Since March 2020, Coronavirus (or Covid-19) has affected all of us in a variety of ways. Often we have had to make difficult decisions around how we meet, vaccinations and many other areas of concern. As we seek to pursue God’s vision to be a thriving Christ-Community in this ever changing season, we personally and corporately seek the best, biblically-informed wisdom and knowledge that is available to us. Our hope is that as these resources not only helps to inform Church policy, but can also help equip you personally as you navigate this season with us.
Below is a list of resources that may be helpful to you, as well as a list of Frequently Asked Questions around Church-safe policy.
Do we really have to obey the Governing Authorities?
We have a responsibility as Christians, individually and collectively, to obey the Governing Authorities. Paul describes our duty to obey the state in Romans 13:1-2: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement.”
Our one qualification is if there are compelling reasons to disobey when our eternal citizenship conflicts with our national / state citizenship, this is called Civil Disobedience. For example, in some countries it is illegal to share the Gospel. However, Followers of Christ find other ways to still share the Good News despite those rules.
It is important to recognise that in the New Testament, civil disobedience was rarely utilised unless it prevented the sharing of the Gospel, or forced citizens to overstep clear moral boundaries. We too should be cautious not to quickly jump to pursue this course of action, nor to confuse our preferences (eg. meeting-in-person), inconveniences (eg. wearing masks) or civil rights (eg. vaccinations) with the proclamation of the Good News.
So do we have to obey Governing Authorities? Yes. And we should pray for those leaders as well (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
Is it wrong that we turn people away from Church? Isn’t the Church supposed to accept everyone?
As a Church one of our core values is inclusion. It is essentially the idea that we don’t judge a book by its covers and seek to Love our Neighbour irrespective of their particular differences to us. Jesus perfectly embodied this in the way he interacted with many who didn’t ‘look the part’ or ‘fit the mould’. Given the diversity within the Belmont region, this is an important value as we reach out beyond the timing of a Sunday gathering and the boundaries of the Church building.
Part of the living out of that value is that Church gatherings are a safe place. This is why we invest considerable resources towards making Church gatherings (including ministries) as safe as possible. For example, this might include accessibility to buildings, such as ramps or hand rails or appropriate lighting for night activities. Just as we do not want to put vulnerable children at risk (hence our rigorous child protection strategies), we also do not want to put other vulnerable people at risk.
At Belmont Baptist Church, we recognise that Church Gatherings (ie. Sunday Services) are only one of the many ways that we can meet and live out God’s Mission in our lives. As has been the new normal over the last 18 months, we now have Prayer meetings and Life groups which meet online. We have a community care meal where individuals are still able to pick up a meal. And most of all, each of us has the Gospel and the Mission of God, which should be unleashed and lived out from Monday to Sunday.
If we are doing the above, then there will be no-cap on who we can reach for Christ, even as we seek to follow the Governing authorities and the rules around Sunday gatherings.