Christian leaders in joint call for churches to be allowed to re-open

(Photo: Pexels/Brett Sayles)

Christian leaders from different denominations have issued a joint call to the Government to review continued church closures over Covid-19.

In their letter, they ask the Government to urgently review lockdown measures preventing churches from re-opening to the public, calling them both unneccessary and unlawful. 

While the Government has moved to allow smaller social gatherings and the re-opening of non-essential shops, churches must wait until 4 July at the earliest.

The letter argues that the sweeping ban on church gatherings is disproportionate and interferes with Article 9 of the European Declaration of Human Rights (freedom of belief and religion).

It goes on to say that it should be up to churches rather than secular authorities to decide which measures they take in the light of Covid-19.

"There is no precedent for state legislation which in any manner limits and/or criminalises church services or sacraments," the letter reads.

The letter has been signed by a diverse spectrum of Christian leaders, including Christian Concern co-founder Rev Ade Omooba, Senior Pastor of Kingsway International Christian Centre, Matthew Ashimolowo, the former Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, and President of Eurovision Mission to Europe, David Hathaway.

Rev Omooba questioned why it was acceptable for members of the public to go to a B & Q store but not to church.  

"It cannot be right that at present it is lawful to go to a bike shop, B&Q, visit a chiropractor or dry cleaner, and not be allowed to receive Holy Communion or engage in silent prayer in a church," he said.

"Churches have traditionally been at the centre of the communities, able to offer counsel, prayer and comfort at times of national crisis.

"They are at the heart of our communities helping to combat mental health problems, addictions, risk of suicide, domestic violence, poverty and risk.

"Churches deliver an essential service to the community. The government should not be putting churches as the lowest priority services for re-opening from the lockdown.

"We look forward to the response from the government to this letter and hope that we can engage with the government to see church ministry prioritised as we start to exit the lockdown."

The church leaders have said they will seek a judicial review of the ban if the Government fails to respond.

Rev Hathaway said: "The government has failed to recognise the centrality of faith to a Christian's life. Sunday worship and access to church buildings has been treated like a mere hobby or pastime rather than foundational to national and Christian life."