May 28, 2020 Update
Dear fellow Redeemed,
Today I just got approval from the CID Board of Directors to pursue legal remedies to the Governor's restrictions regarding in-person church attendance. Working together with First Liberty Institute, Wilmer Hale Law Offices, the Northern Illinois District, the Southern Illinois District, and President Matthew Harrison with the LCMS Board of Directors we were going to ask for relief through the courts for what seemed to be unequal treatment of the churches in light of the lifting of restrictions on retail businesses, restaurants, bars, etc. Beating us to the punch, the Governor announced during his press conference today that new guidelines were now available to our churches. Although in many respects they are still recommending the strictest regulations they are now allowing 25% capacity of our facilities not to exceed 100 whichever is less, the wearing of face masks, social distancing, and hygienic and sanitary practice for indoor services. Pastors and leaders need to discuss these new guidelines and develop a plan. In every respect, attendance is voluntary and it should be made clear that for those who are concerned or vulnerable, they should remain at home and churches would do well to provide on-line services or devotional material for the sake of those who choose to remain at home for the time being. If you have any questions, I am available to answer them. We thank our churches and leaders for your patient guidance of God's people during this difficult times!
Casting all our care upon Him, for He cares for us! We thank the Lord for His work in behalf of His church and our being able to come together again.
The Rev. Mark A. Miller, President
LCMS Central Illinois District
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
1850 North Grand Avenue West
Springfield, IL 62702-1626
(217) 793-1802 x102
May 18, 2020 Update
The three Illinois District Presidents of the LCMS have sent another letter to the Governor of Illinois expressing our joint concern with the "Restore Illinois" Plan which delays the opening of our churches to any significant degree until "the disease is eradicated or a vaccine is developed," and which hinders the reopening of our schools. Added to that effort, President Matthew Harrison has sent a letter to the US Department of Justice asking Attorney General William Barr to look into the inequities of our Illinois Governor's Proclamation as regards our churches. A contact in the DOJ has said that President Harrison's letter is deeply appreciated and may spur additional DOJ action against the Governor's orders as regards religious freedom.
17 April 2020
The Honorable J.B. Pritzker, Governor
207 State House
Springfield, IL 62706
Dear Governor Pritzker,
Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ, the crucified, risen and returning Lord!
The nearly 500 congregations of The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod within Illinois pray for you and all magistrates regularly. We pray that the Lord may grant you good health, wisdom and discernment especially as you guide our state in this time of COVID-19. We further pray for all medical personnel, researchers and first responders who serve unselfishly.
Recognizing the danger we face, and the need to mitigate the spread of this virus, our churches, schools and people are following the guidelines issued by the State of Illinois. We have abided by these recommendations even during the most sacred week of the Christian Church Year. What troubled us from the very beginning was the exclusion of the Church and her ministry from the list of essential activities. We are more than a food pantry or transient assistance service. We prepare people to live now and for the life of the world to come.
Christians are among the best citizens in any jurisdiction. We are eager to do what is right and contribute our energies, resources and labor for the common good. Lutherans are unique in that we recognize what is called, the “Two Kingdoms.” We believe that God has established two “kingdoms” here on earth. One is the “kingdom of the left” and the creation of earthly government and good order. This allows us to live in peace and safety. The second is the “kingdom of the right” and the establishment of the Church. This “kingdom” exists alongside the earthly government. Its concerns, however, are eternal and include such things as proclaiming the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation through Jesus Christ. Both kingdoms coexist and carry out their God-given responsibilities.
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution recognizes the importance of religion and its free exercise within our nation. Indeed the first European settlers came to our shores seeking freedom to worship as their conscience dictated. Our German forefathers came nearly two centuries ago seeking the same freedom of religion. We cherish this freedom and are seeking to be able to worship as we believe is true and proper. We are asking you to declare religious services as “essential” within the State of Illinois. Christians have a two thousand year history of caring for their neighbor and responding positively in times of plague and pestilence. It was Christians who were responsible for the establishment of hospitals in Western Civilization. This connection remains to the present day as the names of many hospitals bear witness.
People are fearful, hurting and living in isolation. The Church brings comfort and strength in Jesus Christ through God’s Word and Sacraments. As unemployment rises the stress of making ends meet becomes a heavy burden. Stimulus packages help but they are not a substitute for paychecks. People need assurance that the Lord will see them through this present time. Hope is one of the major benefits derived from public worship. It reinforces the sense of community and neighbor helping neighbor.
Our pastors are eager to serve their communities. They are willing to follow social distancing and other guidelines established by the State and Center for Disease Control. We are concerned about the elderly and those with underlying illnesses that may compound by the Corona virus should they contract it. We believe it is healthier to isolate the most vulnerable among us and allow the vast majority of healthy, lower risk individuals to live as normal of lives as possible.
We pray that you will favorably receive our petition and declare religious services as essential in the State of Illinois. Thank you for your consideration. Our prayers remain with you.
Rev. Dr. Allan Buss, President
LCMS Northern Illinois District
Rev. Mark Miller, President
LCMS Central Illinois District
Rev. Timothy Scharr, President
LCMS Southern Illinois District
N.B. I joined with the other LCMS District Presidents in Illinois to submit this very fine and well-reasoned request written by President Scharr. The letter was signed and sent to the Governor’s office at the Capitol building on April 23. We have not heard any response at this time and yet, in the meantime, we ask for patience and perseverance from our pastors and parishes, lifting up our eyes… knowing from where our help comes!
To the beloved parishes, pastors, and people of the LCMS Central Illinois District,
Greetings on this solemn Good Friday as we remember the sacrifice our Savior made for our life and salvation!
Many will not be able to forget this March, April, and however long beyond in the year 2020 as a result of the circumstances in which we find ourselves. God’s judgment is awesome and beyond our capacity to overcome it but if His full wrath against sin is to be known, as well as what we deserve for our iniquities, one only need look at the cross on Calvary and the Lamb of God hanged there to know that, even now, God’s mercy is abundant and sustains our greater and eternal hope.
We are beneficiaries of the whole story, and we cannot help but see beyond disease and death to an empty tomb that confirms our Lord’s victory and our resurrection from the dead. Good Friday in 2020 is tempered and informed by Jesus’ resurrection as conqueror and Lord. Jesus’ appearance to His disciples starts off with words our Lord had said to them before, “Do not be afraid!” By the Spirit of our God we are called now to that same confidence and gifted with sure faith that in Christ all cares and anxieties have been cast on Him, and there is peace.
We have a different perspective than what a wandering and darkened world has! We have the Light of the world, the way, truth, and life to make promise reality.
We may be celebrating the high holy days differently this, but it helps us grow and see that Easter has a solid footing in something other than the frills and fluff the world has attached to this time which is especially obvious when the falderal is removed.
In the glory of the empty tomb I wish you and yours a blessed Good Friday and Easter, and in view of better times, my prayer is “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”
In His service,
The Rev. Mark A. Miller