Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine
Whilst respecting that receiving a Covid-19 vaccine is an issue of individual conscience, the Elim National Leadership Team views the provision of current coronavirus vaccines as an answer to prayer and an extension of God’s common grace.
We recognise that some believers have expressed concerns about the Covid-19 vaccination programme and we do not wish to minimise these convictions. That said, we would highlight the need to seek good sources in light of the prevalence of misinformation that is currently circulating and advise you not to neglect the specific advice of your medical professionals.
For our part, having weighed the ethical considerations and the risk to life, we see no moral objection for Christians to accept a vaccine against Covid-19, which has devastated so many. We regard vaccination as one of the best ways to control the pandemic, lessen the pressure on the NHS, save lives and ultimately express our Christian duty of loving one’s neighbour and protecting the vulnerable.
Below is our response to some frequently asked questions about the vaccine, along with some links to vaccine articles, interviews and webinars.
Frequently asked questions about the vaccine
Does the vaccine contain tissues from an aborted foetus?
The vaccines available to UK citizens do not contain tissue from an aborted foetus. They do either contain, or have been tested on, what are called “immortal cell lines”. These are cells that have been artificially replicated in a laboratory and their origin is cells from an abortion that took place in the Netherlands in 1973. These cells are used because they produce much more accurate indicators of the effectiveness of the vaccines than using animal cells would.
Is it ethical to receive a vaccine that some say is “morally tainted”?
The issue of whether we receive a vaccine that is “morally tainted” is complex.
Firstly, we must consider the question of whether all Christians would consider the vaccine morally tainted, or whether that would be a view that is held by some but not by all.
Secondly, there is the question of personal, moral responsibility to consider. This links to the question of the proximity of your decision to the aspect of the vaccine that you consider morally tainted. For example, a researcher may well feel unable to work on a vaccine that uses live cells from an aborted foetus, whilst she may feel more able to use immortal cell lines. Similarly, one person may feel unable to take a vaccine because it has immortal cell lines in its history or testing, whilst for another this is not a present moral issue.
Thirdly, there is the question of whether taking the vaccine contributes to the perpetuation of moral evil around the vaccine’s development or not.
Fourthly, you must consider whether there are clashing moral and ethical choices involved (sometimes called “graded absolutism”) where more than one moral imperative exists, and you must decide which one will have priority. For example, there is a moral imperative to protect the vulnerable - some may believe that this means that the vulnerable unborn is protected by a decision not to take the vaccine, whilst others might believe that the vulnerable in society are protected by taking the vaccine.
The questions, then, are around proximity (how close am I to the cause of the moral dilemma?); responsibility (how much would the issue in question be my responsibility or would I be seen to be endorsing something that I consider evil?); consequence (does my decision enable further evil or justify evil?); precedence (am I confronted with more than one moral choice and which one must be placed first in my decisions?); and understanding (is the issue in question universally understood as evil in a primary sense or are there different, biblically justifiable understandings of the issue itself?). Of course, all of these issues must be considered in the light of true facts and not false ones.
Applying all of these to the matter of taking the vaccine is complex and challenging; Elim acknowledges that faithful Christians will make different choices on this issue because our assessment of these criteria will not be uniform.
Have the Covid vaccines been developed too quickly to be safe?
The vaccines have all gone through the same trials that any other vaccine would. The difference is not in how rigorously they have been tested but in how efficiently the testing process has been. The scientific community have collaborated to accelerate the process with comprehensive test groups and to share their information. Vaccines go through a three-phase trial to produce data, which is then comprehensively examined by an independent body to ensure safety. This has happened for all of the vaccines being used in the UK.
In addition, it is worth remembering that every year a new influenza vaccine is produced in around 7-9 months, so the speed of the vaccine development is also not entirely new. If there are any concerns about a recipient of a vaccine being at risk, then the vaccine will be delivered in a hospital setting (there are always some small risks associated with any vaccine). If you have any concerns, you should talk about them to a medical professional such as your GP.
Is the vaccine the mark of the beast or is there any relationship between the two?
There is no evidence that the vaccine is the mark of the beast or that there is any relationship between the two. The idea of the “mark of the beast” is found in the Book of Revelation. Whether one interprets the mark symbolically or literally, it signifies allegiance to and worship of the “beast” (Rev. 16:2; 19:20). Revelation also suggests that not taking the mark “on the right hand or the forehead” means that one is not able to “buy or sell” (Rev. 13:16-17). In light of these passages, it is worth pointing out that taking the vaccine does not require any Christian to forfeit their allegiance to and worship of God. Furthermore, there is no evidence that taking the vaccine is a condition to be able to “buy and sell”. Therefore, the coronavirus vaccine should not be seen as the mark of the beast.
It is possible that if you do not take the vaccine, your access to things like international travel could be restricted in the future. However, similar restrictions already exist in relation to different spheres of society. For example, you already need to have taken different vaccines to be able to travel to certain countries, you need a National Insurance number to work in the UK, as well as a valid driving license to drive on public roads. The point is that in the same way as having a National Insurance number or possessing a driving licence does not mean that you have taken the “mark of the beast”, the Covid-19 vaccine should neither be understood in this manner.
Is taking the vaccine a demonstration of lack of faith in God?
Historically some Pentecostals have opposed the use of modern medicine and seen it as a lack of faith in God. However, the Bible does not condemn the use of medicine and this is not the position of the Elim Pentecostal Church. The gifts of medicine, medical experts, and the body’s natural capacity to fight disease should be celebrated as part of God’s good creation, and should not be seen in contradiction with the “gifts of healing” identified in 1 Corinthians 12:9. Indeed, as noted in the statement above, we view “the provision of the current coronavirus vaccines as an answer to prayer and an extension of God’s common grace”.
Biblical passages like 2 Chronicles 16:12 have been used by some as arguments against the use of medicine. However, this verse in its context makes it clear that King Asa’s sin was that he sought help from his physicians at the expense of “seeking the Lord”. That is, the problem was not the physicians, but Asa’s lack of faith in God. Therefore, we would encourage all Christians to seek God with sincere hearts, as it is from a place of trusting God that the gift of modern medicine, including the coronavirus vaccine, can be received with grateful hearts.
Will there be there a place in Elim for those who do not have the vaccine?
As stated we believe that the vaccine is one of the best ways we currently have to control the pandemic; however, taking a vaccine or indeed any decision around your own health has to be a personal one. With this in mind, it is without a doubt that, should someone decide for whatever reason not to have the vaccine, he or she would still be welcome in our churches and as part of the wider Elim family.
I’m an Elim pastor - can my church building be used as a vaccination centre?
As a pastor within Elim, we would encourage you to seek all the ways possible to be “good news” to your community. Taking this into consideration, using our churches as vaccination centres is certainly a good extension of our mission to the communities we serve. We would, however, encourage church leadership teams to seek to support wider community efforts, not compete with them, and also ensure that the demands of offering a building to be used in this way do not prevent its use for its original purpose. Please also refer to Elim’s Management Board before entering into any binding legal contracts.
COVID-19 Vaccines - papers, videos and resources
Vaccine articles, interviews and webinars
In the interests of supporting our ministers and leaders in what can seem like a complex and confusing landscape of information, opinion and even emotion, we have begun to gather together some resources which we trust will help give a fuller understanding of the vaccines themselves and of the key issues and questions which you may find you are being asked about.
In the list below, we highlight several recently produced articles, interviews and webinars from experienced and highly qualified leaders within a range of disciplines that are addressing the major issues surrounding vaccines. Some of these include our own ministers as well as medical professionals and practitioners with expertise in specific and related fields.
Coronavirus vaccines and Christian ethics
This article comes from Christian Medical Fellowship, written by John Wyatt who is Emeritus Professor of Neonatal Paediatrics, Ethics & Perinatology at University College London. Senior researcher at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, Cambridge.
He covers the broader ethical issues:
Human testing and volunteers
Distribution funding and global justice
Cooperation with a fallen world
Should we accept the Vaccine?
A Better way – Champions of HOPE
View web article
He has also accompanied it with two podcasts which are clear and thought through and give a full response on wider ethical issues and implications.
Matters of Life and Death – Coronavirus: Vaccines (42 min)
Website | MP3 | Apple podcast | Google
Matters of Life and Death – Coronavirus: Vaccines part 2 (19 min)
Website | MP3 | Apple podcast | Google
Thinking about whether or not you should receive a Covid-19 vaccine?
This article is co-authored by Malcolm Duncan, Debbie Duncan and Chris Shaw which was released earlier this week.
Christians And The Conspiracy Theory Contagion
This article by Dominic De Souza looks at the challenge of Conspiracy Theories.
Life after Covid-19 webinar with Patrick Dixon (90 min)
The following YouTube link is to an Interview with Dr Patrick Dixon covering issues of Life after Covid produced by Kensington Temple on KT TV Youtube channel.
YouTube [commences at 6:56]
Making ethical decisions that value human life webinar (Evangelical Alliance)
David Smyth, head of Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland and Dawn McAvoy, co-founder Both Lives Matter, host a conversation with experts from fields of medicine, medical ethics, public policy and conscience on the ethics around a COVID-19 vaccine. Watch here
Evangelical Alliance's recommended reading
Wisdom and the Covid Vaccine - Rediscover Church, Exeter
Join Mark Pugh from Elim's church in Exeter as he asks a researcher/lecturer in biomedical sciences and a GP for their insights regarding the Covid 19 vaccine
Watch part 1 here
Watch part 2 here
The coronavirus vaccine - informed perspectives
In this video, Dave Newton hosts a conversation which asks some of these critical questions to help you navigate your way through the ethical issues of the coronavirus vaccine. This panel discussion looks at the vaccine from a medical, theological, pastoral and personal perspective.
Elim leaders resources
ElimNET provides additional information for Elim leaders at elim.org.uk/coronavirusresource
We are aware this is a very difficult time and will prompt further questions. We are working to produce some FAQs, along with adding new guidance on this page. This will take time, so please be patient and check back to this page for more details.