Since Los Angeles County released more restrictive guidelines regarding mask usage on July 15th, the Elders have been working together on how we ought to respond. It has been a challenging week for your Elders.
We reviewed our Biblical Framework for Living Through COVID 19 document, reviewed documents from other churches, listened to the thoughts of our people, met together and spent a great deal of time in prayer over the decision before us. At the end of all this, we were unable to reach a place of complete agreement as to how we should respond. Some recommended we continue to follow the guidelines, seeking to obey Romans 13:1 (“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.”). Others recommended that this matter move toward a Romans 14 conscience issue (“So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” – Romans 14:12). Still others appealed to the need to make decisions that bring about peace and unity for our church so that we can fulfill our God-given mission (“So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” – Romans 14:19).
We reached out to the Body last week, and while we were encouraged to see so many respectful responses, we were not surprised to find varying beliefs held by many of you. So as we wrestled through these matters together, we realize that we represent the congregation at large. Like us, many in the congregation are seeking to honor God in their decisions regarding this matter but landing at different applications of how to respond to county health orders.
When such is the case, it ought to alert us to the fact that we are dealing with a matter that is not black and white and ought not be treated with rigidity. Whatever position we take, we ought to take with a spirit of grace and humility.
So how ought your Elders respond? We continue to believe that our Biblical Framework for Living Through COVID 19 is a good rubric to make decisions. We continue to believe that our default position ought to be to submit to our governing authorities so long as they do not ask us to violate a clear command in the Scriptures. We believe that such a position honors God as the One who instituted that authority and gives good testimony to a watching world.
However, we also recognize that many struggle to see the current guidelines as laws that are constitutionally binding. Still others believe that this matter does not rise to the level of doctrinal importance as to necessitate further division within the church. We also know that the arguments against these guidelines have steadily grown over the last year – their effect on ministries, on mental health, on fellowship in the Body, even as the government has been inconsistent in its message – until many view them as far more damaging than the virus itself. With convictions only growing stronger, it is clear that no one answer can possibly win all hearts.
In light of this, the Elders have landed on this position: While it remains our recommendation that individuals of FCC submit to governing authorities so long as they do not ask us to disobey God’s Word, we will not require all congregants to adhere to the current masking guidelines. Rather, we will allow individuals to act in accordance with their own consciences as they seek to honor God in their decisions and actions.
Your Elders stand ready to help you navigate through this season of life. If you have questions or concerns, please talk with us. We may not have all the answers, but we want to engage with you as you seek to honor God in your decisions. Furthermore, your Elders also plan to revisit our Biblical Framework for Living Through COVID 19 document to ensure that it will serve us well in the days ahead as much has changed since it was originally composed a year ago.
One final word – we are not all required to agree on this matter (we have seen that for quite some time now), but we are required to love one another in this matter (1 Peter 4:8). When we gather, it is not a time to take stock of who is with you and who is against you. Rather, it is a time to worship the Lord and build one another up. For those of you who will be wearing masks, will you fight the urge to pass judgment on the one who does not (Romans 14:3b)? For those of you who will not be wearing a mask, will you fight the urge to despise the one who is wearing a mask (Romans 14:3a)? Rather let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
It is our desire that we, as the body of Christ, respond in an utterly different manner than the world when facing matters like these. We have the opportunity to show how Christ unites His flock even when we disagree. Our neighbors and our children are watching, and with so much darkness all around us we have such an astounding light ready to shine!
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31 ESV)
On Behalf of Your Elder Team,
Pastor Steve Jackson