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When Pastors and Pews Disagree on Churches Reopening

Pastoral submission amid a pandemic: Who should Christians heed when following Romans 13 and Hebrews 13 seems to conflict?

As churches around the country begin to cautiously reopen, many parishioners may feel caught between their government’s advice and their pastor’s. As parishioners decide whether to return to reopened churches or are frustrated with a lack of movement to reopen, how should they respond? What do we do when we disagree? CT asked a variety of Christian leaders to weigh in.

Aaron Reyes, lead pastor, Hope Community Church, and dean, Vida House

Hebrews 13:17 says “have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority.” But submission, or “yielding” (as it implies in the Greek), doesn’t mean blind obedience. Regardless of what choice pastors make about reopening churches, we must all still act according to our conscience. Respecting our leaders doesn’t mean we can’t freely choose whether or not to worship in an actual building on Sunday morning. Rather, it means choosing, for example, to stay home until we feel it’s safer to be in public, while not openly criticizing your leader’s decision. We shouldn’t reach out to fellow church members, explaining why the leadership is wrong and trying to stir up distrust. Instead, kindly express your stance to the leadership. Lovingly inform them of your decision and continue to love the church whether you’re near or far.

Daniel Patterson, executive vice president, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission

Regardless of whether you think your church is overly eager or overly cautious, it could be that the best place to start is simply with a resolve to assume the best of one’s pastors and church leaders. There are no courses on pandemics and contagions in seminary, nor are there easy answers or one-size-fits-all …

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