That Judge Got The Springs Church Ruling Right For More Reasons Than The Obvious Ones

by Cookie

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Photo by Wendy van Zyl on

On Saturday, a judge decided that Springs Church in Winnipeg didn’t deserve special treatment after all.

I couldn’t be happier.

And let me be perfectly clear, this is not because of an aversion to religion, or Christianity. As a life long member of the Anglican community, I grew up on hymns and fellowship and Bible stories. Our spiritual well being needs to be nourished and cared for like anything else.

But let’s talk about the reasons why this ruling was so important.

Well, first, because we are in a pandemic. Our region is extremely hard hit, and with that comes tough restrictions. Because the Public Health orders say so. We may not understand them or agree with them all, but we all have a role to play to help make it better. And in THIS case, Springs Church has an obligation to set a good example, not only as Christians but as a community organization.

But there’s a whole lot more, and it has to do with entitlement and privilege.

Realistically, describing Springs Church as anything but a prosperity bible preaching mega-church would be inaccurate. In my opinion, they run their church as a business that is selling salvation. It costs money to go there. And yes, all churches pass the collection plate, but to my knowledge, this church-business determines what your contribution will be. Their top salaries are well into 6 figure ranges. They turn a profit, but yet do not have to pay any taxes. I have a whole lot of other opinions about that that would be better placed in another post, so I will leave it at that for now.

So why would any of this be a factor?

Well, because of this wealth, Springs has access to many things that smaller churches do not. There is absolutely no reason why they weren’t in a position to effectively and easily follow the public health orders and move all of their services online. They had the technology, the staff, the resources and the ability. What they were lacking was the empathy and desire to do what was in the best interest of the community as a whole, rather just what was ‘best’ for them.

Their economic status is also notable because it means that being a wealthy organization would offer them opportunities that all other religious organizations would not be able to access. For example- most small churches don’t even have the luxury of a parking lot. The small churches embeded in neighbourhoods rely on street parking, so they would automatically not be in a position to gather in this way. They obviously would not have access to sound or video equipment that would put them on a level playing field. So realistically, allowing mega churches to bend or break the rules is a question of enormous privilege.

In addition to all of this, we know- it is especially apparent in Manitoba where we have a high level of poverty- that Covid disproportionately affects those in lower income brackets. This display of posturing and lawyering up is just one more example about how those with lower economic status aren’t afforded the same care as wealthy ones. If you have money, you get the care you need, but if you don’t, well, tough luck. All the small parishes have no way to fight for injunctions or to pay for lawyers to make some sort of ridiculous statement like Springs does. It means that in this case, those that can afford to pay for it will have the priority in accessing the best in spiritual care as well as health and education. And that is simply not okay.

Realistically, the small parishes and dioceses would not do this kind of thing anyway. As I see it, they also recognize that they don’t have to. Most of the church communities that I know and have been a part of understand that the church is not the building. The church lives in the people. Jesus himself said that while He remains the head, we are his hands and feet. We see that our fellowship and duty as Christians extend beyond celebrating His birth and resurrection and making sure that people tithe and gay people continue to be cast out as sinners (sarcasm), and that the true work begins on the fourth day. And that can take on many forms, and certainly doesn’t require fighting public health orders designed to keep us safe so that we can gather in person.

The small parishes I know have adapted as best they can. They continue to effectively and regularly minister to their people and take care of their community. They understand that this isn’t forever and that love includes making sacrifices to care for one another.

I think the leaders Springs Church needs to revisit the story of Jesus destroying the Temple (John 2:13-16) and genuinely do some self evaluation. They should seriously revisit their role in the community, and rather than waste thousands and thousands of dollars in court fees and fines, make a commitment instead to using that money to take care of those who need caring for. I can only imagine what good could have been done to care for others with the amount of money they have already lost to this useless fight.

And mostly, while they most certainly have the right to worship, recognize that their rights end where another’s begin. Put others before yourselves.

This was an important ruling, and the judge got it so, so right.