Over the past few weeks, I’m sure you’ve noticed discussion about what life will look like as more people get vaccinated and lockdown rules are relaxed. How will the new rules affect us when we can meet together in person again?
There are, of course, differing opinions on the position that churches should take and how we ought to respond to the new restrictions. It’s been particularly sad to see Christians falling out over this issue. We need to be careful how we move forward together as a church family. Our Archbishop, Kanishka Raffel, has been in the media over the past 7 days seeking to explain the Diocese’s position in all this. There will be meetings for church leaders to discuss our next steps. Archbishop Raffel also stressed our desire for as many as possible to be able to attend church in person.
The Archbishop said negotiations with the government were ongoing, but that he and other religious leaders had concerns about the idea of ‘vaccine passports’.
“Jesus is Lord of all, and his gospel is a gospel for all. A ‘No Entry’ sign at the door of the church is wholly inconsistent with the gospel preached inside,” the Archbishop said. “Neither race, gender, ethnicity, age, nor economic or educational status – or vaccination status – are to operate as divisions within the Christian community or barriers to the fellowship we share because of Jesus.”
Of course, some segments of the media have jumped on this and sought to portray a conflict between church and government with headlines such as “‘Stand up and say no’: Churches fight government over vaccine mandate”, “Religious leaders take on NSW government over mandatory vaccination” and even “Gladys versus God”! The reality is a little less dramatic, as the Archbishop explains:
Some are very uncomfortable with the idea of unvaccinated people amongst the congregation, others might feel the exact opposite – that it is wrong to even contemplate excluding anyone. Of course, even if some are not happy with the “70% vaccinated” rules, things could change when we reach 80% vaccinated and that might make us more prepared to live with things for a short while.
We just don’t know.
So how do we move forward together at this difficult time? We want to offer a few suggestions,
- Recognise that there is a difference between absolute wrongs and rights and questions of wisdom. Is the way we respond to the challenges that a partially vaccinated population brings us, really a matter of gospel faithfulness? Or is it simply a very difficult question that requires wisdom? It’s a very serious thing to accuse others of denying the gospel – let’s make sure we’re not too hasty in saying things like that when really what we see (and may disagree with) is a sincere attempt to be wise in a difficult situation.
- Submission is an important part of the Christian life, whether to the civil authorities (Rom. 13:1) or to our church leaders (Heb. 13:17). We have our own leaders at St John’s who also have their authorities outside St John’s, both civil and church. Wherever possible, we will seek to submit as Jesus calls us to do.
- Most of all, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:2–3).
- So, let’s pray for wisdom for all our leaders: for the government, for our wardens and parish council and for our archbishop and bishops. They all have very difficult decisions to make.
Let’s decide together to submit as we ought to those authorities and pray for God’s help to do that when we find it hard.
Most of all, let’s ask for God’s help by his Spirit for St Johns to be united through the bond of peace: to be completely humble and gentle, patient and bearing with one another in love.
Bruce Morrison & David Ould
St John’s Anglican Cathedral, Parramatta
PRAY: Pray for wisdom for church leaders as lockdown and vaccination passport systems are negotiated with governments. Pray for our church family, that over the next few months we will be united through the bond of peace.
Join us this Sunday for our online Sunday service. We meet at 10am each Sunday on YouTube right through lockdown. Or check out out Sunday services page for more information on our face-to-face services.