Elders’ Update on Church Services

Updated 5/23/2020

“Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed…” – Titus 3:1

Grace Bible Church Family,

Yesterday, May 22, President Trump declared churches and other places of worship as “essential,” and strongly requested that Governors of the various States allow churches, synagogues, and mosques to immediately open this Memorial Day weekend. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division issued an opinion letter to the State of California requesting the lessening of church restrictions. As well, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued non-binding guidelines for such openings to occur. This has, no doubt, stoked the fires of political debate, and will likely result in legal challenges of Federal versus States’ rights. In response to President Trump’s request, Grace Community Church in Southern California announced they will be holding church services this weekend, and approximately 1,200 pastors in California have also vowed to hold services on or before May 31. Some in our church family have asked the Elders what we are going to do in light of these actions?

The local and worldwide coronavirus pandemic, and the corresponding restrictions on our freedoms to combat it, is certainly an unprecedented, providential trial that none of us have faced in our lifetimes. There is a tension in the air that is increasingly causing division among peoples in society, and worse, it could even cause division in the church. Yet we must not forget that all of this is God ordained—God is in this—and we must rest in our Lord’s sovereignty, providence, and goodness. We must stay unified as a body of believers, relying upon the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guarding our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7). During this unprecedented time, we are called—as we always are—to be obedient to our governing authorities, regardless of whether or not we disagree with their orders, as Titus 3:1, 1 Peter 2:13-17, and Romans 13:1-7 remind us.

Every State is making its own decision on when and how to re-open church services, and the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that States can place restrictions on religious gatherings if 1) those same restrictions apply to non-religious gatherings, and 2) are not intended to target religion. The Washington State stay-home orders are not targeted at churches nor religion but apply broadly across various sectors of society. Our Governor is currently meeting with faith leaders to discuss religious gatherings under the phased re-opening of Washington, but as of now, we are still prohibited from gathering under the Governor’s stay-home orders. The President’s press release yesterday was a plea to Governors to act swiftly to re-open churches, but it was not a mandate and the President still deferred to a Governor’s authority over affairs of the State. The DOJ letter likewise was not a mandate and also deferred to a Governor’s authority. Even if the President overrules Governors who continue to restrict religious services, as he promised to do, there is a legitimate legal question on whether he has the authority to do so. The courts will need to decide this legal issue.

Balancing our trust in the providence of God, submission and obedience to the governing authorities, care for our health and safety, and love for our neighbor, we will continue to honor the health restrictions called-for by our Governor for our well-being. We will not be meeting in-person this Sunday or in the near future, for now. Rather, we are waiting, watching, and praying daily about this developing situation, and ask that you join us in prayer for the Governor to allow us to join together sooner than later. In the meantime, please continue to remain safe and healthy by attending all of our church services online.

While we are away from one another, we need to stay rooted in God’s Word and connected through the use of technology. As the world around us faces fear, insecurity, and mounting division, there is no better place to be than reflecting on the sovereignty, providence, and goodness of our Lord in His Word. This current situation is a good reminder to all of us that we live in an uncertain world and our confidence and trust is only found in the sovereignty of God. God reigns over everything and has predetermined that which is good for all of us within His kingdom (Romans 8:28–32). We need to be the most balanced, reasonable, stable, hopeful, and joyful people in our community. If we are true followers of Jesus Christ, we must demonstrate it, not being in fear or in disobedience, but seeing every day as a day full of God’s providence.

We are here to serve you, so please contact any Elder or ministry leader if you have any questions or we can be of assistance to you during this challenging time. Please continue to pray for this developing situation and one another as well. We are looking forward to being together again soon when our governing authorities declare it is prudent to do so, and will keep our church family updated.

Grace Bible Church Elders