“Niceness is not a virtue, it is a strategy. And it is a strategy that has been overused by the Church, with detrimental effect.”
On Thursday 25th November Murray Campbell finally made his case for why Churches should no longer be needing to segregate, and though Murray was one of our first critics, the Ezekiel Declaration authors would like to throw our full support behind that call. Churches must be free to gather. In a recent blog post, where he shared a letter he had written to Victorian MP’s, he said:
“It is no longer reasonable for unvaccinated Victorians to be separated in Church….. this pandemic has created significant social tensions and has brought harm to the mental and spiritual well-being of countless Victorians. It is now time for our State to heal and move on. I am therefore requesting that the vaccination status mandate be removed from churches now that we have reached the target of 90%.”
It is time for this segregation to end – in Victoria, and across Australia. We stand with Murray Campbell, and we ask other Churches to stand with him in this request. We ask denomination leaders to stand with him. We ask Christians to stand together and call for an end to these measures. The Prime Minister has even called for an end to similar measures. Christian’s ought to stand together and agree, these segregating measures must end.
While we support Murray’s call to end state-mandated segregation in Churches, there are elements in his letter that demand critique.
1. Failure to call a spade a spade.
Why Murray is unable to call these mandates “segregation” is unclear. He has no problem with speaking of exclusion, separation and division, but it seems that the term “segregation” is too charged. We cannot speak of his motivations, as we do not know his heart without hearing from him.
We can, however, note that his number one critique of the Ezekiel Declaration was tone. In the article he co-wrote with David Ould, he spoke of the need to avoid any appearance of combativeness and inflammation. By doing so in his letter, Murray fails to call this State-enforced mandate, the damned spade that it is: segregation, and medical apartheid in the Church.
2. Murray celebrates the result of coercion.
Murray is encouraged by the vaccination rates in his home state of Victoria. As if this was a result of free choices, without coercion, he states, “I am also heartened by the fact that over 93% of Victorians have already received at least the first dose of a vaccine.”
Can a Pastor who is thinking Biblically about the threats on employments, freedoms, rights, travel, and family, be heartened by the fact that so many people have given up, and given in to Government overreach? We definitely don’t think so, and we desire to distance ourselves from such politically guarded rhetoric.
The means matter in how a goal is achieved, and we are disturbed by such a celebration of coercion, and also the fact the coercion has been readily accepted by so many.
3. Murray denies sphere Sovereignty (at least where it counts).
Murray does not seem to be fulfilling a prophetic role to the Civil magistrate, by petitioning them to recognise the Church’s freedom to gather unsegregated. Rather, his letter seems to be asking for permission to gather unvaccinated. The Church, however, only has one Head, and it’s not sitting in the Victorian Labour Party.
Jesus Christ alone received the Church from His Father, and He alone issues commands as to how she must gather and worship. The Church’s gathering does not fall under the State’s sphere of authority, and hence does not need to ask the State for permission to accept all people into her doors! If Murray believes that, he doesn’t believe it where it counts (that is, in practice).
The three Queensland Baptist Pastors who published the Ezekiel Declaration did so with these concerns in mind; to preemptively speak out against the segregation that was clearly on the horizon, and to provide a voice to church leaders and congregants regarding the gathering storm of therapeutic totalitarianism.
A segregated Church is a Church in sin. Partiality and any such practice is prohibited by our Lord through James (James 2:1-5). Partiality is not an option open to us for self-preservation, or in the name of government obedience. Peter even had to learn this lesson from the firm words of Paul, when his practice had allowed Gentiles to be excluded from Jewish tables.
Paul “opposed [Peter] to his face… before them all.” Paul saw that segregation in the Church “was not in step with the truth of the gospel”, and so he brought harsh rebuke to all instigators, “because [they] stood condemned” (Gal 2:11-14).
The ED authors believed that a letter to the Prime Minister was the best use of the democratic resources available to them, in order to address the highest office in the land. They knew the PM had to speak up for liberty of conscience.
The response from the Church was swift and polarized. On one hand, many were excited to see the Church raise its voice. On the other hand were some, who, though concerned about segregation, did not believe our leaders were about to do such a thing. The latter believed our tone was too “aggressive”, or “assertive”.
One of those critics was Murray Campbell, who used the platforms of his blog and The Gospel Coalition to oppose the ED, one of the only voices in the Church that was openly and publicly seeking to preempt the situation.
Murray thought our letter could be done better, so did many others. Yet we have been waiting with bated breath to read a “better” letter, saying anything about segregation, until recently. And while we let out our bated breath, it was mostly to let out a dissatisfied sigh.
But, while his letter may be flawed, and not one that we would forward to an MP without severe edits, inasmuch as he speaks against segregation in Churches, we genuinely rejoice. We ask other Christians to support Murray in this, encourage him in his ministry, and speak up to their own Members of Parliament, and Pastors also.
Blessings from the authors of the Ezekiel Declaration, and the Brovarians.1
Tim Grant is the pastor of Mount Isa Baptist Church. He is a registered Minister in the Baptist Union of Queensland. Tim has a ‘Bachelor of Ministry’ and ‘Master of Arts in Theology.’
Reverend Matthew Littlefield is the pastor of New Beith Baptist Church. He is an ordained Minister in the Baptist Union of Queensland. Matthew has a Masters in Theology.
Warren McKenzie is pastor at Biota Baptist Church in Inala, Brisbane. His interests are theology and evangelism. He is currently studying a Master of Theology through Malyon College.
Tom Foord is Preaching Elder at Hope Reformed Baptist Church, in QLD. He and his wife Joy are raising three sons to fight the good fight, to the Glory of God, and loving it. His sermons, and content for training men in Biblical Manhood can be found here. He is passionate about evangelism, apologetics, and expositional preaching – doing it himself and training others.
- Brovarians, a member of a growing band of Christian brothers who are inspired by the faithfulness of the Moravians.