Dear sister in Christ... about the vaccines

Dear sister in Christ,

Thanks for your message in response to our church’s stance on vaccinations. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to respond. I want, somehow, for our unity in Christ not to be broken by the issue of vaccinations. Given the circumstances and the feelings involved, I do think this necessitates a work of God’s Holy Spirit. But it is the kind of work that the Spirit does, so I am hopeful!

In the most beautiful passage about the unity of God’s people, Psalm 133, unity is shown as a gift that flows down from heaven like the dew on the mountains of Lebanon, or like the anointing oil on Aaron’s beard.

I have acted (as I know you have), from the best of my knowledge and from my conscience, guided by Scripture. For me, this has meant taking the vaccines and strongly advising others to do so. It has also meant compliance with government guidelines around masks and lockdowns.

It has meant temporarily excluding the unvaccinated from church meetings.

We will simply disagree on whether that was a wise and godly cause of action. I recognise that I don’t know everything and that I could be wrong about this. Nevertheless, I don’t think that I am. With the greatest of respect, I think I am right about the vaccines, and I think the wisest and most loving cause of action for church leaders was to take the best scientific and government advice available in order to protect the most vulnerable and to protect the community in general.

But I don’t want to argue the toss here. I recognise that we are not going to convince each other, and that you have come to your own opinion for your own reasons. My point here is rather to ask: is this a difference we can live with? How can we remember our fellowship in Christ even in the midst of this?

I realise that some of my decisions and the decisions of our political leaders have caused you hurt. You’ve been excluded and isolated because of your decision not to be vaccinated. You’ve been spoken about with fear, aggression, and contempt. You are dismayed that, in your terms, the church caved into social pressure, when you were expecting more. I know some people who have even lost their jobs over this. So: I can see that the opposition to the vaccines runs very deep for some people, even as I disagree with the arguments that have led them there.

This clearly isn’t a disagreement over what colour the church carpet should be. Everyone agrees that it matters a great deal either way. There are personal consequences.

So I guess I am asking for your forbearance in understanding why I would accept the restrictions on the basis of my own research and judgmen.t

And I don’t think we can just ignore that as if it isn’t there. If you are right, I’ve made a very grave mistake and trusted those who should not be trusted. I’ve encouraged people to take a medicine that will imperil their health. And I’ve temporarily separated the people of God. And if I am right, then you’ve exposed yourself and the community to COVID19 unnecessarily when the vaccines would have provided a shield.

And that’s where the test for Christian unity really comes. Because the temptation it has given us, on both sides of the argument, is to find a deeper belonging with people who have the same views on the vaccines as we do. We find it so hard to understand one another’s views on this issue – and the issue has caused such anxiety – that it will be much easier to gather just with those with whom we agree.

But the church is not in essence a group of people who hold a particular view on COVID19 or on vaccinations one way or another – it belongs to Jesus, and its membership is on the basis of grace alone. It is made one by the Spirit. We share a table in the memory of the sacrificed body and blood of Christ – we all share in the one loaf. This is not a unity of our own choosing, because the church is not a club of the vaccinated or of the unvaccinated. We should not be surprised to find in church people with views we find baffling or even objectionable!

So I guess I am asking for your forbearance in understanding why I would accept the restrictions on the basis of my own research and judgment, even as you have come to a very different judgment – and to accept my assurances that you are very welcome at church, in Jesus’ name, as a dearly beloved sister. Our deepest belonging is to one another.

I don’t ask you to concede to my point of view. But I do ask you to pray with me that the Spirit would be at work in this as in so many things, making his miracle of Christian one-ness a reality in our lives.

In Christ


Michael Jensen is the senior minister of St Mark’s Anglican Church in Darling Point, Sydney. He is the author of several books including Between Tick and Tock: What the Bible Says About How It All Begins, How It All Ends and Everything in Between 

He is cohost of the With All Due Respect podcast with Megan Powell du Toit


Some prayer points to help

Pray for church leaders as they guide their churches during the pandemic. Pray for  good and open discussion