STATEMENTS + MEDIA RELEASE
C3 SYD Pastoral Response to NSW Covid-19 Health Requirements
The NSW Government has communicated a ‘roadmap’ for NSW to come out of reliance on lockdowns in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. The purpose of this paper is to provide a framework for us as a church to respond in these circumstances in a way that glorifies God, maintains unity with each other and reveals Jesus to the people of Sydney. Our approach moving forward is provided at the conclusion of this paper.
Why we exist as a Church
Our primary purpose as a community of believers is to bring the good news about Jesus to the people of Sydney. As a church community we care for each other, encourage one another in our faith and help each other grow closer to Jesus and to be more like him. And the purpose Jesus has given us together in this city is to bring people into relationship with him and help them become his disciples.
Given that the mission we share together in Christ is to bring his good news to the people of Sydney, it is of utmost importance that we exhibit love and unity in our approach to Covid-19 health measures, and that our words and actions build bridges and not barriers to the people we are trying to reach for Christ. As ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor 5:20), our earnest desire is that people will experience Christ through our words and actions as we negotiate this season together.
The apostle Paul emphasizes the lengths to which he goes to build bridges for the Gospel when he says: I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings (1 Cor 9:22-23). In our approach as a church to the ongoing Covid-19 health measures we seek to embody this priority.
Personal Freedom to Choose
With the various health issues at hand, such as vaccination, each of us has a responsibility to decide how we will respond as a disciple of Christ. This decision should be guided by our biblical understanding and personal convictions, along with informed reading and medical advice. We recognise the importance of people being able to make decisions according to the leading of God in their life and to their conscience. Further to this, we recognise that every decision has consequences. And this is certainly the case with the NSW ‘roadmap’ and the decision regarding vaccination. To be vaccinated, or not, will have ramifications. We also want to validate that many have felt uncertain, even anxious around the decision to be vaccinated for understandable reasons.
Unity in Diversity
In the church broadly, and in our church C3 SYD, there are a diversity of views with regards to the approach of Government, corporations, and various groups in society for how we move forward in the Covid-19 pandemic. We urge that those in the church with differing views are kind and respectful of those with alternate views, as exhorted by the Word of God. We believe diversity does not have to lead to divisiveness or disunity.
The matters at hand are not moral issues, involving doctrinal truth, or preventing believers from following Christ and serving him, but rather matters of conscience and what the Bible refers to in Romans 14 as ‘disputable matters’. As such, we need to respect and keep unity with those who have differing views.
– Let us, therefore, make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Romans 14:19
– Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone. Titus 3:1-2
Biblical View of Government
The Bible gives us clear guidance on what our attitude and actions should be towards governing authorities. The Word of God exhorts us to:
- Recognise their authority is established by God (Romans 13:1)
- Honour them (1 Peter 2:17)
- Pray for them (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
- Submit to them (Romans 12:2-3, Titus 3:1)
Of note, the apostles wrote all the above instructions to pastors and churches living under the rule of a brutal and ungodly Roman government. Therefore, in the situation before us, unless the government causes us to explicitly violate our loyalty to Christ then we are to regularly pray, openly respect and willingly submit to them—even if we think they are inconsistent, ineffective or unwise in their response to COVID-19.
This means that not following God-ordained authority or engaging in or promoting civil disobedience because we have a philosophical disagreement with Government directives grieves the Spirit of God. On the other hand, this doesn’t mean we can’t protest and communicate our convictions—as long as it is done lawfully, and respectfully and builds bridges and not barriers with the people of Sydney whom we are reaching with the Gospel.
Representing Our Views as a Church
At C3 SYD we greatly value being able to meet together in-person. There is much that is good for the human soul that is discovered in connection and community. The possibility therefore, that unvaccinated people would not be able to join in-person church services is of great concern to us. These concerns have been represented to the Prime Minister by our C3 Australia Regional Director, Lars Halvorsen, and we will continue to represent them to NSW Health through our ongoing involvement in the NSW Inter-Faith Lobby Group. We believe that Christian leaders and believers have a duty of care to lobby the government in areas of justice or morality, or in our present situation if there are unfair restrictions or discriminations placed on the church community.
It is also important to recognize that any C3 SYD member or leader who have signed petitions do so representing their own conscience and view. They are free to do so, however their signing does not represent the view or approach of C3 SYD. While we do agree with some of the views expressed in various petitions that are presently circulating, we do not feel that the entire view expressed, and the tone in which it is conveyed, adequately represents how C3 SYD would engage in this discussion, which is why we are letting you know our approach now that the ‘roadmap’ is being released.
Our Approach Going Forward
- We will continue to prayerfully seek the Lord for guidance through this difficult season, that we might be and do everything He has in mind for us as his church, and as part of his answer for Sydney.
- We will continue to conduct ourselves in a way that conveys love and care for the greater community and seeks to build bridges for the Gospel.
- We will continue to support people to make their own informed choices and have respect for those with different views to our own held by members of C3SYD and beyond.
- We will continue to follow the health requirements of Government, in accordance with the Biblical instruction to submit to our civic leaders. We do not see current or anticipated future health requirements as justifying civil disobedience according to biblical standards.
- We will continue to be a voice to Government at National and State levels to advocate for meeting all together and to ensure fair and just application of health measures to the church in line with what is being applied in similar settings outside the church.
- Even after our in-person services recommence, we will continue to provide online Sunday services so that our C3 SYD congregation can meet online or in-person going into the future.
- Things are changing rapidly and we will respond accordingly, at this stage continuing to meet on our Zoom services. Going forward it is our desire for all to be able to meet together in-person, and we will continue to make representations to the Government to this end.
17th September 2021