Dear DCC/DCS Family & Friends–
Amidst evolving guidance and knowledge regarding how to manage the risks of COVID, there has been much discussion about regulations regarding the wearing of masks and the use of vaccines. In our practice and in our teaching, Damascus Community Church has consistently advocated for biblical submission to governing authorities when it is not sinful to do so (Romans 13), and submission to one's conscience when there is no clear biblical mandate (Romans 14). We have issued a statement regarding vaccination in particular, that we believe it is neither commanded nor prohibited for an individual to be vaccinated, and that each person should act according to his or her biblically informed conscience (https://www.damascuscc.org/article/440635?org=damascus-community-church).
Recent policy changes at a state level have allowed people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID to forgo wearing masks in many situations. DCC has followed this guidance, allowing people who are fully vaccinated to worship at DCC without wearing masks.
In the guidance for these policy changes that was formalized earlier this week, the state has called for places of employment, businesses, and faith institutions to verify the vaccination status of those who wish to enter our buildings without masks. We believe directly asking individuals to verify their vaccination status by providing a vaccination record or document is problematic in at least 2 major ways:
Conscience: On the basis of Romans 14, our church's stance has been intentionally neutral in neither encouraging nor discouraging vaccination, which is a private decision between an individual and God. We believe the mere act of asking the question violates that private decision and could be interpreted as encouraging or discouraging vaccination.
Instead of asking people to verify their vaccination status, the state provides an alternative option whereby we could continue to require masks of all who enter our buildings irrespective of whether they have been vaccinated. For many people, freedom from mask-wearing is a significant reason for pursuing vaccination. So by keeping a mask-wearing requirement, we would effectively be discouraging people from getting vaccinated, which again violates our position of neutrality with respect to vaccination.
In addition, to require all to wear a mask, including those vaccinated who may now lawfully enter without one, would be to add an unnecessary prerequisite for entering worship. For the DCC elders to do so would border on “lording it over” the DCC flock (1 Peter 5:3).
Favoritism: Scripture enjoins us against showing favoritism within our fellowship, whatever its basis. In particular, James 2 forbids us from showing favoritism in how one enters worship on the basis of appearance or social status. While the recent guidance from the state favors the vaccinated by freeing them from wearing masks in most settings, it requires the DCC leadership to show favoritism by discriminating between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated in how they have arrived to worship. It is to afford privileges (no mask) and requirements (mask) on the basis of vaccination status, and therefore not permissible according to the principle of James 2.
For these reasons, we believe that our current practice of communicating the guidelines through our online registration process represents submission to biblical authorities in a way that respects people's consciences, supports our fellowship, and doesn't contradict the mission of our church. Therefore, we will be holding to our practices as outlined in our statement from May 14 available here https://www.damascuscc.org/article/462326?org=damascus-community-church.
We consistently teach the accountability of each individual to God, trusting the work of the Holy Spirit to convict people of sin and the work of the conscience to lead people in making wise choices. We believe He will be much more effective in bringing about obedience to laws than people can be.
Please join us in praying that God would guide us through these changing times. And for your part, continue to pursue His truth from the Scriptures, and the guidance of His Holy Spirit, and continue to love one another by being respectful of their convictions, their decisions, and their space.
To read OHA’s Interim Guidance for Fully Vaccinated Individuals go to:
- The DCC Elder Council/DCS School Board