The Faithful America letter rejects dangerous rhetoric from Robert Jeffress and Cardinal Dolan, and commits to sacrificing for others this Advent.
As coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths spike to record levels, 13,605 people and counting have signed an open letter titled, “Christians support digital worship this Christmas.”
The letter was organized by Faithful America, the largest online community of grassroots Christians putting faith into action for social justice. Faithful America’s members are both lay and ordained, and represent every major U.S. Christian denomination. Their letter reads,
“Not being together in person is so hard this time of year, but we know the best way to love our neighbors and celebrate the birth of a savior who healed the sick is to slow the spread of COVID-19 by limiting our public gatherings, including worship.
“As Christians, we reject the rhetoric of those who dismiss public-health guidelines in the warped name of ‘religious freedom.’ We thank all bishops, pastors, priests, and other ministers who have chosen to suspend in-person services, including for Advent and Christmas, worshipping only online until key public-health indicators are met in their areas. Their leadership is truly Christian behavior.”
The ecumenical signatures come in response to recent comments made by Donald Trump adviser Robert Jeffress, who mocked coronavirus doctors on Fox News when he proclaimed November 22, “I think I’m going to listen to God’s word rather than the WHO when it comes to worship.”
The open letter also objects to a dangerous new Supreme Court decision striking down New York State’s public-health restrictions on churches, a ruling sought by the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and cheered by Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan.
In a statement, Faithful America campaigns director Rev. Nathan Empsall said,
“As moral leaders, it often falls to priests and pastors to make unpopular decisions. In many places this Christmas, wearing masks and socially distancing simply won’t be enough, and our churches will need to sacrifice for others by finding creative ways to worship exclusively online.
“Faithful America’s members pray that all our fellow Americans will take the steps needed to end this pandemic before it claims a second Easter. In the meantime, we will continue to follow our healing savior by doing what we can to protect one another from the virus, showing that the religious right does not speak for all American Christians.
“We take heart that when Jesus said he will be among those who gather in his name, he did not say we must gather in person. Ultimately, the church is not a building. It is God’s people, wherever they are. However and wherever you are safely celebrating this year, Jesus will be there. Merry Christmas!”
Rev. Nathan Empsall