“Jesus is Lord of all, and his gospel is a gospel for all. A ‘No Entry’ sign at the door of the church is wholly inconsistent with the gospel preached inside,” Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Kaniska Raffel wrote. “Neither race, gender, ethnicity, age, nor economic or educational status – or vaccination status – are to operate as divisions within the Christian community or barriers to the fellowship we share because of Jesus.”
Raffel is strongly expressing a desire that churches should be open to all, in the context of the NSW government plan to grant freedoms to the vaccinated shortly after that State reaches 70 per cent double dosed with the Covid vaccines. The plan is that those freedoms, including church attendance, will not be available to the unvaccinated.
Not every Christian or even churchgoer is so concerned about vaccine passports. As Eternity has reported, a majority of churchgoers support a vaccine passport without this exemption.
The Archbishop is not seeking to gather a band of supporters for a political position but simply to have churches as open to as many people as possible. He is not spoiling for a fight – as some other commentary appears to want to do. But he makes his point firmly.
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The Archbishop is out in public supporting church for all telling Channel 7. “When it comes to faith communities, it tends to be very important, so we do think there’s a case to say it’s a bit more like shopping or going to the doctor than going to the footy or going to the movies,” he said.
In some Christian commentary, much of it on social media, a variety of other reasons for protesting vaccine passports alongside the principle of churches to admit all to worship can be found.
- Supporting the arguments of Vaccine-hesitant people and/or anti-vaxxers.
- The view that the state has no right to regulate the church – the stance of John Macarthur, reflected by some Australian websites.
- Supporters of alternative medical treatments.
- Libertarians and others are concerned that public health restrictions could become permanent.
- Those who doubt vaccine efficacy.
Raffel is not making any of these points. But as well as his call wanting churches to be open, the way the Archbishop frames the discussion should be read carefully.
I support vaccination because clear medical advice shows you are less likely to get C-19 or have serious complications. While not supporting an indefinite vaccine mandate for entry to churches, we are committed to complying with health orders and ensuring our churches are safe.
— Archbishop of Sydney (@archbishopsyd) September 13, 2021
The word indefinite is important. The Archbishop is aware – like the rest of us – that after the 70 per cent “double dose” restrictions are implemented, we will be moving on towards a new set of restrictions and freedoms, possibly at the 80 per cent milestone. There might only be a few weeks between reaching 70 per cent and 80 per cent double dosed. Other measures such as rapid antigen testing may come into play.
Other nations such as Denmark and the UK are lifting their restrictions including vaccine passports.
For these reasons the restriction on unvaxxed people going to church is going to be time-limited. Is a temporary restriction a hill to die on? Is it worth running a civil disobedience campaign – defying the rules – over what may be a few weeks of waiting for the vaccination rate to climb?