We cannot ignore the warnings that have been proffered about the possible profound impact that the next months may possibly have on the poorest of our society.
“We must be ready for any difficulties and uncertainties, and not allow any destructive forces to create further divisions in our society.
“It is true that no predictions on the economy are certain. That is not project fear, it is saying that where there are risks it is the strongest, not the weakest, who must take the weight of the risk. That is not currently the way we are going.”
If attention was not paid to the “pain and exclusion” of some parts of society revealed by Brexit, greater division and strife would result, Welby said in a debate on the state of the nation.
The church must be a peacemaker “to play our part in uniting our country and to put the most vulnerable at the centre of national life”.
He told the synod:
“How we recover from and heal these divisions may be the biggest challenge that lies ahead of us – to unify as a country, to have a healthy and functioning democracy, and to have a strong ethically and morally based economy that works for all.”
The burdens on political leaders were enormous, he said. “It is easy to stand on the sidelines and judge. We do not have to make the decisions.”
A motion, tabled by the archbishops of Canterbury and York and passed almost unanimously with one abstention, said the voices of the poor and marginalised must be put at the heart of the nation’s concerns.
It said divisions within the major political parties were “stifling the emergence of a hopeful and viable vision for the common good in our communities”.
Before the vote, John Sentamu, the archbishop of York, led the synod in a prayer asking God to “save our parliamentary democracy” and “protect the high court of parliament and all its members from partiality and prejudice”.
Welby said last month that a no-deal Brexit would be “not only a political and practical failure, but a moral one”.
Welby voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum, but has since stressed the need for reconciliation and restraint.
Earlier on Saturday, the synod called on the government to take action on advertising by the gambling industry, and impose a levy on it to pay for research and treatment.
Children were being groomed by pervasive advertising “relentlessly promoting” gambling, said Alan Smith, the bishop of St Albans. He accused gambling firms of “nationalising the costs of their industry while privatising the profits”.
The synod also agreed the church should lobby for and make land available for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities who face institutional racism.
Jane Codona, a member of an English Gypsy community, told the synod she had faced discrimination every day. “We’ve never, ever been free of prejudice,” she said, but she hoped her grandchildren would be the last generation to face such hostility.
Written By: Harriet Sherwood
First Published 23.02.19: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/feb/23/justin-welby-says-poorest-face-biggest-risks-posed-by-brexit-uncertainty