An Important Update from the Authors of the Ezekiel Declaration

“We did not expect to get this much traction with our letter, but we praise God that he has used three ‘poorly trained and uneducated ministers’ (to quote our critics) to draw attention to a very serious issue, and we believe, a very serious threat to the unity of the Church.”

Dear supporters and signatories of the Ezekiel Declaration,

We would like to thank you for your support and encouragement in this very difficult journey of voicing our concerns regarding vaccine passports and the ensuing impact on society and the church to those in positions of power. We have received many messages of encouragement, nationally and internationally. 

Since we wrote our letter, continued restrictions for the unvaccinated have been announced for New South Wales and Victoria. Though it appears that NSW is giving an exemption to churches so that they do not need to exclude the unvaccinated. While we celebrate this, it is our heart to see other industries afforded this same human dignity. 

We appreciate the encouragement given by one New South Wales Pastor after the New South Wales exemption for churches was announced:

This is an extremely favourable outcome for the church and special recognition should definitely be given to the authors of the Ezekiel Declaration. 

The senior leadership of all denominations had been painfully silent until the petition, signed by thousands of pastors and congregants gained national attention. This undoubtedly spurred them on to do the right thing and make proper representation to our political leaders who have granted us this concession.

Scripture tells us that faith without works is dead and it appears that petitions in both the spiritual and natural realms have had great effect. We are so grateful to both God Almighty and those who wrote and supported the Ezekiel Declaration.

Bob Cotton, Maitland Christian Church

The collective voice of all who signed this declaration has, so far, accomplished many important things in progressing this critical debate, so we thought it would be good to share some of those accomplishments with the supporters of the Ezekiel Declaration as a form of encouragement.

Here are some of the things accomplished to this day:

The first accomplishment is that the incredible response to this letter reveals that there were many church leaders and Christians who had concerns about this very issue. Vaccine passports have been discussed in the media and parliament since as early as June. The division that vaccine passports cause is evident for anyone who had their eyes on news reports from Israel or France. Even more concerning was that this measure has elsewhere been applied to religious gatherings, an unthinkable step for many Christians. Many people have wondered how they would be treated by their own church community if such a measure was imposed by the state.

Forming underneath the surface of many Christian Communities has been the fault lines over Covid mandates, especially in regards to vaccination passports. Our desire was to petition the government to not impose the system that would cause the fracture. Unfortunately, this is looking more and more like a fragile hope at least in Victoria, though things are looking a bit better in NSW.

Please pray that the various petitions to the government would be heard and exemptions would be provided and that church leaders would have wisdom and courage in navigating this difficult time. 

The second accomplishment, and one which we were not intending or expecting, is that we have sparked a nationwide conversation on an issue that had largely been avoided. We did not expect to get this much traction with our letter, but we praise God that he has used three “poorly trained and uneducated ministers” (to quote our critics) to draw attention to a very serious issue, and we believe, a very serious threat to the unity of the Church. It seems the issue of vaccine passports was the elephant in the room for many Christians and Church leaders, and many were waiting for someone to break the silence.

Praise God that he is stirring up many more leaders to speak about this issue, we pray that those with influence in the halls of power would use it to work towards protecting the church from the division that vaccine passports will cause.

Third, due to the attention and critique that our letter received, there have been several rebuttals provided in defence of our letter:

  1. By the American theologian and apologist Dr. James White
  2. By a writer at Caldron Pool
  3. By us, the authors of the letter

Fourth, this letter has received support from the Christian Democratic Party and One Nation. We want to stress that our letter is not politically partisan. We are thankful to the political parties that have supported our letter, but we call on all political parties to resist the temptation to allow our society to be divided. 

Fifth, we have been contacted by a Christian individual and a member of the National Party who was thankful that there was a petition from church leaders available at the very moment it was needed. This individual will be presenting the signed declaration to National MP’s in New South Wales. He urged that people who have a concern on this matter write or speak to their state representatives and include the signed declaration as part of the correspondence.

Sixth, we have sent the declaration to Health Minister Greg Hunt asking him not to release the immunisation records to the state governments to prevent a vaccine passport system to be created. We received in response from Greg Hunt’s office, what seems to be a generic response to our letter, here is an important excerpt from his letter: 

COVID-19 vaccination has not been made mandatory in Australia by the Australian Government, and individuals maintain the option to choose. However, some states and territories have now issued public-health orders that require COVID-19 vaccination for people in certain settings (for example, people working in certain high-risk workplaces, such as healthcare workers).

In addition, some employers have started to mandate vaccinations for their employees, where they are working in a high-risk workplace. The Government continues to provide guidance to businesses on these matters, and to encourage vaccination uptake by communicating about the safety, science and benefits of COVID-19 vaccination.

Further, from 17 September 2021, all residential aged care workers in Australia must be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment. By this date, staff, contractors and volunteers of a Residential Aged Care Facility are required to have received at least one dose of a Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved COVID-19 vaccine and have received, or have evidence of a booking to receive, a second dose. This follows an agreement by the National Cabinet on 28 June 2021, and state or territory public-health orders and directions will define who must be vaccinated and any limited exemptions.

Where COVID-19 vaccination has been made mandatory, there will be exemptions in place for people who are unable to be vaccinated for medical and other reasons.

Seventh, We have also received what appears to be a generic reply from the Prime Minister. It came swiftly after we sent in the letter via PDF, we have also sent a physical copy of the letter with the signatories. 

Here is the body of the letter: 

Thank you for writing to me about your concerns regarding the use of a COVID-19 vaccination certificate as proof of a person’s vaccination status. 

The Commonwealth and state and territory governments are committed to keeping Australia open, and have been working collaboratively to contain the spread of COVID-19 and minimise disruption to the community. Vaccines will play an essential role to ensure Australia is protected against the ongoing risk of COVID-19 as the economy reopens. 

Because of the evidence of the ability of vaccines to prevent transmission of COVID 19, we have an opportunity to further consider safely relaxing restrictions once high rates of vaccination are achieved. 

This will require us to reassure the community that people are fully vaccinated. To support verification of vaccination status, Services Australia has developed a COVID-19 digital certificate for people who have received all required doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. The digital certificate is available now through myGov, Medicare online or from your immunisation provider. It is not a “passport”. It is a formal record of your vaccination. 

While we want to achieve the highest rate of vaccination possible, it will not be compulsory to have the vaccine. The Government is clear that vaccination is a personal choice – options to verify a person’s vaccination status will not change this position. Thank you again for writing to me.

This response is rather strange. The government will not be making vaccinations mandatory, but they are ensuring there is a mechanism for vaccine compliance. The threat of loss of social inclusion and livelihood is most definitely coercion. By not opposing this measure, the federal government is enabling it. This is not a particularly comforting reply.

However, Minister Hunt’s letter assures us that there are “other exemptions” not just medical reasons. So this perhaps provides an avenue for Christians who have hesitations towards the vaccine to gain an exemption. 

How do you see these replies? Personally, we think more advocacy is necessary here. It is one thing for people to have a record of their vaccination status, but what assurances do we have from the highest office in the land that our Prime Minister will do all that he can to ensure that our desire to keep this private is not used to exclude us from living as ordinary Australians? Right now we have zero assurances. 

Martyn Iles and the ACL have often pointed out that if we peacefully and respectfully engage with our political leaders in large numbers then they will have to pay attention. So we encourage you to follow this wise advice and speak to your state and federal representatives on this matter.

Our hope is that this and any future updates will provide you with the same encouragement they provided to us. Though the battle is far from over, we would like to thank you for your support so far and, especially, thank our Lord and God who has been very kind to us all, enabling us to go through much of the fire fully protected and receiving the help needed at the right time. May we continue to trust in the Lord as we seek to continue to honour him in our calling to be faithful followers of Jesus and good citizens of our land for his glory and renown and the good of the people.

May you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Timothy Grant, Senior Pastor, Mount Isa Baptist Church

Matthew Littlefield, Senior Pastor, New Beith Baptist Church

Warren McKenzie, Senior Pastor, Biota Baptist Church

Ian Walton, Senior Pastor, Fairfield Baptist Church Townsville

Giuliano Bordoni, Queensland Baptist Pastor, Brisbane

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