The Presbyterian General Assembly of Australia (GAA) will hold a special meeting to discuss the question of whether unvaccinated people, should be excluded from church services. The GAA is the highest council of the Presbyterian Church of Australia and normally meets every three years.
“The pandemic caused by the emergence of the novel coronavirus in 2019 has had a substantial effect on the Christian church,” a letter or “requisition” calling the Moderator-General (national head) of the church to convene a special meeting. “As vaccines become more available, churches across the world are discussing the possibility of excluding unvaccinated people from their services of worship and other activities. This issue has the potential to be extremely divisive and deserves consideration at the highest level of our denomination in order that we might seek the mind of God on the matter and move forward in unity.”
Eternity understands that Moderator-General Peter Barnes has agreed to hold the meeting, which will be held online.
The letter cites Romans 14:22-15:4 where Paul discusses food offered to idols “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.” as a basis for discussion.
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The letter seeks a meeting of the GAA rather than a specific outcome. The signatories to the letter are Presbyterian ministers who Eternity understands hold a range of views on what might be the best approach. They come from several states, from capital cities and regional areas, so they will have had different experiences of lockdown.
A major motivation in calling for the special meeting is to make sure that the church is able to examine the issue in advance of vaccination passports coming into use in Australia, or being mandated for gatherings. Having the church maintain unity and have the denomination/network of one mind is another motivation. Having to physically separate unvaccinated persons from a church service is something people have expressed concerned about, in tension with a concern not to be a venue for transmission of Covid.
The Presbyterians will not be the only church having to have this discussion whether at local, state or national level.