A Melbourne pastor and blogger who co-authored a widely-shared rebuttal to the Ezekiel Declaration has conceded his church will “exclude” unvaccinated people from indoor and main gatherings in accordance with state-imposed mandates.
Just days before the state government announced that churches would be required to implement a vaccination certificate system once worship services are permitted to return, the authors of the rebuttal urged their readers to remove their signatures from the open letter opposing vaccine passports for churches, as no “such potential restriction [has] ever been announced.”
In the September 1 piece, which was titled, ‘Why We Can’t Sign the Ezekiel Declaration. An Evangelical Response,’ the authors admitted there is a “genuine issue relating to vaccine passports, both in general and specifically when tied to church attendance.”
The article states:
We will be extremely concerned if Government decides that religious organisations must mandate vaccination for attendees and participants in public worship services and other religious meetings.
But according to the authors, the Ezekiel Declaration jumped the gun by pre-emptively, and near-prophetically, voicing public opposition to vaccine passes in places of worship just days before the Government’s announcement.
Remarkably, the authors said:
There may yet be a need to respectfully make our case and even courageously refuse to place a limit on who may gather together with the people of God. But we are not at the moment yet, nor has any such potential restriction ever been announced.
Fast-forward exactly one month and it would seem that one of the authors still doesn’t think “we are at the moment” where we ought to either respectfully make our case or even courageously refuse to place limits on who may gather together with the people of God.
His church announced last Sunday their plan for returning to in-person worship later in the year. Part of the plan includes the “short term” exclusion of unvaccinated believers.
According to the church’s announcement:
The Government rules currently require proof of vaccination for entry into a place of worship to operate with appropriate numbers. As such, those who are unvaccinated (apart from those with a medical exemption and underage children) will be excluded from indoor and main gatherings in the short term.
The pastor has conceded that the church will comply with the Government’s decision to mandate vaccination for attendees in public worship, describing the restrictions as “reasonable, fair, and temporary.”
The announcement claims:
For both stages of reopening… the Victorian Government is mandating double vaccination for people wanting to attend any events, restaurants, and churches. Therefore, this is not discrimination against Churches.
So, rather than “courageously refusing to place limits on who may gather together with the people of God,” the “reasonable” and “fair” approach, according to this pastor, includes suspending unvaccinated people from public worship because it’s only “temporary,” and the prohibition isn’t limited to the gathering of God’s people.
This is the sort of division the Ezekiel Declaration was attempting to avoid, only to be dismissed by this pastor and his co-author as “unhelpful,” and even “divisive.”
But let’s not brush over the irony here. The pastor who penned a lengthy letter, describing the Ezekiel Declaration’s opposition to Vaccine Passports as “divisive,” has now conceded that he will divide his own church fellowship because the government mandates are “temporary” and “fair.”
This isn’t the first time God’s people have been hit with a “temporary” and “fair” prohibition against certain aspects of worship. When King Darius signed a document regulating prayer, he made it both temporary and fair (Daniel 6:7).
It was temporary in that it lasted for only four weeks. It was fair, in that it did not specifically “discriminate” against God’s people. The prohibition was broad. It banned Jews, along with every other religious sect from petitioning any man or deity apart from the king for a period of thirty days.
But how did Daniel respond to the mandate? Did he comply because, after all, the measure was only four weeks long? Did he comply because the injunction was to be “fairly” enforced? Much the opposite! As soon as the document was signed, we’re told Daniel went into his upper chamber, opened his windows, and prayed for all to see, just as he had always done.
The temporary nature of the king’s decree and the fairness in which it was enforced was irrelevant to Daniel because it undermined God’s decree. It didn’t matter to Daniel if the king was directly “discriminating” against God’s people or not. And that shouldn’t be a determining factor today, regardless of the consequences.
If the church were to take a bold stand on this matter of vaccine certificates, it would undoubtedly involve some degree of confrontation with the world. In Daniel’s case, non-compliance was a death sentence, but not even the prospect of being mauled by lions reduced him to rationalising why it might be more spiritual to pray in his prayer closet, and that, with the windows closed. Besides, it would have been chilly that time of year, and it’s not like there were flyscreens on the windows either.
While the Victorian Government’s “roadmap” out of lockdown gives an “indicative date” of November 5 for when churches will be required to commence segregation based on vaccination status, it does not, however, give an endpoint for the period of mandatory segregation.
The decision to divide a church for a “short term” period of only two weeks, therefore, rests on speculation and great optimism about the generosity of the Andrews Government.
What we’ve witnessed here is what we’ve witnessed elsewhere, and sadly, what we’ll continue to see. As Pastor Douglas Wilson has aptly put it:
Always remember how the responsible voices like to coo to us. First, they tell us that situation x will never happen. Then they tell us that it might happen, but that it is too soon to act on it. To act now would be premature and irresponsible. And then they tell us, once it has happened, that it is too late to do anything about it now. We have to reckon with the post-Christian realities on the ground.