Dear Pastor Leon and the members of Springs Church,
We are writing to you as clergy also serving faith communities in Manitoba and beyond.
During the past two weeks, Springs Church has garnered a lot of local media attention and sparked debate in our city and province regarding COVID-19 pandemic restrictions implemented by public health authorities. Springs Church has deliberately violated these restrictions in the name of religious freedom and subsequently lost a court challenge of these restrictions.
Much of the rhetoric coming from Springs church centres on the right of Christians to worship under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. You have claimed that your drive-in services are safe and your right to gather in-person to worship outweighs the Province of Manitoba’s right to restrict gatherings for the sake of public health.
Drive-in services may be relatively safe (but not as a safe as staying home) and the question of how the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is weighed against these public health orders has not been settled in court.
However, we are not writing to you regarding the epidemiology or legality of drive-in services.
We are writing to you as peers and siblings in Christ and as called and ordained ministers of Christ’s Church.
We find that your actions during the past days of encouraging Christians to disobey public health orders in the name of freedom are not an example of following Christ.
We find that your insistence on the right to worship is not in keeping with Christ’s command to love our neighbour.
We find that your actions disregard the dangers of COVID-19 in our community and that they only serve to create potential harm for our healthcare system and healthcare workers already pushed beyond capacity.
We find that your insistence on individual freedoms over collective responsibility are an affront to the many individuals, families, friends, community groups and other faith communities who are refraining from gathering for the sake of our neighbours.
We find that your focus on your own perceived loss (of not being able to gather for a short time) to be offensive to those 381 Manitoban families (as of December 5th) who have lost loved ones as a result of this pandemic.
Therefore we call on you to take the following actions:
That you repent of your actions and publicly apologize for putting your individual right to worship ahead of the good of our community.
That you publicly encourage your church members to remain at home and worship online while public health restrictions remain in place.
That you cease all legal action against the province and redirect those funds intended for legal costs towards a charity that truly helps Manitobans, such as Harvest Manitoba.
If and when these actions are undertaken, it would be our hope that they be a first step towards reconciliation between Springs and your sibling communities of faith in Manitoba.
Finally, knowing that we are not the first people of faith to live through a pandemic, we offer you the following quote from Martin Luther, written in 1527, about how Christians ought to respond to the Black Death:
Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid persons and places where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me, and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others.
*This letter also applies to any congregation refusing to follow public health orders under the guise of religious persecution including the Church of God Restoration South of Steinbach. *
Yours in Christ,
** If you are a clergy-person and would like to add your name to this letter please email your name, title and church affiliation to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Rev. Erik Parker, Sherwood Park Lutheran Church, Winnipeg (Letter Author)
The Rev. Courtenay Reedman Parker, Messiah Lutheran Church, Winnipeg
Bishop Elaine Sauer, St Chad’s Anglican Parish, Winnipeg
The Rev. Rick Sauer, St. Mark’s Lutheran, Winnipeg.
The Rev. Ken Kuhn, retired (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada)
The Rev. Richard D. Schulz Pastor, Gimli Lutheran Church
The Rev. Nancy Walker, retired (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada)
The Reverend Theo Robinson, BTh, Incumbent St. Michael’s Anglican Church, Victoria Beach & Pastor, Interlake Regional Shared Ministry, MNO Synod
The Rev. Don Engel, retired, (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada)
The Rev. Father Chad McCharles, Anglican Priest of the Diocese of Brandon, Incumbent of Neepawa United-Anglican Church
Jeraldine Bjornson, retired DLM, United Church of Canada
The Rev. Barton Coleman, Zion Lutheran Church Beausejour, Manitoba
The Rev. Kolleen Karlowsky-Clark, retired (Evangelical Lutheran Church In Canada)
Rev. Rachel Twigg, Saint Benedict’s Table Anglican, Winnipeg
The Rev. Jennifer Marlor, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, Winnipeg
Rev. Liz Carter-Morgan, St. Paul’s United Church, Virden MB
The Rev. Canon Dr. Murray Still, Church of St Stephen and St Bede Anglican-Lutheran, Winnipeg
The Rev. Trudy Thorarinson, Grace-St.John’s Anglican-Lutheran, Carman, MB
Rev. Matthew Brough, Prairie Presbyterian Church, Winnipeg
Paul Peters Derry, Ordained Minister, United Church of Canada (Retired), Postulate for Ordination, Anglican Church of Canada (Diocese of Rupert’s Land)
Rev. Don Schau, Atlantic-Garden City United Church, Winnipeg
The Rev. Philip G. Read, St. Mary’s Road United Church, Winnipeg
Reverend Barbara Roberts, ordained retired minister United Church of Canada
The Rev. John H. Giroux, St. Mary Anglican Church, Winnipeg
The Rev. Judith Whitmore Anglican, Belair, Manitoba
The Rev. Dr. Kara Mandryk Coordinator, Henry Budd College for Ministry, and Regional Dean, The Pas Deanery, Diocese of Brandon
Rev. Lynell Bergen, Hope Mennonite Church, Winnipeg
The Venerable Gordon Payne, retired, Priest of the Diocese of British Columbia. (But living and serving in Winnipeg)
Jamie Arpin-Ricci, Pastoral Leader Little Flowers Community (Mennonite Church Manitoba)
Kim Arpin-Ricci, Pastoral Leader, Little Flowers Community (Mennonite Church Manitoba)
Rev. Tyler Gingrich, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Winnipeg
Rev. Bonita E. Garrett, Retired, United Church of Canada
Michael Pahl, Lead Pastor, Morden Mennonite Church
Rev. Margrét Kristjansson, Rivers United Church, Rivers, MB
Rev. Donna J. Smalley, Retired [Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada] Winnipeg
M.A.McCartney. Team Minister Oak Bank United Church, Oak Bank, MB
The Rev. Thomas J. Lurvey, retired (North American Lutheran Church), Winnipeg
Rev. Harold Peters-Fransen, Elim Mennonite Church, Grunthal, MB
Rev. Jim Vickers, retired, (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada) Waldersee, MB
The Venerable Helen Kennedy Archdeacon of Winnipeg / St John
Priest of St George’s, Transcona.
Rev. Bruce Gelhorn, Grace Lutheran Church, Winnipeg Manitoba.
Rev. Christopher Smith, The Bridge Church of The Christian and Missionary Alliance. Winnipeg.
Rev. Kathy Koop, First Mennonite Church, Winnipeg
Rev. Barb Jardine- Retired, serving Forrest and Brookdale, United Church of Canada.
Josué Sánchez, Ordained Pastor, Seventy-day Adventist, Winnipeg
Rev. Stafford Greer, Morden Alliance Church of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Morden MB
The Reverend Lynette Miller, retired, The United Church of Canada, Winnipeg
The Reverend Patricia Langlois, (Retired), Team Vicar, The South Parkland Parrish Anglican Diocese of Brandon
Rev. Michael Kurtz, First Lutheran Church, Winnipeg
The Rev. Canon Rick Condo, retired, Diocese of Ruperts Land, Winnipeg
Kevin Drudge, Pastor, Covenant Mennonite Church, Winkler MB
Ron Fischer, Teaching Elder, Kildonan Community Church, Winnipeg MB
Rev, Susan Tillman, United Church Grey Street in Winnipeg and St.Paul’s in Beausejour, MB
Father Sam Argenziano, Pastor of Holy Rosary Roman Catholic Church, Winnipeg
Rev. Brian McNarry, Grand Valley Church of the Christian & Missionary Alliance. Brandon MB
Rev. Margaret Mullin, Place of Hope Indigenous Presbyterian Church, Winnipeg MB
Rev. Kristin Woodburke, DM, OakBank United Church, Oakbank, MB
Rev. Dr. Michael Wilson, Charleswood United Church, Winnipeg, MB.
The Rev. Kenneth Stright, retired, The Presbyterian Church in Canada
The Rev. Jeanne M.M. Stright, retired, The United Church of Canada.
The Rev’d Diane K Guilford, St. Thomas Anglican Church, Morden, MB
The Rev. Glen Krentz, Retired, (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada), Winnipeg
The Reverend R. David Lowe, On Leave from Call, ELCIC Winnipeg
The Rev. Lanny Knutson, retired, (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada), Winnipeg
Rev. Ken Thomas, Augustine United Church, Winnipeg
Rev. Noelle Bowles, Spirit Path United Church in Winnipeg
Rev. Anthon Bouw, minister, Knox Presbyterian Church, Selkirk.
Pastor Jonathon Shierman, Lead Minister, Moosomin Baptist Church
Reverend Cole Grambo, Minister, Selkirk United Church
Ha Na Park, the minister at Immanuel United Church, Winnipeg
Min-Goo Kang, the minister at Fort Garry United Church, Winnipeg
Rev. Lynne Hutchison, Pastor, St. Luke’s Zion Lutheran Church, Winnipeg
The Rev. Andrew Rampton, Priest Incumbent, Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Winnipeg.
The Very Rev. Paul N. Johnson, Dean, Diocese of Rupert’s Land
Rector, Cathedral Church of St. John the Evangelist, Anglican Church of Canada, Winnipeg
The Ven. Simon Blaikie, Executive Archdeacon, Diocese of Rupert’s Land, Winnipeg
The Rev. Bill Blackburn. St. John’s Anglican Pilot Mound, Manitoba
The Rev Fr Wayne McIntosh, priest, St Francis Anglican Church, Winnipeg, MB
The Rev. M. Dwight Rutherford, Hon Asst, The Parish Church of St Luke,
Rev. Deacon Marline Wruck, Anglican deacon serving at Lutheran Church of the Cross, Lac du Bonnet, Manitoba
The Rev. John Dolloff St. Mary’s la Prairie Anglican Portage la Prairie, Manitoba
The Rev’d Tim Sale, St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Fort Garry, Manitoba
Rev. Elaine Pinto, honorary deacon at St. Margaret’s Anglican Church, Winnipeg
Clergy outside of Manitoba:
The Rev. Matthew Diegel, Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, Thunder Bay, ON
The Rev. Ed Long, Hilldale Lutheran Church, Thunder Bay, Ontario
The Ven. Wilma Woods, St Giles Anglican, Estevan, SK
The Rev. Brian Woods, St Giles Anglican, Estevan, SK
The Rev. Jerry Borkowsky, Assistant to the Bishop Saskatchewan Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
The Rev’d Robyn King, St Paul’s Anglican, Leduc, AB
Rev. Fran Ota, United Church of Canada, Toronto, ON
Diaconal Minister Beth Kerr, Trinity and Atwood United Churches, North Perth, ON
The Rev. Arleen Berg Leishman, retired (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada) Thunder Bay, ON
The Rev. Murray Halvorson, New Hope Lutheran Church, Regina, SK
The Rev’d Justin Cheng, All Saints Anglican, Diocese of New Westminster, Burnaby, BC
Rev. Reg Berg, Prince of Faith Lutheran Church, Calgary, AB
The Rev. Lindsay Hognestad, Retired (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada) Regina, SK
The Rev’d Brandon Witwer, Christ Church Anglican, Calgary, AB
The Rev. Lyndon Sayers, Lutheran Church of the Cross, Victoria, BC
The Rev. Richard Engel, Hospital Chaplain, Lutheran Ministry in Hospitals of Saskatoon (LuMinHoS)
Bishop Cindy Halmarson, Retired (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada), Cobourg, Ontario
The Rev. Joseph McLellan, Bishop, Progressive Catholic Church of Canada
Rev. Sarah Bruer, Diaconal Minister (in search of call), North Perth Ontario.
Rev. Melany Cassidy-Wise, Ordained Minister, Rural United Ministry. Easton’s Corners United Church, North Augusta Pastoral Charge, Bishop’s Oxford Pastoral Charge, Maitland, Ontario
Rev. Wendy Molnar, Coronado Gibbons United Church, Sturgeon County, AB
Rev. Linda K. Douglas Grace Lutheran Church, Victoria, BC
Fr. Dick+ Kennedy, Palliser Parish, Anglican Diocese of Qu’Appelle.
The Reverend Boyd Drake, The United Church of Canada, Gatineau QC
Rev. Marie-Louise Ternier, priest in the Anglican Church of Canada, serving an Anglican-Lutheran Shared Ministry in Watrous, SK.
The Rev. Aneeta Saroop, Spirit of Life Lutheran Church, Vancouver, BC
Rev. Sharilynn Upsdell Diaconal Minister United Church of Canada, Chaplain at Good Samaritan Mountainview Village Care Home, Kelowna BC
The Rev. Seth Perry, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, Kingston, ON
REV. LINDA C. HUNTER, Ordained Minister in The United Church of Canada, serving Central United Church in Calgary, Alberta.
Rev. Audrey Lounder, President, Fundy St Lawrence Dawning Waters Region, United Church of Canada
Reverend Susan Butler-Jones, United Church of Canada, Gatineau QC
Rev. Sarah Dymund, Trinity Lutheran Church, Regina, SK
Rev. Murdo Marple, Retired minister of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, Calgary, Alberta.
The Rev. Karen Stepko, Christ Lutheran Church, Rhein, Saskatchewan
The Rev. Laura Kavanagh, Knox Presbyterian Church, Victoria BC
Deacon Gretchen Peterson, Assistant to the National Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, Saskatoon, SK
Rev. Stephen W. Overall, Retired United Methodist Clergy, and formerly served as Chaplain and Director of Pastoral Care Education at the Victoria General Hospital (1971-1979). Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Rev. Joy Cowan, Minister at Heritage United Church, Regina, SK
Rev. Beth W Johnston, United Church of Canada Nipawin SK
Rev. Dr Adela Torchia, Two Saints Anglican Ministry in Victoria, BC
The Rev. Stewart Miller, Bread of Life Lutheran Church, Regina, SK
The Rev. Dr. Chris Nojonen, retired (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada), Thunder Bay
The Rev. M Kornfeld, St Albert Lutheran Church, St Albert, AB
Rev. Mark L. Malek (retired) Trinity United Church, Vernon ,B.C
Rev. Lloyd Huber, emeritus, LCC, Drumheller, AB
The Rev Margaret Murray, (retired), Minister of the United Church of Canada, Woodstock, ON
The Rev’d Grace Pritchard Burson, Anglican Church of All Saints by the Lake, Dorval, QC
The Rev. Lyndon Sayers, Lutheran Church of the Cross, Victoria, BC
The Rev. Scott Agur, Retired United Church of Canada, Courtenay, BC
The Reverend Fergus Tyson, Incumbent, St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Calgary, AB
Rev. Joan Jespersen (retired),Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
The Rev Catherine M Dorcas, Presbyterian Church in Canada, Moosomin, SK