Dear BIC U.S. pastors and congregations,
Greetings in the name of Jesus, Lord of the Church.
On March 17, 2020, the Leadership Council of BIC U.S. met to prayerfully discuss and provide counsel to the Church regarding the COVID-19 crisis that much of the world is experiencing, including the United States. This is our counsel:
Trust in God
While we live with the uncertainty this crisis has brought, as the people of God we are called to trust and not to fear. We are encouraged by these words from Hebrews:
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
We Are the Church
We remind ourselves that we are the Church; we do not “go to Church.” Look for ways to keep in touch with one another, especially the elderly, the sick, the financially distressed, and the lonely. Use your phones, texts, emails, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Zoom, etc. to keep in touch. Galvanize your people to meet immediate needs, both in your congregation and in your community. Pray for one another, and your neighbors. We may well discover ways to care for and serve one another that previously did not occur to us. This can be a time of learning, a time of opportunity. Pay attention to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. And remember, we seek to be people of peace in a world of turmoil.
Respect Those in Authority
Government is God’s idea. As Romans 13:4 says, “The one in authority is God’s servant for your good.” It is for the benefit of society to have governmental authority in place and medical competency elevated to positions of responsibility and counsel. Leadership Council advises that we follow the instructions of those governmental and medical personnel who are giving their best judgments for the benefit of all of us. We recommend that each of us follow the advice provided at cdc.gov. The counsel to not gather in larger groups means we should suspend our main congregational gatherings until advised that group gatherings are safe for the public.
Use Technology Creatively
We encourage you to utilize electronic means for teaching/preaching, worshipping together, and giving. Some BIC U.S. congregations are providing opportunities to join an online worship experience. While we acknowledge that, in regular circumstances, online gatherings are not a substitute for gathering in person, they can be helpful at this time. Whether you choose to gather electronically or not, we encourage regular connection with persons via phone and/or other communication technologies.
Encourage Online Giving to Support Congregational Ministry
We encourage continued giving of our tithes and offerings through electronic giving or checks mailed to church offices. Be aware and attentive to the needs of those in the congregation and community that may be experiencing financial stress and need.
The annual meetings of the Susquehanna Regional Conference (scheduled for March 21, 2020), the Atlantic Regional Conference (scheduled for March 28, 2020), and the Allegheny Regional Conference (scheduled for April 4, 2020), will not meet in-person but rather will utilize electronic communication methodologies. The bishop of each region will provide further information to the respective congregations.
The annual meetings of the Great Lakes Regional Conference and the Pacific Regional Conference are both scheduled for April 25, 2020. The respective bishop will decide and communicate to their region by early April how these meetings will take place.
Two important gatherings are planned for early July in Salina, Kansas. The first (July 8-10, 2020) is a Global Team Workshop for all BIC U.S. missionaries. This gathering will be followed by General Assembly (July 10-14, 2020). We continue to plan for both events in the prayerful hope that they can proceed. A decision will be made on whether they will proceed by May 5, 2020.
Throughout the Church’s history we have found ways to carry out the mission of God to bless all the families of the earth through Jesus Christ, no matter the empire in power, no matter the winds of war or peace, no matter the issues of financial or medical crisis. Let us continue to carry out this mission, with faith and wisdom, with love and power.
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” Psalm 91:1-2
God bless you richly,
Brethren in Christ U.S.