Late last week a simple idea emerged: with COVID-19 cases rising across Missouri and vaccine hesitancy prevalent among White evangelicals, more Christian pastors need to speak out. Could Word&Way, located in Missouri, leverage our networks to coordinate a collective witness from clergy in our home state? Although we cover news beyond Missouri and have readers in numerous states, we’ve been based in the Show-Me State since our founding 125 years ago this month.
So, that is why we have spent the last five days circulating a statement among clergy in Missouri to plead with Christians to love their neighbors by getting inoculated against the coronavirus. Such an act is not only a matter of public health, it is also a witness to what we believe about the Gospel. We are amazed at the response thus far, with over 200 pastors from more than a dozen denominations endorsing the statement.
Some might argue this isn’t the work of a media organization. Yet, the times call for us to put our faith into action. And over the last 16 months, Word&Way has used its influence to advocate for pandemic responses that could help keep congregations and communities safer.
Above all, we are still pastors with the obligation to speak the truth and witness to the life-giving ways of Jesus Christ. Those commitments demand that we use our influence to help others understand that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Our faith compels us to take not just an editorial stand but to transform our convictions into a moral witness calling for eligible Christians (and non-Christians for that matter) to get vaccinated.
We trust the science behind the vaccines. We thank God for the doctors, nurses, and other health care workers administering them. Political leaders from both parties are advocating for people to get their “shot in the arm.” Their encouragement is important, especially given how partisan our culture has lamentably become.
Still, scientific and political arguments only go so far. If faith is at the center of our lives, then ministers and pastors cannot be silent about something this important. Polling shows that clergy can influence whether their church members choose to get vaccinated for better or for worse.
This intensity of activism is new but our position is not. We have been encouraging vaccinations for months. It was the cover topic for the January issue of our magazine. We have run numerous pieces on the topic and multiple editorials urging people to get jabbed (including one earlier this month on the rise of cases among evangelicals in Missouri and other Midwestern states).
We pray our efforts will encourage more clergy, knowing others are standing with them, to educate and encourage their congregations about vaccines. If there are Christians debating whether to be vaccinated, we hope they will consider our witness as they make their decision.
Drawing on their research and expertise, scientists and doctors have spoken. Aware of the huge costs of failing to act together, our elected leaders have urged us to take action. Now pastors are adding and amplifying a moral argument. Getting vaccinated is the safe, smart, and compassionate thing to do. It is hard to make it any clearer, unless you refuse to have the eyes to see or the ears to hear.