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Statement on the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha

We lament yet another shooting of an unarmed Black man, Jacob Blake, by law enforcement. One such shooting is one too many, and yet in our nation the numbers of such shootings continue. We join those who call for a complete and impartial investigation of this travesty.

We share in the outrage caused by this shooting and many like it. We pray that our righteous anger will strengthen our common effort to combat the unholy Trinity of racism, poverty and violence, and that the destruction of property in our communities will cease.

Please join me in praying for the healing and full recovery of Mr. Blake and for the healing of his three sons who witnessed this horrific event. Pray, too, for the City of Kenosha, its leaders, and all its people.

The Rt. Rev. Steven A. Miller

The Rt. Rev. Steven A. Miller is bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee and a founding member and co-convener of Bishops United Against Gun Violence.

Letter to the Diocese from Bishop Miller: August 2020

Dear Friends in Christ,

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I write you with an update regarding our diocesan response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When this all began, I, like many of you, believed that we would be back to in-person worship by summer, that cases would decline, and that sooner rather than later this would be behind us. Sadly, this is not the case. Last week marked the first time that none of the counties served by the Diocese of Milwaukee were eligible under our guidelines to offer in-person worship. We are seeing an increasing number of cases, particularly in our rural counties — Dodge, Walworth, and Richland. To say that this is not a good development is to state the obvious.

This week the bishops of the Church had the privilege of meeting with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Health (yes, that Dr. Fauci). He reminded all of us that the three most effective ways to combat the spread of COVID-19 are universal mask-wearing, physical distancing, and that outdoor gatherings are safer than indoor gatherings. He also told us that we are likely to see an increase in cases in wintertime and that if people must gather indoors to do so with doors and windows open and heat systems turned up higher than normal. Dr. Fauci also told us this pandemic would end, but he did not believe we would see a vaccine until the second quarter of next year.

Moreover, our Wisconsin Council of Churches has recommended, based on what we are continuing to learn about the disease, that churches take a step back in reopening plans and return to online-only worship. Your Way Forward Task Force continues to weigh these recommendations.

One response to all this is to look back to what was before and either lament or seek to replicate it. One form this has taken is doing everything that congregations used to do in person online and adding to it. In such a model every congregation remains in its own orbit resulting in more energy keeping all the plates spinning while adding more. My fear is that this is a recipe for burnout and exhaustion as evidenced by a recent survey of Wisconsin clergy. We need to remember what the Scripture says about looking back from the story of Lot’s wife being turned in to a pillar of salt in the book of Genesis through the murmuring of the Israelites in the desert found in the book of Exodus to Jesus’ words recorded in the Gospel of Luke, “No one who puts their hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

I would invite you to see this present moment as a journey to a new place God has promised in the words of the hymn sadly no longer in our hymnal, Once to Every Man and Nation, “new occasions teach new duties.” The call to us is to learn the lessons of this time and move forward in hope and confidence that what God has in store for us is better than we can ask or imagine.

From the beginning, it has been clear to me that this pandemic can and should be a time of growth and innovation. That is why early on I insisted that we worship together as a diocese to free clergy up for pastoral care through increased connectivity in multiple platforms. Smaller gatherings at the parochial level supplement this common gathering. Recently, a group of clergy has begun to meet to discern and hopefully create a Christian formation program to be shared around the diocese. With the increased likelihood that we will not be back to public worship until the middle of next year, the time is now to begin to think about how to observe Advent and Christmas in creative ways while grieving what cannot be, at least this year.

I would remind you of my words to you in my Pentecost sermon,

“At all times God calls us to sing a new song. God is using this time to bring forth new ways, new opportunities to sing a new song and tell the story of God’s love, even while we find ourselves on alien soil in our own living rooms…

God has given us yet again new means to communicate his love with others. God continues to empower his people.

God is using this time, this moment, this opportunity to bring forth new ways to teach the Gospel, to make disciples, to proclaim the faith. We are singing to the Lord a new song and that makes my heart glad because now more than ever the world needs to hear Jesus’ message, love one another.”

I am confident that God can and will use this time to strengthen his people if we will simply open ourselves to the possibilities before us.


Yours in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Steven Andrew Miller
Bishop of Milwaukee

July 16 | Way Forward Task Force Updates

Update from the way forward task force

July 16, 2020
 
 
To all the beloved in Christ in the Diocese of Milwaukee:
 
Dear Friends in Christ,
 
To keep pace with these changing times and to incorporate the creative to solutions that you all have presented to serve our communities during this time in the COVID-19 pandemic, the Way Forward Task Force has updated the diocesan Returning to Public Worship Guidelines (Guidelines) and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). I am writing today to provide those updated documents.

Though many of you have submitted your plans and had them approved, please keep in mind that permission to meet in-person is not encouragement and may be rescinded. The Diocese of Milwaukee Regathering Risk Assessment Dashboard (Dashboard) and county evaluation criteria ultimately determine whether you can consider meeting and, if so, how many people can be present. As of now, in most places within the diocese, it is still not in the best interest of our communities to meet in person.

The updates to the Guidelines and FAQs include:

  • Guideline Requirements and Recommendations were streamlined, and new guidelines provided in the FAQs have been incorporated into the Guidelines.
  • Guidelines for other parish meetings have been added.
  • We have made it a requirement to provide information to persons at higher risk for contracting COVID-19 to better inform their decisions about attending in-person events.
  • Other minor clarifications and edits of the Guidelines have been made.

I would like to stress the requirement to provide the CDC information on the personal, informed decision-making process. Those websites should be a part of your communications to the members of the diocese and those who visit or use our facilities. The recent spikes in COVID-19 place a great number of us at greater risk. Poor decision-making by many are having a disastrous and deadly effect on us all. Stressing this information is important and required.

As you continue to submit plans or revisions to existing plans, please use the updated Guidelines to develop those plans. Also, any new requirement should be incorporated into your day-to-day operations. Please continue to check the Regathering Risk Assessment Dashboard and county health departments.

The following are links to the updated Guidelines and FAQs:

The Task Force will continue to monitor the events around us related to COVID-19 and respond to your questions. We will also update the FAQs frequently and the Guidelines as required.

As always, if you have questions about these guidelines, please feel free to contact us. Questions specifically pertaining to the Regathering Risk Assessment Dashboard, its methodology, or its underlying data may be sent directly to the Rev. Dave Mowers ( ). All other questions and plan submittal should be sent to me ( ) with a copy to Rev. Bill Dunlop ( ) and Patty Jaffke ( ).

Yours in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Steven Andrew Miller
Bishop of Milwaukee

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