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Greetings Minnesota Ministers.

Thanks once again for your faithfulness, creativity, ingenuity, and willingness to do “whatever it takes” to reach your communities. Who would have thought we’d collectively have the privilege of navigating such opportune days? I’m encouraged by the Scriptures and history as we always see the Church “Move Forward” during times of testing and change. As my friend Joe Gordon shared with me yesterday via Zoom from India, “this is not a time to shrink back”. Let’s continue to believe God is going to help us to accomplish MORE!

With that underlying truth, let me take a few moments to discuss the challenges at hand. Many pastors and leaders all across our state were disappointed yesterday that Governor Walz did not provide a specific timeline and roadmap for the expansion of “in-person” gatherings of faith. No assurance was offered that churches will be allowed to open anytime soon. The provision of allowing more businesses of all kinds to open, while continuing to prohibit religious gatherings beyond 10 individuals, was not a positive development. The disappointment is not limited to our Fellowship, but it appears to encompass leaders of many denominations. Evidence of this strong disappointment is seen in the headlines of the day, “Minnesota bishops will reopen public Masses, defy state order.” The Catholic Bishops’ letter was well crafted and expressed the concerns of many denominations. The Missouri Synod Lutherans have also issued a statement of intent to open up on May 26th.

In recent weeks we have communicated with Governor Walz and his team our desire to work within the framework of the executive orders he has issued. Together with approximately 1,000 Evangelical churches, from nine different denominations, serving approximately 500,000 worshipers, we expressed our desire to move forward towards the reopening of Minnesota churches in a safe manner. You can access our collective correspondence to the Governor’s Office from May 8th here: Letter to  Governor Walz.

It seems that the Governor’s remarks yesterday underscore a failure to recognize the vital role that churches across Minnesota play in serving their communities. While non-critical businesses have a clear, broad pathway to open, it appears churches are on a very narrow, slow path.

So, where do we go from here? In past correspondence we have shared recommendations of how to prepare for reopening.  Please review these documents and continue to work on implementation of your plan. Some of our General Council Minnesota churches are going forward with plans to reopen within the next 2 weeks. For the 68 “District Affiliated” or “District Supervised” churches, and also others who are not prepared or desiring to open yet, we’re going to travel a slower path. Please continue the process of preparation as we, along with other Evangelical Denominations, continue to request a clear path for the reopening of churches from the Governor. We will evaluate the trajectory of this course of action with our Presbyters and make adjustments in the future as needed.

A factor to consider is that there is a pending lawsuit from a large Minneapolis non-denominational church against the Governor and his Executive Order. It appears that lawsuit will be heard next week, and it is possible that the Governor’s Executive Order will be overturned. If not, I remain hopeful that we will see a ripple effect from all of us who have voiced concern, along with the prayers of the saints, that will cause the Governor to reconsider his current proposal.

I appreciate so much your expressions of concern & the outpouring of prayer with which you’ve covered your churches, communities, our district, and me personally. We know that God is in control & He will open doors as we continue to seek Him. Please know that we’re praying & fasting for God’s direction and wisdom, and for each of you as you lead in your specific areas of calling.

With love and appreciation,

Mark Dean

Additional links:
Minnesota Dept of Health Guidance for Faith-Based Communities
CDC Checklist for Community and Faith Leaders