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Response to Wisconsin Supreme Court Ruling from Bishop Miller

May 14, 2020

Our citizenship is in heaven and from it we await a Savior. (Philippians 3:20)
 
Dear Friends in Christ,
 
The verse quoted above came to me when I learned yesterday afternoon that the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the “Safer at Home” order issued by the Governor and the Department of Health Services. Watching the news this morning, my television screen was filled with pictures of people gathered in Wisconsin bars at anything but a safe social distance. In fact, our state now has a F rating for Social Distancing according to local news reports.

This particularly saddens me because over the last two weeks I have been working with our Way Forward Task Force* to produce a plan with appropriate protocols to reopen our churches once Phase One of the Badger Bounce Back plan is initiated. The Way Forward Task Force is a group of people I’ve assembled made up of medical professionals and diocesan clergy to examine data and advice from public health officials as well as other dioceses and judicatories. It is my hope that the task force will complete its work shortly so that congregations will have ample opportunity to prepare to resume public worship in accordance with these guidelines. My fear is that behaviors in the aftermath of this early opening in parts of our State will make it necessary to delay resuming public worship because of a renewed outbreak of COVID-19 cases at numbers that exhaust our health care resources.

I know some of you are very anxious to return to in person worship. I would remind you of those much cherished words of the Apostle Paul found in his first letter to the Corinthians, “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Cor. 13:4-8). In this situation, our love of our neighbor requires that all of us display these attributes of love now and as we move forward.

Because our citizenship is in heaven, the pastoral direction I issued on April 17 remains in force. Through May 31, churches in the diocese are not authorized to offer public worship. This court decision, and the subsequent response of many, may make it necessary for the safety of the members of the diocese to extend the pastoral direction for an even longer period of time.

My expectation, based on the advice of the task force, is that we will begin a phased re-opening for public worship 14 days after the initiation of Phase One of the Badger Bounce Back plan. I pray that day comes sooner rather than later.
 
Yours in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Steven Andrew Miller
Bishop of Milwaukee
 

*Members of the Way Forward Task Force:
Amy Dunlop, MSN, PPCNP-BC, APNP; the Rev. Dave Mowers; the Rev. Geoff Ward; James Mahoney, MD; the Rev. Jana Troutman-Miller; William Berger, MD; the Rev. Bill Dunlop; Bishop Steven A. Miller

Message from Bishop Miller on the updated status of public worship

 

To the Clergy and People of the Diocese of Milwaukee

Dear Friends in Christ, 

Grace to you and peace in this week as we rejoice in Jesus’ resurrection. Easter week reminds us that God will make us more than conquerors through his deathless love. While our Easter celebrations are different, what remains the same is God’s love, grace, and victory given to us in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.

I write you again today as your bishop, chief pastor and canonical overseer as promised. The purpose of this letter is to inform you of my decision to extend the pastoral direction that Clergy and Churches of the Diocese of Milwaukee suspend public worship until at least May 31. I will continue to assess this situation in light of developments and prepare to give directions for the future. It might be necessary to extend this directive even longer. This directive applies to all our congregations, clergy and licensed lay ministers.

I have already begun thinking about what safeguards will need to be in place when we do resume public worship. In the days ahead, I will be working together with staff, the Standing Committee, and the Executive Council to establish clear and comprehensive guidelines for our return to public worship when that is both possible and permitted.

I continue to spend my days in Zoom conferences, webinars, and phone calls. It is a very different way to do ministry. I am sure this is true for the majority of our clergy as well. I have never been as busy since when I began my ministry as your bishop 17 years ago. In the midst of it all, I am sustained by your God’s grace and your prayers. The joy of seeing some of you at Zoom coffee hours has been a joy for Cindy and me. We look forward to seeing you in this way until we can be together again.

Please know of my ongoing prayers for you all as this pandemic continues to unfold. If you would like me to pray for friends and loved ones who are working on the front lines of this pandemic, please send their names to me at   and I will add their name to my list. I ask you to pray for me as I seek to minister faithfully at this time. Pray for all our clergy and people.

Grace to you and peace.

+Steven
 
The Rt. Rev. Steven Andrew Miller
Bishop

Letter from Bishop: April 17, 2020

April 17, 2020

To the Clergy and People of the Diocese of Milwaukee

Dear Friends in Christ,

Grace to you and peace in this week as we rejoice in Jesus’ resurrection. Easter week reminds us that God will make us more than conquerors through his deathless love. While our Easter celebrations are different, what remains the same is God’s love, grace, and victory given to us in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.

I write you again today as your bishop, chief pastor and canonical overseer as promised. The purpose of this letter is to inform you of my decision to extend the pastoral direction that Clergy and Churches of the Diocese of Milwaukee suspend public worship until at least May 31. I will continue to assess this situation in light of developments and prepare to give directions for the future. It might be necessary to extend this directive even longer. This directive applies to all our congregations, clergy and licensed lay ministers.

I have already begun thinking about what safeguards will need to be in place when we do resume public worship. In the days ahead, I will be working together with staff, the Standing Committee, and the Executive Council to establish clear and comprehensive guidelines for our return to public worship when that is both possible and permitted.

I continue to spend my days in Zoom conferences, webinars, and phone calls. It is a very different way to do ministry. I am sure this is true for the majority of our clergy as well. I have never been as busy since when I began my ministry as your bishop 17 years ago. In the midst of it all, I am sustained by your God’s grace and your prayers. The joy of seeing some of you at Zoom coffee hours has been a joy for Cindy and me. We look forward to seeing you in this way until we can be together again.

Please know of my ongoing prayers for you all as this pandemic continues to unfold. If you would like me to pray for friends and loved ones who are working on the front lines of this pandemic, please send their names to me at   and I will add their name to my list. I ask you to pray for me as I seek to minister faithfully at this time. Pray for all our clergy and people.

Grace to you and peace.

+Steven

The Rt. Rev. Steven Andrew Miller
Bishop

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