What do we think about vaccines?
The Anglican Church encourages people to be vaccinated unless there is a specific medical exception that applies. In this we rely on the experience and expertise of medical and health professionals who recommend it as the best protection against the very serious illness caused by Covid-19. We also believe that, as Christians, part of our Gospel calling is to seek to serve the good of others – even if that might conflict with our own personal freedom. Choosing to take the vaccine helps us to protect our community and those we care about.
Do we require Vaccine Passes?
Under the “Traffic Lights” Covid Protection framework we have had to make a decision about rules for attendance at our buildings for in-person services. Our Diocese, following guidance from the Anglican Bishops of New Zealand, has chosen to require that Vaccine Passes be used for entry to our buildings.
We note that the Church is not a building but the Body of Christ. We believe that just as the Gospel of Jesus is for all so is the Church of Jesus for all. We never want to turn people away. Even if we might disagree with you on vaccinations or any other issue, Jesus’ love for you does not change and the invitation to be part of his Church remains. However, in the exceptional circumstances of the current pandemic, and only for this limited time, we are restricting access to our churches to those who have Vaccine Passes. As noted below, it grieves us to have to form any sort of policy that might prevent people from attending some of our services but we have decided that is the best course of action in this present moment.
In the meantime, and because the requirement for Vaccine Passes may prevent some people from coming to in-person services, we will make available alternative worship offerings such as occasional online services and Home Morning Prayer services which can be accessed through our website. As we have learned over the last few months, it is possible to be gathered together in prayer even when not together in person. Our encouragement is that God meets with us where we are, whether in a church building or in prayer from our homes.
Why do we require Vaccine Passes?
The following is an excerpt from our Diocesan Policy explaining our theological thinking behind the decision to require Vaccine Passes at the current time.
Our calling as followers of Christ is to love God and to love our neighbour as ourselves... In the context of a pandemic, we believe that vaccination is one of the primary expressions of our love and care for others. This is a way of exercising a preferential option to prioritise the health and safety of vulnerable people: children under 12, the elderly, those with existing health conditions or whose immune systems are compromised, Māori and Pacific communities, and those who are unvaccinated. For those choosing to remain unvaccinated, the most loving choice may be to avoid groups where they could put themselves and others at risk. All of our choices in these matters, including how we express our disagreements, will be guided by our love for those around us and our Anglican commitment to unity in our diversity.
We know that churches are not buildings but are the communities of people who gather within those buildings. Hospitality and welcome are an essential element in the nature of our church life. It grieves us to have to form a policy that prevents people attending services of worship and other gatherings. In the community in general there is a great risk that the unvaccinated population will be judged and blamed for their decision, not just unable to fully participate in many activities, but spurned for their decision. As followers of Jesus Christ that is not who we are.
We recognise that these are exceptional circumstances and so for a time we must apply some exceptional measures so that we act in the best way we can for the common good. We must not lose sight of the fact that God’s love is for the whole world and for all people. We must therefore keep working at what it means for us to show love to all people in how we will offer ministry through this time. We must be driven by love and not by fear.
Statement from the Bishops of New Zealand
Below is a statement from the Bishops of the Dioceses of New Zealand (Tikanga Pakeha) on the Covid Protection Framework:
From the time of our nation’s first lockdown response to the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequently throughout these extraordinary times, we as Bishops have met weekly together to pray, to support one another and to reflect on our leadership through the rapid changes in our nation’s continuing response to Covid-19. The foundational unit of the Anglican Church is the Diocese; that group of individuals, communities and organisations who gather around the bishop. We honour and respect the independence and integrity of each Diocese, whilst seeking in these circumstances, to offer as much consistency and commonality as we possibly can.
Out of a deep love for the church and the people we serve, we have sought to approach the next stage of our nation’s response to this world-wide health emergency in a way that reflects two key agreements in common:
1. The normative position for worship, events and gatherings, is that they will be fully vaccinated. In other words, vaccine certificates will be required to attend services of worship, events and gatherings. This fully vaccinated approach, as the norm, reflects the best and most current health advice available to us, as we seek to do all that we can to minimise the risk of anyone becoming infected with Covid-19.
2. We have a pastoral responsibility for the care of all people. This responsibility is to both vaccinated and non-vaccinated, but particularly to the most vulnerable. This care includes those who may not be able to worship with us because they have chosen not to be vaccinated. It also includes those who are in quarantine after exposure to infected people and are awaiting test results. Such pastoral responsibility also includes those who are ill, or those who are choosing to limit their potential exposure to infection because of their level of vulnerability or the level of vulnerability to members of their households. We are committed to supporting local Churches in finding ways to minister to all.
As bishops, we are committed to constantly reviewing these principles, and the protocols and policies that are being established in each Diocese regularly, to ensure that we continue to reflect the greatest level of care possible.
As we continue to navigate this season together, we would also like to take this opportunity to thank and honour all those who lead and serve within our church in Christ’s name and who work for the coming of Christ’s Kingdom. We continue to faithfully hold each other before God in prayer.
“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Yours in Christ,
Bishop Ross Bay
Bishop Steven Benford
Bishop Peter Carrell
Bishop Justin Duckworth
Bishop Andrew Hedge
Bishop Steve Maina
Bishop Philip Richardson
Bishop Eleanor Sanderson