Faith leaders stress the focus on the reopening of churches as Trump pushes for in-person services

Faith leaders stress the focus on the reopening of churches as Trump pushes for in-person services

“I would like to be very honest, I think the President’s push was clearly a political move. Most churches have never considered themselves closed. We are simply outside our buildings,” said Rev. Franklyn Richardson, prime minister of the Conference of National Black Churches, he told CNN on Sunday.

The drive to reopen churches has only become the latest debate in the coronavirus culture wars. Announcing Friday that his administration would publish a guide that considered “essential” places of worship, Trump called on governors to reopen religious institutions for services.

“Some governors considered liquor stores and abortion clinics essential, but they left churches and houses of worship outside. It’s not fair. So I’m correcting this injustice and calling the houses of worship essential,” Trump said during his announcement in the White House.

But eminent leaders of the faith are taking on a different tone – emphasizing a science-driven process of reopening, while promoting virtual worship as a safe alternative.

The Lutheran Evangelical Church of the bishop presiding in America, Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, told CNN on Sunday: “I have even heard from some in my own denomination that it is a faith against fear, and it is only a false dichotomy. Protecting others is a faithful answer. “

God, he said, “has given us the gift of science and I am urging my congregations, my pastors and deacons to be guided by the CDC guidelines. We have issued guidelines to gradually return to worship in person and pay attention to governors and state and local mayors. “

These comments were taken up by Rev. Terri Hord Owens, general minister and president of the Disciples of Christ, who said Sunday was “in no way prepared to hasten that process” of reopening personal services.

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“I think we need to have more tests. We have to have treatments and vaccines available and we are encouraging our congregations to simply pay attention to science – to think carefully about what would be involved to ensure protocols to keep everyone safe,” she said. .

Large gatherings, such as those in houses of worship, have been linked to coronavirus groups. This month, two churches in northern California have linked the spread of coronavirus among church members and clergy to Mother’s Day services. A Texas church recently wiped out its masses after the death of one of its priests and five others later tested positive for coronavirus.

And while Trump complained that virtual religious services are not the same as those in person, congregations across the country have proven themselves adept at collaborating on virtual events during the pandemic.

On Sunday evening, thousands of churches joined together for the virtual memorial service in honor of the victims of Covid-19.

The event – which was attended by Richardson, Eaton and Owens – was organized through the National Council of Churches and streamed on social media.

“We simply committed to do whatever is necessary to make this type of event happen from local congregations to this type of national service,” said Owens of the virtual service, which presented a list of people who died from the coronavirus.

“And so I think when we see needs develop, people really only commit to making sure we respond to needs and being creative in the way we do it.”

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CNN’s Maegan Vazquez contributed to this report.

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