Dozens of church officials sign open letter urging Winnipeg church to apologize
Hundreds of people attended a drive-in service at Springs Church Sunday, Nov. 27.
WINNIPEG -- Dozens of church officials have signed an open letter urging a Winnipeg church to apologize for “putting (its) individual right to worship ahead of the good of our community.”
The letter, written by Sherwood Park Lutheran Church’s Rev. Erik Parker and signed by more than 50 clergy members, was penned in response to Springs Church’s drive-in services.
CTV News Winnipeg previously reported Springs Church was fined $5,000 for holding a drive-in service on Nov. 26. The church then received 10 more tickets on Nov. 28 and 29, totalling $32,776, for holding more services.
On Dec. 5, Manitoba’s Chief Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench, Glenn Joyal, ruled that a drive-in service is a public gathering and violates public health orders.
Parker told CTV News he decided to write the letter after hearing the church had plans to continue fighting the tickets in court.
"It just really left a bad taste in my mouth, that this is not what most people of faith, most Christians are doing," Parker said, adding many Christians are following the public health orders.
He said his congregation has been opting for online services since March 22, with exception of a few outdoor services before the province moved to the orange level.
"We are just being told to stay at home, gather online and worship online for a short amount of time, so that we can get back to normal. Not so that we can have our rights taken away, but actually so that we can get back to a more normal world."
The letter from the church officials, which is dated Dec. 6, said Springs Church’s actions are “not an example of following Christ.”
It also calls out the Church of God Restoration near Steinbach, which has been making headlines for its violations of public health orders.
“We find that your insistence on the right to worship is not in keeping with Christ’s command to love our neighbour,” the letter reads.
“We find that your actions disregard the dangers of COVID-19 in our community and that they only serve to create potential harm for our healthcare system and healthcare workers already pushed beyond capacity.”
Parker said he believes the churches who continue to gather are being selfish and insensitive to the nearly 400 Manitoban families that have had a loved one die due to COVID-19.
"It's not like we can't practise our faith, we just can't - for a short time - gather in person together."
The letter goes on to recommend Springs Church repent of its actions and publicly apologize, end its legal action against the province, and put the money intended for legal costs towards a charity.
“If and when these actions are undertaken, it would be our hope that they be a first step towards reconciliation between Springs and your sibling communities of faith in Manitoba,” the letter said.
Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer, said the province has put these restrictions in place because COVID-19 numbers had to go down.
"We see super-spreader events very frequently at faith based gatherings and it shouldn't come as a surprise because this virus is spread with prolonged indoor contact," he said.
Kevin Williams, the church’s lawyer, told CTV News Winnipeg the church believes in COVID-19 and isn’t associated with anti-maskers.
Over the weekend, Springs Church said in a press release that it’s asking its community to follow the rules related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Parker said he hasn't heard anything from the Springs Church leadership since he wrote the letter.
CTV News Winnipeg has reached out to Springs Church and Church of God Restoration for comment.
- With files from CTV’s Mike Arsenault, Mason DePatie, and Danton Unger.