Durham Cathedral is insisting on Covid passes for its Christmas services. But concerned Christians are asking whether this kind of discrimination is what Jesus would have wanted.
People hoping to attend Christmas services such as the cathedral’s Festival of nine lessons and carols, its Christmas Eve midnight eucharist or its Christmas Day services are warned:
Upon entry to the cathedral, all visitors over the age of 18 must be prepared to show their NHS COVID Pass as proof of vaccination, a negative PCR or lateral flow test taken up to 48 hours before the event, or a positive PCR test from within the last 6 months.
Visitors must wear a face covering inside Durham Cathedral unless exempt, in line with current UK law.
According to the Mail on Sunday, the cathedral authorities claim to have ‘taken a cautious approach to the Covid-19 restrictions from the start of the pandemic and we’re continuing to keep measures in place to minimise risk and reduce the pressure on our NHS services.’
But the decision has gone not down well with Christians, many of whom have pointed out that this kind of discrimination contradicts Christ’s own teaching and example.
Rev J: This is a time when we remember God's willingness to be with the lowly, the outcast and the poor.
The decision to bar from entry to church a sub-section of society who are deemed to be unclean is profoundly at odds with the Christmas message.https://t.co/5wblRYK90H
— Irreverend (@IrreverendPod) December 12, 2021
Nor is it in line with Church of England policy. Though the C of E, like many church authorities, has proved pitifully spineless during the pandemic, it has come out against what it calls ‘vaccine certification.’
Its latest guidelines state:
It is not a requirement, nor is it appropriate, to ask people if they have been vaccinated. Whilst emerging evidence suggests vaccines are having an impact on transmission, we do not know by how much the vaccine stops coronavirus from spreading. Even if you have been vaccinated, you could still spread coronavirus to others, even if you do not display symptoms.
This is not the first time Durham Cathedral has taken a maverick position on matters of conscience. One of its previous bishops, David Jenkins, generated much controversy in the 1980s when he said that he didn’t believe in the literal truth of the virgin birth. As his Telegraph obituary reported, this led to what could be interpreted as a display of Divine wrath…
Soon after the announcement of his appointment to Durham (the fourth senior see in the Church of England), Jenkins appeared on a television programme and, in response to a question from his interviewer, said that he did not believe in the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection of Christ as historical events. “I wouldn’t put it past God to arrange a virgin birth if He wanted,” said Jenkins, “but I very much doubt if He would.”
This created a considerable storm both inside and outside the Church and the Archbishop of York was called upon to refuse Jenkins consecration as a bishop. The consecration took place in York Minster as planned, but three days later the Minster was struck by lightning and a large section of its roof was destroyed by the consequent fire. Opponents declared this to be a clear sign of Divine disapproval.