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PA Wire / Andrew Milligan
PA Wire / Andrew Milligan
Congregation in masks in church covid coronavirus St Andrews Cathedral Glasgow church Credit PA Wire Andrew Milligan.jpg
UK News

Christian leaders threaten UK Government with legal action over lockdown church closure

by Tola Mbakwe

A group of church leaders has said it will sue the government over its decision to close churches in the new lockdown set to begin on Thursday. 

Seventy-one church leaders have signed the pre-action letter asking the government not to impose a ban on worship services and say they will pursue judicial review to overturn the ban if necessary.

The new restrictions state that "places of worship will be closed" with exceptions for funerals, broadcast acts of worship, individual prayer, essential voluntary public services, formal childcare, and some other exempted activities

Matthew Jolley, minister of Bury St Edmunds Presbyterian Church said: "Man does not live by bread alone. Now more than ever Churches are needed to help care for people and their spiritual, emotional and mental needs. 

"The country needs the hope only the Gospel of Jesus Christ provides. Our doors need to be open to welcome all people to hear the good news of Christ. The government does not have the right, either by the law of the land or before God, to close churches. This is a mistake that must be challenged."

The group of church leaders includes 25 leaders who started legal action against the government for its closure of churches in the first lockdown in March. 

Legal group Christian Concern is supporting the leaders. The organisation said the church leaders involved in the new action also includes Welsh leaders who have already sent a pre-action letter to the Welsh government. They are challenging the closure of churches over three Sundays for the Welsh 'firebreak' lockdown.

Pastor Ade Omooba MBE, who led the previous legal challenge, said, "Never in our history have our churches closed - not during wars, plagues or famines. Instead we have been places of respite and hope.

"The government seems not to understand the very important and long held constitutional position of the independence of church and civil government.

"Churches provide many essential services to their members, local communities, and the nation as a whole. But we can't be relegated to a social service. The motivation and key to our service is our love for Jesus Christ and our care for the whole person, body, mind and soul. The very last thing that should be closed is churches, and then only with their agreement in times of dire emergency for a very short time.

"We call on the government to recognise the vital importance of church ministry and the principle of church autonomy from the state.

"Church is so much more than a place for individual prayer. It is a place for prayer ministry, sacraments, gathered worship, fellowship, and corporate prayer and intercession. The government should not be preventing these vital ministries."

This new challenge comes after 885 church leaders signed an open letter to the Prime Minister and First Ministers stating that "we must not be asked to suspend Christian worship again. For us to do so would cause serious damage to our congregations, our service of the nation, and our duty as Christian ministers."

Rev Matthew Roberts from Trinity Church in York also signed the letter. Listen to Premier's interview with him here: 

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