CORONAVIRUS UPDATE

Statement of the Board of Elders and Pastoral Staff regarding COVID Directives August 26, 2020

As we move into our Fall 2020 season of ministry together, our Elders and Pastoral Staff want to give our Valley Fourth family some guidance and perspective on our response to the governmental guidelines affecting how we do ministry.

Since the beginning of the COVID situation, our Elders and Pastors have been of the consensus view that VFC should follow the governmental guidelines.  This remains to be the case heading into our ministry this Fall. Accordingly, this week we have sent out specific guidelines to all of our ministry leaders to this effect.

We'd like to share some thoughts with you about how we have arrived at these decisions over the last five months. We are simply going to share with you the three guiding questions that the Scriptures have led us to ask about this unique season, and our church’s Biblical response to them.

1. The response of the church to governing authorities.

We studied, both as individuals and in corporate discussions, passages on the question of how the church is to respond to the governing authorities, including 1 Peter 2:13-25, 1 Timothy 2:1-2, Titus 3:1, Acts 4:18-20, Acts 5:27-32, Daniel 6:3-5).

Notable among these was Romans 13:1, which reads "Let every person be subject to governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”

The weight of all of the Scriptures that we have studied has consistently led us to conclude that civil disobedience is a very serious action to be taken by a church, and should not be entered into lightly.  A broad statement that frequently entered into our discussions was this: civil disobedience is only Biblically sanctioned when we as a church are commanded to do what God forbids or forbidden to do what God commands.

We have consistently concluded through these months and up to this time, that every example we found in Scripture that justified civil disobedience involved one of three reasons:

1. When we are ordered to deny our faith.
2. When we are ordered to cease preaching the Gospel.
3. When human lives are at stake.

Over the months in the past and up to this present time we have determined that these lines have not been crossed. In this season, we believe that we have been given regulations from the government to follow in order to protect public health, which we agree that government has a right to do. We see these regulations as affecting many methods of ministry, but not the essence of ministry. We will continue to seek to comply with these directives out of obedience to Scripture.

This does not mean that we don't take these limitations seriously, or sympathize with those who feel the loss of the experience of ministry as it was before this crisis, as well as the loss of personal connection that this whole experience brings with it. We do feel these realities, and we feel them deeply, both as your leaders and in our own experience.

2. The concerns of the church for the well-being of others.

A second path of understanding that the Lord has led us on through the Scriptures concerns the church's obligation to the well-being of others, both believers and nonbelievers.

The Great Commandment guides us here, namely that which commands us to "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Romans 13:9) We found echoes of this in many other passages, including 1 Corinthians 13 and 1 Corinthians 8, which both speak of placing others ahead of ourselves and remembering the weaker brother.

These passages have led us to be committed to doing whatever we can to protect the physical and personal well-being of others. The current government directives are meant to fulfill this purpose, and so we continue to cooperate with them. COVID is a disease that is contagious, can be serious, and may be fatal. We want to do all that we can to protect people in our flock from its harm, so that all of our people feel safe in our ministry gatherings.

3. The testimony of the church to a watching world.

Many passages in the New Testament call us as believers to keep our behavior excellent before the eyes of an unbelieving world, so that they may know that we are truly disciples of Jesus Christ. Chief among the passages we studied was 1 Peter 2:12 – 14 which reads "Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good, for this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people."

The church, we determined, is always to live before a lost world in a way that brings honor and glory to Christ. The COVID Crisis has caused the nonbelieving world to scrutinize Christians in a serious way, and we desire as much as we possibly can to lead you in a way that allows Valley Fourth Church to reflect humility in response to authority and selfless love in regard to the safety of others, reflecting glory to Christ and honoring His Name among the lost.

We hope this summary of our study, Scriptural convictions, and principles allows you to see that in actuality our decisions to continue to follow the current government guidelines have been based on a broad set of principles which could be summed up in this phrase: a humble response to governing authorities, a loving response to the well-being of others, and a mindful response to it all before the eyes of a lost world, all done out of a heart to obey the Scriptures.

Based on these principles, to this point in time we are willing to continue to operate under the current guidelines, and ask you to follow our urging to do so as well.

A few comments in closing.

1. This is and has been a difficult experience and process for us as your leaders. It’s important for you to know that we are not leading the church in these directions in order to blindly submit to any government directives out of timidity or fear. We are genuinely trying to respond first and foremost to the weight of Scripture as we read it and understand it, and thus far our consensus is to continue to respond to the directives in the way that we have.

2. All of this is not to say that there may not come a time when we come to believe as Elders and Pastors that the government has gone too far, and that actions of civil disobedience need to be taken. We sincerely hope that this will not be the case, since Scripture reminds us to "as much as is possible, live at peace with all men." If such a time were to come, we will seek the Lord and respond accordingly.

3. Our communication with you today is not meant to assume that everyone at Valley Fourth Church agrees with our perspectives and decisions in all of this. We realize also that other Christians in other churches may take a radically different approach than we do. That is their right, and we have no quarrel with them at all. But it is also clearly the case that it is our responsibility as Elders and Pastors to discern God's will for this church, and so we have done and shall continue to do, in humility before the Lord.

In light of the last statement, we ask for your support, prayers, encouragement and understanding regarding our decisions in these matters. If you struggle (as we all do) under the limitations that we are under with you, please endure them with us, and look for what God will do in spite of the changes in the methods and means of ministry that we experience. If you personally disagree with some of the restrictions themselves, will you yet still abide by them in our ministry out of a shared desire with us to embody the Great Commandment, and to do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace? Such a walk of humility, love and witness to the world is the walk that we have entered into as Elders and Pastors, and we humbly ask you to imitate us in this… and trust in the Lord as these challenging days unfold and, God willing, soon pass.

Please feel free to talk with us as Elders and Pastors with any questions you may have. As we have been doing all along, we will continue to bring you updates on the events and decisions that unfold in this season.

With Much Love for You in Christ,
The Board of Elders and Pastoral Staff of Valley Fourth Church

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