Umbrella church organisations weigh in on COVID19 concerns
Whereas some members may express hesitancy to take a COVID19 vaccine, it is unlikely that any member of the Association of Evangelical Churches of St Vincent and the Grenadines will say it is not something to be done.
It is also unlikely that any church will encourage its members to flout COVID protocols by saying that the measures put in place by authorities cannot save Vincentians.
This was expressed by Reverend Dr Reynold Murray, the president of the Association, yesterday in an interview with SEARCHLIGHT on the churches’ stance on COVID19 protocols.
“There is no stance per se for churches because this is a new thing that has come upon us. We have been trying to work together in terms of following protocols set out by the government and where we had difficulties, we have sought to convene meetings with the authorities and that was primarily as it relates to numbers and spacing in the church because we felt that at times, they were putting some undue pressure on the church, in that we were the entity that were following most of the protocols – in fact, to this day, most of the churches that are a part of the Association of Evangelical Churches have all protocols still in place,” Murray said.
He outlined that Evangelical Churches have been taking names and telephone numbers for attendees, sanitising and enforcing the wearing of masks and physical distancing during services.
The pastor also said two to three services are held if necessary to accommodate congregants.
At least one pastor has been warned by police in recent times about continued violations of the COVID19 protocols for religious gathering.
The pastor in question, Julius Louie of the Faith Deliverance Church has expressed the view that taking vaccines, wearing masks, and social distancing, as stipulated by the Ministry of Health are not of God and do not have the ability to save persons; only God can.
Murray told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday that while Pastor Louie has attended several events of the Association, he would not define his church as being a member.
The president said while he does not agree with Pastor Louie’s position, he will not demonize him.
“I don’t subscribe to the principle. I’ve spoken to the person myself and I don’t know where their teaching is coming from. There are persons who have said the teaching is diabolic and they try to associate it (the vaccine) with the biblical adage of the mark of the beast that will happen around the time of tribulation,” he said.
“That, from a Christian perspective, if someone is fearful of that, the mark of the beast is something to be terribly afraid of because once you take the mark of the beast from a biblical perspective, you are damned. So, if that is a person’s concern, it is for us to get them to see that this is not. As long as that is their mindset, that this is the mark of the beast, I wouldn’t fight them because that is not something anyone wants to be a part of.”
Dr. Murray, who has a background in science, said he made the personal decision to take the vaccine and would never associate with anything that is close to the mark of the beast.
He added that the concept of the mark of the beast should be put in its biblical context and in his opinion, according to the way it was described in the Bible and his understanding of it, it would not come in the form of a vaccine.
The scientist acknowledged that there are persons who may want to have a better understanding of the vaccine before they take it.
“That, I understand and that I will still respect, but when you outright say to me that it cannot help, I don’t endorse that and I don’t know that any right-thinking person will. That is not the position of any of the groupings I associate with,” Pastor Murray told SEARCHLIGHT.
“I will not subscribe to that teaching. I know many others who will not. I don’t know if there are any members in the Association who will want to teach that, but as a group, I haven’t heard any of the people in the group teaching that.”
He continued: “Again, let me say upfront that there is no position as it relates to vaccines or no vaccine in churches,because this is something new. The churches are always about the gospel position…vaccines and what food you eat and what clothes you wear are not generally caught up in church dynamics because that will be more division than helping.”
Other churches, both locally and regionally have taken a similar stance on the issue of vaccines.
The Conference of the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas recently issued a letter to its churches across the region on the importance of vaccination in the COVID19 pandemic.
“The familiar proverb “prevention is better than cure” rings true today. It is our Christian responsibility to co-operate with attempts that are presently being made to prevent COVID19 from causing further destruction among God’s people than it has already done,” the letter reads.
It explored several facts about the virus, including its impact and implication on the lives of individuals.
The document also said that vaccination constitutes a form of prevention, designated to stop diseases from happening, and it is one of several ways of affirming love for one another.
“While one has the right and freedom to take or not to take a vaccine, one’s right and freedom is limited by the right and freedom of the other to be protected from infection. One should not use one’s right not to be vaccinated without considering the rights of others. One should not use his or her right not to be vaccinated to be a possible source of infection, by the virus, for the other,” it said.
It also noted that “COVID-19 might justifiably be regarded as the unseen enemy alluded to in the letter to the Ephesians, chapter 6: 12 “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm”. In the Christian’s refocused understanding of health, vaccination constitutes part of the whole armor of God that is needed alongside other weaponry – mask wearing, handwashing, physical/ social distancing – to fulfil the law of love in the context of the corona pandemic.”