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I received an email today from someone who has, thus far, complied with Government advice, concerned that prolonged lockdown conditions or 'semi-lockdown' conditions (which pose significant restrictions on communal gathering for worship) will soon necessitate a decision to go against Government requirements in the future (I am not saying which country this refers to) and to consider house-meetings for worship or other arrangements that will contradict 'advice' or statutory requirements.

The thought had crossed my own mind as well, that the restrictions imposed (no singing permitted, limited number of persons allowed in the building, limited scope for normal fellowship, limited scope for prayer meetings where many of the congregation will lead in prayer) might, if prolonged, be considered a situation where one would have to consider 'obeying God rather than men'.

My own thought has been to consider meetings in the open air, something done commonly in olden times and done often in the times when Jesus preached to large multitudes.

A building is not a necessity and it would perhaps be viewed by authorities less severely than if Government requirements were breached within a building.

Have any Christian gatherings or denominations (who have thus far complied with all recommendations) made any public statements in regard to how Christians view the ongoing pandemic situation and what they propose for the future ?

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    Some already have said they won't obey lockdown laws, such as John MacArthur. Most Christians I know are highly critical of him though. – curiousdannii Aug 14 at 11:24
  • @curiousdannii Is that people who have not yet been locked down, totally refusing to do so, or was it people who have obeyed restrictions for a time, considering what they will do longterm ? (Edited to emphasise past compliance.) – Nigel J Aug 14 at 11:34
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    I'm not too certain. Though lockdowns in many places have been relaxed and reestablished in cycles as second waves appear. In the US there were some churches who completely refused to obey the very first mention of a lockdown, whereas MacArthur's church was much later on. And what they said was that they were going to start putting on services again even if no one turned up, and if people did turn up how could they stop them? So that's more of a long-term perspective. – curiousdannii Aug 14 at 11:40
  • There have been two churches openly defying the lockdown in Chicago and others are aligning to them who initially complied but recognized that this was just overreach on behalf of local officials who refused to sit down And answer basic questions. youtube.com/watch?v=cxf7X1nc3EU&t=28s And the press version with Brian Gibson who is assisting churches in the US to open up youtube.com/watch?v=JqMpOU96oyM – Autodidact Aug 15 at 17:33
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    I would like to respond as I have a background in microbiology but I feel it’s best I keep to myself. I will make one point though, we don’t behave this way for anything else in life, “if it will saves a life lockdown was worth it” because otherwise we would prohibit the sale of cars “because if it prevents the death of one person in a car accident”, it would prohibit essentially anything from being sold. Not to mention how many people are dying as a consequence of the lockdown who will never get the virus. I need to stop... – Autodidact Aug 15 at 17:39
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This issue affects all Christians where the state has issued restrictions on worship due to the Coronavirus pandemic. A non-denominational group that serves all Christians on legal issues sent out their newsletter ( http://www.christian.org.uk ) which pointed out that “the clear aim of the central and devolved governments has been to save lives. This is a great thing. God’s common grace is at work.” One problem it flagged up is that in some countries there is a restriction of no more than 50 people gathering for worship, distanced and wearing face-masks, “regardless of its size or capacity.”

This may strike many Christians as unfair, given that a congregation of 200 meeting in a very large building is being treated the same as a tiny congregation of, say, 30, meeting in a hall that could cope with 50, spaced out (2 meters distance, not high on drugs!) However, the question is not about logistics but the principle of state regulation of worship. My own denomination leadership sent out a circular, which all members with e-mail likely received, dealing with the mutual responsibility between the state and the church. It began by referring to the Westminster Confession of Faith (23 – Of the Civil Magistrate). The relevant part was quoted:

• “that unity and peace be preserved in the church, that the truth of God be kept pure and ensure that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed, all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed, and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered and observed.” para. 3 • And the Christian has the duty “to pray for magistrates, to honour their persons, to pay them tribute and other dues, to obey their lawful commands, and to be subject to their authority for conscience’ sake.” para. 4

The point was made that times were not ‘normal’ and that government is acting for public health reasons due to this global pandemic. It is acting within its legitimate powers, so it has been right and necessary for churches to submit to the authorities on this. Then future possibilities were considered if secular voices within government sought to radically restrict public worship again, perhaps seeking other grounds for closure. A few days ago, I noted a radio news-item where the Prime Minister of New Zealand spoke about a recent recurrence of the virus and the belief that it was caused by “schools, social gatherings, and churches.” It remains to be seen if it is true that church gatherings are contributing measurably to a spike in the virus. So far, churches are not being singled out. On the contrary, in other countries it is being made clear that young people up to about 30 years of age are the greatest spreaders of the virus, and most likely to violate government requirements (and least likely to inhabit churches, I would add). Now I quote from the e-mail:

“We need to be clear that were there any attempt to close churches down, or limit our worship, for virtually any other reason than we have seen this year, then we would (under God, and for his glory’s sake, and in line with Christian conscience) have to defy such an order and obey God rather than men – and, let us not overlook this important point: be prepared to face the consequences. We would have to invoke the magnificent spirit of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Daniel ch. 3) who, when required to abandon God and go along with the Babylonian practices, replied, ‘If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up’.”

The conclusion was that Christians should not seek controversy with this, but should never forget that our first and primary loyalty is to God, and God only. “Let us resolve that nothing will prevent us from doing that.”

As for pursuing public open-air worship services, some countries have inclement weather, not conducive to that, but history records thousands of Christians braving hail, rain and snow to worship each week for years, walking many miles into rough countryside, government troops riding out to try to arrest them for that. In my part of the world, they were known as “The Killing Times”, such was the violence done to Christians for daring to worship contrary to the then government laws. Private meetings or conventicles were declared illegal and those Christians attending them were hunted down as traitors. The Covenanters, however, brought in The Sanquhar Declaration in June 1680, which shook the throne of Britain nine years later. Now might be a good time for Christians to revisit history regarding such times of government suppression against Christian conscience of worship. The present situation is nothing like then, but in an increasingly secular society, it wouldn’t take much for some anti-Christian groups to try to manipulate the law to suppress public worship, the current crisis becoming something of a “thin edge of the wedge”. Alertness, and prayerfulness, are surely called for.

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    +1. I had the Covenanters in mind when I composed the question. Fully agree. – Nigel J Aug 15 at 19:00
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Christians around the world have been forced to meet in secret at various times and places throughout history, and even today there are many countries where Christians must hide to avoid persecution.

Different countries have different levels of religious freedom. In the United States, we have a constitutional guarantee that the federal government will not make laws prohibiting the free exercise of religion. If this is tested, you can expect many Christians in the US to challenge it. Those in other countries may have a harder time being able to continue to worship.

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  • (+1) Could you state what that 'constitutional guarantee' is for the benefit of those who do not know ? – Nigel J Aug 14 at 11:57
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    @NigelJ I added a link to the text of the Constitution. – Ben Miller - Remember Monica Aug 14 at 12:04
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    @NigelJ Link changed. Thanks! – Ben Miller - Remember Monica Aug 14 at 12:21
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Do Christians foresee contradicting Government requirements in prolonged 'lockdown' conditions?

It is obvious that some individuals will contradict government requirements in prolonged lockdown situations and that will more than likely involve a few Christians of various creeds.

One thing is for sure. For Catholics, it is frowned upon, as Pope Francis has asked Catholics to obey the lockdowns. Italy was was hit quite hard by the pandemic in the beginning.

Pope Francis waded into the church-state debate about virus-imposed lockdowns of religious services, calling Tuesday for “prudence and obedience” to government protocols to prevent infections from surging again.

Francis’ appeal came just two days after Italian bishops bitterly complained that the Italian government offered no provisions for Masses to resume in its plan to reopen Italian business, social and sporting life starting May 4.

While it wasn’t clear if Francis intended to send a different message than the bishops, his appeal for obedience and prudence was in line with his previous calls to protect the most vulnerable, and for economic interests to take a back seat to shows of solidarity.

At the same time, Francis has certainly chafed at the lockdown, saying early on that he felt like he was in a “cage” and lamenting more recently that the church isn’t really “Church” without a community of faithful present and the administration of sacraments.

“As we are beginning to have protocols to get out of quarantine, let us pray that the Lord gives his people, all of us, the grace of prudence and obedience to the protocols so that the pandemic doesn’t return,” Francis said Tuesday.

Francis' weekly Sunday blessings from his window overlooking an empty St. Peter’s Square, not to mention his solo Holy Week and Easter services, have served as a stark visual reminder of how the pandemic has radically altered the practice of communal religious observance around the world.

Some Catholic conservatives and traditionalists have bristled at the closures and framed them as a violation of their right to religious liberty. Some evangelical pastors in the U.S., Brazil and elsewhere have resisted lockdowns and held services, and big religious observances in South Korea, France and Iran have been been blamed for helping to spread the infection early on. - Pope urges virus lockdown obedience amid church-state debate

There is a caveat here for Catholics though. The pope in simpling asking the faithful to obey. He has not stated that they must obey quarantine requirements. But logic dictates that that the majority of the faithful will heed the words of Pope Francis.

To obey the rules of lockdown, does not mean that we can not challenge these same rules through dialogue with various levels of government. Legal steps within the courts have already been done by some Catholic Bishops already in various countries.

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