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Vaccination and faithfulness in a time of pandemic

(OGA) — The theological commitments of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) compel us to support vaccination against COVID-19 for all people except those who are unable to receive the vaccines due either to age or medical condition.

The Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, receives a COVID-19 vaccine in early 2021. (Photo courtesy of the Kentucky Governor’s Office)

Because we believe in the God who urged the people of God to “seek the good of the city” (Jeremiah 29:7) where they were located, a city that was not even their native home, we urge all people to be vaccinated. Because we are followers of the Jesus Christ who requires us “to love the Lord your God … and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27), we urge all people to get vaccinated. Because we confess, as a matter of our religious belief, that “the members of the church are emissaries of peace and seek the good of all in cooperation with powers and authorities in politics, culture, and economics” (Confession of 1967), we urge all to seek the good of all, to love their neighbor and get vaccinated.

The need for vaccination has been clear for months. It is utterly compelling now. The variants of the coronavirus are harming thousands, infecting us at rates our medical system is straining to handle. Those who are infected by the variants of COVID-19 are overwhelmingly people who have not been fully vaccinated — more than 90% of those now becoming infected. Getting vaccinated is loving oneself.

Getting vaccinated is also fulfilling the command to love our neighbors. Those who refuse to be vaccinated are prolonging the pandemic and spreading the coronavirus and its variants to people who cannot receive the vaccine, including children and people with compromised immune systems, and carrying it to people who have been fully vaccinated, causing “breakthrough infections.” As hospitals fill with those fighting COVID-19, there is less room and less time for those facing other serious health conditions.

Let us be clear. Scripture and our confession of faith lead us to call on all people to be vaccinated against COVID-19, except those who are unable to receive the vaccines due either to age or medical condition. Our faith, our religious convictions, leave us no other course. We do not stand alone in this understanding of Christian faith; we stand with other Christians as we urge getting vaccinated.

About requests to PC(USA) pastoral leaders to support claims of religious exemptions

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic has been a struggle in the U.S. from its beginning. We are receiving reports of specific ways pastoral leaders in all parts of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) are encountering the struggle over vaccination, masks and other measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.

In some cases, pastoral leaders are being asked to support claims of religious exemption with statements that the theology of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) supports religious exemptions from COVID-19 vaccination. The theological commitments of the PC(USA) do not support such exemptions. To the contrary, as already stated, our theological commitments compel us to urge that all people be vaccinated against COVID-19.

In some cases, congregations that host facilities such as day cares are facing questions about requiring vaccination for employees and volunteers.

Information on how to respond to requests for religious exemption can be found here. Additional resources about these topics and others are available for congregations and related ministries facing questions about requiring vaccinations here.

Stated Clerk Signature
Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)