An open letter to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, signed by 295 church leaders, urges the re-opening of Melbourne’s churches.
“Churches are essential for the well-being of our community in this pandemic,” the leaders write.
While expressing gratitude for the Government’s work in containing the second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak, the leaders express their concern for the impact the months-long closure of their churches has had.
“As evangelical churches we proclaim the eternal hope of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: That Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried and raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3–4) Because of this, through Christ’s church, unparalleled spiritual, emotional, mental, psychological and social benefits flow to his people and to the community at large.”
“We are therefore urging you to consider church services as an essential service for the hope and wellbeing of our community in this pandemic.”
In addition to declaring church gatherings as an essential service, the pastors ask the Victorian Government to:
- “To allow churches to open for indoor worship with a COVIDSafe plan and social distancing guidelines.”
- “To rectify the disparity in numbers allowed for outdoor religious gatherings and outdoor dining in regional Victoria in the current Third Step restrictions.
- “To ensure consistency and fairness be applied to churches and other sectors in each of the subsequent steps on the roadmap to re-opening both regional and metro Victoria.”
They point out that churches have been working co-operatively with the Government, ensuring all social distancing and COVIDSafe measures have been applied.
The signatories include Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Church of Christ and Seventh Day Adventist and independent churches. Possibly the best known church involved is Bayside Church – the letter is signed by Rob Buckingham, the senior pastor.
“These church leaders now join business and hospitality sectors calling on the Andrews government to remove restrictions,” Australian Christian Lobby spokesperson Jasmine Yuen said.
“Churches can apply a COVIDSafe Plan and social distancing measures. For instance, contact tracing is easier than in public places, making church services a safe place for people to gather.
“The ACL calls upon the Andrews government to listen to these respected church leaders, allow churches to open and contribute to community wellbeing.”