Bishop Mark – thoughts on the Referendum

September 3, 2014

What will help me make up my mind?

I have found myself in a peculiar place in regard to the Referendum Debate that is coming to an end here in Scotland. It is a peculiar place for me because until recently I was always very happy to declare where my vote would be going in any such debate. I would be asked my opinion on many things by many people and I always had a clear answer. Now as a bishop I am aware that when I speak I am often speaking on behalf of those who believe I represent the voice of their church, a church which has all political shades within it.

So I have not declared publicly the way I intend to vote, I have simply indicated that all those who are entitled to vote should, and that their vote should be after serious thought. So I have thought seriously myself. I have a clear idea where my heart would lead me but it needs to be more than just an emotional reaction to the opportunity to cast such a vote.

I have asked others and I have asked myself, what is important to me about the place I call home? What do I expect from the government and law makers? And what do I believe makes a better society?

That is why I have been saddened by a debate that so often seems to focus on what a Yes or No decision will do for me as an individual and too often the question asked is “What will I gain or lose out of it?”

So I give you my answers. What is important is that I live in a community that cares for the least advantaged and includes them into the life of our communities. I don’t want a society that hands out the loose change from our pockets rather a society that enables all to have enough without resorting to charity.

What do I expect from the government? Decision-making that benefits the whole community but which also takes notice of the small and less powerful corners, there is no point in having power if half the land is in poverty, no use in an excellent transport system and wonderful community facilities if rural communities can’t reach them or inner city communities can’t afford them.

What do I want my community, my country to care about? I want it to care for the environment, to care for children and the elderly, to seek consensus and peace, to provide education for all, to bring healing in body and mind to those who are injured, the list goes on and on. One thing I am sure about, if I only care about how much I will benefit, about how much it all might cost me then we are in danger of living in a community bereft of compassion and care.

Make your decision based upon what we could be doing not simply about how much it all might cost.

I have asked all the churches of the Diocese to be open on Saturday 13th of September so that the communities we serve have a space in which to think and pray about the momentous decision we all must make, I intend to visit a number of the churches that day to pray alongside those communities.

Resources for personal prayer and public worship

The Joint Liturgical Group of Great Britain, on which the Scottish Episcopal Church is represented, has written a prayer, inspired by Psalm 104, to be said at the time of the Scottish Independence Referendum:

Lord, we bless you for you have fashioned our land and daily refresh it; you have sent forth your spirit and created us; you have opened your hand and filled us with good things. Bless us, your people, as we consider the future of our nation. May your glory endure here for ever and may we sing to you as long as we live; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.