Dear Prime Minister Ardern,
An open letter to yourself, Members of Parliament, and Government:
As ministers of the Gospel, ordained and appointed by God, we write, not in the spirit of those wanting to rebel or revolt but as those who have the highest regard for you and your God-given role. The Scripture instructs us to honour all established rulers.1
The Bible teaches us that God has instituted Government and has placed each of you in authority for the good and protection of our country as His servant, for which we are very grateful.2
We pray regularly for you and our prayers are for God to uphold you and give you much wisdom in the many decisions you make on behalf of the citizens of our beautiful country.3
We in turn are called to obey the authorities that God has placed over us and to make your job easier, not harder. We desire to lead a quiet life, attending to our own business, and to work with our own hands.4
Our Christian faith should make us the best of citizens and neighbours, as the “salt of the earth” and “light of the world”, “zealous for good works”.
It is for this reason that we make our humble and respectful appeal.
We are concerned that the Public Health Response Bill is not addressing the specific and unique place religion plays in our society. We are concerned that articles 14, 15, and 16 in the Bill of Rights are not even mentioned in the proposed bill.
This is placing the church in a very difficult position, where we feel the need to explain the reasons for our concern:
According to the Bible, which stands as our ultimate authority in life, public assembly is an imperative of our faith.
Physically meeting together is not merely a nice thing to do; it’s part of what a church is. We do not believe the church equals the building; but the church does, by definition, require public gathering.5
As one fellow Minister stated, “Many in the media and government seem to think Christians want to be in churches. They have misunderstood what a church is. It is not a sacred space we long to be in; it is a people we long to be with. We want to be together, assembled, a church, wherever it is we meet.”6
1 1 Peter 2:13-17; Titus 3:1-2 2 Romans 13:1-7 3 1 Timothy 2:1-4 4 1 Thess. 4:11 5 1 Corinthians 11:18; 14:19,23,28. 6 Dr. Mark Dever.
With the present rules for Level 2, we do not understand how public gathering in a cinema, museum, gym, bar, or restaurant, is any different – once explained in detail – from the public gathering in a church.
Our government does acknowledge that some public gatherings are essential (courts of law, hospitals, shopping centres, and schools soon to resume). But religious gatherings have been treated with far less respect or trust.
However, we are convinced that Christian churches are unparalleled in their ability to instill faith, hope, and charity in people.
Such character traits are vital to the well-being of society, particularly in times of crises. We are grateful for your concern for the physical health of all New Zealanders. We would maintain that the spiritual and mental health of the nation are equally significant. Our mission is to tend to those needs, and we are very eager to do it.
In appealing to you our Government, as those who practice the Christian faith, we are following the example of the Apostle Paul, who twice appealed to his legal rights as a Roman citizen (not to defy Government but to appeal to the laws by which Government has made).7
We are afforded with rights by your own laws. Here we are asking that you respect them8.
We believe that the Public Health Response Bill is a serious limitation, if not a breach, of the rights to freedom of religion contained in the Bill of Rights:
14 Freedom of expression
• Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.
15 Manifestation of religion and belief
• Every person has the right to manifest that person’s religion or belief in worship, observance, practice, or teaching, either individually or in community with others, and either in public or in private”.
16 Freedom of peaceful assembly
• Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.”
Therefore, we implore you in a spirit of humility and gentleness, to trust religious citizens to gather in a safe and responsible manner.
7 Acts 16:37; 22:25.
The religious community in New Zealand is a significant part of our country’s beauty and strength.
Please do not miss our value to society or ignore our contribution to it.
Matthew Johnston, Pastor, Riverbend Bible Church, Hastings
Phil Henderson, Pastor, Onekawa Bible Church, Napier
Andre Bay, Pastor, Shore Baptist Church, Auckland
Tony Nunez, Pastor, Fenton Park Bible Church, Rotorua
Andrew Young, Pastor, Riverbend Bible Church, Hastings,
Nick Clevely, Pastor, Covenant Grace Baptist Church, Timaru
Jason Winslade, Pastor, Redemption Church, Christchurch
James Major, Elder, Riverbend Bible Church, Hastings
Bruwer Vroon, Pastor, Grace Church Gisborne / Te Whare Atawhai
Kris Baines, Pastor, Community Bible Church, Wellsford
Toby Young, Pastor, Riverbend Bible Church, Hastings
Joe Fleener, Pastor, Rolleston Baptist Church, Rolleston
Herman Philipsen, Elder, Riverbend Bible Church, Hastings
Rene Kempf, Elder, Covenant Grace Baptist Church, Timaru
Donald Stevenson, Carterton Gospel Chapel, Carterton
Mark Watson, Pastor, Faith Bible Church, New Plymouth
Jono MacFarlane, Pastor, Christ Sanctuary, Palmerston North
Alvyn Borrows, Elder, Community Bible Church, Wellsford
Aaron Warner, Pastor, Reformed Church of Palmerston North
Robert Harrod, Pastor, Grace Baptist Church, Christchurch
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