The United States of America is at a key moment in American history now that a COVID-19 vaccine is being rolled out. While the rules for the vaccine will differ state by state, this blog has a proposal for how the EFCA should encourage people to take the vaccine. From Kevin Kompelien down to the local EFCA church pastor here is a possible campaign to get people on the same page and take the COVID-19 vaccine. In the process the EFCA can be a force multiplier for the denomination, American evangelicalism and the culture in which it operates in communities across the country.
“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
Henry David Thoreau
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
EFCA President Kevin Kompelien
The United States is entering a dark winter with over 300,000 deaths due to COVID-19. The death toll is expected to climb with over 3,000 a day dying to the coronavirus. For the United States this is the worst pandemic since the Spanish Flu in 1918 until early 1920. This is a unique time in American history and this blog wants to step back and write about the EFCA and the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. This blog has written a number of articles about the EFCA and the pandemic. It has followed a number of EFCA churches and chronicled their response to the pandemic. You can read about that here, here, here and here. This blog also wrote about how differing EFCA districts responded to the pandemic. For example I wrote about EFCA West leadership which you can read about here and here. This blog also wrote about Eastern District leadership which you can read about here and here. Then this blog wrote about how Brian Farone of the North Central District in Minnesota guided his district through the pandemic here and here. Last in writing about the EFCA pandemic this blog has also written about EFCA President Kevin Kompelien here.
As Pfizer and Moderna roll out the COVID-19 vaccine the EFCA finds itself in a place where it can be a key contributor to solving the pandemic in the United States. It can affirm faith for many and show how faith can co-exist with science. In the process it can also help the EFCA itself. This post is a possible roadmap however, I know this is much more complicated because each state is defining essential workers differently and that complicates it. How the vaccine will be given out in California will be different than Texas and Pennsylvania. That is the result of a lack on a national plan which this blog views as the failure of political leadership in the United States. But I propose the following to consider.
EFCA President Kevin Kompelien Should Lead the Way, and What Greg Strand Should Do Theologically
Kevin Kompelien should use his influence and lead by example. He should take the COVID-19 vaccine and set a path for the denomination. He should do it in a video that the EFCA can distribute to the larger organization. He should talk about how the vaccine is proof that the EFCA and its members can love their neighbors and will allow life to resume to a new normal again. Life after COVID-19 will never be normal at all. Kevin should write about the experience at the national EFCA blog and in the process he should encourage people to wear masks and social distance until a herd immunity is developed. He should do so explaining that this is just temporary and this is a once in a lifetime pandemic. If all goes well people can throw away their face mask in the fall of 2021. He should lovingly and carefully address conspiracy theories and remind people that conspiracy theories are slander according to the Bible and thus sinful. Kompelien should be the cheer leader for the EFCA during the COVID-19 vaccine roll out.
Next comes Greg Strand who sets the tone inside the EFCA for theology and credentialing. Greg should work with a physician trained in medicine who can help draft up a plan for the denomination. The EFCA’s Reach Global Crisis Response can play a role in being one of the ways information is dispensed to EFCA churches in the denomination. Greg Strand should write a couple of posts at the EFCA blog explaining the theological reasons why one should take the vaccine. He should do a one day virtual conference explaining the theological reasons why EFCA pastors and personnel should take the vaccine. In the process this can also be a lesson for many how faith and science can co-exist. The theological reasons and material should be shared with EFCA District Superintendents. But in this situation Greg Strand should play a key role in helping to shape people’s mind to embrace the vaccine. He should publish any theological objections and address them. This should be open and transparent.
Glen Schrieber of the EFCA SE District is in there!
Neal Brower of the Western District
Brian Farone of the North Central District on the left.
Next Come the EFCA District Superintendents and Leaders
The EFCA District Superintends come next. They need to be on the same page and they should set the model. Every district superintendent and leader from Tim Jacobs, to Brian Farone, to Glen Schrieber, to Dr. Cedrick Brown or Sam Huggard and all the rest should take the COVID-19 vaccine. Lead by example, live stream it amongst their pastors and write about it at district blogs and on Twitter and Facebook. Explain the reasons why and how this is a way to re-open churches safely longterm and also encourage people to social distance. Congregationalism has its challenges and its limits. What should happen in this situation is that each district superintendent should speak to each pastor and staff and explain why the pastor and his staff needs to get vaccinated. Involved in all this should be a physician who guides and helps the district leadership. He should be available to answer questions and address concerns. The more transparency the better in this situation.
Individual EFCA Churches in Each District and the Vaccine
Each pastor in each church should have a physician involved in the church. Someone from the local congregation who is trusted. Odds are there is a physician in the church, an elder, someone on the mission team or men’s ministry that needs to be the go to person and expert who can explain why people need to get vaccinated. They should have a zoom call with the congregation to explain the vaccine and how it works. They should also stress that it will help to make life resume again one day. This physician should address conspiracy theories and lovingly deflate them with facts. Then this physician needs to be ready to help advise and when necessary point a person to their primary care physician. Chances are (saying this as a doctors’ kid) the physician can perhaps be a bridge if there are possible concerns about a reaction, etc… People’s individual doctors should be involved to support them as well. Each pastor in an EFCA church and ministry leader should take the vaccine. Live stream or Zoom it so the congregation can watch and observe. Watching their local pastor be vaccinated will help inspire confidence, reduce fear and help the congregation. After all this will help win people over and assist them in the long term. It could also install confidence between the pastors and their churches. On social media pastors should write about it at their blog and explain why they did it.
Regarding EFCA Missionaries and the Issue of Vaccine Reaction, Plus Historic Racial Issues
The EFCA should make vaccines mandatory for all missionaries. Chances are the countries they live in or are planning to go to will make them mandatory. So the EFCA will have to come up with a game plan. The vaccines are healthy and will work for many but there is the slight risk for a small, small minority of reactions. You can read more about reactions to the vaccine here, here and here. From the top medical professionals should be advising the EFCA on this issue. They should be raising it with district leadership and church leadership. Keep in mind its a minor issue but it needs to be addressed head on. Address fears and tackle the issue in a way that fear is diffused. Again very few will be dealing with this issue but again its getting press and with the disinformation that exists on the internet it can’t be ignored. Another issue to raise is the concern by African-Americans of distrust for vaccines. Alex Mendes who leads the All Peoples Initiative can work and launch a campaign among African-American churches inside the EFCA t help address fears about the vaccine. There is a complicated history of vaccines and African Americans that has led to doubt. You can read more about that here, here, here, and here. Alex Mendes is more than talented to direct a campaign to help soothe fears, build trust. After all its a sad tragedy that African-Americans in the COVID-19 pandemic have a higher death rate which is very disproportionate. The vaccine for the coronavirus is in their interest ro and an education and racism awareness of past events can go far in helping to solve this problem. And in the process Alex Mendes can help the African-American and minority communities.
What the EFCA Can Accomplish Both in a Denomination and American Evangelicalism. It Can Create a Proud Legacy
Truth be told this blog is grateful for writing about the EFCA and nor primarily the Southern Baptist Convention. On my list of items to tackle is critical race theory and the SBC. The EFCA is different and has a lot of positives. A while back I had a email discussion with a pastor in the Kansas/Nebraska district. This pastor explained his families history in the Assembly of God and why he was attracted to the EFCA. The issue that did it for him is that the denomination is more intellectual. The EFCA can really shine in this area and be a model in so many ways. These are some of the positives that the EFCA can accomplish by being proactive and embracing the COVID0-19 vaccine.
- It can show the culture at large how a person can embrace both science and faith and show how they co-exist. That science is not an enemy of faith but that it enriches and helps society and culture. This can shift evangelical’s beliefs about science and while the vaccine is about ended the coronavirus it can also inject hope into faith and unstill confidence.
- It can increase people’s trust in the EFCA, district leadership and individual churches, especially for those on the outside. In an era of cynicism and nihilism with some attacking anything and everything it can show how a denomination can be healthy and force multiplier for good. In an era of scandals about abuse of power, sex abuse and more the EFCA can show the world that evangelicals can do something significant and help solve a problems. Bridges can be built.
- By taking on the vaccination issue the EFCA can also debunk a lot of conspiracy theories and show their churches the flaws and problems with disinformation. Over at The Gospel Coalition and Christianity Today more and more effort is being given to reducing conspiracy theories and getting Christians to back away from them. The EFCA can deflate this issue by showing that conspiracy theories are garbage.
- The EFCA can be on the right side of history. Can you imagine what historians of culture, faith and even in seminaries can teach about the EFCA and the COVID-19 pandemic in 2070 and beyond? This can be a positive development for the EFCA.
- It can help the EFCA show its relevancy and improve communication across the denomination. Greg Strand and Kevin Kompelien can come across looking sharp and will have served the organization well. It can increase trust in the denomination between church and district.
The Wondering Eagle Closing Advice and Wishing the EFCA Well
In many ways I am an outsider to evangelicalism having left it. I am also an outsider who brings a perspective having spent a lot of time inside evangelicalism. This blog has written some difficult posts about the EFCA, I acknowledge that fact. But this blog is not about tearing the EFCA down. Instead it realizes the EFCA is complicated. This blog wants to see the EFCA thrive and succeed in this area because it would be healthy for the organization. In the process this blog will be offering outside independent commentary and will cheer the EFCA along in the process. The EFCA can really rise to the occasion in ways that the Southern Baptists and Assembly of God can not. Instead of being a problem it can help be the solution to a once in a lifetime pandemic. This blog wishes the EFCA well and hopes that it strives to succeed in this area. Their faith will be better, stronger, and the communities the EFCA serves will also be better.