Pastors Against Church Closures is a national movement gaining a lot of momentum, primarily among Charismatic and Pentecostal pastors, in South Africa. The movement is derived from pastors’ unified dissatisfaction with Covid-related lockdowns of churches.
The unelected National Coronavirus Command Council in South Africa imposes restrictions upon congregations.
When restrictions were first imposed, the pastors—not unlike many citizens across the world—gave the government the benefit of the doubt. After all, this threat was potentially lethal and apparently untreatable—as well as something novel, unexpected, and unforeseen. Our political leaders were entrusted to make difficult decisions to save lives.
But much has changed since a year ago.
It appears that there are two main reasons for the pastors’ concerns, frustrations, and hesitations.
The first is clear Scriptural commands to the Church—the Body of Believers—by God. Secondly, the hypocrisy and double standards of the lockdown rules, forced upon churches.
The Bible does not give the state any authority to suspend the functioning of Christ’s rule over His Church, or the Believers’ worship of Him.
God’s Word is clear:
- We are commanded by the Lord to observe a sabbath rest and keep it holy (Ex. 20:8-11, 31:17; Ezek. 20:12);
- We are to gather around the Word and receive communion (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:25-26);
- We are commanded not to give up meeting together (Acts 20:7; Heb. 10:24-25);
- We are commanded to make disciples of all nations, teach, and baptize (Matt. 28:19-20);
- To lay hands on and send out missionaries (Acts 13:3);
- Elders of the church to pray over and anoint the sick with oil (Jas. 5:14);
- We are required to sing together, greet one another, bear one another’s burdens, and exercise church discipline (1 Cor. 5; 2 Cor. 13:12; Gal. 6:2; Eph. 5:19);
Commands such as these can hardly be carried out over a computer screen. Church leaders have no right to flee or abandon their posts because times are tough; rather they have a responsibility to remain steadfast:
“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” — Ephesians 6:13
At one stage we needed a court order to stop the government from interfering with us feeding our people. The High Court ordered that the government was not allowed to prevent people from exercising their existing rights to distribute and receive food.
Leaders of Pastors Against Church Closures point out that for every single one of the 52,000 deaths in South Africa, there was a member of the clergy present. The pastors ministered to the families of those who passed away. Their commitment was, on occasion, met with arrests by police – for not having a ‘permit’. Churches and pastors were not recognized as ‘essential’.
Meanwhile, the double standards imposed on churches are undeniable.
Mini-bus taxis can operate at 100-percent capacity, including driving for days and nights over long distances. All shopping centers remain permanently open during business hours. Casinos cater to betting customers late into the night. Mines operate. Airlines process travelers etc.
Movement leaders do not begrudge the return of these businesses (other than the casinos). Rather, this economic activity testifies to the truth—that despite the pandemic, one can go on.
Yet, amid the commerce, churches were allowed only 50 parishioners at a service (since increased to 100), as policymakers labeled the gathering of the faithful as “super spreaders”. How can this be?
Pastors Against Church Closures point out that most churches attract audiences onsite for about three hours per week. Some can seat more than 2,000 attendees but may only allow 100 worshipers.
The church lockdown inflicted further challenges in our communities. South African police have been particularly brutal when responding to churches and pastors who have “broken” Covid rules.
Again, the pastors point out that lockdown laws are immoral, unethical, and—by violating God’s commands—sinful.
In at least two instances, rubber bullets, stun grenades, violence, and foul language were deployed by police against churchgoers. Movement leaders questioned the amount of force used. Rubber bullets usually only come into play when police lives are at risk. Never in any of such instances was this the case.
First, they closed us down, then they beat and shot our congregation members, and now they are arresting our pastors and spiritual leaders!
The headlines tell the stories:
“Congregants arrested for violating lockdown regulations,” Jan. 11, 2021, ENCA.com
“Gabola Church pastor and wife arrested for conducting church service during lockdown,” May 12, 2020, news24
A very well-known South Africa pastor, Pastor Mukhuba, explains her run-in with those in power, after police action at her church service:
“You get shot at while holding up your hands. When you declare that you are not fighting and while running away from their guns, afterward they arrest you. They drive recklessly to injure you in their van.
“They then assault you right at the police station and throw you into the cells without telling you why you are arrested. They then cook up the charges later. They claim that you assaulted them whereas you were kneeling down calling upon God to save you.
“They then release media statements of lies and influence everyone to blame you. They turn the police—who are supposed to defend you—against you with lies saying that you want them killed. They take things out of context to influence the weak-minded. The whole thing unfolded like a movie, live on many platforms but gullible people still believe lies without checking the facts.”
In hearing this dear Sister in Christ’s story for preaching the Gospel, a Scripture rushed immediately to mind:
“And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.” — Mark 13:11
South Africa’s lockdown rules were, and are, insane! Most make no sense unless the motive is political, and the actual goal is to starve our people and kill the economy.
I’ll be joining the march to Parliament on Friday, March 26, with the mainly Charismatic and Pentecostal – Pastors Against Church Closures movement. After all, nobody else is exposing the state’s immoral and sinful laws, and acts of aggression.
Your prayers and support are welcome indeed.
Click on the above link to hear Charl interview Siniko, a Pastors Against Church Closures leader (in Cape Town).