Manitoba, British Columbia, and Quebec have instituted vaccine passports. In each case, the provincial governments have not asked places of worship to require passports. Yet I know of one church that plans to voluntarily require proof of vaccination or a negative test to attend its Sunday worship.
I find myself surprised in more than one way that a church might impose its own vaccine policy. I understand that some Christians take immune suppressants for various conditions. Cancer patients, in particular, must be extra careful to avoid viruses. So I can see a reasonable scenario in which a church building may reserve a room for the vulnerable. But Sunday worship as a whole?
That is harder to sell for at least two reasons.
The Body of Christ Is not All Vaccinated
First, a church building may host an event for the vaccinated, sure. But the building houses the church, the body of Christ—all the saints united to Christ by faith. So if any of those united to Christ remained unvaccinated, may they not then share one loaf and cup so that “we who are many are one body” (1 Cor 10:17)?
I suppose if a local congregation of the body of Christ all agreed together on the vaccine and all were vaccinated, then it would follow that they’d worship together in a vaccinated community. But in that case, why require a vaccine or proof of a negative test? In this scenario, the body of Christ in one place would also be putting a premium on local membership which excludes visitors and seekers.
And again, if a church’s ecclesiology allowed for such a move, then a congregation would hypothetically be in its rights to make such a requirement. If they did, they’d still exclude visitors and seekers. But let’s be real. No one congregation has a fully vaccinated population. So such a move will exclude parts of the congregation.
A COVID-19 Test May Impose a Financial Barrier Attendees Cannot Bear
Consider secondly that getting a COVID-19 test without cause costs money. I recently saw a test priced at $140 at Pearson Airport. Even an antigen test costs $60 at Shoppers Drug Mart in Alberta. For cash-strapped people, that requirement might just be the barrier that prevents them from receiving the life-giving Bread from heaven.
I have no in-person knowledge of the church that plans to impose vaccine regulations on its congregation. And as a Christian in a Baptist church, I understand the ecclesiological position of congregational independence. So I can say very little about one church in Calgary. At one level, I must respect a congregation’s decision.
At another level, as an individual Christian, I can say exactly what I think about the prospect of churches using vaccine passports. If applied to the congregational worship on Sunday, it will divide the vaccinated and unvaccinated in the congregation and/or create a financial barrier to the Word of God that ought not to be there.
There may be limited uses of a proof of vaccination such as special service for those who are vulnerable (cancer patients, etc.). But as a whole, I cannot see vaccine passports in churches as a net positive for the reasons given above.