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