I am writing to you regarding your recently unveiled plan to re-open CA. Thank you for the work that you are doing during this unprecedented situation. I do not envy your position as Governor of the great state of CA at this time, as not even the best among us are sufficient for these things.
That said, I have serious concerns with the way that your plan approaches churches and other places of worship. Your plan basically equates churches gathering for corporate worship with such things as hair & nail salons, gyms, and movie theaters. It does so implicitly by placing them on the same stage (phase #3) of re-opening.
That couldn’t be more wrong. Frankly, it seems rather insulting to people of faith. (I trust that this was in no way your intent.)
Granted, there are many professing Christians who practically treat the church and corporate worship as non-essential (i.e. those who have chosen, long before the current pandemic, not to attend public worship at all), and there are others who in some ways all but treat it as crassly as mere entertainment (i.e. something like a show to attend). But these are aberrations, and they represent neither the biblical view nor the practice of most sincere Christians.
The church being gathered together for public worship and prayer is the very definition of essential. Churches should be allowed to gather for worship (even if requiring us to follow the current safety guidelines) ASAP. The opening of our churches should be included in phase 1. That should be a leading priority.
To do otherwise is to trivialize (even if unintentionally) the church. Our people need to gather for worship. Worship is essentially not something that you just watch on a screen as a spectator (despite the ability to broadcast or live-stream services). Truth be told, the members of the church are themselves every bit as essential as the pastors or leaders up front.
In addition to this, apart from public worship we cannot administer the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These cannot be observed remotely or privately. In 1 Corinthians chapter 11 (where the Apostle writes on the subject of the Lord’s Supper at length), multiple times he says “When you come together” (v.19, 20, 33). The public gathering of the church is essential to these things.
I do not know your own personal beliefs or faith. I hope and pray that if you do not already know the Lord Jesus, that God would bring you to repentance and faith in Christ so that you too might know the peace of having your sins forgiven and the joy of eternal life by the grace of God. Either way I sincerely hope that you will understand how important the gathered church is to the life and well-being of sincere Christians. This is no minor issue, and it is worthy of your time & attention.
I will not bother to appeal to the first amendment here, although I believe that to be an important factor in all of this as well. Rather, I wish to appeal to you simply on the basis of a sincere desire for the common good of the citizens of our great state, of which God Himself has chosen to appoint you to the place of honor and authority as Governor. (See Romans 13:1.) Who knows but perhaps God has chosen you for such a time as this.
I am praying for you, and hope that you are well. May the Lord Jesus Christ, “the ruler of kings on earth” (Revelation 1:5), greatly bless you and your family, and give you great grace and mercy in all that you seek to do for the good of California.
Sincerely, Andy Schreiber (Pastor, Ramona Valley Presbyterian Church)