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Statement From Bishop Fairley - Our Moral Obligation

posted on May 09

Yesterday, a federal court judge ruled that churches may hold in-person services beginning this Sunday. The ruling essentially nullifies Gov. Beshear’s order that churches be closed until May 20th. In response to the questions being raised regarding this ruling, I invite each of you to search deep in your hearts and seek God’s word about our obligation to protect life. We talk about the sacredness of life; now that sacredness is being tested by a virus that none of us would wish on anybody. 
As you decide whether to open tomorrow because of the recent court ruling or without social distancing, you might consider having conversations with people who have experienced firsthand what this virus not only does to the body, but the grief and pain it causes to families who have lost someone dear to them. We tend to be great around protecting our rights, and that is as it should be. (It is always right to do right.) You should not deprive others of their constitutional rights.
But there comes a time when as Christian people, we must seek the guidance of a higher moral law. I am now appealing to that place in our hearts and souls. I am praying that each of you consider the greater question around our moral obligations. Recently, our decisions have been around the divisiveness of politics, the latest news cycle, court rulings, Governor’s statements, and often our own interpretation of religion itself. Some may even make decisions based on what we read on social media. 
I strongly urge that you follow the Governor’s and our Kentucky Annual Conference Re-entry Task Force guidelines for in-person worship and ministry. Please do not resume worship before May 24th at the earliest. Do not resume worship before you can fulfill the Governor’s and the Task Force guidelines. Take as long as you need to prepare and resume in-person worship as safely as possible.

It is time we think with our hearts, saying with Jesus as he prayed in the garden, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42 (NIV). Search deep and ask yourself: What would be God’s will, life or death? I think the very definition of what it means to worship is being tested. Worship is a glorifying praise to God through Jesus Christ. Neither COVID-19, nor anything else, should ever prevent us from worshiping God wherever and however circumstances might dictate. Are we glorifying the risen savior when we worship knowing we could spread serious illness and death to the most vulnerable among us?
We have learned that this virus does not discriminate based on class, age, race, gender, ethnicity or any other status. Those of us who survive this pandemic will get to worship together again soon, but those who have, and will, lose their lives will never get to sing, rejoice, pray, and praise God with us on this side of life. It may be the greatest and deepest decision we will make. Let’s make it with the words of the greatest commandment on our lips.