Vaccine Certificates/Passports and the Church

General Concerns:

  1. Verifiability of data: Up to now when a person in NZ receives their vaccine, no proof of identity is required. The individual administering the vaccine simply asks for the person receiving the vaccine to confirm their name and date of birth (in some cases their address). This is a process which is open to significant abuse and provides absolutely no way for retroactive verification. Though the numbers are certain to be small, there is no way to be certain that everyone who has received a vaccine is actually the person they claimed to be. Therefore medical records are no sure sign of accuracy.
  2. “To make vaccination the basis of whether someone is allowed entry to a venue, or participation in an activity, makes no logical sense in terms of protecting others. If the vaccines are highly effective in preventing significant disease, as seems to be the evidence from trial results to date, then those who have been vaccinated have already received protection; there is no benefit to them of other people being vaccinated. Further, since vaccines do not prevent infection per se even a vaccinated person could in theory carry and potentially pass on the virus, so to decide someone’s “safe non-spreader” status on the basis of proof of their immunity to disease is spurious.”[1]
  3. “The introduction of vaccine passports would constitute an unethical form of coercion and violation of the principle of informed consent. People may have various reasons for being unable or unwilling to receive vaccines currently available including, for some Christians, serious issues of conscience related to the ethics of vaccine manufacture or testing. We risk creating a two-tier society, a medical apartheid in which an underclass of people who decline vaccination are excluded from significant areas of public life. There is also a legitimate fear that this scheme would be the thin end of the wedge leading to a permanent state of affairs in which COVID vaccine status could be expanded to encompass other forms of medical treatment and perhaps even other criteria beyond that. This scheme has the potential to bring about the end of liberal democracy as we know it and to create a surveillance state in which the government uses technology to control certain aspects of citizens’ lives.”[2]
  4. No medical treatment should be received by an individual as a result of coercion or manipulation but only as the result of fully informed, voluntary consent. One could argue that the New Zealand Government has already begun a practice of coercion with the relentless media pressure to get vaccinated – even seeing the PM travel around the country with the intent to talk those who are reluctant into being vaccinated. Certainly there is very tangible danger of coercion when members of a society are told certain aspects of their freedom will be removed from them if they are not able to provide a permissible Vaccine Certificate.

 

Specific Church Concerns:

  1. Christian, Pastoral Leadership is not leadership by way of coercion or manipulation. By requiring proof of a permissible Vaccine Certificate before entry into essential elements of the gathered church (worship services, etc.), church leaders risk (even unintentionally) using their position as a means of coercion, manipulating others to violate their conscience just so they can continue as active members of the Body of Christ. This is extremely dangerous, at best, if not sinful!
  2. “As Christian leaders we wish to state that we envisage no circumstances in which we could close our doors to those who do not have a vaccine passport, negative test certificate, or any other “proof of health”. For the Church of Jesus Christ to shut out those deemed by the state to be social undesirables would be anathema to us and a denial of the truth of the Gospel. The message we preach is given by God for all people and consists in nothing other than the free gift of grace offered in Christ Jesus, with the universal call to repentance and faith in him. To deny people entry to hear this life-giving message and to receive this life-giving ministry would be a fundamental betrayal of Christ and the Gospel.”[3] Further details on this point are outlined below:
    • As a New Testament church we have clear instructions given in Scripture for how a person is to be excluded from membership and when this is to occur. It is clearly within the bounds of the responsibility of the church and not the government to make such a decision. Matthew 18:15-20 & 1 Corinthians 5:1-8 are the key texts which speak to Church Discipline. If a member of a local church is unvaccinated, the congregation would have to conclude this is a matter of sin and this person is in a state of hardened unrepentance, concluding they are then to be removed from membership.
      • To bar a member of the congregation from attending the corporate gathering of the membership on the basis of anything other than Church Discipline would seem to be unjustifiable Scripturally.
      • In point of fact, Church Discipline would not even bar a person from continued attendance to a church service except for very rare circumstances where the unrepentant sin involved a matter of judicial legality and/or personal safety.
    • If the person is not already a member of the congregation but a visitor or even regular attendee, the same principles still apply.
      • Firstly, every attendee is a potential candidate for conversion to faith in Jesus Christ by the power of the gospel preached.
      • Secondly, every converted attendee is a potential future member under normal circumstances.
      • Therefore to bar a visitor or attendee from attendance is essentially to declare they are not welcome to even be considered for potential membership and/or further participation in the body of Christ.
      • Yet, unless the church’s constitution states that a current vaccination record is required for Church Membership – in addition to “usual” requirements like a testimony of conversion, baptism, affirmation of the Statement of Faith, etc. the church is arbitrarily closing their doors to one with no Scriptural basis.
    • The church of Jesus Christ is called to show no partiality but to be a place of radical hospitality.
      • James 2:1-13 strongly condemns the sin of partiality. For a church to effectively favour a certain portion of society based on their health, perceived health condition, receipt of a particular medical treatment, etc. should be unthinkable for a local Body of Christ.
      • Hebrews 13:2 is a clear call for the church to be a people who demonstrate hospitality to all.
      • We have the overwhelming example of Jesus Who loved the outcasts, called those despised by society to join Him, fellowshipped with the forsaken, etc.
      • Indeed the very character of God is demonstrated as He shows Himself to be a lover of the outcast and forsaken.
    • This type of open, loving, impartial, hospitable care for others may be costly. Indeed discipleship is costly. Following Christ is to take up one’s cross. Being a part of God’s Kingdom is to be a servant of all. Indeed we follow a Saviour Who became the Suffering Servant and laid down His life for His friends.

Per the above, the introduction and required use of such a tool/device would directly impact the Freedom of Religious Expression which is a fundamental component of a Liberal Democracy. Any move in this direction by a government would be deeply concerning for any Christian Church Leader and ought to be for any other member of our society who values their freedoms.

 

Resource List:

UK Vaccine Passport Letter: https://vaccinepassportletter.wordpress.com

AU Vaccine Passport Petition: https://caldronpool.com/ezekieldeclaration/

Pro:

https://au.thegospelcoalition.org/article/covid-vaccination-and-the-church/

https://quillette.com/2021/09/03/making-the-conservative-case-for-vaccine-passports/

Against:

https://ca.thegospelcoalition.org/columns/detrinitate/vaccine-passports-and-the-church/

https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2021/09/vaccine-passports-for-churches

https://blog.canberradeclaration.org.au/2021/09/02/5-reasons-why-vaccine-passports-are-an-ethical-disaster/

Moderate:

https://www.akosbalogh.com/blog/vaccine-passports-and-the-coercing-of-conscience-what-should-christians-think-12

https://www.akosbalogh.com/blog/vaccine-passports-and-the-coercing-of-conscience-what-should-christians-think-22

https://adfontesjournal.com/web-exclusives/do-vaccines-mandates-violate-religious-freedom-rethinking-the-religious-exemption/

 

General Principles (not directly toward Vaccine Certificates):

https://au.thegospelcoalition.org/article/vaccine-wars-and-the-church-of-god/

https://www.9marks.org/article/must-churches-follow-mask-mandates

 

Abraham Kuyper:

https://historyofyesterday.com/vaccination-certificate-the-smallpox-note-19th-century-e2dab81cc49d

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/0231/7d4da619a73627617435f80c4cabfc53d984.pdf?_ga=2.136839792.1166970799.1634003002-383159692.1634003002

https://adfontesjournal.com/web-exclusives/kuyper-on-vaccines-i-handling-disagreement/

https://adfontesjournal.com/ethics/kuyper-on-vaccines-ii-the-role-of-government/

https://adfontesjournal.com/web-exclusives/kuyper-on-vaccines-iii-receiving-vaccines/

 

[1] https://vaccinepassportletter.wordpress.com

[2] https://vaccinepassportletter.wordpress.com

[3] https://vaccinepassportletter.wordpress.com