Ontario pastor on the church’s battle against shutdowns

Dr. Aaron Rock is the head pastor at Harvest Bible Church in Windsor Ontario, and has been taking the lead in the fight to keep churches open across Canada.

Elie Cantin-Nantel Ottawa ON

As new cases of COVID-19 continue to rise across Canada, provincial politicians and health officers are beginning to crack down on religious services. Manitoba and British Columbia have both banned in person church services, and while Ontario has declared churches essential, the cap of 10 people that has been imposed on churches in lockdown regions makes it virtually impossible for them to hold services.

This has Canadian pastors worried about the wellbeing of their community, as well as the infringement of their constitutional right to worship. Dr. Aaron Rock is the head pastor at Harvest Bible Church in Windsor Ontario, and has been taking the lead in the fight to keep churches open across Canada.

Rock recently wrote an article in a Christian blog called Pursuit of Glory, where he calls for pastors to partake in divine obedience over civil obedience, when dealing with government imposed COVID-19 restrictions. Rock quotes scripture multiple times in his article, including Leviticus 13:46, which states that only the unhealthy should be quarantined.

Pastor Rock was also one of the organizers of the Worship Protest that took place on the lawn of Queens Park in Toronto on Sunday. The Post Millennial reached out to him to ask about his advocacy to remove new government imposed restrictions on places of worship.

Rock explains that divine obedience is not the same as civil disobedience because there are upper laws and lower laws. Public health orders and restrictions are lower law, while the constitution of Canada is the upper law. Rock believes that “from a Chirsitan perspective, divine law supersedes small laws. Us Christians should always try to uphold the greater law.”

He adds that the tickets churches receive for violating lockdowns will be overturned because the church is following the constitution. “Christianity influenced the constitution, the higher law goes over the lower law, and violating these orders means were obeying a higher law.”

Rock notes that the first of constitutions, the Magna Carta, was a product of the church. “The church helped shape the country the way it is today, banning church is like having a family gathering but not allowing a 95-year-old grandmother to attend, the matriarch of the family.” He also says that when the church stops having a voice, justice, freedom, and liberty go away.

On the question of churches being essential, Pastor Rock says when we compare the church’s relation to people’s health, it is essential, similar to why pharmacies are essential to the population's wellbeing. “Compare the church to other things, medical experts are good with physical health, pastors are experts in emotional, social, mental health. Pastors need to administer gospel to those who struggle. The problem with lockdowns is they focus only on biotic health, but the rest of people's lives are falling apart because of them.”

The majority of churches have decided to comply with the lockdown orders, using Romans 13 as their basis for closing their doors. However, Rock doesn't see that verse as an excuse to submit to government shutdowns. “Romans 13 clearly gives the government limited power. The role of the state is to take care of the basic fundamentals of justice. In our context, we're seeing bigger governments think it is their job to keep us safe by policing us and breaking up our Christmas dinners” he said. “The state doesn't have that right. The word of God doesn't give the state those responsibilities”.

In his article, Rock called on churches in Toronto, Peel, Manitoba, and British Columbia to open their doors despite the shutdowns. He also thinks that churches who are allowed to stay open should fight for those who have been ordered to close. “The problem right now in Ontario is the divide, with all these colours, causing some churches in unaffected areas thinking 'why should I fight for churches in other areas?.' We want to be gracious, we want to be loving, we want the premier and police to know that we respect them, and that we are law-abiding citizens.”

Pastor Rock says that legal action against provincial governments that infringe on religious freedoms is coming soon. “Yes there will be lawsuits, they will start in the western provinces, with the goal to overturn their draconian rules. Then they will move to Ontario.”

He also said that the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) is planning to write a letter to Premier Doug Ford  to request he reconsider his restrictions on churches in the lockdown zones, putting him on notice that if he continues to strictly restrict worship services, a full legal charter challenge will be filed against him and his government.

A common trend seen with organizations that defy lockdowns is a disregard for other health measures. This was seen with both the church opening of John McArthur in California, and the restaurant rebellion of Adam Skelly, where masks and social distancing were not present. This gave the left wing media an open net of criticism, and gave authorities more reasons to double down on enforcing the lockdown orders.

Rock said that while churches should be responsible, he believes churches should be able to make their own decisions. “We recommend masks, we do distancing, and we even use to take temperatures. But it's not appropriate for a church to feel like it has to follow all the restrictions.”

More data to support the mandated restrictions is also something that Rock and other pastors would like to see. “We’re waiting for peer reviewed articles on masks and social distancing. We need to see the evidence, we don't want evidence by paid bureaucrats and people in government, talk with universities and get researchers together and come up with some data.”

Pastor Rock also voiced frustration with politicians who don't follow their health guideline. Being from Windsor, he was unimpressed to see Mayor Drew Dilkens break his “zero tolerance policy” only hours after announcing it by dining in a restaurant with eight other people, even though his new rule put a cap of six people per table. Dilkens didn't pay the $750 fine a citizen would be charged, and instead offered to donate that money to charity. Rock adds that “If the people of my municipality dare issue me a ticket, I am going to make sure that the mayor has to pay a fine too. Because this isn't fair.”

He is also alarmed by the government’s persecution of those who organize anti-lockdown protests. “They ticketed an elected MPP for organizing a protest at Queen's park, this is disgusting. If people lose trust in peaceful protests, it might turn to violent protests, and we certainly don't want that.” Ontario MPP Randy Hillier  was charged under the Reopening Ontario Act for organizing a protest, which was seen as an outdoor gathering of more than 10 people.

When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic and the government’s response, Christians are starting to lose hope. However, Rock says Christians have to remind themselves of eternal hope. “We do not trust in kings and chariots, but we trust in the Lord our God.”


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