Indications that the government might extend social distancing measures beyond 21 June and introduce vaccine passports for churches are deeply worrying. While no firm proposals have yet come forward, we have seen the government shift the goalposts many times before. Confidence in what they say has been eroded.
We all acknowledge the government has had a difficult job on its hands, and there is no straight line to freedom. But we now have a vaccine roll-out which has been hugely successful in dramatically decreasing hospitalisation and death. If churches can’t regain their full freedoms in June, then when?
The government needs to remember, our freedom as churches is not theirs to give or take. We have willingly given up – loaned – our liberty because thousands of people were dying and being hospitalised. But that surrender of freedom must not last indefinitely. It is for churches themselves, under the Lordship of Christ and in accordance with the Scriptures, to decide how and when and who meets for worship.
The Fletcher report
The report into the Fletcher abuse allegations has been published. The details about his misconduct are truly awful. But, be warned, there are those who may use this report to attack the wider ‘culture’ of conservative evangelicalism.
In this edition of ET, Richard Turnbull helpfully sets out some of the Trojan horses to watch out for. Among his concerns, he says some evangelical leaders with links to Fletcher are being urged to resign, as if they are guilty by association.
Also, church independency is being challenged, with a push for wider structures of control. There is a call for women to be represented in all areas of in church leadership. And conservative evangelical churches are being told they should be willing to dialogue with outside agencies, even if they are dominated by liberal theology.
The Fletcher report repeatedly uses the phrase ‘spiritual abuse’. While there can be no place for bullying behaviour by those who hold spiritual office, the phrase ‘spiritual abuse’ has been weaponised by campaigners who want to criminalise conservative evangelical beliefs. The use of the phrase should be treated with extreme caution.
We repeat, the report makes for sobering reading. The details about Jonathan Fletcher’s misconduct are truly awful. But the answer to that is true repentance, proper humility, and biblical accountability. A scatter-gun attack on ‘conservative evangelical culture’ helps no one.