Church of Scotland reaffirms support of EU

The Church of Scotland has reaffirmed its stance that the UK should remain in the EU.

Many fear a vote for Brexit on June 23 would trigger another Scottish referendum on independence

In a vote at the annual general assembly, the Church's ruling body overwhelmingly backed the motion despite an objection at the Church appearing to tell people how to vote.

The vote comes less than a month before the UK will decide whether or not to remain in a referendum on June 23.

The Church of Scotland has a long standing support of remaining in the EU. Since the question was first posed to the general assembly in 1996, the Church has restated its commitment to the EU five times with the former moderator, Dr Angus Morrison, saying the EU symbolised "real progress and hope" for the future.

In a short debate in Edinburgh on Tuesday several Church ministers spoke of the EU's positive influence on peace and security.

However Rev Karen Fenwick objected. "We are not a political party or a trade union," she said. "I think the Scottish public are quite capable of knowing we support the EU without us telling them what to do."

Her motion failed to gain support and was removed.

Church and Society Convener, Rev Sally Foster Fulton, welcomed the decision and insisted the Church was not telling people how to vote.

"We are saying as a Church that much has been gained by being a part of the European Union, and we believe there is a great deal we can do in the future as an integral part of Europe," she said.

"We recognise it is not perfect, but the EU is a work in progress and not the finished product. The only way we can continue to be part of the transformation is to remain within it."

Tim Farron, the leader of the Liberal Democrats and an evangelical Christian, welcomed the decision and urged Church members to follow suit.

"Christians are called to share, to cooperate with our neighbours and promote peace. This referendum is not just about what is good for Britain but what is good for the world, particularly poorer nations and the importance of our global climate. This makes a strong case for Britain staying in the EU."

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He added: "I would encourage other institutions to also engage in this issue that fundamentally affects our nation's future and our place in the world."

The Church of England, which has a formal link to the Church of Scotland, has remained neutral on this issue although individual clergy have taken both sides. Together both Churches have set up a blog called "Re-imagining Europe" to facilitate discussion but it remains editorially neutral.

Giles Fraser, a priest in south London and Guardian columnist, is one clergyman to back the case for Brexit. He previously told Christian Today the debate was "between people on the margins and people in the centre".