Vaccinated or unvaccinated – it no longer matters.
‘So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.’ (Rom. 14:12).
This Sunday in Victoria, churches will be allowed small services of people of ‘unknown vaccination status’ and/or large services of vaccinated only. There is no indication that this will not be a permanent state of affairs (whether continually or on an ad-hoc basis) or even one that will become more restrictive. Christians have a choice to support segregation or send a clear message to the government that disunity in the church is against our Christian beliefs.
We can be sure that our decisions will be being observed by a watching world and the various state governments. What we do will have implications for churches across the country.
The Bible is Clear
The Bible is very clear that no matter what the dividing lines in society, they have no place in the church. And neither unity nor love can be something that we hold in our hearts but do not demonstrate in our actions. The visible body of Christ is an expression of the gospel. And it is this leaven working through society that ultimately brought an end to slavery in the West and hopefully to a two-tier system in our own society.
The unvaccinated minority who are ‘locked out’ of so many parts of society, who may have lost their jobs or suffered in other tangible and intangible ways, should at least be able to find a place of love and acceptance by all at church and this be a place where vaccination status is not even asked for.
We cannot justify banning a certain class of people from a worship service as just a simple, unproblematic extension of the quota system or some other government intrusion. Each person will be deeply imprinted by the experience. A mentality of ‘us’ and ‘them’ will grow. However short or long segregation may last for, the results are likely to be with us for years. We have only to consider segregation in other societies in the past with all the prejudices and fears that entailed to see that systemic discrimination has persisting social effects that last for decades.
We need to stand up to government oppression on behalf of everyone. Tacit acceptance or outright affirmation of such extreme mandates as these are perceived as ‘crossing the Rubicon’- principles of human rights (that come from a Christian understanding that people are made in the image of God), once breached, become almost impossible to uphold afterwards.
Let the Bible speak:
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:28)
‘For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh, the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.’ (Eph 2: 14-18)
Jesus’ last prayer was that ‘they may be one as we are one’ (John 17:22).
Respectability is the Enemy of the Truth
What will people think? What about those who perceive it as a health issue?
While care must be taken to take sensible precautionary measures such as self-isolating when sick – segregating people based on whether they have had a medical procedure is another matter. The unvaccinated are stigmatised just as the uncircumcised were.
A similar issue of respectability versus unity had already arisen in Bible times and Paul viewed it so seriously that he opposed another apostle, Peter, ‘to his face’ because he wouldn’t associate with the uncircumcised and that was ‘not acting in line with the truth of the gospel’ (Galatians 2:11-14). This was not a health issue but a respectability one – much what we face today. It is clear that both vaccinated and unvaccinated transmit covid. To set our minds at rest, there is no body of evidence showing unvaccinated individuals are a substantially greater risk as far as transmitting delta – the kind of level of evidence the government is demanding for other medical interventions and should certainly be demanding for something as catastrophic as segregating a whole society[i]. We can stand, with Paul, for unity, with a clear conscience.
So what can we do?
Make use of unsegregated options as the Biblical and moral option. If necessary, flood the limited ‘unknown vaccine status’ services until churches are obliged to offer more. If we participate in vaccinated-only services now, this will send the signal to Daniel Andrews and the Premiers that churches are not opposed to segregated services and it could become a permanent part of the landscape (whether continually or on an ad hoc basis).
It is time for the people of God to rise up and stand for righteousness and unity in Christ, and in Christ alone. It is time to no longer add oil to the workings of a government passing unjust laws but to put some sand into the gears of oppression.
Rev. Dr. Andrew Matthews
Minister Presbyterian Church PCNSW
Home Missionary at Kangaroo Grounds Presbyterian Church 2018-2021
Rev. John Cromarty
Presbyterian Church of Victoria
Rev. Anthony Archer
Presbyterian Church of Victoria
Rev. Mark Powell
Presbyterian Church of New South Wales
Sign here to oppose segregation:
Over 68 countries and 2947 counties in the USA show no discernible relationship between the level of vaccination and the number of new covid cases because, in real life, waning vaccine efficacy after 3-6 months, natural immunity build up in the unvaccinated and many other factors come into play.
A large study in Israel reported “because during the current surge only a small fraction of the patients are within their initial 2 months post-vaccination period, considering the entire population as a whole, there is only a very little viral load difference between the vaccinated and unvaccinated groups‘.
Another large scale study in the UK found similarly. and this is tacitly acknowledged by governments with the rollout of boosters in Australia and Israel (while other countries do not recommend them for the general population).