Pastors Statement to Christian Leaders
Eiser Street Baptist Church
Toowoomba Queensland Australia
Dear fellow believers,
I got it wrong. It is painful to admit. But I admit it and I have repented for it. The church should have remained a beacon of hope and light through the confusion.
Two years ago, when our government insisted that the church had to close, I dutifully obeyed. Even though I could not see the sense in allowing bottle shops to remain open, I told myself that the government had all the data and would be making the right decision – for everybody’s benefit. But in today’s troubled world, perpetual fear has been made to seem normal, even noble. Life itself has become all about avoiding risk. To cultivate that kind of fear, especially at the government’s behest, poses a grave danger to the long-term spiritual health and ministry of the church. If young people are taught that the preservation of their own lives is more important than corporate worship and evangelism, who will go to the mission field?
Although our communities are beginning to recover from the shock of a global health crisis, it is clear that the resulting decisions made by our elected officials and their advisers is causing enormous hurt throughout our land. Mental anguish is ripping through many sectors of our communities as many people grapple with their conscience over the vaccine mandates now being thrust upon us.
Granted, there are many who have (and intend to) receive the vaccines with thanks and we respect their decision to do so. However, there are also many others who have investigated the matter for themselves and have also decided on a matter of conscience that they are not willing to receive the vaccine. Again, their decision to do so should also be respected.
The matter of whether or not to proceed with a personal medical treatment should always be a decision for the individual. After all, each individual intimately knows their own circumstances and health needs and should be free to act accordingly. In so far as vaccines are concerned, the Australian Immunisation Handbook clearly states:-
Criteria for valid consent
For consent to be legally valid, the following elements must be present:-
It must be given by a person with legal capacity, and of sufficient intellectual capacity to understand the implications of receiving a vaccine.
It must be given voluntarily in the absence of undue pressure, coercion or manipulation.
It must cover the specific procedure that is to be performed.
It can only be given after the potential risks and benefits of the relevant vaccine, the risks of not having it, and any alternative options have been explained to the person.
The person must have the opportunity to seek more details or explanations about the vaccine or its administration.
Many people in our communities are beginning to raise serious questions about whether the Federal and State Governments are now acting contrary to the clearly stated intention of the Australian Immunisation Handbook and there is growing anxiety that the government is going to increase pressure on dissenters through various economic and social punishments. This is causing deep distress and anxiety in our communities which we simply cannot ignore. According to Proverbs 31:8-9, it is incumbent upon us to advocate for our communities: Open your mouth for the speechless, in the cause of all who are appointed to die. Open your mouth, judge righteously and plead the cause of the poor and needy. We note that the “speechless” includes those who cannot, from timidity or ignorance, plead his own cause and who is therefore in danger of being crushed by his antagonist.
The Word that we treasure so dearly has a lot to say about justice, mercy, service, love and our role in being a help to our fellow man. More than ever, the Bible is our guide as we live through a time when our world is pushing conflicting messages at us that are filled with bias and political interest. Our interest is not in who is politically right. Our interest is in helping those who are hurting so deeply right now because their personal conscience has put them at odds with the government that was originally mandated to protect their rights, not take them. Verses 8 and 9 of Proverbs 31 addresses how we can wisely approach injustice, just as the same principle guided Solomon as he administered justice as a ruler. Specifically, we know that verse 9 is directed to those who are oppressed by the rich or powerful and cannot plead for themselves in the face of such overwhelming power. It is therefore our duty to stand up on their behalf to ensure that proper justice is served and the oppression of these people ends. We do not have the power to do that – but Jesus does.
This passage urges action on the part of those who are in a position to act. If we have a voice, access, privilege or influence, we should be using it to plead the cause of those who are experiencing oppression. Inaction is not something the Bible makes room for. We simply cannot live our Christian life blinded to the needs of others in our community. Many of you may disagree with the political or scientific views of a person, but that does not excuse a lack of compassion for those who are genuinely suffering and wrestling with the decisions that employers and governments are thrusting upon them. This is a time for the church to show leadership, using the principles of wisdom, compassion, love, grace and mercy that God has revealed to us in the Word and the Person and work of Jesus Christ.
The first thing we have to do is open our hearts and minds to listen to what those in our community are saying. As stated above, this may require being willing to hear from those that subscribe to a different lifestyle, political affiliation or scientific view. As Proverbs 1:5 says: A wise man will hear and increase learning, a man of understanding will attain wise counsel. If we truly desire to be a voice for the voiceless, we first have to be willing to hear what they are saying so that we may in turn speak in wisdom.
The situation currently evolving in our society is an incredibly complex one. There will be some who simply dismiss this letter on the basis that their conviction stirs them to follow the prevailing health advice from the government and encourage their congregations to do likewise. If that is the case, your freedom to do so is respected. But whatever your persuasion, our view is that we all have a unique and important role to play in ensuring justice and love abound in our world. We cannot simply direct that to the “vaccinated” and ignore the needs of those who have made the choice to refuse any COVID-19 vaccines.
As we all know, the issue of conscience is important in the life of a believer. After all, we realise that conscience is a God-given capacity for human beings to exercise self-evaluation. In practice, Paul often referred to his own conscience being “good” or “clear”. Paul examined his own words and deeds and found them to be in accordance with his morals and value system, which were, of course, based on God’s standards. His conscience verified the integrity of his heart. In that fashion, we rightly evaluate the fact that conscience should never be coerced. If a person is forced to violate their conscience, they will not be at peace, either before God or before the state.
Many in our community are not willing to accept the medical mandate for very valid reasons, including through matter of conscience. Their decision to do so should very much be respected and we would therefore ask that the Government not coerce the conscience of many Australians through the use of mandatory vaccination policies and “vaccine passports”.
If you are interested in working together to support those in our community who are feeling vulnerable, who are anxious, who have lost their jobs or who are not sure which way to turn, we would love to hear from you. We also believe it would be beneficial to ensure we show a united Christian front against any such steps the government might take to enforce any mandates which would restrict certain people from attending worship services. As men and women of the past discovered: there comes a time when one must take a position which is neither safe nor popular. It seems we have reached that time once again.
To God be the glory.