Clarifying Governor DeSantis' Executive Order
Posted on April 24th, 2020

Governor DeSantis' Order
& Worship Services

A number of pastors have asked TBBA staff members about whether or not churches are allowed to gather under the language of Governor DeSantis' recent Executive Order. I received an email on Thursday from the Florida Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders (FBCAL) regarding his order and the specific paragraph on the "essential" nature of churches. I have pasted an abridged version of the article below and have underlined a few statements from the Governor's order that are especially significant.  I have also highlighted the insightful comments of the FBCAL in red .  Finally, there is a Summary Statement from the Florida Baptist Convention and a statement from me.

Governor's Order re: Churches
re: specific clauses related to churches and clergy from the 34 page document (which you can view by clicking the document title below):
 (Essential Services and Activities During COVID-19 Emergency)
Introductory Words (page 2)
WHEREAS, on March 24, 2020, I issued Executive Order 20-83, directing the State Surgeon General and State Health Officer to issue a public health advisory urging the public to avoid all social or recreational gatherings of 10 or more people and urging those who can work remotely to do so;
Section 2. Essential Services (page 3)
A. For purposes of this Order and the conduct it limits, "essential services" means and encompasses the list detailed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in its Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce, v. 2 (March 28, 2020) (attached) and any subsequent lists published. (pages 6-20) B. Essential services also include those businesses and activities designated by Executive Order 20-89 and its attachment which consists of a list propounded by Miami-Dade County in multiple orders. (pages 21-34)
Section 3. Essential Activities (page 4)
A. For purposes of this Order and the conduct it limits, "essential activities" means and encompasses the following: i. Attending religious services conducted in churches, synagogues and houses of worship and (This is still subject to the 10 or more clause in the Introductory Words above, but this would allow meetings of less than ten church staff members, leadership teams, praise team practices, and committees that would be considered ESSENTIAL for the church to function as needed to minister to the church family and reach out to the community)
iv. Caring for or otherwise assisting a loved one or friend. (This too is a clause that can allow for your church's outreach efforts, within reason). OTHER COMMUNITY . . . AND ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS (page 17) Clergy for essential support. (Multiple bullet points for essential functions are listed under this section) including: Clergy for essential support.
Section 6. Effective Date and Expiration Date (page 5)
This Order is effective 12:01 am on April 3, 2020. This Order shall expire on April 30, 2020 unless extended by subsequent order. _________________________________

 Summary Response From the Florida Baptist Convention

"The Florida Baptist Convention has suggested to churches over the last several weeks that we have the opportunity to show the love of Christ and to be a good neighbor by adhering to the “social distancing” guidelines and helping to protect the health of our communities. While churches are not legally prevented from meeting; we recommend churches find ministry avenues that adhere to the guidelines which include among other things limiting gatherings to 10 persons or less, maintaining at least 6-feet of separation and do not involve individuals whom are exhibiting signs of sickness."

When we get to the other side of this crisis, may the world be able to say that the church of Jesus Christ graciously cooperated with governing authorities and consistently reached out to the community.

The TBBA association staff agree with the above statements of the FBCAL and the Summary Response from the Florida Baptist Convention and encourage all churches to show Christian love to their church members and to the community by limiting gatherings to ten persons or less, maintaining six feet of social distancing at all times, and excluding people who have any symptoms of sickness.

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