Today, the Arizona judicatory leaders of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, The United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ, and The Episcopal Church jointly sent the following letter to Governor Doug Ducey:
Dear Governor Ducey,
We, the Arizona leaders of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church, want to thank you for your leadership in handling the COVID-19 pandemic in our state. Your clear press conferences, and especially the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected” policy has helped flatten the curve and keep the epidemic somewhat under control in our state. You are saving lives, especially lives of the most vulnerable citizens of our state, by your actions. As a Christian, it is clear that in this season, to love our neighbors means to stay apart from our neighbors as much as possible.
We write now to encourage you to extend that order for our citizens to stay home and healthy until reliable testing is available to ensure that we do not suffer a much more significant outbreak. We do not want Phoenix or Tucson to be the next New York City, New Orleans, or Detroit. The economic costs of a few more weeks of staying at home are far outweighed by the costs in lives and subsequent economic shut-downs.
We are sure that you and your advisors are working on strategies and benchmarks for reopening businesses and organizations in Arizona. We would ask that you include religious leaders in those plans. We are a significant source of socialization and interaction for many elderly and vulnerable Arizonans, and we want to keep our people safe. Like all other small businesses and non-profits, we are bearing the economic costs of this shut-down; but we would not trade our members’ lives for a few months of donations.
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Arizona has 25 congregations, with approximately 2750 members, and congregations in metro Phoenix, Tucson, Prescott, and Globe.
The Episcopal Diocese of Arizona comprises 64 worshipping communities and over 21,000 residents of Arizona. We have cancelled all in-person public worship from March 16, continuing at this time tentatively through May 25.
The Grand Canyon Synod of the ELCA compromises 90 worshipping communities and over 33,000 members in Arizona and Southern Nevada. The GCS encouraged suspension of in person worship beginning March 15 and continuing through April. With your support the GCS will extend the recommendation into May. We have also canceled out National Rostered Minister Gathering that was going to be held in Phoenix this summer.
The Southwest Conference of the United Church of Christ includes 46 congregations and 2 faith communities in Arizona, New Mexico, and El Paso, Texas representing 6,000 members. These people of faith have suspended in-person gatherings through at least May 16. We have also cancelled our church camp this summer.
The Desert Southwest Conference of The United Methodist Church includes 117 congregations and 11 fellowships in Arizona and southern Nevada. Representing almost 26,000 members, these people of faith have suspended in-person gatherings through April 30, 2020. This impacts an average attendance of almost 18,000 people.
A large percentage of all our members are elderly and have medical conditions that put them at risk for critical or fatal outcomes if they become infected. We have kept open our food pantries and emergency services as we are able, and many of our congregations have seen a curious increase in attendance at their live-streamed worship. It is hard, but we are weathering the storm.
Thank you for your service to our nation and our citizens.
The Right Rev. Jennifer A. Reddall
Sixth Episcopal Bishop of Arizona
On behalf of:
The Rev. Deborah K. Hutterer
Bishop, Grand Canyon Synod
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The Rev. Jay R. Hartley
Regional Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Arizona
The Rev. Dr. Robert T. Hoshibata
The Desert Southwest Conference
The United Methodist Church
Rev. Dr. William M. Lyons, Conference Minister
Southwest Conference of the United Church of Christ