An Open Letter to Living Hope Community Church
Recently to combat the spread of the Coronavirus, Governor Evers ordered the closure of all bars, restaurants, theaters, and other gathering places. This order also covers churches. Now, many will wonder about this order and why we at Living Hope Community Church are choosing to obey. This post answers that. I have noticed many strains of discussion on Social Media about this. Some have claimed it to be a violation of our rights. Some are claiming it to be an attack against the churches. Such speculation is seldom well-founded and even less helpful. Allow me to address these claims:
The governor’s actions are within the Constitutional Powers given to the Executive of each level of government. The Mayor of San Antonio, TX, has instituted far more draconian restrictions. Of course, such comparisons do not defend the actions we are discussing—they only put them in their proper place. The civil authorities are responsible for protecting the general health of the population. Do not read a political agenda into this. I am speaking about preventing the spread of disease.
Such action does not violate our rights as people of faith. If the governor were singling out churches, we would resist. If he were forbidding assembling for specifically religious purposes, we would refuse to comply. He is not. This order should not be considered an evil end-times scenario or back-door to tyranny. It is an attempt by the governor’s office to force people to comply with medical recommendations—recommendations that have been effective in other places. Our civil authorities have chosen to do it earlier in our state’s cycle of the disease to prevent a massive infection rate. Is it necessary? That is not for me to say. I have stated my opinion on it. But keep in mind that it is an opinion like any other.
We also choose to obey for a profound emotional reason. Suppose we decide to violate the order and hold public services. Many in our congregation are elderly and among the most at-risk population. If we meet, perhaps nothing would happen. But what if one of our beloved elderly members got sick and died? The weight of that decision would be upon the shoulders of our leaders for the rest of their days. As one who has spent his life with heavy responsibilities, it has been my duty to make plenty of hard decisions with painful results. I have cried over far too many coffins. I want to stand over none of our peoples’ graves any earlier than necessary.
Finally, there is a practical reason—which sounds terrible, but it is one we must consider. Suppose we violate the ban and continue to meet. If someone dies, legal action could come against the church and our leaders. The leaders who chose to violate this order would be personally and legally liable—perhaps even criminally. The church, likewise, could be held responsible, and our insurance would refuse to protect us.
As you know, we are part of a larger body—the C&MA. If our church lost such a case and was unable to pay, the C&MA would do so. As a result, money intended for missions and ministry would go to make up for our choice—one which we did not have to make. Keep in mind that one must always consider who else will be impacted by decisions.
With all of this, the elders and I agree it is best if we obey the governor’s ban. We are not bending to tyranny. We are doing as Romans 13 says by submitting to an authority ordained by God. We are not abandoning our sheep, but caring for them as Acts 20:27-28 and 1 Peter 5:2 command us to do.
So, what now? The elders and I must get creative. We will ensure that our people have teaching and opportunity for fellowship—in whatever form that takes over the next few weeks.
Finally, I must remind you of something I find uncomfortable. During this time, the church still has expenses, so she will be there when this is over. We have a mortgage to pay monthly and utilities. We also have salaries. What should you do? That is between you and your Master. Obey him:
- If you choose to give online or through the mail, bless you.
- If you choose to wait and give one gift when this is over, bless you.
- Whatever you choose, may God bless you for it.
Pastor Ken Cluck and the Elders of Living Hope Community Church PS. It is now on us to make sure we come out of this situation as better disciples than we are going into it. It won’t be easy. It means ministry “outside of the box.” God bless