In the Army they would say, “It’s not that I lied to you… it’s that the truth changed.”
It seems that the situation we’re in is so fluid that within hours of sending out an update, the situation changes. Frustrating! Thankfully, the Lord never changes, and indeed, from everlasting to everlasting he is God. So, we can be at peace.
That being said: As you may have learned, today Governor Abbott ordered that until April 3 there be no public gatherings of more than 10 people.
For those who are busy: The short and simple version of this announcement is that the Session has decided that our church will comply with Gov. Abbott’s order, and for the next 2 Sundays we will live stream our service and forego normal live services. (Feel free to scroll to the bottom to view the new plan of action.)
For those who have some time on their hands: The longer and more involving version of this announcement is intended not merely to inform you of our conclusion, but to share with you the things we thought through, with an aim to help you think Christianly, which is to say biblically and theologically. It being our desire and calling to help you grow in the faith:
The Bible’s teaching on civil authorities is multi-faceted, but certainly the command in Rom 13:1 teaches that our general posture should be one of submission. At the same time, the biblical imperatives to believers to gather for worship are clear (e.g., Heb 10:25). On top of that, equally clear is the biblical teaching authorizing (dare I say, requiring!) disobedience to any human authority who either requires us to do what God forbids or forbids us to do what God requires (e.g., Acts 5:29).
With all these considerations in mind, an order or command from a human authority functionally limiting our ability to gather for worship is likely to be met with mixed emotions and reactions by sincere Christians.
The Session keenly feels the weight that we will give an accounting to God for how we shepherd this congregation (Heb 13:17). Consequently, as those who will give an account, the Session has decided that in addition to all the previous safety and precautionary measures we have taken as an act of love for our brothers, sisters, and neighbors, we at SCPC will comply with Governor Abbott’s order for 3 reasons:
- His order encompasses religious bodies/organizations but isn’t targeting them. We remain free to publicly broadcast our services and specifically our proclamation of the Word of God. Thus, as touching on the civil realm we do not believe this is an encroachment of the 1st Amendment, and as touching on the Kingdom of God, we are not being subject to muzzling or persecution.
- His order is for a definite duration – through April 3. This means it only applies for the next 2 Sundays. The short-term, temporary nature of this order underscores the state of emergency in which we find ourselves. This isn’t an open-ended prohibition against gathering. Scripture and the Christian faith acknowledge that one may be providentially hindered from gathering for worship without sin, and we believe this situation is squarely within that category.
- Regardless of when and where a Christian is, it remains absolutely true that while we find ourselves in situations in which faithfulness to God requires disobedience to human laws, nonetheless, no human authority takes defiance lightly. The nature of things is that defiance has consequences. In some cases, those consequences are to be gladly borne by Christians, but ask yourself: is this situation such that we should be prepared to fall on our sword in defiance of an order stemming from a desire to protect public health? Your Session does not think so. We hope you agree with us.
Perhaps you disagree with our reasoning or our decision to comply with Gov. Abbott’s order. I ask you to show graciousness – this really is a situation none of us have been in before and we are trying very hard to be faithful.
The current “new” plan
- For the services on March 22 and March 29 we will hold one service at the church: at 9am. We will have a skeleton crew of 9 as our congregation (plus me is 10).
- This (9am) service will be live-streamed and then will remain online until Monday, so you may either participate with us via live stream at 9am or you may replay the service at any point on the Lord’s Day.
- Once the Governor's order is lifted, assuming social distancing guidelines are still in place, we will offer two morning services (9am and 10:30am, as previously announced) to help ensure we can all spread out appropriately.
We covet your prayers even as we pray for you!
As always, I welcome your thoughts and questions...