Members of the Seventh Day Adventist denomination are being advised that the church will not be writing religious exemptions for parishioners reluctant to get a Covid jab.
The South Leeward Conference, the grouping under which Seventh Day Adventist churches in Antigua and Barbuda fall, has issued a missive announcing the church’s stance.
President of the Conference Dr Carson Greene explained that while the right of individuals to be vaccinated or not is respected, he urged members to understand that religious exemptions can only be issued for matters that the church considers in conflict with the Bible.
Dr Greene said since the SDA church does not consider the vaccine to be an issue of sin and salvation, or a violation of biblical principles, it cannot issue such exemptions.
“We don’t think that the vaccine is in that category. We don’t think it is against the principles of the church. We have a position on the vaccine so we can’t turn around and exempt people. If a person has a medical reason they should go to their doctor,” Greene explained.
The pastor is asking members to respect one another’s choice and not to allow this matter to be a divisive one.
“If you are a member of the church and you decide not to take the vaccine, I am going to love you just the same.
“I personally took the vaccine but if you feel that you shouldn’t take it it’s not going to cause me to relate to you in any negative way but we do understand that it is a divisive issue as is evident in the world and respected in the church as well,” Greene added.
The top official did however admit that the church anticipates a backlash from some due to its stance.
“We do anticipate that. We can’t please everybody. Some believe that they should take the vaccine. Some believe they shouldn’t take it, but at the end of the day everybody has to make up their own mind.
“The church encourages responsible immunisation and we don’t have as a policy that people shouldn’t take vaccines. There are lots of people who are saying that but that’s not where the church is,” he added.
The Seventh Day Adventist Church is known for promoting healthy lifestyles, a fact that Greene also noted in the letter to the church body.
“Some have charged the church with silence and others have put forth their own views on what the church should or should not do. As you may be aware, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has health as one of its major emphases.
“We operate an extensive network of health institutions and encourage members to practice healthful living as part of our religious duty. Contrary to what some have publicly expressed, the church is not silent on this matter,” Greene said.
“Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the General Conference’s health department has maintained a dedicated Covid-19 page on its website which has been devoted to providing information on a wide range of topics related to Covid-19,” Greene noted.
“I urge us to examine the resources and better understand the church’s perspective. For ease of reference, the information can be found at https://www.healthministries.com/coronavirus,” he added.