Throughout our ongoing struggle to address the reality of COVID-19 in our world, country, province, and community there have been different perspectives on what should be done. These differing perspectives have carried over onto social media in ways that are divisive, harmful, and do not reflect the ways of speaking to which Christ calls his followers. Beyond social media, in some communities within our province, the choices of how some individual churches are responding have become front-page news.
As divisiveness and misinformation continue, we as a leadership team believe that it is important for us to communicate what drives our decision making on behalf of our Covenant family. We have not done this before because we thought these things would be clearly understood, but sense now that more clear communication about our motives and our decision making could be helpful.
At the heart of our decision making is our identity as a Jesus centred community. In a recent sermon at our sister church, The Meeting House, this central identity was summed up this way:
We are not a social justice movement, or a compassion movement, or a peace movement; we are a Jesus movement. And because we follow Jesus we care about social justice, compassion, and peace. Since we are also citizens of an earthly democracy, we will endeavour to be good and loving citizens which may mean we will make our voices heard in the political and societal arena. But our priority will always be the purity and promotion of the beautiful alternative of the Kingdom of Christ. [see John 18:36; Romans 13:1-2; John 15:17]
As we make decisions and respond, this is what drives us. We ask, "What will help us reflect, embody, and promote the way of Jesus - the beautiful alternative of the Kingdom of Christ?"
As followers of Jesus, reflecting, embodying, and promoting his kingdom in the world, and as citizens of a world in which we long for his love to be seen and know, we are committed to the following:
- We are committed, as followers of the one who is Truth, to be informed by trustworthy sources. We will not rely on social media that is full of statements of unqualified individuals and can reflect false ideologies. We believe in God's healing power as reported throughout the Old and New Testaments. That's why we pray as individuals and as the whole congregation for the healing of the sick who come and ask us for prayer. On the other hand, we believe that God gave wisdom to physicians, medical and pharmaceutical researchers to find treatments for our bodily needs and problems. It is up to us as believers to use both sources and ask God for wisdom to make healthy decisions.
- We are committed, as followers of the one who called us into sacrificial love, to doing what we can to protect our neighbours from the spread of COVID-19 and subsequent strains on our medical system. It is for this reason that we will support and follow the health department and government regulations that are designed to help accomplish this positive end. Our call is not to “defend our rights. It is to lay them down for the sake of others. We agree with something Andy Stanley said in a recent conversation, “Whenever we catch the Church trying to win, we have already lost.” [see 1 John 3:16]
- We are committed to embodying the love of Christ in our relationships with each other. Because we are united in Christ, we will not divide over what people believe our response should be to COVID or vaccines. We will, however, address times when these beliefs are expressed in ways that don’t reflect and embody the way of Jesus. We will seek to speak with love even in the face of sharp disagreement and we will hold each other accountable when we fail in this.
- We encourage each one who is a part of our Covenant family to seek to embody each of these realities in their personal life:
- The genuine pursuit of truth. Listen to credible medical sources. When it comes to you to decide whether you take a vaccination or not, talk to a physician whom you trust and prayerfully consider his or her advice for you.
- Engage with sacrificial love toward your neighbours. The goal of the Jesus follower is not to win a debate or defend or push any agenda other than loving like Christ. In each situation, consider long term impact and immediate need and prayerfully discern how to live out the way of love.
- Embody the love of Christ in how we relate to each other. Remember Jesus’ words: “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (Jn. 13:35 - NLT) Even when we think someone else’s perspective is dangerous and wrong we are expected to act with love. The way of Jesus allows for us to engage with others regarding their perspective on masks or lockdowns or vaccines, but it demands doing so with love. Whether someone decides for or against the vaccination is totally up to the individual, we respect and ask every member of our church to respect those decisions.
All of the decision making on behalf of our community during COVID-19 has been done with Jesus and his way in mind. As best we can understand the situation, we are seeking to act in ways that show his love and concern to our neighbours and each other. This has included embracing some exciting opportunities that we would otherwise never have embraced at this time, such as working hard to present a quality online presentation! Things like politics, fear of reprisal, or concern about financial income have had no part in our decision making. We humbly acknowledge that the gift of hindsight may show that we could have responded better, however, we are doing the best we can with the information we have at present.
It is our hope and prayer that this pandemic will be overcome very soon. Let us stay in contact with each other by using safe means of communication and let's pray for God's grace for all of us, our community, our health care providers, and those who are leading us during this troublesome time.
May God bless you all!
The Covenant Church Leadership Team (Covenant Board and Pastor)