Monday, August 30, 2021

Decision Time is Getting Near

It was a tension-filled council meeting, the first that I had felt such strong emotions as one last night. Nevertheless, it was a healthy and robust discussion without rancour and it shows the maturity of the leaders involved to freely speak up as the occasion demands it. We discussed whether we wanted to open the church premises for Sunday services as the government had granted us the permission almost three weeks ago with our HQ giving the green light last week that any church could start opening for Sunday services with SOPs' compliance. The sticky point is that only those who had had double-dosed vaccination could enter the premises and one thing that surprised me was that no one asked whether it is biblical or theological sound to impose such vaccine "passport" for church entry.

Everyone simply assumes that such must the case since we are facing a pandemic and public health takes precedence over everything else. With new Covid-19 cases surging daily in Sabah with 4 consecutive days of over 3,000 new infections and in the past couple of days, cases have dropped slightly below 3K figure. I remember once that when we had reached 100 cases in Kota Kinabalu a while back, everyone was a bit tense and expected an imminent lockdown. Just a couple of months back, Sabah's cases amounted to less than two hundred cases daily and once KK had about new 39 cases a day which led to a major Conference being cancelled. 

When my turn came to speak in the meeting, I mentioned that in recent days, the Covid-19 rates had tripled compared to the previous high of 1,100 about a month after the Sabah's State Election which led to a lockdown. With Kota Kinabalu including two sub-districts of Penampang and Putatan totalling more than 1,000 cases the week before, I felt that it was not the right time to commence church services despite the members being fully vaccinated. Plus the fact most of the housing estates and shops near the church premises have come under EMCO (enhanced movement control order) in the past month or two. I also listed the stats from Iceland, USA, UK and Israel that reported a surge in "breakthrough" cases of vaccinated people but are now being infected with Covid-19 and many have been hospitalized as well. There could be two reasons for this - one is the Delta variant of Covid-19 being much more contagious than previous mutations and variants of the Covid-19 and second, it is the waning immunity provided by the vaccines after 5 or 6 months. Some of these countries are considering booster shots or a third jab (Israel had already started to do that). 

Well, I have to think through theologically on this, if the church decides to resume Sunday services whether it is God's will that those unvaccinated are barred from entry and also a large segment of the church, for instance those within 13-17 years old which makes up a significant portion of our church attendance. Children, young teenagers, the sick and those who can't take the vaccines for health reasons, not just for the reason of conscience, all these will be barred from worship with the vaccinated ones. Will this scenario create division in the church, a two-tier, a two-class church between the vaccinated and unvaccinated? Some church members in villages have been fully vaccinated and they have not reported a single Covid-19 case for weeks or months, so it will be safe for them to resume church services. However, most town (Pekan) and city churches will have to grapple with this discriminatory SOP if a vaccine passport is imposed.

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