Mask and number restrictions easing in churches

“Churches can now open to up to 300 people, subject to the 4m2rule and masks are no longer needed in services after talks with the State government on COVID safety…”

– The latest from Russell Powell at SydneyAnglicans.net.

Photo: Anglican Media Sydney.

Obeying government and obeying God

“The Bible’s teaching on our relationship to human authorities is quite clear. Those who govern us are set in place by God. …”

– In his column in the October 2020 Southern Cross, Archbishop Glenn Davies considers the relationship of Christians and the government – in these ‘COVID-19’ times.

Hopeful signs

This morning, Archbishop Glenn Davies tweets,

“I met with Minister Brad Hazzard yesterday. I assured him of our prayers as we all work together to stop COVID-19. We spoke about inconsistencies in current rules and he assured me that an announcement tomorrow will help churches better serve our communities.”

Update, 21 October 2020:

“From this Friday, the number of people who can attend religious gatherings will be lifted from 100 to 300, subject to the 4square-metre rule.”

ABC News.

Victoria: Churches locked out of Andrews pathway from lockdown

Here’s a media release from The Australian Christian Lobby:

Churches locked out of Andrews pathway from lockdown

19 October 2020

Victorians are relieved to see lockdown restrictions easing, but whilst retail and hospitality sectors can open from 2 November, churches and other faith communities remain in the dark about their future.

“From midnight 1 November, metropolitan hospitality venues can host 20 people indoors and regional venues 40,” ACL spokesperson Jasmine Yuen observed, “Yet church communities can not hold an indoor gathering.”

“In today’s daily press conference Premier Andrews justified the disparity by saying hospitality venues were heavily regulated. Allowing up to 40 strangers in a pub but zero members of a church community inside their own building is nonsensical and unjustifiable.

“The longer this trampling of freedom of worship goes on without making the specific epidemiological justifications public, the more it highlights how desperately religious freedom reform is needed.

“The sentiment of faith groups is clear, from a joint petition of 10,000 people of Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Presbyterian, Muslim and Hindu faiths, to 300 pastors and leaders who wrote to the Premier, all urging him to allow them to open. Faith groups provide an essential service for community health and mental wellbeing.

“Indoor church services with COVID-Safe Plans and contact tracing are safer than gatherings in public places. Churches have cooperated with the government for a long time to comply with the various protocols on food, hygiene, child safety, fire safety & emergency management et cetera. There is no reason why they can’t open in a COVID-Safe way just like restaurants and pubs.

“COVID-Safe church opening now is vitally important, particularly when people have been so lonely and isolated.

– ENDS.

Related:

295 church leaders urge Premier to open churches – 08 October 2020.

Capitol Hill Baptist case — COVID restrictions on gatherings unlawful

“Most of us are chafing under restrictions on gatherings imposed by COVID-19 laws.

Getting the balance right here is hard, and we want to give the government as much leeway as possible; but the restrictions have been very difficult for churches, and the rules adopted in some jurisdictions seem to discriminate against church meetings in comparison to other activities which are now allowed.

These were the issues at stake in the recent decision of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in Capitol Hill Baptist Church v Bowser (Case No. 20-cv-02710 (TNM), McFadden USDJ, Oct 9, 2020). …”

Neil Foster at Law and Religion Australia comments on the Capitol Hill Baptist Church case, and also notes the current circumstances in New South Wales.

The DC Mayor Doesn’t Get to Define Church

“Since the spring, Christian commentary on COVID-19 restrictions and church closures has focused on the authority of government. Do we as Christians believe the Bible gives Caesar the authority to ask churches to cease gathering in times of emergency?

That’s a conversation worth having. Yet an equally important theological question has quietly lurked in the shadows, which many Christians have missed: What is a church? More specifically, must the members of a church gather on a weekly basis to be a church?…”

Jonathan Leeman writes at Christianity Today about the nature of “church”. It’s a good question to consider as we seek to encourage Christians to gather.

(Photo: Capitol Hill Baptist Church.)

Victoria: Christians celebrate a basic liberty retained!

Here’s a media release from The Australian Christian Lobby:

“Victorians can now breathe a sigh of relief with the Andrews government relenting on its grab for controversial detention powers in its COVID-19 Omnibus Bill.

‘The Australian Christian Lobby welcomes the government’s move to delete this unwarranted measure,” ACL spokesperson Jasmine Yuen said today. “The government wanted to appoint anyone as an ‘authorised officer’ to detain people, without warrants, for indefinite periods of time if they are considered ‘high-risk’ and likely to fail to comply with emergency directions.

“The Christian community in Victoria, including Christians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, expressed grave concerns that the Bill left all Victorians’ freedoms open to abuse. As Christians, we are concerned when the state curtails freedoms. Often the first freedom to be impacted is freedom of religion.

“Some of our migrant Christians have come from – or even fled from – their home countries where their religious freedom no longer exists.

“The Christian community in Victoria have been doing what they can to fight for their hard-earned freedom and were determined in their opposition to these draconian measures.

“We are pleased that, in this instance, the Andrews government has heard and respected the voice of its citizens.æ’”

Source.

Four surprising ways to cheer your Covid-stressed Pastor

“Some while ago I wrote a short blog about how to put a spring in the step of your pastor.

Here is a Covid update. How about this for four ways to cheer your pastor in these pandemic days? Each arises partly out of conversations I have had with pastor friends. …”

Christopher Ash shares some encouragement at The Good Book Company in the UK.

See also:

Stop! Think Twice Before Switching Churches in 2020 – Ivan Mesa at The Gospel Coalition.

“No pastor ever took a seminary course on pastoring amid a pandemic, so be patient with them.”

Capitol Hill Baptist shows how to fight for Religious Freedom in a Pandemic

“Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC), an 850-member church led by TGC Council Emeritus member Mark Dever, has filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming Washington, D.C., mayor Muriel E. Bowser is violating the First Amendment and facilitating discrimination by allowing large anti-racism protests while severely limiting worship services. …”

– Joe Carter at The Gospel Coalition looks at what Capitol Hill Baptist Church is doing and why.

See also the CHBC website. (Screenshot: CHBC website.)

After the deluge

“The world looks very different, just at the moment, from the way it looked even a year ago. What is more, we know that we are yet to feel the full weight of the consequences of what has happened and our response to it.

The level of government intervention to enable us to survive from moment to moment has been huge, and there is already considerable anxiety about what will be left when that support is removed. What will the world look like in 2021 or 2022 when the pandemic is behind us? How will we survive the crippling debt we have incurred? What jobs will have gone forever? What will our churches look like? Will this new awareness of our vulnerability open a wide door for ministry or provide another reason for hardness of heart?

One thing seems sure, we won’t just be carrying on from where we were before.…”

Moore College Principal Mark Thompson writes in the Spring 2020 issue of Moore Matters, which has the overall theme of “Building for the future”.

Knowing our Limitations

If anyone is looking for suitable reading in lockdown – or in wild freedom, for that matter – Blaise Pascal’s Penséesis indeed food for the soul and for the intellect.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was a distinguished French scientist who sought to write an apologetic for the Christian faith, but death took him before the work could be completed. No matter, for Pascal’s work in its unfinished state outdoes other writers whose works are finished and neatly revised. Pascal was especially incisive when it comes to exposing the human condition. …”

– Presbyterian Moderator-General, Dr. Peter Barnes, on the understanding we need at this time.

Plagues and Protestants

“It was unprecedented. Indeed, it was only a matter of time before the outbreak of plague in China, spread over the seas to wreak havoc in Italy, and from there, spread like wildfire throughout the whole of Europe.

No, this is not COVID-19. Rather it was the infamous wave of Bubonic plague that hounded humanity in the fourteenth century. Known as the “Black Death,” probably due to the black spots it produced on skin, this pestilence killed around a third of the population between India and Iceland during the years 1345 to 1352 alone. …”

– Church Society has published online this article by Mark Earngey in the Summer 2020 edition of Churchman.

Church and the Emergency Online Provision

“Many of us are very grateful that during the COVID-19 pandemic the technology has been available for the broadcasting of church services and the connection of members in Bible studies and other programs online. It has enabled us to continue to sit under the word of God and, albeit in an attenuated way, to enjoy fellowship with one another. …”

– Moore College Principal Dr. Mark Thompson reminds us that there is something better than ‘online church’. Long for that!

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