Mennonite Brethren leaders in the U.S. released a statement indicating denominational beliefs and practices do not support a religious exemption to COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
The Aug. 14 statement was in response to questions about whether the U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches would provide a statement supporting a religious exemption to government or employer mandates to get vaccinated.
The statement was approved by USMB leadership and the denomination’s Board of Faith and Life.
“Our current and historical practices do not provide the necessary rationale for granting a religious exemption based on the theological convictions of the denomination,” it said. “Individuals seeking such a denominational stance and pastors being asked to sign an exemption form could not, with integrity, list USMB doctrine or practice as evidence of a deeply held conviction by the denomination that taking this vaccine (or others) goes against our teaching.”
The statement noted that theological or doctrinal opposition to the vaccine on a denominational level cannot be made with integrity, but individuals could inquire whether an exemption could be pursued on the level of a personally held religious conviction.
“Carefully and with personal integrity, consider whether that objection is rooted in your own personal religious convictions or if it is rooted in other concerns and/or fears,” it said.
The statement indicated many, though probably not all, USMB leaders, theologians, pastors and lay leaders have been vaccinated and advocate for others to be vaccinated to slow the virus’ spread.
The writers cited Article 14 of the USMB Confession of Faith, which values healing through “the life-sustaining findings of medical science.”
Elton DaSilva, national director of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, said his conference did not support a faith-based exemption and had not received any requests for exemptions.
According to Religion News Service, anti-vaccination activists have mounted online campaigns encouraging people to claim religious exemptions.