Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Arkansas Conference:

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

I give thanks to God for all the ways laity and clergy have continued to proclaim the Gospel, reach out to those in your congregation who are isolated, feed hungry people and help those who are struggling because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Like you, I have noticed that Covid-19 has become a political issue in recent days. This saddens me greatly. Now is not the time for people of faith to argue about political perspectives. It is the time for us to focus on keeping people safe. Yet doing so is no simple task. On the one hand, the virus still has the capability of surging and killing thousands more. On the other hand, more than 40 million people have lost jobs and are rightly deeply concerned about the welfare of their families. Those of us who love Jesus have a wonderful opportunity to work together to responsibly address both of these tragedies.

Here is my latest guidance concerning the safe reopening of your church.

  1. Governor Hutchinson has indicated he is delaying the start of Phase 2 reopening because we have reached a second peak in the number of Covid-19 cases that can still go even higher. I agree with the Governor’s action. Therefore, I highly recommend delaying the beginning of ARUMC Stage 2 – which allows 50 or fewer people to gather utilizing the Governor’s May 4 safety guidance for places of worship – from the middle of June until at least June 28. I will keep you updated in the coming weeks.
  2. It is imperative that you treat Governor Hutchinson’s May 4 Guidance as a directive that must be followed, regardless of when your church initiates any in-person gatherings of any size. This is non-negotiable – for me and for the State of Arkansas – because unsafe in-person gatherings literally put people’s lives at risk.
  3. Your church must involve your Board of Trustees in any decisions about reopening any in-person gatherings. Additionally, you must inform your District Superintendent about your plans for safely reopening prior to publicizing any in-person gatherings.

We will be dealing with the impact of Covid-19 for a long time. I know you are weary and, at times, overwhelmed. Take good care of yourself. Do no harm. Treat each other with extravagant grace. And pray. Together, we will get through this.

Grace and peace,

Gary E. Mueller
Bishop