The Church of England has been accused of taking a pro-European Union (EU) stance in the run-up to the Brexit referendum after publishing a prayer calling for the “peoples of Europe” to work together.
The new prayer, posted on the Church’s website, has been written to help worshippers ask God to guide their decision in how to vote.
However, leave campaigners have accused it of being part of “Project Fear”.
The prayer reads:
God of truth,
give us grace to debate the issues in this referendum
with honesty and openness.
Give generosity to those who seek to form opinion
and discernment to those who vote,
that our nation may prosper
and that with all the peoples of Europe
we may work for peace and the common good;
for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.
The lines “and that with all the peoples of Europe/we may work for peace and the common good” have generated controversy, however.
Speaking to MailOnline, Conservative MP Peter Bone said: “I would have thought that God was rather neutral on this issue. It is extraordinary that they are doing a prayer. Project Fear has really stepped it up now.
“They have gone to the highest authority. It is outrageous. I just don’t see the logic of this. As a churchgoer I am not going to be praying about this.”
Mr Bone added that he did not believe the prayer would sway voters into backing the EU, but he added: “This is politics and should be nothing to do with the church.”
Shaun Clarkson, a lay preacher in the Church of England, commented: “I’m sure ‘and that with all the peoples of Europe…’ reflects an aspiration valid in or out of the EU, but I think prayer as it stands is VERY open to honest misunderstanding as being pro remain, and vulnerable to hostile spin by leave”.
There has been increasing concern that senior clergy may express pro-EU sentiments in the run up to the referendum.
Earlier this month, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, indicated support for the EU after saying that if Britain leaves it would “be facing more complex problems … than we would by playing an active and vigorous part with partners, with the EU.”
Despite the latest prayer, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby last month insisted the Church of England would not be taking a position on the Brexit debate.
“You can’t say, ‘God says you must vote this way or that way’,” he said.