Our Stance on COVID-19 - Harvest Windsor
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Our Stance on COVID-19

Harvest Bible Church’s Stance on COVID-19

 

Below you will find months of correspondence with officials, articles, websites, and teachings that demonstrate our church’s consistent, thorough, loving, and principled approach to COVID-19 and the restrictions placed upon the gathered church. By taking the time to carefully read and listen you will have a much deeper appreciation for, and understanding of, the position being taken by our church.

 

Questions can be directed to ask@harvestwindsor.ca.*

 

*Please note: Due to the volume of emails we receive, it may not be possible to respond to all messages.

Press Releases

December 24, 2020 | Press Release: Pastor Being Charged and Church Closed on Christmas Eve

This press release was publicly posted on Christmas Eve in response to the charges against Rev. Dr. Aaron Rock. Click here for the dedicated page.

Christmas Eve, December 24, 2020

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

PASTOR BEING CHARGED AND CHURCH CLOSED ON CHRISTMAS EVE

 

Yesterday our Lead Pastor, Rev. Dr. Aaron Rock, was officially informed by the Windsor Police Services that he has been charged under the Reopening Ontario Act for church services we held last Sunday at Harvest Bible Church (which observed strict health and safety protocols). The fine will be assigned by the court and ranges from $10,000.00 to $100,000.00 and one year in prison. To our knowledge this is the first time that any Ontario pastor has been charged for fulfilling his God-assigned duties at a church. Police also informed us that they will bar our congregation from entering the church on Christmas Eve, contrary to Section 176 of the Criminal Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We are deeply grieved by these unlawful and immoral acts, having already been banned from meeting on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

 

As church leaders responsible for the care of hundreds of souls, we are burdened for the challenges that face so many who are losing jobs, struggling to cope with fear and despair, and being robbed of spiritual support. We believe that God will call provincial officials and the Premier to account for these irrational, illegal, and irresponsible acts, and for refusing to recognize the essential work of the church. To rescue the world from one viral threat, officials are willing to deny people gainful employment, deny people with mental illness and suicidal inclinations essential support, and deny the in-person proclamation of the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is an abhorrent offense to humanity and an affront to religious liberties. To add to this injustice, hardware stores and big box stores remain open so that people can buy their last-minute Christmas gifts, while the church is banned from collectively worshipping the greatest Christmas gift ever given: the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a national disgrace.

 

While we are supportive of public protests, the hypocrisy of high ranking police officials and elected officials who attended public protests this spring in our own city, while barring Christian worship and public protests is discriminatory and unfair. The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, tasked with enforcing public health measures and providing the public access to information, still refuses to respond to any of our written communication, while requesting that police close our premises. Their lack of service and balanced concern for our people is obvious.

 

Our elders have met, and we will issue an internal communication to our church family outlining some interim plans to help us get through the Christmas season before we head into the New Year. In the end, we will find ways to fulfil our Christian obligations even if we are forced underground or to practice further civil disobedience. In the meantime we will continue to fight against injustice and fight for the God-given freedoms and responsibilities of the Christian church. The Church is, and shall remain, a free institution under the lordship of Jesus Christ and an essential service for all of humanity.

 

 

-Harvest Bible Church Windsor Elders Council

May 5, 2021 | Press Release: Public Statement on Church-Community Relations

This press release was publicly posted on May 5, 2021. Click here for the dedicated page.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

May 5, 2021

 

PUBLIC STATEMENT ON CHURCH-COMMUNITY RELATIONS

 

Harvest Bible Church is a Christian church located in Windsor, Ontario that serves the Lord Jesus Christ, our congregation, and community by preaching the Gospel, offering pastoral counsel, relieving poverty, providing biblical education, planting new churches, and meeting the relational and spiritual needs of our parishioners. As a large church, home to professionals in science, manufacturing, medicine, sociology, service industries, engineering, and politics, we are well aware of the state of our medical system, mixed public sentiment regarding lockdowns, and the human toll that lockdowns are causing upon our population. We are also aware of the differing opinions between politicians, medical experts, police services, and clergy pertaining to how to best respond to viral threats and lockdowns. Canadians are sharply divided over these issues and are fatigued by the incessant and myopic coverage of COVID-19. As we have weighed theological, political, legal, and medical opinions, we have been open, honest, reasonable, and public about our position. Interested readers can peruse our position statements, press releases, and teachings at https://harvestwindsor.ca/our-stance-on-covid-19/.

 

It is unfortunate that, with notable exceptions, several local journalists have misrepresented our position by reporting on our activities without contextualizing our activities by fairly representing our rationale or arguments. Some journalists have even publicly lectured our ministers by referencing Holy Scripture, offering us theological advice, and urging the police to act against our efforts. This transgression of journalistic integrity only inflames and accentuates public division on disputable issues, reduces the opportunity for respectful public dialogue, and has opened our church up to vandalism and public intimidation. We are further disturbed that our Medical Officer of Health has issued media statements in opposition to our stance but has yet to respond to our written correspondence dating back to June and November of 2020. The unwillingness of some reporters and medical professionals to meaningfully dialogue with our church community has only served to divide our community, breed distrust, and accentuate anxiety. In an effort to mitigate against further tension, we have issued an invitation for members of the public to submit questions to our church. We will attempt to respond to the most pertinent ones through an upcoming podcast. Members of the public wishing to engage in respectful dialogue can visit our Facebook page to submit inquiries.

 

It is the stance of our church that Christ Jesus is the absolute King of his Church and that we are not subject to civil authorities on matters of worship, ministry, or the administration of the sacraments. God has called his people to submit to the government on matters of criminal justice only, and we are not subservient to the State’s attempt to regulate worship. If other churches take an alternative stance, that is their prerogative; but it is historically unprecedented for churches in free Western nations to have their worship regulated by unelected technocrats in contravention of the highest laws of our land. Fortunately, while the virus poses a threat to vulnerable persons, we now know that the survival rate is exceedingly high, our ICUs are not full across the province of Ontario, and the collateral damage of lockdowns is well-documented. Our region has endured the crippling effects of lockdowns for long enough, and citizens should be given the choice to return to life as normal.

 

Finally, it should be noted that freedom of religion, peaceful assembly, the pursuit of a livelihood, and mobility are protected rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the highest law of our land. Under Section 176 of the Canadian Criminal Code, officials are forbidden to obstruct a clergyman from celebrating a religious service and forbidden from disturbing it. We are grateful that many police services across Ontario have recognized this and chosen to keep the peace rather than interrupt or charge clergy persons. We also believe, given the deep divide in our community, that it is in the best interest of our community for police services to focus their attention on keeping the peace, rather than disrupting churches.

 

We love the people of Windsor-Essex, and it is our desire to live at peace with our officials and be acknowledged as responsible citizens who are free to exercise the religious liberties afforded us under both divine and civil law.

 

-The Elders Council

May 6, 2021 | Response to Public Questions & New Court Summons Issued

This press release was publicly posted on May 6, 2021. Click here for the dedicated page.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

May 6, 2021

 

RESPONSE TO PUBLIC QUESTIONS & NEW COURT SUMMONS ISSUED

 

Today, our lead pastor, Rev. Dr. Aaron Rock, received another court summons from the Windsor Police Services. The summons pertains to worship services held on our property that were recently reported by members of the media. This summons carries the potential for massive fines and imprisonment, and similar summons have also been issued to several clergy persons across the province of Ontario over the past few weeks. Harvest Bible Church continues to assert the rights of all Canadians to freedom of religion, and that the State does not have the authority to unilaterally dictate terms of worship or ministry to the Christian Church. We further assert that lockdowns are causing serious damage to our community and that we are obligated under divine law to meet in person to worship the Lord Jesus Christ, to administer the Lord’s Supper, to baptise and disciple one another, and to be a place of refuge.

 

As promised in yesterday’s Press Release (https://harvestwindsor.ca/press-release-2021-05-05/), we are offering the following podcast which addresses questions submitted to our church by the public. (https://leadershipnow.podbean.com/e/qa-answers-to-questions-from-the-public-regarding-our-efforts-to-keep-churches-open/)

 

We look forward to the day when elected officials will again uphold the supremacy of God and rule of law in accordance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Correspondence and Articles

May 11, 2020 | Letter to The Premier | Re: Reopen Ontario Churches

This letter was written by our lead pastor, Rev. Dr. Aaron Rock, along with Rev. Dr. Joe Boot and sent to the Premier of Ontario et al. It was duly signed by 445 Ontario churches leading to the reopening of Ontario churches on June 12, 2020.

May 11, 2020

 

Rev. Dr. Aaron Rock

Rev. Dr. Joe Boot

c/o 2001 Spring Garden Rd.

Windsor, ON   N9E 3P8

519-250-5520

 

Hon. Premier Doug Ford

Premier of Ontario

Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, ON   M7A 1A1

RE: REOPENING ONTARIO CHURCHES

Dear Premier Ford:

Thank you for your continued service to our communities and province and for the tireless effort you have made on all our behalf during the COVID-19 related crisis. We recognize that your role is not easy, and we commend you for your diligent work. We have prayed for you and are grateful for the news that COVID-19 related deaths remain well below what was feared and that the curve has been flattened in many of our communities.

 

As you may be aware, the Bible and centuries of tradition oblige Christians to gather weekly for worship and witness around the Word of God and sacraments – we need one another to flourish in our service to Christ (Ex. 20:9-11; 1 Cor. 16:1-2; Heb. 10:24-25; Acts 2:42, 20:7). Neither confessional Christian faith nor the Church institute can faithfully exist without a Lord’s Day gathering. This divine obligation and hard-won historic freedom is so important for Christians, that it supersedes all human legislation and regulation. The church is not comparable to a sports or dance club and cannot be dismissed as non-essential by an expert in any field. We would respectfully remind the civil government that the church does not exist by permission of the state, for its establishment and rule is found in Jesus Christ himself. Please remember, the existence and freedom of the church institute long predates the founding of the Christian Dominion of Canada (our Coat of Arms citing Psalm 72:8), so we cannot stress enough how troubling and perplexing these times have been for us. Nonetheless, we are thankful to live in a nation shaped by and indebted to the Christian faith, constitutionally recognizing the supremacy of God in our Charter, and we are grateful for a government that affirms religious freedom. Thank you for continuing to champion religious liberty in Ontario.

Over the past two months, church government has cooperated with civil government by suspending our worship services and mercy ministries, leaving us with the following dilemma: (1) to love our neighbour, as Jesus taught us, by suspending our services to potentially help slow the spread of the virus, or (2) to obey the Word of God which obliges us to meet for worship, sacraments and spiritual ministry to both the healthy and the sick. In weighing this dilemma, whilst seeking to respect civil authority in light of God’s ultimate authority, we rightly chose to voluntarily and temporarily cease meeting. We did so to demonstrate love to our fellow citizens during a time of great uncertainty as well as difficulty for civil authorities working with limited information. As Christians, we do not fear death because of the resurrection hope that is ours through Christ, but we deeply desire to show love to all people.

​That said, never in 1500 years of Western history has the Church of Jesus Christ not met for Easter or missed months of worship and ministry – even in times of war or plague far more devastating than COVID-19. Never before has the church been denied the opportunity to be with the sick in the hour of their death. Never before has the church ceased to celebrate the sacraments, pray together, offer counsel to the afflicted, visit the prisoner, officiate weddings and funerals, or fellowship together. The inhumanity of abandoning people in their deepest hour of grief or need is gut-wrenching for followers of Christ.

​The consequences of the lockdown on people’s lives are far-reaching. We know as pastors that addictions are resurfacing and that isolation, unemployment and economic ruin are taking their toll on family relationships and physical and mental health. Our service to the poor and disadvantaged in the community has been curbed, with serious implications for the most vulnerable. To save lives are we actually sacrificing lives? In short, we implore you that we must start meeting very soon because of our obligations to God and because our people need us. We cannot delay.

​We are committed, faithful and reasonable citizens and desire to be collaborative rather than be perceived as unreasonable people. Many of our members hold prominent positions in society in law, medicine, politics, education and business. As churches, we have researched, read, listened to and discussed all the relevant issues. As such, we would like the provincial government to support the reopening of churches and ministries by early June, pending any unforeseen circumstances. Given the access people have to other services like grocery stores and the recent announcement to open access to retail stores in malls, to garden centres and to other areas of public gathering, this seems like more than a reasonable course of action.

​Here is our reasonable plan:

​1. To communicate and enforce health protocols in our churches based on the provincial government guidelines.

​2. To initially limit access to our services and ministries to approximately 40% of our building capacities to permit physical distancing, expanding that number as circumstances permit. This will allow for plenty of room between persons well beyond two metres in most facilities and acknowledges that not all church facilities have equal capacity.

​3. To provide a clean facility including hand sanitizers and wiping down of common surfaces between services.

​4. To continue offering online messages as we are able, so that those who are not comfortable or cannot meet in person due to age or health challenges can at least watch from home.

​5. To require attendees to explicitly affirm that they have no symptoms, have not travelled out of the country within the last fourteen days and have not been in contact with anyone with the virus in order to attend.

​We would humbly request a response from you by May 29th and are very willing to meet with you or consider any further advice you have to offer us. We would also request that the Premier appoint an additional person to the Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee who can be an ongoing voice for faith groups. We are anticipating a positive response and continued good relationship with civil authorities as we seek to honour our Creator and Saviour in the nation.

​You are greatly appreciated and honoured amongst us.

​Pro Rege,

Please note this letter has been cc’d and emailed to:

Premier of Ontario

Deputy Premier of Ontario

Ministry of the Attorney General

Ontario Ministry of Health

May 20, 2020 | Article: 50 Reasons why Christians should Protest the Lockdown and the Closure of Churches

This article written by our lead pastor, Rev. Dr. Aaron Rock, and posted on May 20, 2020 at pursuitofglory.org

50 Reasons why Christians should Protest the Lockdown and the Closure of Churches
By Rev. Dr. Aaron Rock
1/ Because no secular politician loves the church like believers do.
2/ Because our ultimate kingly authority is Christ.
3/ Because our governmental system actually invites opposition.
4/ Because we have the ability to protest respectfully and lovingly.
5/ Because the Great Commission demands that we go out into the world, make disciples and baptize people.
6/ Because in Canada we aren’t ruled, we’re governed.
7/ Because people cannot exist in isolation.
8/ Because humility isn’t passivity.
9/ Because suicides are up.
10/ Because church ordinances require meeting.
11/ Because the curve is flattened.
12/ Because we have godly medical professionals in our churches to advise us.
13/ Because life is never free from risk.
14/ Because we have patiently waited for months.
15/ Because retail stores are open.
16/ Because we do not live by bread alone.
17/ Because the Beer Store is open.
18/ Because waiting for a year+ for a vaccine is impossible.
19/ Because people need accountability to grow spiritually.
20/ Because God manifests himself among his gathered people.
21/ Because church discipline cannot be done in isolation.
22/ Because we have Charter rights.
23/ Because the onus is on the government to prove their case when invoking emergency measures.
24/ Because spiritual powers manipulate politicians.
25/ Because fear leads to irrationality.
26/ Because people need to work to survive.
27/ Because it is inhumane for people to suffer alone.
28/ Because we are more than an essential service.
29/ Because historically, prolonged emergency measures can lead to tyranny.
30/ Because our forbearers died for freedom.
31/ Because domestic abuse is up.
32/ Because Romans 13 does not preclude it.
33/ Because Acts 5 illustrates it.
34/ Because our hospitals are empty.
35/ Because food supplies will fail.
36/ Because people will refuse work if given substantial government handouts.
37/ Because several politicians agree that we should.
38/ Because we are each responsible adults.
39/ Because sickness is unavoidable.
40/ Because the church has been forgotten.
41/ Because Hebrews 10:25 requires it.
42/ Because we must display resurrection hope to the hopeless.
43/ Because new converts need discipleship.
44/ Because the judiciary is effectively closed and that should concern us.
45/ Because technocrats do not see the big picture.
46/ Because Jesus exposed himself and his disciples to disease.
47/ Because families must fellowship together.
48/ Because civilizations thrive on diverse opinions.
49/ Because “zero” is an unreasonable number for church meetings.
50/ Because we can always stop meeting again if necessary.

June 31, 2020 | Letter to the WECHU | Re: Statement on Restrictions

This letter was written by our Lead Pastor, Rev. Dr. Aaron Rock, on behalf of the Elder Council & Directors of Harvest Bible Church and sent to the Windsor Essex County Health Unit on July 31, 2020. To date there has been no response.

July 31, 2020

 

Dr. Wajid Ahmed & Members of the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit:

 

It has recently come to our attention that members of the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) have been visiting places of worship to inspect protocols related to COVID-19. In particular, the WECHU has instructed some churches to stop singing (i.e. worshipping God through song). These restrictions are in addition to provincial restrictions to limit attendance to 30% of seating capacity, practice physical distancing, and other mitigating protocols.

 

Harvest Bible Church was one of two Ontario churches that wrote letters to provincial officials to advocate for the reopening of Ontario churches (reopenontariochurches.ca). We were therefore actively engaged in the process of negotiating with the office of the Chief Medical Officer, the Premier, and provincial lawyers to advocate for the removal of closure restrictions imposed upon churches during the province-wide lockdown. Our first letter was eventually signed by over 400 churches. In those letters, we reminded officials that the Christian church predates western civilization by centuries and that the wholesale closure of churches is: 1/ historically unprecedented, 2/ a violation of freedoms guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and 3/ a violation of state authority over the church. We would therefore remind the WECHU, its director and staff, that any attempt to exercise dictatorial control over the church is an act that transgresses your sphere of authority, is a violation of religious freedom, and directly contrary to the principles and divine mandates that govern our faith. Many of our forebears either died for our faith or emigrated to Canada for the purpose of religious freedom, and we will not relinquish church authority to the state for any reason.

 

That said, as Christians, we want to be knowledgeable, wise influencers in our region and to act as conscientious, loving citizens. We value humility, love for neighbour, truth, and respect for civil authority. We do desire to work collaboratively with officials to safeguard our people and be a blessing to our society. We also respect members of the medical community, many of which are members of our church. That is why our mitigation protocols far exceed recommendations by both the World Health Organization (WHO) and WECHU. Our chair rows are spaced eight feet apart. We currently require signed waivers for attendance at worship, temperature checks, physical distancing, and the use of hand sanitizers. We do not seek your commendation in initiating these protocols, but they do prove that we have gone beyond what is necessary to be good role-models and to protect the people that we dearly love.

 

You should also know that many people in our church not only embrace the truth of Holy Scripture but are professionals in the realms of education, science, medicine, law, technology, trades, engineering, history, mathematics, theology, sociology and more. We love and embrace truth in many fields of study. As such, we voluntarily chose to close our church in March because we recognized that provincial and regional officials were faced with unprecedented challenges and were processing much information. As time progressed however, we began to see the damage being done to many of our worshippers who were deprived of relationships, support, spiritual nourishment, and the ability to follow their consciences by exercising their God-ordained religious freedoms. By balancing our broad knowledge of truth, combined with our clear religious convictions, we convinced the Premier to support our reopening and have been richly blessed by it over the past several weeks. To our knowledge, while approximately 1000 people call Harvest their home church, no one from our church has been infected with COVID-19, either in our facility or in society as a whole.

 

We are, however, increasingly disturbed by the efforts of local health officials to dictate the shape and form of our worship without collaboration or the provision of adequate scientific information. Not only have we consulted legal counsel about this concern, but we have begun collecting contradictory statements by public health officials pertaining to the control of this virus. As people who value truth, this concerns us spiritually and scientifically. Spiritually, when health officials do not permit what God has permitted, or permit what God has not permitted, they step outside their sphere of authority. Scientifically, conflicting statements about the efficacy of masks, differences between WHO and WECHU about adequate physical distancing measures, and the complete absence of peer-reviewed medical studies about the effects of singing are disturbing. As such, as a religious community, we have chosen to balance our religious convictions, our love for neighbour, and our respect for civil authority by issuing the following statement:

 

We will follow and promote all reasonable health recommendations presented to our church leaders provided that they are accompanied by, and validated by peer-reviewed medical studies by persons without political liability. We will not accept any rule that suspends our religious freedoms that is based on anecdotal evidence or unsubstantiated personal opinion.

 

As a health organization, it is only reasonable that any restriction violating Charter or religious freedoms be clearly proven by science. We believe that this statement reflects our desire to be collaborative, demonstrates that we hold truth in high regard, and are deeply committed to the ethical mandates and truth of historic Christianity.

 

Respectfully,

 

Dr. Aaron Rock, Lead Pastor

on behalf of the Elder Council & Directors

August 13, 2020 | Letter to the Mayor of Windsor | Re: Facemasks

This letter was written by our Lead Pastor, Rev. Dr. Aaron Rock, on behalf of the Elder Council & Directors of Harvest Bible Church and sent to the Mayor of Windsor et al. on August 13, 2020. The Mayor’s office responded briefly via email and the Mayor responded publicly several days later with a mask exemption for places of worship.

August 13, 2020

 

Dear Mayor Mr. Dilkens:

 

It has recently come to our attention that you have issued the following order:

 

“Effective August 19, 2020, a mask that covers the nose and mouth will be required in all indoor public spaces by order of the Mayor, pursuant to section 4(1) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, including places of business, community centres, places of worship, entertainment venues and any common-use areas within a multi-use dwelling (such as lobby, elevator, laundry rooms and corridors).”

 

This restriction on places of worship is in addition to provincial restrictions to limit attendance to 30% of seating capacity, practice physical distancing, and other mitigating protocols.

 

Harvest Bible Church was one of two Ontario churches that wrote letters to provincial officials to advocate for the reopening of all Ontario churches (reopenontariochurches.ca). We were therefore actively engaged in the process of negotiating with the office of the Chief Medical Officer, the Premier, and provincial lawyers to advocate for the removal of closure restrictions imposed upon churches during the province-wide lockdown. Our first letter was eventually signed by over 400 churches. In those letters, we reminded officials that the Christian church predates western civilization by centuries and that the wholesale closure of churches is: 1/ historically unprecedented, 2/ a violation of freedoms guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and 3/ a violation of state authority over the church. We would therefore remind the Mayor and City of Windsor Councillors that any attempt to exercise dictatorial control over the Church is an act that transgresses your sphere of authority, is a violation of religious freedom, and directly contrary to the principles and divine mandates that govern our faith. Many of our forebears either died for our faith or emigrated to Canada for the purpose of religious freedom, and we will not relinquish church authority to the state for any reason.

 

Additionally, we grow increasingly concerned about the suspension of Charter freedoms by all levels of government. These concerns grow as new rules are imposed even as COVID-19 numbers drop and municipalities open for business. We are well aware that our hospitals have been at near-empty capacity for the duration of this entire lockdown, and yet, months later new restrictions continue to emerge. Our familiarity with Canadian Charter freedoms is sufficient to know that the onus is not on the citizen to prove that we should enjoy our freedoms; the onus is exclusively on the government to prove that any suspension of Charter freedoms is necessary. You have not done so.

 

That said, as Christians, we want to be knowledgeable, wise influencers in our region and to act as conscientious, loving citizens. We value humility, love for neighbour, truth, and respect for civil authority. We do desire to work collaboratively with officials to safeguard our people and be a blessing to our society. We also respect members of the medical community, many of which are members of our church. That is why our mitigation protocols far exceed recommendations by both the World Health Organization (WHO) and WECHU. Our chair rows are spaced eight feet apart. We currently require signed waivers for attendance at worship, temperature checks, physical distancing, and the use of hand sanitizers. We do not seek your commendation in initiating these protocols, but they do prove that we have gone beyond what is necessary to be good role-models and to protect the people that we dearly love.

 

You should also know that many people in our church not only embrace the truth of Holy Scripture but are professionals in the realms of education, science, medicine, law, technology, trades, engineering, history, mathematics, theology, sociology and more. We love and embrace truth in many fields of study. As such, we voluntarily chose to close our church in March because we recognized that provincial and regional officials were faced with unprecedented challenges and were processing much information. As time progressed however, we began to see the damage being done to many of our worshippers who were deprived of relationships, support, spiritual nourishment, and the ability to follow their consciences by exercising their God-ordained religious freedoms. By balancing our broad knowledge of truth, combined with our clear religious convictions, we convinced the Premier to support our reopening and have been richly blessed by it over the past several weeks. To our knowledge, while approximately 1000 people call Harvest their home church, no one from our church has been infected with COVID-19, either in our facility or in society as a whole.

 

We are, however, increasingly disturbed by the efforts of local officials to dictate the shape and form of our worship without collaboration or the provision of adequate scientific information. Preaching, worshipping and praying with masks on may be considered a minor inconvenience, but what comes next? How many more restrictions and rules will be placed on places of worship until God’s rightful rule over us is no longer heeded? Placing further restrictions on churches-without consultation and without producing peer-reviewed scientific proof validating each restriction-may be socially acceptable or politically expedient, but we find it intolerable.

 

You should know that we have consulted legal counsel about the violation of our Charter freedoms, and we have been collecting contradictory statements by public health officials pertaining to the control of this virus. As people who value truth, this concerns us spiritually and scientifically. Spiritually, when health officials do not permit what God has permitted, or permit what God has not permitted, they step outside their sphere of authority. Scientifically, conflicting statements about the efficacy of masks, differences between WHO and WECHU about adequate physical distancing measures, and the complete absence of peer-reviewed medical studies about the effects of singing in worship are disturbing. As such, as a religious community, we have chosen to balance our religious convictions, our love for neighbour, and our respect for civil authority by issuing the following statement:

 

We will follow and promote all reasonable health recommendations presented to our church leaders provided that they are accompanied by, and validated by peer-reviewed medical studies by persons without political liability. We will not accept any rule or restriction that suspends our religious freedoms that is based on anecdotal evidence or unsubstantiated personal opinion.

 

We are further making this proposal: that churches and other places of worship be excluded from the Order to wear masks, in keeping with neighbouring municipalities like Leamington (see https://www.leamington.ca/en/municipal-services/resources/61-20-Mandatory-Mask-By-law.pdf).

 

As our mayor, it is only reasonable that any restriction you issue that proposes to violate our Charter or religious freedoms be accompanied by scientific evidence. We believe that this statement reflects our desire to be collaborative, demonstrates that we hold truth in high regard, and are deeply committed to the ethical mandates and truths of historic Christianity.

 

Respectfully,

 

Rev. Dr. Aaron Rock, Lead Pastor

on behalf of the Elders Council & Directors

 

cc: Windsor City Councillors Fred Francis, Fabio Costante, Rino Bortolin, Chris Holt, Ed Sleiman, Jo-Anne Gignac, Gary Kaschak, Kieran McKenzie, Jim Morrison.

September 23, 2020 | The Niagara Declaration

The Niagara Declaration is a national declaration which our church participated in writing in September of 2020. It has since been signed by over 200 Canadian churches, organizations, and politicians.

THE NIAGARA 2020 DECLARATION:

ON THE LIBERTIES OF THE CHURCH IN CANADA FROM SEA TO SEA

PREAMBLE

In view of various culture-abandoning errors and a broad decline presently inflicting and marginalizing the Church, and at a time in the Dominion of Canada when our civil society is renouncing, both in law and socio-cultural life, its historic Christian heritage in pursuit of liberty without the Gospel, justice without God’s law, truth without the Scriptures, flourishing without obedience, atonement without the cross, love without faithfulness, peace without repentance, salvation without Christ, and a world without creational norms, it is incumbent upon a faithful Church to set forth to all powers and authorities, the claims of Christ and the freedom of His Kingdom people, the Church (Matt. 28:18-20; Eph. 3:10; Col. 2:15; 1 Tim. 1:9-11, 17; 3:15; 1 Pt. 2:16-17; 5:11).

In a national cultural context in which ultimate sovereignty is rapidly being seized by – or readily surrendered to – the State, imperilling inherited liberties and exposing our civil government to divine judgment, we must be mindful that freedoms not fought for are soon forfeited.

Therefore, in response to our national spiritual crisis, we declare:

WHEREAS Jesus Christ claims total authority over the nations as the Creator and Ruler of the kings, judges, and governors of the earth (Ps. 2:7-12; Ps. 110; Luke 23:3; John 19:11; Acts 17:7; Eph. 1:20-23; Phil. 2:9-11; Col. 1:15-17; 1 Tim. 1:17; Rev. 1:5);

AND WHEREAS the one, holy, catholic (i.e. universal) and apostolic Church has been founded by our Lord Jesus Christ long before all temporal authorities of this Dominion of Canada came into existence (Matt. 16:18; Mark 3:13-19; Eph. 1:22-23; 4:7-13; Col. 1:18);

AND WHEREAS the Church of Jesus Christ does not have her position in the nation assigned her by the permission of civil government, but jure divino – she has her own organization and she possesses her own office-bearers (Matt. 10:1-15; 18:15-20; 28:18-20; Acts 14:23; 1 Cor. 5:9-13; 6:1-7; Eph. 1:22-23; 4:9-13);

AND WHEREAS the sovereignty of the State and the sovereignty of the Church exist side by side, instituted by God and in service to God, mutually limiting each other as recognized in the Scriptures and applied in Magna Carta (Mark 12:13-17; Acts 5:29-32; Rom. 13:1, 4; 1 Cor. 6:1-7; 2 Cor. 10:3-6; Eph. 1:22; Phil. 2:9-11; 1 Tim. 2:1-4);

AND WHEREAS various kings and queens of the Dominion of Canada have confirmed in the British Parliament the Great Charter which grants that the Church “shall be free, and shall have all her whole Rights and Liberties inviolable” (Magna Carta, 1297);

AND WHEREAS our Head of State, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, in her Coronation Oath (1953) swore that to the utmost of her power she would “maintain the Laws of God and true profession of the Gospel”;

AND WHEREAS the Royal Coat of Arms of Canada invokes the universal dominion of the Lord’s anointed King, Jesus Christ, over the land in its national motto: A mari usque ad mare (taken from the Latin Vulgate translation of Psalm 72:8: Et dominabitur a mari usque ad mare, et a flumine usque ad terminos terrae, meaning “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea and from the river unto the ends of the earth”);

AND WHEREAS the Supremacy of God over the Dominion of Canada is clearly acknowledged in the preamble to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law”;

AND WHEREAS freedom of conscience and religion, expression, thought, opinion and belief, peaceful assembly, and association is enshrined in the international law common to all civilized nations and as fundamental freedoms in section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;

WE THE UNDERSIGNED, representatives of various confessionally orthodox churches, denominations, organizations, and fellowships, DECLARE that the following God-given and historically inherited liberties of the Church are to be observed, maintained, and protected in the Dominion of Canada today and forever:

Article 1. Liberty in all spiritual matters

There shall be no interference from civil authorities in the spiritual matters of the Church of Jesus Christ either by Federal or Provincial legislation, local bylaws, or by threats and intimidation from diverse arms of the administrative state bureaucracy. We recognize no authority other than Jesus Christ and His Word in the rule, ministry, and teaching of the Church. Spiritual matters include, in particular, the worship of God, the confession, sacraments, ordinances, discipline, and rites of the Church, and the teaching and pastoral guidance of the same.

Article 2. Liberties related to the Holy Bible

The Holy Bible shall be freely printed, distributed (both through electronic media and in hard copy), read, quoted, preached, and taught anywhere in the Dominion of Canada without fear of legal penalty or censure. The teaching of this Word is commanded by the Lord Jesus Christ, being Himself attested to us in Holy Scripture, as the one Word of God which all people have to hear, and whom all people have to trust and obey in life and in death.

Article 3. Liberty to preach the Gospel

The Churches shall remain free to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ peacefully, proselytize, establish churches, and disciple those who wish to follow Christ without any form of censorship or penalties imposed by temporal civil authorities. We reject all false doctrine asserting that the Church must surrender the content or form of its message to the prevailing ideological and political convictions of our day. The Christian Church is in all things to acknowledge and declare the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, whose Word upholds all things.

Article 4. Liberty of doctrine

The Churches shall be free to define and express their theological and moral doctrines under the Lordship of Christ and authority of Scripture without any form of interference, censure, or legal persecution by temporal civil authorities. We reject the false doctrines of men which assert there could be areas of our life in which we would not belong and be subject to Jesus Christ but to other lords above or besides Him.

Article 5. Liberty of conscience

Like all citizens, Christians in Canada have a right to liberty of conscience. As such, none may be compelled or coerced to act contrary to their conscience. No one may be compelled or coerced to adhere to, or to renounce, any religious, moral, or philosophical belief.

Article 6. Liberties related to the Christian family

Parents in Christian churches are to remain free to disciple, educate, and catechize their children in the faith and confession of the Church without fear of persecution, reprisal, or the seizure of their children by the State. We reject the false ideology that beyond its God-ordained and limited sphere as a ministry of public justice, the State should become the sole and total order of human life and so presume to fulfil the vocations of the family and the Church.

Article 7. Liberties related to ministers of the Gospel

Ministers and officers in the Church shall remain free to carry out the duties pertaining to their office without hindrance or interference from any person or authority as affirmed and protected in section 176 of the Canadian Criminal Code, 2019.

Article 8. Liberties related to gatherings for religious worship

The churches and their members shall remain free to meet in person for religious worship, prayer, the study of the Bible, or any moral or benevolent purpose without disturbance or interruption from any persons. The sacred duties to assemble for worship and engage in Christian ministry are divine obligations laid down in Holy Scripture and uniquely protected in Section 176 of the Canadian Criminal Code (2019). Recognizing that both the Church and a just State have an interest in mitigating harm when confronted with times of genuine crisis, such as war or plague, the churches may dialog and work with civil authorities to temporarily limit their religious practices without forswearing their prerogative to the same.

Article 9. Liberties related to taxation

Christians are ambassadors of Christ and the church is God’s embassy, representing the sovereign claims of Jesus Christ. For centuries in the West, the existence of the church institute has placed a real limit on State power for all citizens. As such, the Church has maintained its immunity from taxation (modern law refers to charitable status) ensuring its freedom from coercion by the State, whilst at the same time freeing the State from any obligation to collect funds for the Church. The Church shall remain free and independent from State control by maintaining its immunity.

Article 10. Liberties to be enjoyed universally without partiality

Notwithstanding divisions existing within the Church at any particular time, all denominations, jurisdictions, communities, and individual believers are entitled to the full benefit of the liberties set out herein. There should be no partiality in law between different churches and their confessions in the enjoyment of the aforesaid liberties.

Conclusion

This solemn document – containing an affirmation of scriptural truth concerning Christ and His Church, the inherited liberties bequeathed to us by our forebears, and ten articles duly deduced from them – calls upon all who can stand in solidarity with its Declaration to be mindful of these biblical findings in all their decisions and actions concerning the relationship of Church and State and to passionately defend them when assaulted, and to earnestly pray for all those in civil authority, that God might direct them in all their ways so that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness (1 Tim. 2:1-2; see also Ezra 6:10; Jer. 29:7; 1 Pet. 2:17).

Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God,

be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Tim. 1:17)

This declaration, promulgated to defend the freedoms and liberty of the entire Church of Jesus Christ in Canada, was drafted September 2020 in the Niagara Region following a summit meeting of Christian leaders concerning the freedom of the church, by: Rev. Dr. Joseph Boot, in grateful collaboration and consultation with Rev. Dr. Aaron Rock, Rev. Dr. Michael Thiessen, Mr. André Schutten, and Mr. Pavel Stroilov.

November 11, 2020 | Letter to the WECHU | Re: Future Restrictions

This letter was written by our Lead Pastor, Rev. Dr. Aaron Rock, on behalf of the Elder Council & Directors of Harvest Bible Church and sent to the Windsor Essex County Health Unit on November 11, 2020. To date there has been no response.

November 11, 2020

 

Harvest Bible Church

2001 Spring Garden Rd.

Windsor, ON. N9E 3P8

 

Dear Dr. Wajid Ahmed:

 

We are grateful for your tireless efforts to serve our community in your capacity as Medical Officer of Health for WECHU. We respect your profession and expertise in the area of medicine and pray for your strength as you seek to offer guidance to our elected officials regarding the management of COVID-19.

 

Our church was founded in 2001 as a Christian witness to our region and world and, by God’s grace, approximately 1000 people call Harvest their home church. We serve our Lord by preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, counselling people in distress, ministering to families and singles, helping young people sort through the complexities of youth, supporting ministry to women in crisis pregnancies, ministering to inmates, welcoming immigrants into our community, officiating at weddings, assisting grieving families through loss, and innumerable other ways. Our church is home to people with expertise in education, science, medicine, law, politics, technology, trades, engineering, history, mathematics, theology, sociology and more. We love and embrace truth in many fields of study. As such, we voluntarily chose to close our church in March because we recognized that provincial and regional officials were faced with unanswered questions and were processing much new information. As time progressed however, we began to see the damage being done to many of our worshippers who were deprived of relationships, support, spiritual nourishment, and the ability to follow their consciences by exercising their God-ordained religious freedoms. By balancing our broad knowledge of truth, combined with our clear religious convictions, we convinced the Premier to support our reopening and have been richly blessed by it over the past several months (see https://www.reopenontariochurches.ca/ for evidence of our campaign). We are not renegades, rebels, or conspiracy theorists. We are patriotic Canadians, contributing citizens, and conscientious Christians, who recognize that we must balance concerns about biotic health with concerns about mental, social, emotional and spiritual health. After many months of public worship and ministry, we have had no COVID outbreaks, no known cases of infection among our participants, and no resulting deaths. Many have said they feel safer in church than in the grocery store or at work.

 

As such, we were disturbed by the recent announcements by the Ford government to download responsibilities to local health units and empower them to reduce churches to fifty persons should COVID cases reach certain identified levels, all the while permitting select businesses and schools to remain open under the label of “essential services”. The notion that churches like ours do not provide vital, life-giving (essential) services to people in our community is naive and displays a stunning ignorance regarding the work of the church. It disturbs us that media headlines and public policy myopically focuses on biotic health to the detriment of holistic health and well-being. If we wanted acclaim, we could provide ample evidence of marriages that have been saved, addictions that have been overcome, suicides that have been prevented, vulnerable children that have been protected, food that has been provided, and employment that has been secured as a direct result of our church’s efforts. These are in addition to the immeasurable spiritual benefits to our people. Our church is vital to the lives of many people and will remain so, with God’s help.

 

We do not know what the future holds for Windsor-Essex, but we are proactively writing to inform you that we will not be party to forsaking the people that we serve should another lockdown be mandated. Please do not attempt to reduce our attendance or impose any further limitations to our church ministry, and we would kindly remind officials that any attempt to do so is outside of their sphere of authority over the Church (see https://www.niagaradeclaration.ca/ for a further statement of our views on spheres of authority). We would respectfully submit to you the following Position Statement pertaining to any future lockdown attempts:

 

We will follow and promote all reasonable health recommendations presented to our church leaders provided that they are accompanied by, and validated by peer-reviewed medical studies by persons without political liability. We will further give solemn consideration to the recommendations of public health officials to reduce or suspend our church services and ministries provided that: 1/ public evidence is presented validating high losses of life, and 2/ any recommended reduction or suspension be equally applied to all business and educational institutions in our region without partiality. We will not concede to any attempt to label our church as “non-essential”, or surrender our Charter freedoms through government mandates.

 

In issuing this Position Statement, we will not respond favourably to any form of public shaming, reduction of religious liberties, or legal threats. We are firm in our position, and are prepared to accept any and all consequences for our actions, but would prefer to work respectfully with public officials so that, while WECHU works for the betterment of our physical health, the Church is free to work for the betterment of the spiritual, social, emotional, and mental health of our community.

 

We remain open to discussion with you should you value our expertise in ministering to the non-medical issues people are experiencing, and believe we can be of continued benefit to Windsor-Essex in this regard.

 

Respectfully,

 

Rev. Dr. Aaron Rock, Lead Pastor

on behalf of the Elders Council & Directors

November 18, 2020 | Podcast: Pastoring in a Technocratic Age

This podcast was recorded November 18, 2020 by the Ezra Institute which is led by Rev. Dr. Joe Boot. The episode features our lead pastor, Rev. Dr. Aaron Rock, discussing the calling of the pastor in an age where it is being made increasingly difficult for the church to fulfill its mission.

November 25, 2020 | Article: A Call to Divine Obedience over Civil Obedience

This article was written by our lead pastor, Rev. Dr. Aaron Rock, and posted on November 25, 2020 at pursuitofglory.org

A Call to Divine Obedience over Civil Obedience
By Rev. Dr. Aaron Rock

 

This is the most controversial article I have ever written and perhaps the longest. Some will applaud it, others will reject it. But my convictions are firm. Days ago, the Ontario Government announced that Toronto and Peel Region churches must indefinitely reduce their gathering limits to ten persons while schools remain open. Other regions will likely follow. Beer, hardware and department stores reduced their capacities to 50%, while the Church’s previous capacity limit of 30% has been nullified. Other provinces, including British Columbia and Manitoba, have had their churches shuttered for the declared purpose of reducing COVID-19 spread. Christians must not acquiesce to this.

 

Our church and many others formed a team to campaign through the spring months of this year to reopen Ontario’s churches. Our request was finally granted not based upon the benevolence of provincial officials but due to the threat of a Charter lawsuit. This victory blessed not only Ontario churches but also the efforts of believers in other jurisdictions in Canada seeking to reopen their churches. Many people have come to faith, been baptized, healed, restored to fellowship with God, and loved upon by God’s Church. One of our recent converts posted: “I don’t know where I would be without my church, and without this community of love, support, and guidance. Every week we come together to be reminded that we do not need to live in fear. That we have hope for our future. And that we have a God who loves us more than we could ever imagine.” The full blessings of these days will only be known in eternity. Now things have changed once again, and I am calling the church in Canada to divine obedience over civil obedience. In doing so, I am prepared to answer to my Lord and endure all penalties meted out by civil authorities should I be forced to disobey them. They can take my freedom, my finances, and my life, but I will not bow. Nor will I be shamed, bullied, chided or threatened to back down.

Why Divine Obedience over Civil Obedience is a Christian Duty

 

1/ Because the clarity of Scripture trumps the ambiguity of the moment.

 

The Word of God instructs God’s people to meet for the ministry of the Word, sacrament, worship, laying on of hands, greeting one another with a holy kiss, praying over the sick, and fulfilling the “one anothers” of Scripture (Rom. 16:161 Cor. 11:27-34Heb. 10:25Jam. 5:14). These are explicit instructions which cannot be replaced with Zoom church anymore than surgery or marital sex can be engaged in without physical presence. In contrast, we live in times of great ambiguity. Rules are being mandated then rolled back. Officials are creating laws then breaking them. Medical protocols are being written and enforced without clear, public evidence of their effectiveness. Our experience on the streets and in hospitals do not match what we are told by the media. When decisions are made, modelling and hypothetical scenarios have greater weight than reality and fear drives decisions more than facts. Several church leaders have declared that the bar for civil disobedience is high but apparently have a very low bar for divine obedience. And yet in all this ambiguity, God’s clear commands stand firm.

 

2/ Because we must not abandon our flocks.

 

Incarnational ministry is fundamental to human health and spiritual well-being. Adam’s aloneness is the only negative observation made before sin entered the world (Gen. 2:18). My wife’s grandmother experienced rapid physical decline during the spring lockdown when separated from her children, only to recuperate when reunited with them. Otherwise healthy persons have testified to the mental and spiritual decline they have experienced this year, suicides are up, and terror is pervasive in our society. In our own region, monthly emergency department visits due to drug overdose are on the rise.1 Church leaders are at odds and family members have experienced relational rifts. Church leaders know this more than anybody else. It is therefore selfish and irresponsible for leaders to abandon the known needs of their flock to mitigate against the unknown outcome of a virus.

 

It is selfish and irresponsible for leaders to abandon the known needs of their flock to mitigate against the unknown outcome of a virus.

 

Faithful leaders know that electronic means provide only a fraction of the blessing that in-person relationships provide. The church is not a spectator sport, and any leader content with merely providing an “Online Church” experience has a woefully weak ecclesiology.

 

3/ Because it is wrong to quarantine the healthy.

 

The Scriptures provide us with examples of quarantining sick people from healthy populations, and we are wise to do the same (Lev. 13:46). But the decision to forcibly quarantine an entire population to stop a virus that the vast majority of healthy people will survive is irresponsible. The collateral damage of increased suicides, failed businesses, and a massive increase in national debt is unconscionable and immoral.

 

4/ Because it is selfish to bankrupt people.

 

It is not surprising that so many Canadians are advocates of rolling lockdowns, unconcerned with the economic impact. Lockdown advocates tend to fall into three categories: (1) Lazy, radical socialists who are prepared to exchange their freedom for State handouts, thereby becoming slaves to the State. (2) Those living on guaranteed incomes (which one must not begrudge but which certainly softens the sense of urgency to fully reopen the economy). Or, (3) businesses profiting from the lockdowns. We are however reminded in Holy Scripture that a man who doesn’t work shouldn’t eat (2 Thess. 3:10), and that the Church is to care for the poor (Prov. 28:27). Lockdowns actually create more poor and disallow gainful employment, and faithful churches must not be complicit in such degradation.

 

5/ Because the Church is being suppressed.

 

The Church was once a dominant voice on the Canadian landscape; the vestiges of which are seen in the structures of government (the Church being an advocate for both freedom and accountable governance), the Scriptures carved all over our Parliament Buildings, the Christian heritage of our universities, and the preamble to our Charter. Once respected, officials have now determined that church ministry is less needed than beer and hardware stores, and public education (which notably serves the purposes of the State by advocating secular humanism in almost every subject matter). While I am not in favour of closing stores or schools, to close churches while permitting others to remain open is suppressive, discriminatory, and inequitable.

 

Many are reluctant to speak of persecution in these discussions because they assume persecution requires heinous and malicious intent. This is false. Persecution is any formal suppressive action against the Church that hinders its mission and message. Regarding motive, our Bible teaches us that no one can really know a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person (1 Cor 2:11), and even then the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jer. 17:9). While we may attempt to discern intention in another person, ultimately it remains a mystery and so we are left to observe and assess a person’s fruit/conduct (Matt. 7:15-20). The conduct of a person will be judged even if they are not fully aware of what they are doing.

 

A telling example of this appears in Mark 15. There, Pilate questioned Jesus’ claims and then questioned the allegations of evil made against Jesus by the Pharisees with this famous question: Why, what evil has he done? (15:14). He appears reluctant to crucify Jesus. And yet, at the insistence of the crowds, and to satisfy the crowd (15:15), Pilate permitted Jesus’ crucifixion. He didn’t want to see Christ die, but he sanctioned it. It is notable too that he succumbed to public pressure in doing so, and as such we mustn’t undervalue the role that public pressure places on officials. Later, in Luke 23:34, as Jesus was being crucified, he declared Father, forgive them (which proves their guilt), for they know not what they do (which proves their ignorance). These Gospel events illustrate that even reluctant or ignorant persons can commit abominable acts, regardless of motive. Any official that oppresses the Church is guilty of the persecution of God’s people. No government is spiritually neutral; they will be useful to the one who masquerades as an angel of light even if they disguise themselves as servants of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:14-15), or they will serve King Jesus.

 

6/ Because unconditional submission to civil authority is not Christian.

 

Christian leaders continue to use Romans 13, even appealing to our evangelical and reformed forebears, to advocate for unilateral submission to government lockdowns.2 The argument is built off of 13:1-2 which does instruct the believer to be subject to authority because God has appointed such persons. But the passage actually presupposes that the authority is functioning justly, that he is God’s servant for your good and carries out God’s wrath on the evildoer (13:4). A twin passage in 1 Peter 2:13-14 instructs us to submit the authority and then presents their job description this way: governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. The call to be subject then is null and void if the magistrate does not fulfil these duties, or steps beyond them (as illustrated in the disobedience of the apostles in Acts 5:27-32). Romans 13 can hardly be understood as a call to submit to Nero’s tyranny or wilfully permit oneself to be hurt, anymore than a wife is required to submit to an abusive husband. Their authority is very narrowly limited to matters of public justice, and we flee from those who transgress (Matt 24:15-22).

 

This raises the question of government intent. Are we being properly governed, or are we witnessing tyranny? While heart intention is hard to know, one thing is very concerning: Ontario’s provincial government whipped the vote to seize emergency powers for an extended period of time, even dismissing a member of their own caucus for holding a dissenting view. How does this build trust or preserve democracy? Even the Canadian Civil Liberties Association called this “deeply concerning”3, while many Christians do not seem concerned at all!

 

The genius of our political system is allowance for dissent (thus we have an “Official Opposition”) and the need for the three branches of government to hold power in check. Under our current circumstances, our Premier has essentially claimed dictatorial power in the name of public health, while publicly deferring to the paid technocrats (unelected officials) for direction. Is this what Ontarians agreed to submit themselves to at our last election? Are we comfortable with an unaccountable government where dissenting voices are punished? Are we equally comfortable with a technocracy? No. We are being governed by a dysfunctional government system – one Ontarians did not sign up for. As such, I have repeatedly argued that the Premier fully reinstate the Legislature and that the Judiciary fully reopen in order to keep the Executive in check.

 

Of further note is the question: how much authority does the State possess, to which the believer must submit? In Romans 13, civil authority is given jurisdiction over justice in the public sphere. Our Christian forebears were comfortable with that and urged churches to submit to it. But modern states have extended their authority well beyond matters of justice to include public education, public health, private property use, transportation regulations, right down to requiring dog tags for the family pet. To extend the biblical notion of subjection to any and all areas of life that the government chooses to control is a failure to acknowledge the discontinuities between the ancient and modern world. One could ask: if subjection is that far-reaching, even willfully permitting oneself to be hurt by the State, how can we not chastise the underground church in China for meeting in secret? How can we justify resisting Bill C-6 which will assuredly be used to coerce the Church in Canada from preaching the full Gospel to sexually confused people? Submission to government authority is not an absolute command for followers of Christ.

 

7/ Because cultural theology demands it.

 

We need to interpret the events of the day with the newspaper in our hands, or rightly be accused of being tone deaf. Students of culture are aware of the radical disdain for the law of God, the advancement of humanistic and secular ideologies, and the influence they have on lockdowns and other current affairs. Examples of this include the open endorsement of Marxist ideologies by hypocritical officials who have broken their own rules and participated in public protests all-the-while threatening stiff fines. The duplicity is shameful, but more tellingly gives us insight into their cultural and spiritual mindset. Politicians will literally kneel in public in direct violation of their own laws to pay homage to Marxist, anti-family ideologies, but dare label the church “non-essential”.

 

Politicians will literally kneel in public in direct violation of their own laws to pay homage to Marxist, anti-family ideologies, but dare label the church “non-essential”.

 

How is it that Christians leaders can call their people to submit to this soul-rattling dismissive spirit towards the Church? How can the same Church leaders who remained silent in the face of mass (at times violent) protests in the spring of this year now oppose our efforts to continue gathering? To their shame, they are evidently more concerned about the optics of public opinion than sacrificial obedience to the Word.

 

In my estimation we feed the dismissive spirit of our culture by failing to gather; we declare to the world our agreement that we are not really necessary. We clutter up our conversations with pious platitudes like: “It’s the loving thing to do.”, “Church isn’t a building.”, and “We get more viewers Online.” This rhetoric does not draw people to Christianity but confirms their suspicion of our irrelevance, and perhaps many churches are. Just ask around. How many lost people have fallen at the feet of Jesus in repentance because they felt so loved by churches that refused to gather?

 

8/ Because our officials have failed to justify their behaviour and the onus is on them.

 

On principle, my default is to honour everyone, and especially authority (1 Pet. 2:13-25). I practice that, preach that, and expect that from person’s under my charge. I also would advocate for the freedom of officials to visit their cottages, walk through the streets, and eat meals in public as they see fit. What I cannot tolerate is the hypocrisy we have witnessed on all levels of government, and we must not honour that behaviour. Our Prime Minister joined public protests contrary to his own mandates. Ontario’s Premier visited his own cottage while warning the citizenry to stay home. Windsor’s mayor threatened zero-tolerance laws in my municipality and hours later broke them by enjoying a meal in a restaurant with seven other friends. He later offered to make a $750 donation to a charity in place of a $750 fine. Does that mean that any fines imposed upon Christians can be donated to their church? Consistency would demand it! Instead, their behaviour leaves the public deeply skeptical about the urgent need for the draconian laws they pass, and I suspect the next election will bear that out. Those who oppose their powers are dismissed from the provincial caucus or asked to resign from their political parties. These are ethically inconsistent acts by people who wish to present themselves as “for the people” but who are increasingly displaying that they are “for themselves” and their own reelection efforts.

 

Medical officials, paid by taxpayers and therefore functioning with political liability, continue to issue health orders and have mostly failed to provide peer-reviewed medical studies from person’s without political liability to validate them. Under normal circumstances we defer to medical advice, but forcibly ordering businesses and churches to close “because we told you to” is flabbergasting. After many months of waiting, most of us are still limited to data-mining on various medical websites or speaking with the medical experts we personally know for our source material, many of whom are concerned about their own jobs if they speak against the establishment. Medical officers must provide the public with hard data and peer-reviewed studies if they expect to continue suspending Charter freedoms.

 

9/ Because love requires you to leave your home.

 

Our Lord Jesus was both kind and blunt in his public engagements with people. He was always loving, but always truthful, even when it hurt (Matt. 9:36Matt. 22:18Mk. 10:13-16). Strangely, we have reduced love down to one acceptable action, as expressed in the nauseating motto: “Stay Home and Stay Safe”. To be sure, Christians should concern themselves with the health and welfare of others and historically have done so. To wilfully expose a person to a disease that would inevitably kill them is criminally negligent, just as drunk driving would be. But our options are not so black and white, and we simply cannot stay home indefinitely. We now know that only a fraction of 1% will succumb to the virus, while many more die daily for various reasons, including suicide.4 Getting on with life is not akin to drunk driving, it is more like our daily commute within which we potentially could injure another person but probably will not. While every soul is precious, as in war we cannot afford to draw back from all risk or we will lose the very thing we fight for: life and liberty.

 

While every soul is precious, as in war we cannot afford to draw back from all risk or we will lose the very thing we fight for: life and liberty.

 

If by staying home we lose life and liberty, what’s the point? In addition to basic protocols, we must consider: (1) the need to continue ministering to the healthy, (2) how to meet the emotional, spiritual and economic needs of vulnerable people, (3) how to remove encumbrances to people seeking to maintain their livelihoods, (4) lessons from history that require us to be wary of drift toward tyranny, (5) the reality of spiritual warfare against the people of God, and (6) the sovereign right of the Church over its own worship. These are loving things to advocate for, and may God give us the grace to love others in these ways.

 

I do not deny that there is a virus working its way through the population as evidenced by the increase in cases counts. I think it is wise to exercise some basic protective measures to minimize the spread. At the same time, not only has the virus turned out to be far less deadly than previously announced, but experientially we all know that it has had little direct effect on the majority of healthy people. But suppose the circumstances were otherwise and we were experiencing mass casualties? If that were so, I would be prepared to promote greater health measures, assuming they were equitable (i.e. only hospitals, police and EMS remain open) and are proven necessary (i.e. when weighed by a panel of professionals without political liability, or by way of a free vote in the Legislature). But I would not alter my stance on the need for the gathered church to meet regularly, or for citizens to be afforded their basic freedoms. Indefinite closures can never be accepted by any Christian or Canadian patriot, no matter the risk. Life is filled with risks, and all of us will eventually die. Fortunately we know from Scripture that the world will not end from COVID-19, and when we do die, we have resurrection hope (a doctrine that appears ineffectual in reducing fear in many Christians these days).

 

In light of these considerations, I call the church to divine obedience over civil obedience. And I call upon all responsible officials to call together a collection of pastors, economists, historians, sociologists, and physicians, to consult the public, tell the truth, allow for dissenting opinions and free votes, and provide a path forward for all Canadians. In the meantime, churches will remain open for God’s people to gather in worship and fully engage in the tasks and responsibilities irrevocably assigned to them by God.5

 

1 https://www.wechu.org/reports/opioid-overdose-statistics (accessed Nov 12, 2020).
2 It is noteworthy that John Calvin wrote, “For earthly princes lay aside their power when they rise up against God, and are unworthy to be reckoned among the number of mankind. We ought, rather, to spit upon their heads than to obey them.” John Calvin, Commentary on Daniel Lecture XXX, Daniel 6:32, as quoted in The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates by Matthew J. Trewhella
3 https://www.thestar.com/politics/provincial/2020/07/07/premier-doug-ford-to-extend-emergency-covid-19-powers-into-next-year.html (accessed Nov 11, 2020).
4 https://nationalpost.com/health/covid-19-canada-unemployment-depression-suicide (accessed Nov 25, 2020).
5 See the Niagara 2020 Declaration for further articulation of the Church’s relationship to the State. https://www.niagaradeclaration.ca/

December 3, 2020 | Article: Government data shows lockdowns more deadly than COVID-19

This article was written by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom, with whom we’ve been working closely for 2020, and was published on December 3, 2020. To read the original article in full, please visit: www.jccf.ca

Excerpt:

CALGARY: The Justice Centre  today released a Charter analysis on the impact of lockdowns on the lives of Canadians. Titled “Flying Blind,” this Charter analysis demonstrates that Canada’s federal and provincial governments have not properly and adequately considered the specific nature and the full extent of lockdown harms that result from the violations of Charter freedoms to move, travel, assemble, associate and worship.

 

Fewer Canadians are dying in 2020

With COVID-19 touted by politicians and chief medical officers as an unusually deadly killer that everyone should fear greatly, one might expect an increase in death rates amongst Canadians. But in fact, deaths for the period from January 1 to August 31, compared for 2016 through 2020, show that fewer Canadians are dying in 2020 than in 2019, even while Canada’s population grows.”

 

To read article in full, please visit: www.jccf.ca

December 15, 2020 | Letter to Windsor Mayor and Chief of Police

This letter was written by our Lead Pastor, Rev. Dr. Aaron Rock, on behalf of the Elder Council & Directors of Harvest Bible Church and sent to the Mayor of Windsor and the Chief of Police for the Windsor Police Service.

December 15, 2020

 

His Worship Drew Dilkens
Mayor of Windsor and Chair of the Windsor Police Services Board
350 City Hall Square West, Suite 510
Windsor, ON.   N9A 6S1

 

Ms. Pamela Mizuno
Chief of Police for the Windsor Police Service
150 Goyeau St.
Windsor, ON.   N9A 6V2

 

 

Dear Mayor Dilkens and Chief Mizuno:

 

On October 29, 2020 three worshippers in a French church were knifed to death because they were Christians. One was nearly beheaded. These three are among hundreds of thousands of Christians who are persecuted every year around the globe, with one Christian being killed every two hours simply because they identify as followers of Jesus Christ.1

 

We are aware that Windsor-Essex has entered into a period of lockdown due to COVID-19, just prior to the most important event in the Christian calendar: Christmas. Our church has been conscientious throughout the spring, summer and fall months to implement health protocols resulting in zero outbreaks traced to our church. We are also aware that both our Mayor, who is also the Chair of the Windsor Police Services Board, and our Chief of Police, who is the highest-ranking officer in our police service, attended public protests in June of this year to stand up against global racial injustice, stemming from a traumatic incident in the United States. Several clergypersons from our city also attended. These protests, attended by high-ranking public law-enforcement officials along with up to 2000 citizens, took place during the spring lockdown in contravention of provincial restrictions limiting social gatherings to five people prior to June 12 and ten people subsequent to June 12. We can only assume that law officials, including our Police Chief and Mayor, believe that protesting global injustice is of higher priority than absolute obedience to all lockdown measures. We believe this is a reasonable conclusion since, in doing so, officials potentially subject themselves to an investigation by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIRPD).

 

We agree that matters of global injustice are of utmost priority and are hereby inviting you to participate in, or at least be supportive of, our worship services over the next three weeks which will dually serve as public protests against the persecution, imprisonment and murder of Christian people all over the world. Even locally, many of our parishioners could produce evidence of verbal slurs and mockery that they have received as a result of their Christian faith. We plan to hold services on December 20th, Christmas Eve  and December 27th for this purpose. We may choose to extend these protests into the new year, depending on public interest. Service times will be posted at harvestwindsor.ca and we will be following the same public health protocols and abiding by the 30% occupancy mandates which we personally negotiated with the Premier’s office this spring.2

 

We are certain that as public officials committed to equality, anti-discrimination and the fair and impartial exercise of your duties that you will be fully supportive of our efforts and our absolute resolve to continue meeting in person to worship King Jesus and stand against the injustice of Christian persecution. To do so would be a wonderful means of sending a message to all Canadians that injustice against any identifiable group is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

 

Finally, it has been a painful experience to witness the dismissive spirit that many civil authorities have demonstrated toward the Christian church. Officials have failed to respond to our requests for medical evidence, failed to consider our work essential, failed to respond to several of our letters and backtracked on our reopening negotiations without any dialogue. While this has put us in an incredibly difficult position, we want you to know that we are model, tax-paying, law-abiding citizens who fully support a well-funded police service and are grateful for their work in our region.

 

Respectfully,

 

Rev. Dr. Aaron Rock, Lead Pastor
on behalf of the Elders Council & Directors:
Robert Bobek, Andrew Robertson, James Palancki, Glen Adams, Glenn Grainger

 

1See https://htp.org/
2See www.reopenontariochurches.ca

January 4, 2021 | Justice Centre to defend Ontario churches targeted by police for church services

This article was written by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom, with whom we’ve been working closely for 2020, and was published on January 4, 2021. To read the article in full, please visit: www.jccf.ca

Excerpt:

“ONTARIO: The Justice Centre today announced that it will defend numerous Ontario pastors and church elders charged for holding church services in contravention of the Reopening Ontario Act. The Justice Centre will contest the charges on the basis that the Act violates the Charter rights of Ontario citizens to peacefully assemble for worship, among other grounds for challenge.

In Windsor, Pastor Aaron Rock of Harvest Bible Church was advised by police that charges would be forthcoming, following a service on December 20 while Windsor was in the ‘grey zone’ and limited to gatherings of only ten people indoors. In an open letter published on December 15, Pastor Rock had invited the Mayor of Windsor and the Chief of Police to attend upcoming services in which the persecution and even murder of Christians globally would be remembered. He noted that both officials had previously attended Black Lives Matter protests in June, when organized gatherings were limited to five people even outdoors.

To read article in full, please visit: www.jccf.ca

Sermons and Lectures

Answering Moral and Theological Questions about the Global Pandemic

This 4 part series of lectures was given via Livestream at Harvest Bible Church between April 22nd and May 13th, 2020.

The Ethics of Submission to Governing Authorities

This is a sermon preached November 15, 2020 at Harvest Bible Church by Rev. Dr. Aaron Rock on Romans 13.

News Articles/Interviews

(Newest to Oldest)

Ep. 26 – Is It Time To Reopen Churches? – Pastor Aaron Rock

May 24, 2021 | Real Talk Podcast

This is a big one folks! We interviewed Pastor Aaron Rock from Harvest Bible Church in Windsor, ON, who has taken a clear public stance in favour of reopening churches. We went through at least 10 different objections to his stance and had him explain his rationale on each point. We hope that this episode will be helpful for the many Christians, especially those in leadership positions, who are wrestling with this issue and how their local church should respond to it.

Windsor pastor ready to fight Reopening Ontario Act charge

January 5, 2021 | CTV Windsor News

“According to Windsor pastor Aaron Rock and his lawyers, he is the first pastor in the province to be told by police he was being charged under the Ontario Reopening Act.”

Watch the full interview HERE.

CTV Windsor

CBC Windsor News December 30, 2020

December 30, 2020 | CBC Windsor

Watch from 13:11-15:32 for the piece interviewing Rev. Dr. Aaron Rock.

Interview with Windsor Pastor Charged for Opening Church

December 29, 2020 | Bright Light News

Pastors Under Fire

December 29, 2020 | Live with Laura-Lynn

Watch from 45:18-1:32:52 for the piece interviewing Rev. Dr. Aaron Rock.

Pastor Charged For Opening Church – Interview with Dr. Aaron Rock

December 29, 2020 | No Compromise Christianity

No Compromise

Windsor pastor speaks on challenging provincial COVID-19 restrictions on religious gatherings

December 28, 2020 | Windsor Star

The Windsor pastor who has been charged with violating Ontario’s lockdown restrictions on religious gatherings says he is being widely misunderstood.

 

“I’m not a virus denier. I’m not an anti-masker. I’m not a foolish man,” said Aaron Rock, pastor of Windsor’s Harvest Bible Church, in an interview on Saturday.

Read full article HERE.

Ontario pastor on the church’s battle against shutdowns

November 30, 2020 | The Post Millennial

Dr. Aaron Rock is the head pastor at Harvest Bible Church in Windsor Ontario, and has been taking the lead in the fight to keep churches open across Canada.

Read full article HERE.

3 Reverends Discuss Lockdown Measures

November 29, 2020 | Bright Light News

Bucking health orders, Windsor church members to rally at Toronto’s ‘Worship Protest’

November 28, 2020 | The Windsor Star

Pastor Aaron Rock of Windsor’s Harvest Bible Church insists he’s no rebel and that he is deeply respectful of authorities.

Read full article HERE.

CBC Radio Interviews with Dr. Aaron Rock

June 12, 2020 | CBC Radio

Rev. Dr. Aaron Rock was interviewed by 5 different CBC Radio stations across Ontario. Only 4 were able to be recorded and posted here.

 

0:00 – 6:16: Kitchener-Waterloo
6:17-11:54: Sudbury
11:55-17:54: Barrie, Peterborough, Kingston
17:55-25:00: London
Not included: Thunder Bay

CBC Radio Windsor Interview with Dr. Aaron Rock

June 11, 2020 | CBC Radio

Rev. Dr. Aaron Rock was interviewed by Tony Doucette on Windsor Morning (CBC Radio) regarding the reopening of Ontario churches.

Watch Here: https://www.facebook.com/163091071815/videos/269215040864305

Some Ontario pastors petition to re-open their churches by June

May 25, 2020 | Context Beyond the Headlines