You may have heard that there’s a protest going on. Here in Wellington, there are protestors camped outside Parliament. They are opposed to vaccine mandates, which mean that unless a person is up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines, they are restricted in terms of which business places they can go to, and in many cases they are subject to being dismissed from their job against their will. Three quarters of the protestors are not vaccinated at all and have been personally impacted by this, but everyone involved in the protest agrees that the mandates need to end. People are hurting over this.
Initially there was a strong police presence at the protest, and as was captured in some very unpleasant footage, police actions directly caused violence and a serious dent in the claims that police conducted themselves “professionally.” Now the police are ramping up their activities again (as they must), and it just doesn’t look like this is going to end well.
I have a side in this, in the sense that very basically, I agree with the protestors. Vaccination is a very good thing to do (a lot of the protestors would disagree with me there), but the mandates are a significant overreach of the state. The mandates have created a second class of citizens (something the Prime Minister openly agreed with before the mandates came into effect), extending even as far as the Church, which is now a segregated body of the welcome and the unwelcome (when the Church meets together).
I love our local Anglican church. I won’t name the parish, for reasons that will become apparent soon (although it’s not their fault in any way). We won’t be there for Christmas. I’d really like to be, but I’ve chosen not to be.
I’m vaccinated against COVID-19, and I think you should be, too. I’ll delete any comments that try to argue with this stance. Don’t argue with me. Argue with your medical doctor, if you really must. I only point out that I am vaccinated and I believe in the value of being vaccinated to make it clear that I did not write this letter for my own sake. The bishops of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia recently decided that no person without a vaccine certificate, proving that they’ve had two vaccine shots, is permitted to attend public services in any Diocese in New Zealand. Whatever you might think of people who cannot in good conscience be vaccinated (for reasons that I do not accept), do you think they should be treated as part of the Church? When the Church gathers to worship, hear the word preached, and share in the communal act of receiving the Lord’s Supper, should they be excluded?
If you answered “yes,” then I am very sorry you are in that place. It seems obvious to any reflective person that we are not facing a dichotomy of “exclude unvaccinated people from Church” or “do not care about physically vulnerable people who might get sick.” Nobody (or as I said, no reflective person) can take such a simplistic view. An obvious option is to require a recent negative COVID-19 test if a person is not vaccinated. This is an even more feasible option with the availability of rapid antigen testing. The point is that reaching for the simplest, bluntest, most harmful tool that just happens to align nicely with what the secular authorities approve of without so much as raising a single public concern is a dreadful turn of events.
Although the identity of the bishops in this diocese is not secret (yes, there are two bishops), I have removed their names from this letter. They acted in accordance with all the other bishops, I do not know what they believe about this situation, and I don’t want this post to have the appearance of hostility towards them. This blog post is just to express my lament at this action, and to let you know how I expressed that lament in a letter I recently sent to the bishops. That letter is as follows: Continue reading “Have yourself a very segregated Christmas. A reluctant letter.”→
I understand the appeal of looking for that perfect church that is the “right fit” for you. I’ve engaged in that search, too. But as much as I understand that drive, I’ve been getting pushback against that from my own thoughts and growing convictions. In engaging in this sort of quest for the church that’s “just right for me,” we’re short-changing ourselves, we’re short-changing the local church we aren’t participating in, and we’re potentially distorting the wider Church. Continue reading “Support your local”→
“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” ~ C S Lewis
Interesting – and wonderful – things are happening in the Anglican Communion. I’ve been slow to acknowledge – actually, slow to see – that these are not isolated events, but part of a wider movement.
There are a couple of things I want to say about some of these recent developments. Some of it is on the more sorrowful side, as we see ugly outpourings of bitterness, misrepresentation, and ill-will from some quarters (sadly, from the leaders of the Church to which I belong) as they see the reach of their power shrinking and God’s Church growing beyond it. But that can wait. First, I want to hesitantly and cautiously invite you to rejoice and give thanks. I’m hesitant and cautious only because I’m only just beginning to see and to realise how good these developments are – I am sure that my confidence will grow. Continue reading “Anglican Renewal”→
What should we make of what people say about why they don’t believe, and how should the Church respond?
According to a report commissioned by the Wilberforce Foundation, just over half (55%) of New Zealanders do not identify with a “main” religion. 35% described themselves has being neither spiritual nor religious, and 33% identify with Christianity.
Along with an increase among those with no religious or spiritual beliefs, the study shows an increase in ignorance about Christianity. More than one in five people know nothing about the Church in New Zealand, and 9% of respondents know no Christians. This growth in non-exposure is reflected in the makeup of the group that does not identify as religious or spiritual. When comparing a person’s current status (religious/none religious) with the home environment in which they were raised, the single largest combination (26% of respondents) is “Never been religious: I was shaped in a non-religious household and am non-religious to this day.” Continue reading “Some thoughts on New Zealand’s loss of faith”→
Earlier this year, the Synod of the Anglican Church in New Zealand and Polynesia made the decision to allow the blessing of same-sex relationships alongside marriages. I took the opportunity to remind us all that yes, change occurs when people come into contact with the Church. But it’s not supposed to be the Church that changes.