As Baptists, we are drawn together through association while respecting the autonomy of the local church under Christ as a key principle of our denomination. The BUV Support Hub’s role is to equip, empower and encourage local churches through the provision of resources, advice and guidance, but each individual church is ultimately responsible for its own decisions and actions.
An issue of concern to many church leaders relates to the possibility of vaccine passports and the implications for our churches. This is a complex issue that has the potential to polarise congregations based on different viewpoints. Given the autonomy referred to above, the BUV Support Hub will provide advice and guidance on this issue, as with others, but each church will need to prayerfully discern their own position.
Some key principles we would encourage all churches to consider when thinking through their position:
- Our starting point needs to be a generous theological response focused on protecting the vulnerable, rather than asserting our rights,
- As we engage with this issue, let us maintain our values, especially respect, love and freedom of conscience,
- Respond to the State Government’s Roadmap with the understanding that we will be treated like other community and religious groups, and therefore, not seek special privileges above and beyond what is expected of others,
- Acknowledge that we are still in the midst of a global pandemic and therefore, we may need to endure some short-term restrictions on the journey forward,
- Act in a way that we fulfil our duty of care for those entrusted to our care,
- Present the Baptist church to our society as a community of love and compassion,
- Engage in respectful conversation with one another, seeking to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace (Ephesians 4:3).
Be assured that Rev Daniel Bullock, Director of Mission and Ministries is liaising with the Heads of Churches in Victoria and our Baptist colleagues interstate. In addition, the BUV Leadership Team are closely monitoring the situation, so as to provide timely advice to our churches, as we have endeavoured to do throughout the pandemic.
As you know, on Sunday 19th September, the Victorian State Government released a Roadmap outlining some easing of restrictions for the coming months.
Below is a summary of how the Roadmaps relate to Places of Worship over the next 3 months. Note: more detail will become available in coming weeks that will clarify questions arising from this overall summary.
-Closed – live broadcast only (teams of 5 max)
-Allowed with up to 20 persons per facility, using a 4sqm density quotient
AT 70% of 16yrs+ FULLY VACCINATED (indicative date of 26th October)
– Outdoor services only – 50 fully vaccinated people, 4sqm density quotient, 20 people with unknown vaccination status, 4sqm density quotient
– Indoor services – 30 fully vaccinated people, 4sqm density quotient,
- Outdoor services – 100 fully vaccinated people, 2sqm density quotient, 20 people with unknown vaccination status, 4sqm density quotient
AT 80% of 16yrs+ FULLY VACCINATED (indicative date of 5th November)
Metro and Regional Vic
- Indoor services – 150 fully vaccinated people, 4sqm density quotient
- Outdoor services – 500 fully vaccinated people, 2sqm density quotient,
20 people with unknown vaccination (outdoor/indoor TBA)
(Note: easing at 70% and 80% fully vaccinated will be subject to health system capacity).
Clearly, the challenges we will need to navigate in the short to medium term are density limits, size limits and the separation of congregational members based on vaccination status, indeed, the exclusion in some cases of unvaccinated individuals. This separation is not ideal and has the potential to cause pain in our congregations. Furthermore, we realise it puts a lot of pressure on pastors and church leaders.
In more recent times under our COVID restrictions, churches have mostly experienced similar restrictions as other community groups in our society. When this has not occurred, BUV Support Hub staff have advocated on behalf of churches and will continue to do so. Churches can also consider raising any concerns they have with their local Members of Parliament.
Our hope and desire is that, in the long-term, we can welcome all people into our gatherings, but we may need to acknowledge this could take some time, especially while there are groups of people who have not had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated and those in our midst who cannot be vaccinated due to health or other reasons. In the meantime, we all need to think about innovative and creative ways in which we might support people unable to attend in-person worship services or other activities at our churches, while managing risks for vulnerable people. The BUV Support Hub is willing to help churches share such ideas with one another and we welcome your stories and feedback. For example; last year we shared a story from Epsom Community Church who developed an innovative Drive-In Church – click here to read story. If you have ideas to share, please email our Comms Department.
To keep connected with the latest COVID Government restrictions, please continue to check the BUV Coronavirus advice page