I have asked our Synod Attorney, Mrs. Megan Will, to write to us about the importance of following this shutdown. I am sharing this with you for your information and so that you may share this with you members. Please see what Mrs. Will writes below. I think it is important to note that in addition to being in private practice, Mrs. Will is an Assistant District Attorney for Somerset county. She understands this order from many different perspectives.
Mrs. Will has also sent the order from Governor Wolf.
Please note that Mrs. Will says that we should not expose ourselves or the Synod to liability. The same holds true for our congregations. We don’t want to do anything which could lead to fines or penalties for our people.
Please know you continue to be in my prayers. May the peace of Christ be with you as you care for your people.
+Bishop Michael Rhyne
From: Megan Will <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Friday, March 20, 2020 12:50 PM
To: Bishop Michael Rhyne <BishopMichael@alleghenysynod.com>
Subject: Governor's Order
I've received numerous calls, messages, and emails about Governor Wolf's order. The Governor has statutory authority to declare what he did, as cited in the order (attached). More importantly, he has been guided by a team of health officials in making these decisions in order to keep us safe. I know no one likes this order, but we must abide by it.
I am not a doctor and if our medical professionals are saying this is what needs done in order to help stop this virus from spreading, I'm going to follow that advice. I've ordered my staff to stay home and shuttered my office for 2 weeks. This isn't about politics or religion -- these are experts asking us to stay home and avoid people. I'm going to listen to them.
Perhaps even more important than the above, businesses (the church included) find themselves substantially at risk if they refuse to comply. They face criminal charges, loss of funding, loss of licenses, etc. The PA District Attorney's Association has given each county's DA office a list of what to cite businesses with and why for failure to comply with this order. ANY CONGREGATION WHO THINKS THEY CAN IGNORE THIS ORDER IS PLACING THEIR FUTURE AND LIVELIHOOD AT RISK. This is serious; this is not a media thing. This is science and we have to comply.
Shepherd your people through this crisis but please emphasize that now is not the time for resistance. I'm not willing to expose myself or this Synod to liability because someone else refuses to listen to a team of experts and comply with a Governor's Order. I am certain you feel the same.