As Missouri experiences an uptick in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths due to the delta variant, pastors from across the state are urging eligible Christians to get vaccinated. Hundreds of clergy signed onto a statement that reads:
Vaccine hesitancy in our pews puts our congregations and communities at greater risk. Given their safety and availability, receiving a vaccine is an easy way of living out Jesus’s command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). His warning against causing “little ones to stumble” (Luke 17:2) also inspires our appeal, as every vaccinated adult helps protect our children under 12 who are still ineligible to receive the vaccines.
“As a Baptist minister, I believe getting vaccinated is a ‘love-your-neighbor act’ grounded in the core teachings of the Christian faith,” said Brian Kaylor, president and editor-in-chief of Word&Way. “With data showing White evangelicals among those most hesitant to get vaccinated, the voices of clergy speaking out for vaccination remain particularly important.”
The full statement is available at wordandway.org/vaccine. Its message emphasizing vaccination as a witness to Christian compassion will also be the focus of an advertising campaign, featuring both print and digital ads, over the next several weeks.
Cassandra Gould, executive director of Missouri Faith Voices, spoke about theological motivation of clergy speaking out in support of vaccinations. “We believe our role is not just to be responders to death but to disrupt death, similar to what Jesus does in the Gospels. We need to disrupt the death that COVID-19 has caused and continued to cause.”
The statement signers specifically raised up the need to protect children and those otherwise ineligible to receive the vaccine. “We are very concerned about children under 12,” explained Pastor Darron L. Edwards, Sr. of United Believers Community Church in Kansas City. “If you are a follower of Jesus who is eligible for the vaccine but not vaccinated, please go get one out of Christian duty and compassion.”
One of the statement signers, Susan Naylor, is both a registered nurse and an ordained Episcopal deacon. Describing her work to overcome vaccine hesitancy, she shared that “in my clinic I get to talk people off the fence almost every day. I explain the importance of protecting themselves and others by receiving the vaccine. Everyone who has made the choice to receive the vaccine says they are glad they did.”
Also offering remarks at the release of the statement was Richard Sullivan, a hospital chaplain and Assemblies of God minister, who said, “From a chaplain’s perspective, COVID has really taken a toll on our health institution as a whole – our caregivers, our nurses, our families.” He added, “Our health systems are overrun with people who are sick with COVID-19 because they have not gotten the vaccine. That jeopardizes other vulnerable patients who need to be seen.”
The overall message of the statement was summed up by Christopher Dixon, pastor of West Finley Baptist Church near Springfield, MO: “Getting vaccinated is an easy way to show love.”
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