The Wesleyan Methodist Church of Australia recognises that the issue of vaccination passports and mandatory vaccination of employees and volunteers is a complex issue that has the potential to polarise the church based on different viewpoints. To date, this has been a matter of conscience for church and agency workers, even though the majority of medical professionals clearly advise everyone to vaccinate. This position has been welcomed by the majority of people in our churches as an act of loving care for the vulnerable in our midst.

This is a health issue affecting everyone, not just a select group. Therefore, decisions are being made globally and nationally to prevent the spread of COVID-19, lessen its symptoms and resultant deaths, and hospital overcrowding. At no time has there been any indication these decisions are put in place to punish churches. This is a short-term crisis (clearly not quite as short-term as we would like), and it is one which needs responsible leadership that maintains a healthy focus on our gospel mandate.

After careful consideration and discussion, The National Board of Administration has authored this statement.

Some of the key principles on which we base our position are:

  1. The WMC and its representatives must comply with all Federal and State legal frameworks and mandates as instructed including health directives. Accordingly, the WMC is always determined to act in a way that fulfils or exceeds our duty of care to those to whom we minister, especially the vulnerable in our communities. (Ephesians 4:1-6, Romans 14:1, James 1:27) 
  2. The WMC and all representatives of the WMC are required to comply with the Code of Conduct in all our decisions, interactions, and communications ensuring they are based on our values: respect, love, freedom of conscience, safety, protection of, and ministry to the vulnerable (Philippians 2:3-4)
  3. The WMC recognizes that at times as Christians, we are called to place the good of the wider community of believers above our individual rights. (Romans 13:1-7, Hebrews 13:17, 1 Peter 2:13-17, Titus 3:1-2, 1 Timothy 2:1-3)

Therefore, our position in regard to COVID in Australia is as follows:

  1. The WMC chooses to engage in respectful conversation with one another in a manner that seeks to maintain unity of the Spirit and support in difficult times, hearing alternative opinions but choosing to support the position of the WMC. (Colossians 4:5, Matthew 10:16)
  2. The WMC and its representatives will always engage in respectful conversation with our civic leaders in a manner that protects the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Constitution. Furthermore, they will ensure they do not engage in any form of civil disobedience or disrespectful communication that would bring the WMC into disrepute regarding this issue.
  3. The WMC Response to the State and Federal Governments’ Roadmaps” is with the understanding that we are treated like other community organisations, religious groups, and institutions; and therefore, we do not seek special privileges above and beyond what is expected of others in the community.
  4. The WMC believes that “in person” gathering of the Church is essential for the wellbeing of Christians and the spiritual and social health of society. Therefore, we support our Pastors and leaders to re-establish face to face services as soon as possible within the guidelines. (Romans 1:11-12)

Requirement for Vaccination of all employees

The WMC and its representatives will voluntarily support the State and Federal Government Roadmaps and Health directives. This includes the requirement for our Pastors, employees, volunteers, and congregation attendees to be vaccinated or booked in to receive a first dose by the dates as specified in each state. We recognise some will hold an authorised medical exemption and we will work within the various guidelines to support those individuals. 

Requirement for Vaccination of attendees at our gatherings

We will voluntarily support the State and Federal Government Roadmaps and Health directives. This includes encouraging our members and adherents to get vaccinated according to their medical practitioner’s advice. We recognise some will hold an authorised medical exemption, some will be exempted under relative State Regulations, and we will work within the various guidelines to support those individuals. 

Our hope and desire is that, in the long-term, we can welcome all people into face to face gatherings, but we may need to acknowledge this could take some time, especially while there are groups of people who have not had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated; and those in our midst who cannot be vaccinated due to health or other reasons. In the meantime, we will make every effort (as is appropriate) to continue to minister to and provide for those who are unable to attend public worship gatherings due to their vaccination status, until the door is open for us to gather together again.

All aspects of our church need to be in alignment with and accountable to our mission, vision, and values.

This mandate is an addendum to the WMC Code of Conduct and therefore requires full compliance by all Pastors, employees, volunteers and attendees at all times. As this mandate is in response to National and State Health Directives it is a legal requirement, therefore failure to comply will result in an inability to attend services and ministry of the WMC. Employees who refuse to comply will be required to step aside from their roles and discuss further action with their District Superintendent. This mandate also provides the support required for Pastors and leaders to refuse entry to non-vaccinated individuals as per the government roadmaps.