March 16, 2020

Dear Pastors and Lay Leadership of the Arkansas Conference,

We give thanks to God for you! You are facing a crisis that has turned our world, your lives and the way church operates upside down. We have seen firsthand how you have adapted very quickly, and added new ways to worship through live streaming, reached out to your members through phone calls and social media, and keep trying to find ways to minister with those who are hungry, sick or struggling. Throughout it all, you have remained faithful and responsible, even while you are exhausted and anxious yourselves. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for being ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ who truly are making a difference.

Sadly, the threat of COVID-19 continues to increase and virtually all experts in the field are sounding the alarm about more significant, even drastic, measures the public needs to take. This includes a recommendation released yesterday by the CDC that there be no gatherings of more than 50 people and President Trump’s just-issued recommendation that gatherings include no more than 10 people. Why is this important? The latest studies indicate that people who have contracted COVID-19 often are contagious for three to five days before they are symptomatic.

We are writing to tell you in the strongest terms possible to cancel all regular in-person church meetings, events, and worship for the next several weeks. Indeed, if it were solely up to any one of us, we would close all churches for normal activities in the coming weeks. 

We are aware some of you believe this is an overreaction and giving into fear. The medical experts assure us it is not. It is simply trying to do everything we can to keep this disease from spreading the best way possible – by keeping people apart. If you overreact, that’s all you do. If you fail to act, someone’s life may be in danger.

The first of John Wesley’s General Rules is to “do no harm.” Being a spiritual leader means you are not just concerned about yourself, you have a responsibility to care for others. You alone can make decisions that ensure no harm is done as you look after all of those in your congregation.

We know how hard all of this is. We are also aware of the great weight you are bearing in these difficult times. That’s why we want to remind you yet again: God is still God, Jesus is still Lord and the Holy Spirit is still the Holy Spirit.

Please get in touch with your District Superintendent or the Bishop so we can pray for you or if we can be of any help in other ways.

Grace and peace,
Gary E. Mueller, Bishop
Karon Mann, Conference Lay Leader
Todd Burris, Director of Center for Administrative Services
Amy Ezell, Director of Center for Communication
Jim Polk, Director of Center for Connectional Ministries
Blake Bradford, District Superintendent/Chief Mission Strategist of the Central District
Stephen Coburn, District Superintendent/Chief Mission Strategist of the Northwest District
John Fleming, District Superintendent/Chief Mission Strategist of the Northeast District
J.J. Galloway, District Superintendent/Chief Mission Strategist of the Southwest District
Mark Norman, District Superintendent/Chief Mission Strategist of the Southeast District